Barry O’Connor Jr.


Barry O’Connor Jr. (he/him) serves as the Wavemaker Fellowship Director for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. In this role, Barry is responsible for facilitating the annual application & award process, promoting the program to potential Fellows and employers, and measuring the success of the program against its goals. Additionally, he works with the existing Fellows to support their continued investment in the Rhode Island community through various engagement opportunities.

In his 18 years of experience in the field of higher education, Mr. O’Connor has strived to meet the challenges he faces with helping his students find some element of success in their early school experience. As a believer in effective communication, he listens, establishing continuous lines of communication with his students creating a welcoming and enthusiastic learning environment.

Mr. O’Connor graduated from the University of Rhode Island through the Talent Development program. He holds two Bachelor of Arts Degrees, one in Sociology and another in African and African American History. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration. Mr. O’Connor comes to RI Commerce from the Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor’s office where he was a Senior Policy Analyst. In his portfolio Mr. O’Connor oversaw Emergency Management, Housing and Homelessness, and Veterans Affairs initiatives as well as special projects for the Lt. Governor. Prior to that he was an Associate Director of Enrollment Services at the Community College of Rhode Island where he assisted students with funding their education. He also serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at both the University of Rhode Island where he teaches African American History and the Community College of Rhode Island where he teaches sociology and college success courses that focus on learning strategies for first year students. Mr. O’Connor is also a certified trainer in Kingian Nonviolence and Conflict Resolution and trained under the auspices of Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr. who worked along with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. O’Connor has a natural talent in translating theory into practical, world applications. He has always been tied to his ethnic and urban community, coming from a well-respected and socially active family. When discussing his career path, Mr. O’Connor always has stated his intention to be a part of the corps of professionals who would shape new urban initiatives and environments. His desire to teach young people has always been to serve as a role model and mentor for historically disadvantaged people. His belief in the future of his students is unparalleled. He believes that they can and should be the beacon of light that will guide future leaders well into the 21st century.

Barry O'Connor Jr.