James Wells has bigger goals in politics than just SGA president

<p>The future Student Government Association President James Wells created his own major, urban statesmanship,&nbsp;after growing up in Gary, Ind., where he realized he wanted to better the city. It took him a year to do finish the major and get started in classes. <em>DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY</em></p>

The future Student Government Association President James Wells created his own major, urban statesmanship, after growing up in Gary, Ind., where he realized he wanted to better the city. It took him a year to do finish the major and get started in classes. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY

The Daily News is catching up will the four members of the incoming SGA executive board before they take office. Get to know your campus leaders.

Brock Frazer — secretary

Emily Halley — treasurer

Ana Batres — vice president

Editor’s Note: This is the last of four stories to run that will feature the slate members leading up to their inauguration.

Sharing a name with a father who was sent to prison for robbing a bank is not the legacy James Wells aspires to have. 

Instead, the future Student Government Association president said he has vowed to make sure his name means something more.

Wells said he was just a toddler when his father was sent to prison, so he only has vague memories of him. His mother went on to marry her high school sweetheart when Wells was about 6, and he said he considers him his father.

"When I was young, he was just a worker at U-Haul," Wells said." [He] didn’t go to college, but he worked his way up and now he’s the marketing president for U-Haul on the south side and southwest side of Chicago," he said. "He has been my role model when it comes to working hard for what you really want."

Along with his family role models, Wells' life has circulated around one unpredictable city: his hometown of Gary, Ind.

Gary has a rich history. It was a strong industrial city in the 20th century with the development of the U.S. Steel Corp, but as time progressed, things took a turn for the worse.

Even so, the future SGA president said there was still a sense of community where he grew up, and the environment helped him develop character.

“It allowed for [kids] to get creative and use our imagination to be who we are now,” he said.

Wells' grandmother came to Gary in the 1950s with his great-grandmother shortly after his great-grandfather began work in the steel industry. His grandmother has also had a major influence on his life, he said. 

He said his grandmother watched him and his brothers a lot growing up because his mother worked during the day as a nurse and his father at U-Haul. She taught him to take responsibility from a young age.

“Being with her, you were expected to go to church on Sundays, expected to get involved, you were expected to take responsibility for yourself,” he said. “She was a tough cookie.”

His childhood in Gary is what partially motivated Wells to create his own major.

In school, he was a part of an orchestra and noticed the building the group practiced in was full of mold. Even as young as he was, he said he knew something needed to be done because of what his grandmother taught him growing up. She taught him to stand up for what is right, so he wrote a letter to the mayor at the time about the building. 

“I never knew where to start but I knew, ‘Oh, we have a mayor, why not write a letter to the mayor?'" Wells said. "From there, it began this whole civic pride in me to see what could be done."

Wells knew he wanted to return to Gary after college to help better the city, but didn’t quite know how. After changing majors between urban planning, communication and political science, he decided to create his own major that would combine all of them: urban statesmanship.

“I wanted to make sure I had the ability of being a leader effectively while also staying true to urban planning,” Wells said.

He said the process of creating the major took about a year to finish, but it's something he wanted to do and will hold him accountable for his future.

“I can really say I took the time, put in the work and created something I want to do,” he said. “Knowing that I was able to take my creativity, my imagination, and create something tangible with it — I would say that’s the best part.”

One of Wells' dream jobs is to be president of the United States, but his biggest dream is to be mayor of his hometown. 

"It’s a great canvas to build upon and build something amazing," Wells said. 

He said SGA is a stepping stone to that dream, because it will teach him a variety of different skills he will need to one day rebuild his hometown to the glory it once knew.

“Now I’m at the point where I have to really learn how to work with a vast array of different people … [and] manage a vast array of an organization and know what’s going on in each section of that,” he said. “I think that is probably the best thing I can learn from Ball State because going back and building a city — developing a city — won’t be an easy task. It is probably going to be the hardest challenge I ever undertake in my life.”


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