College of Education and Behavioral Sciences News
Ogden Scholar made connections, found success close to home
- WKU News
- Monday, November 28th, 2022
Maria Wells grew up in a family of Western Kentucky University graduates -- great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.
“My family all went to Western so it was kind of the last place I wanted to go,” Wells said. “I wanted to be different and do something fun and crazy and go far away.”
The 2019 graduate of Logan County High School, however, decided to stay close to her home in Lewisburg and attend WKU.
“I thought to do something awesome I had to do something different. But that isn’t true,” said Wells, who is the December 2022 recipient of the Ogden Foundation Scholar Award, WKU’s top undergraduate academic honor.
Wells, who is a Mahurin Honors College student, will graduate on Dec. 9 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and minors in Business Administration and American Sign Language Studies. In May 2023, the daughter of Grayson and Bonnie Wells will complete her master’s degree in Applied Economics as part of the Joint Undergraduate-Master’s Program (JUMP) in the Gordon Ford College of Business.
The story of her WKU experience is one of making connections inside and outside of the classroom. “If I could tell freshmen anything, it would be to talk to your professors because they want you to do well. Making those connections is really important.”
As a freshman, Wells made a connection for her creativity and curiosity in an economics class taught by Dr. Christopher Biolsi, Assistant Professor of Economics.
“I’m a very curious person,” Wells said. “Whenever I read a book, I want to guess the ending before it gets there. I want to solve puzzles and riddles. I realized that economics is a lot like being creative with my writing and learning how to get to the end before anyone else does. Economics is about solving real-world problems and finding answers to why people act the way they do and how our decisions are going to affect and change things. When I realized it was a lot like that process of finding a reason why, I was sold. I love economics. It is like solving a mystery every day.”
In the spring of 2020 as Wells was completing her first year at WKU, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted campus life.
“COVID was a big change in everyone’s life,” she said. “For me, going home really helped me put into perspective the importance of being on campus. While that first semester of my freshman year was really hard, I think I didn’t really understand what I could grasp from it if I connected more and put in the effort to make connections while I was on campus. Being away helped me realize just how important it is for me to be here whenever I’m studying because otherwise it is just not the same.”
According to Wells, returning to campus her sophomore year really helped her “even with all the restrictions.”
Wells became more involved with a church group off campus, volunteered at Potter Children’s Home and participated in a mission trip to McAllen, Texas. She made more connections through her minors in business administration and American Sign Language studies and was a member of the American Sign Language Organization, Message in a Bottle poetry club and the Economics Club.
“I ended up really liking WKU whenever I started embracing the community and making friends,” she said.
And she remained motivated to do well in her classes. “I want to know everything. Not knowing something kind of bothers me. That and my curiosity led me to be a little bit of a perfectionist.”
In the spring semester, Wells will work as a research assistant in data analytics for Dr. Lily Popova Zhuhadar, Director of the Center for Applied Data Analytics, Faculty Fellow for WKU Research and Creative Activity, and Associate Professor of Analytics & Information Systems.
While she wasn’t expecting to earn the Ogden Foundation Scholar award, “it was nice to feel like those hard nights paid off.”
#WKUGrad series: As part of our #WKUGrad series, articles on graduating students are shared in the weeks leading up to Fall Recognition Ceremonies. See all of their stories at https://www.wku.edu/news/articles/index.php?view=default&categoryid=799&multinewsid=187