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Student Profile — Chris Bell

Steeped in grassroots advocacy, this triple major is Beltway bound.

By Gigi Marino

Chris Bell ’17 majors in political science. And history. And Spanish. And has a certificate in public affairs. If he could figure out how to warp time and add a fourth major, he would. “I was going to study political science as a default,” he says. “But I studied abroad in Spain and loved Spanish just as much as history. In fact, I loved them so much I didn’t want to relegate any of my majors to minors. I’d take a lot more classes if I had the money and resources. There’s just so much to learn, and UF offers so much.”

Having taken such a diversity of courses, Bell is reluctant to admit that any one towers about the rest, but he says the History of the Holocaust taught by Professor Norman Goda was a favorite. “The class was very in-depth. We learned what it was like to live in the Nazi state as a German and as a Jew. Learning about an event of such horror, from the mechanics of the war to how Germans live with the legacy of their history, was both humanizing and personalizing.”

“Much of what I’ve been involved in on campus has been community building. I find it very rewarding to make people feel more comfortable, more themselves at UF.”

During his time at UF, Bell was secretary for the Student Honors Organization, a member of the Honors Program’s Student Advisory Board, assistant director of Chomp the Vote, campus ambassador for the Peace Corps, team leader for the Greater Gator Conference, member of UF Model UN, secretary for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Council, and director of programs for the Campus Diplomats, which is his main involvement.

Campus Diplomats, Bell explains, is a student volunteer organization whose main purpose is to make new students find their place on a campus of 53,000. “We represent the Dean of Students office and their outreach programs. I organize programs for different populations on campus, out-of-state students, Innovation Academy students, international students,” he says.

“Much of what I’ve been involved in on campus has been community building. I find it very rewarding to make people feel more comfortable at UF.”

A native Floridian from Tallahassee, Bell plans to relocate to Washington, D.C., after he graduates in May. He’s interned in the nation’s capital for three summers. This past year, he worked for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The previous summer, he worked for a law/lobbying firm. He says he prefers being more grounded in a grassroots advocacy organization. He first served as a legislative intern in the office of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. “I want to work in the legislative policy arena, basically congressional affairs,” he says. “It’s really fulfilling to work in the nonprofit area. I want to make a difference in D.C.”

Aside from the abundance of governmental and non-governmental organizations in D.C., Bell is drawn to the restaurants (“a Michelin-star city”), festivals, museums, music, and international culture. “It’s very much a young professional city, an epicenter for all different walks of life, and there are a lot of Gators there.” (There are, in fact, 10,800 Liberal Arts and Sciences Gators in the D.C. area.)

Though only 22, Bell already knows his passion is for human rights and civil rights and that he wants to live a life of service. “It’s what keeps me going,” he says.