Adrian Hale Appointed to New York Board of Regents: Former ISPS Fellow Champions Public Education From the Inside

Authored By 
Rick Harrison
April 24, 2023

Adrian Hale speaks in a classroom

If you ask Adrian Hale, he didn’t choose to become a public education reformer.

“The education crusade chose me,” he said. “I want to see the power of education unleashed for every child throughout our state as it was in my life.”

In March, the New York State Legislature tapped Hale, Yale College Class of ’16, to fill a recently vacated seat on the Board of Regents. Representing eight counties, Hale is now one of 17 members tasked with setting education policy for the state and overseeing its nearly 60 licensed professions.

“This is how we can change the system,” Hale said. “The legislature passes the laws, the Board of Regents passes the policies, and the education department and the schools carry them out. I really want to be a champion for public education.”

Hale’s education began long before arriving at Yale. He grew up impoverished in Rochester, N.Y., witnessing substance abuse and incarceration, sometimes having the electricity turned off because of unpaid bills, and occasionally eating pancakes for dinner when there was nothing else available. Neither of his parents finished high school, but their positivity and resilience helped set him on a path to success.

“At a young age, I felt like a lot of the pain and the suffering I saw in my community allowed me to identify and find my purpose,” he said. “I decided that I needed to be someone who does something about the systemic problems all around me. My North Star was always knowing that this was what I was put here to do.”

An encounter with a military recruiter while working as a grocery store cashier in high school led him to join the Marine Corps in 2007. He served for five years, including two combat deployments to Afghanistan, growing into leadership roles and reading novels and political philosophy books in his down time.

Upon returning home, he earned a perfect grade point average at Monroe Community College and gained acceptance to Yale through the Eli Whitney Students Program for nontraditional students with exceptional backgrounds and aspirations.

At Yale, Hale bonded with classmates from similar backgrounds.

“What we had in common was a similar motivation in how we all knew how messed up the world was and how much better it could be,” Hale said. “We were not going to just be informed by the brightest minds but challenged by them as well. And equipped to go out in the world and have significant impact.”

Hale successfully applied to join the ISPS Director’s Fellowship, a program that provides Yale College students with sophisticated policy training and work experiences to bridge the gap between theory and practice in U.S. domestic policymaking. He credits the conversations he had with faculty members and other fellows for broadening his perspective and deepening his understanding of how the world operates.

“One thing I took away from that experience was that if you say something, it better be well thought out,” Hale said. “There are people who are ready to really challenge the integrity and quality of your ideas.”

In addition, Hale gained an appreciation for the people behind the legislators and executives who have tremendous influence on policy, such as the New York Board of Regents and the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, where he worked after graduation as manager of strategic initiatives focused on improving students’ education outcomes, improving skills, and enhancing employment opportunities.Adrian Hale with his arms crossed

“ISPS sent me into the world of civics more prepared about how the sausage is made,”

Hale said. “And how to think critically.”

The program provided an opportunity for Hale to meet Jake Sullivan, a non-resident senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School who is now serving as President Joe Biden’s national security advisor.

“We got to meet so many cool people at the forefront of their disciplines,” Hale said. “It was definitely eye-opening and set the bar I think a lot of us were striving to reach.”

Hale cites Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science and then-director of ISPS, as a key influence.

“Jacob called himself a policy entrepreneur,” Hale said. “He was an amazing mentor, leader, and role model for folks like me who are passionate about politics as a means for social change.”

Hacker said that Hale exemplifies the path that ISPS leaders hope Director’s fellows will take.

“Adrian shone as a Director’s fellow, and I am certain he will shine on the Board of Regents,” Hacker said. “All of us here are overjoyed that he’s going to bring the rich mix of analytic, communication, and leadership skills that he burnished at ISPS to a truly vital public role.”

On the Board of Regents, Hale hopes to investigate ways to improve systems for intervening with failing schools, create a cooperative dialogue between public schools and charter schools, and involve business leaders in defining what skills will be necessary to prepare students for tomorrow’s jobs.

Hale works as the director of economic and community development for the cryptocurrency company Foundry, where he has set up a program to recruit recent high school graduates, pay them living wages, train them on the installation and maintenance of the company’s technology, enrich their English language and math skills, and help them get driver’s licenses and grants to purchase cars needed to do their jobs.

And while he traces his sense of purpose to childhood, Hale credits Yale and ISPS for helping him to hone the passions he cultivated and carried from his military service all the way back to his former and current home in Rochester.

“What the ISPS fellowship helped me do is expose me to smart peers from different backgrounds and walks of life and teach me how to have a productive dialogue,” he said. “To go beyond my preexisting position to find a shared interest and achieve a consensus.”

Hale also had some advice for students who might consider applying and those who are accepted.

“The Director’s Fellowship is for the young person who is passionate about politics as a means for social change and improvement,” he said. “When you listen to these experts, find one who really speaks to your passion. Which one speaks to your inquisitive mind? Who makes you feel like ‘I want to become a part of that.’”

Area of study