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James Wells: President

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.”

Ana Batres, Vice President

"I get fully immersed in the tasks and try my best to do them to the best of my ability and have fun with it,” she said. “I think that’s the important thing, that you’re doing something to the best of your ability and that you’re enjoying it.”

Brock Frazer, Secretary

"I feel like I do the best I can to take a step back and put others before myself,” he said. “That’s the leadership style I’ve tried to pursue in hockey, both on and off the ice, and I think that’s something I could do for SGA — taking what everyone else wants to see and making sure that’s my focus before doing anything that I would want to see.”

Emily Halley, Treasurer

“There’s this feeling when you're truly passionate about something that I can’t really explain," she said. "Something I really like is helping people find their passions, because I know that feeling and I want everyone to have that feeling."


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