Deputy Chief of Staff
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA)
By: Frank Morris Lopez
Angel Donahue-Rodriguez knows the richness of community and the value of giving back. He makes that the hallmark of what he does.
The East Boston resident was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Salem. His career path is one of public service, something he never knew he was interested in until college, when he “caught the bug” and got involved in student government.
During his freshman year at Salem State University, the Great Recession happened. That’s when Donahue-Rodriguez noticed something:
“A lot of the kids I went to school with were from Lawrence — almost exclusively Latino — and they couldn’t afford to go to school, so they stopped going,” he said. “I would say about a quarter dropped out in their first semester.”
Realizing that a lot of his peers were stuck with student loan debt without even having a degree, “that got me wanting to see what I can do,” Donahue-Rodriguez said.
As a result, he launched a financial literacy program at Salem State called SMART — Save More. Act Responsibly. Thrive. “That was my biggest accomplishment,” he said. “That was my pride and joy.” The northeast regional office of the National Association of College and University Residence Halls named the program its education program of the month in 2011.
“There are two things in life that are certain: You’re going to die and you’re going to have to deal with money,” Donahue-Rodriguez said. “Schools are falling short in teaching that, and I think it’s acutely impacting Latinos who are immigrants.”
After undergrad, Donahue-Rodriguez found himself working in leadership roles as a staffer at the statehouse — at one point, as the most senior Latino staffer in the legislature. “One of the things I’m really proud of is the mentorship I gave to a lot of Latino staffers in that building,” he said. “It is a very complicated place to work, but my door was always open. I think it’s really important to pave the path for the next generation.”
He’d eventually get a master’s of public administration from Northeastern University, before going on to become deputy chief of staff with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. At the MBTA, Donahue-Rodriguez has played integral roles in crafting transportation-related policies to positively impact communities of color, such as decriminalizing gate-jumping at T stations.
When Donahue-Rodriguez reflects on what’s made him successful, “it’s the opportunities that have been given to me,” he said. “There’s no such thing as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps by yourself. It really is a community, and that’s what’s made me better.”