Senior Has Found a Family and a Sense of Community at the University
For Ryan Bell ’23, a genetics and biotechnology major, member of the Marching Band, and motivational speaker, his time at the University has enabled him to create meaningful relationships with his classmates and faculty mentor. He’s looking forward to heading to Kenya for a research trip after accepting his degree in May.
April 19, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
When Ryan Bell ’23 was a first-year student at the University, he joined the Chargers Marching Band – and felt like he’d found a family. It became the foundation for which many of his friendships have been built – friendships that, he expects, will be lifelong. As a Charger, he also soon felt at home while conducting research, an experience that laid a different type of foundation: one for his career.
A genetics and biotechnology major, Bell will accept his degree as part of the University’s Spring Commencement. When he reflects on his favorite memories of his time at the University, he says the excitement and camaraderie of the Marching Band come to mind. Even on very hot or cold days, the energy of performing made it easy to get excited about charging out onto the field.
“Some of my favorite memories are of the football games,” he said. “The sense of community throughout the school and the level of school spirit were impressive at every game. I cherished every moment to be out on the field showing school pride and performing amazing shows. While that’s incredible and a great experience, I think my favorite thing about Marching Band is the people.”
Bell is no stranger to being in front of people. Bell, who has Treacher Collins syndrome, is also a dedicated public speaker. He has embraced the opportunity to share his story, as well as the importance of kindness, inspiring students at other local universities as well. He says he was inspired by how comfortable he felt at the University of New Haven, and how quickly he felt a sense of connection and community.
“The University community has been amazing to me in terms of being accepting of my differences,” said Bell, an active member of the University’s Dungeons and Dragons Club. “As I entered college, I was nervous about how my differences would be received and if it would impact my ability to adapt to the new setting. The University culture allowed me to make many friends and really allowed me to charge ahead and forge my own path through college and beyond.”
‘A once-in-a-lifetime experience’
Through his coursework and research, Bell learned how to navigate asking the critical and complex questions pertaining to ecology and genetics that he’ll need to explore on his path to becoming a conservation geneticist. He says the courses he’s taken have deepened his understanding of these fields, enabling him to build the skills he’ll need to excel.
Bell calls the faculty-mentored research he conducted with Dr. Sharon Kahara an “amazing experience.” Their work focuses on the differences of filter sizes on the processing of samples of amphibian environmental DNA (or eDNA). The work is closely aligned with what he wants to focus on in his career, and it’s been a remarkable way for him to gain hands-on experience with cutting-edge research techniques.
"Dr. Kahara has been an outstanding mentor, giving a ton of advice to me on possible future steps for my career and allowing me to get this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “I have learned how to cooperate in a cohesive group and use resources available to me. These group-based skills are invaluable to my future. Overall, the University has prepared me extremely well for my future.”
‘The next step of our life journey’
That future includes a trip to Kenya after Commencement, where Bell will study elephant ecology. He is looking forward to studying the animals in their natural environment and learning about the impact they have on it. He plans to also explore human-wildlife conflict management, something that, he hopes, will lead to a better understanding of how humans can use better use resources and conserve wildlife.
After he gains experience in the field, Bell plans to continue his education by earning an advanced degree in conservation genetics. He also hopes to inspire people to not only be kind to the environment and to wildlife, but, also, to each other.
“My message focuses on looking beyond someone's perceived differences, encouraging others to reach for their dreams, and pushing beyond what we may believe to be our limitations so we can exceed our goals,” he said. “These messages hold true for each of us as we look past graduation and focus on making our own way on the next step of our life journey beyond the University.”