Commencement 2023: Student Senator makes connections

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 15, 2023 – This spring, Rhode Island’s changing legislative landscape has been followed with interest by many Rhode Islanders including one graduating University of Rhode Island senior. Middletown’s Christopher Bove is not quite ready to throw his hat into the ring, but chances are, he will someday.

A political science and communications studies major, Bove has his sights set on Rhode Island’s state legislature. He’s been a voice for students at URI and hopes to continue that kind of impassioned advocacy beyond the University, having seen the value of legislative advocacy in his own life.

At URI, Bove has served as a senator and speaker for the URI Student Senate, and a student representative on the URI Board of Trustees. He’s also been president of URI’s College Democrats and College Democrats of Rhode Island, secretary of the URI ACLU, and secretary of the Middletown Democratic Town Committee. Bove even brought his advocacy work to Washington, D.C. this year, for the National Federation of the Blind of Rhode Island, and has served as a congressional intern for U.S. Rep. David Cicilline and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, and an outreach and communications intern for former Gov. Gina Raimondo. He’s currently a member of the board of the Ocean State Center for Independent Living. Bove received the A. Robert Rainville Award for Student Leadership at URI this year.

Bove is legally blind and campaigned for URI Student Senate saying that his experience as a student with a disability made him a problem solver, empathetic to others who face challenges.

Bove almost didn’t attend URI. Bove almost went elsewhere for college, and was considering a career in law, but URI’s affordability and his experience working with then-president David Dooley on Rhode Island’s student advisory council swayed him toward Kingston.

Impressed, he toured the school and decided to apply — one minute before the application closed.

That ‘why not’ decision proved to be a good one.

Bove arrived at URI in 2019 and got involved right away. He quickly made a good group of friends and his concerns about starting college as a student with a disability quickly disappeared. “I knit in quickly,” he says.

As Bove was enjoying a banner first year, COVID hit. Not only was it a scary time for everyone healthwise, the emotional impact of the pandemic hit hard. “I had worked hard to get to URI and was having a great year. Seeing the school close and go online was about the worst thing that could have happened,” he recalls. “It was so depressing.”

Bove save says that online school was hard for him. But he was determined to be at URI, to stick with it, and says he “clawed himself out” of the hole of low grades.  Returning to campus brought him a renewed appreciation for what he has at URI and an appreciation for his time here.

Bove has long advocated for student opinion to be at the forefront of the University decision-making and for better connections between the Student Senate and Faculty Senate; he feels that such goals have been met although the pandemic highlighted weaknesses in the system.

Bove has always been unafraid to share his voice as a student, for himself or others.

Bove became the first student representative to the URI Board of Trustees in February 2020. There, he was unafraid to verbalize unpopular opinions and provide a realistic student perspective to the board, always reminding senior leaders of the concerns of students: time, finances and schoolwork. Bove frequently appears in the minutes to ask a question or state a position, advocating for students during the critical time of the pandemic.

Bove credits his parents with instilling in him the ability to fight for what is needed. They were his champions, fighting for him as a student with a disability, and instilled in him the ability to do the same. “My parents fought hard to get access for me,” he says. “They said, ‘People won’t coddle you. Don’t take no and don’t take anything for granted. It’s on you to get what you need.’” This mindset empowered Bove as a student on Aquidneck Island and when he came to URI.

Bove displays the impatience of someone who’s been fighting battles for a long time.

“There is a feeling,” he says. “If we don’t do it, who will? If I don’t, who?”

Someday, he hopes to use that passion and energy to run for office in Rhode Island: “I want to stay and invest my energy here.” He wants to continue to be a voice for young people.

Bove is proud of his time at URI and sad to leave, but feels the school is trending in a positive direction. “I’ve seen change in my time here, for the better. The progress I’ve seen has been real. Leaders like Ellen Reynolds and Marc Parlange have a great connection to students at the University. I’ve seen a shift in the institutional priorities over my four years at URI and am incredibly pleased to see that.”

Bove says, “As young people, we think we have all the time in the world, but change won’t happen unless you believe in it. You can’t waste time.” It’s that motivated mindset that always propels Bove to speak up for change, instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

“URI has given me a tremendous gift,” Bove says. “I had no friends at the start and did not picture at all what I am doing now. As a disabled kid to two young parents from a modest upbringing, I didn’t think things would turn out like this. URI brought me in and said, ‘You can do what you want.’ URI taught me there are truly no limitations for how far you can go if you’re willing to reach out.”