For as long as he can remember, Don Bell ‘13 has been passionate about helping others. Throughout his childhood in East Hartford, his parents talked with him about the importance of education and community service. There are many ways to serve, but he saw a specific path.
“Law school was something that I always wanted to do because of the impact I could have on others,” Bell said. After he graduated from UConn with a bachelor’s degree in history, he was drawn to UConn School of Law because the staff and students made the campus “feel like home.” He also found the opportunities for practical experience attractive.
“One of the main draws in terms of programs was the Semester in D.C. program,” he said. “Little did I know at the time that it would end up being a life-changing experience.”
Before heading to Washington during his 3L fall semester to work as a legal fellow for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Bell kept busy. He worked for a semester in a clinical placement with the office of Gov. Dannel Malloy and had an individual externship at The Hartford.
After graduation, Bell continued his career path in Washington, although it meant taking risks. “I moved to D.C. to work as a legal fellow for Sen. Chris Murphy. There was no guarantee that I’d find a permanent position,” Bell said. The risk paid off. After working for Murphy, Bell returned to Blumenthal’s office, where he became a judiciary staffer before being promoted to associate counsel and then counsel on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
That success led to another risk— a career change to become director of the Black Talent Initiative at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where he focuses on ways to remove barriers to people of color looking for jobs in policymaking. “I work to increase diversity on Capitol Hill through advocacy, education and direct services,” he said. “There are not enough people of diverse backgrounds and experiences working in policymaking positions and it has a negative impact on policy that impacts all of us because entire communities are not heard.”
Although he has seen “tremendous change” thanks to the push for diversity, he said there is still much more work to be done. While the role doesn’t require a law degree, Bell believes his experience is an advantage.
“My legal background has helped me in the sense that I have a better understanding of the policy and statutory challenges facing Capitol Hill when working to create diversity policies that are meaningful,“ he said. “I may have changed jobs, but my career remains the same. Every day I get to wake up and have an impact on how Americans participate in their government.”