New Student Organizations Coordinator Michaela Wells committed to fostering community among UMSL students

Michaela Wells

New Student Organizations coordinator Michaela Wells is a former graduate assistant in the Office of Student Involvement. (Submitted photo)

It was the camaraderie of sorority life and the guidance of Associate Director of Student Involvement Mindy Dilley that landed Michaela Wells in her new role as coordinator of Student Organizations and Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Wells was an undergraduate at Nebraska Wesleyan University earning a degree in social work when she attended the Associated Fraternal Leadership and Values Conference in which Dilley participated.

“I had a few interactions with her throughout the day, and I just remember after she did her introduction, I was like, ‘I really want to be like her, like all these women in this room,’” Wells said. “They just really moved me, and I wanted to have that confidence. I realized in that moment that one thing that all these women have in common is that they’re in a sorority.”

As an only child growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, being part of such a large sisterhood seemed daunting to Wells, yet it still piqued her interest.

“I have no siblings, so that’s kind of where my hesitation towards sorority life stood,” she said. “Because that sibling relationship never existed for me, finding my place near those relationships I feel like was a very interesting journey. 

“I’ve never lived with more than two people – either with my mom or my dad and my stepmom – so the aspects of moving in with 30-plus people was a little intimidating. The aspect of joining a group of 50 or more people was very intimidating, not knowing how to socialize in that group. But it’s one of the reasons that I really do love sorority and fraternity life because of the experiences that I’ve gained through that.”

Wells found herself drawn to campus Greek life and joined Alpha Gamma Delta. Her relationship with Dilley also led her to the path of becoming more involved with sororities, fraternities and student organizations overall.

“Before I met Mindy, I didn’t understand that there was a job where you could work in Fraternity and Sorority Life your whole life,” Wells said. “With her as my advisor, I started to realize my potential. I wanted to be a bubbly person and a person that made people feel at home and comfortable but also super passionate about the things that they’re doing. I think I saw a lot of that in Mindy, so I kind of gravitated toward her and wanted to be like her and learn more about her.”

Dilley said she vividly recalls her first meeting with Wells as a “spunky first-year student” and how her enthusiasm stood out.

“I always joke that a lot of challenges with my job can be solved as long as students have passion – and Michaela had that,” Dilley said. “Over the next few years, I was able to watch Michaela form her own identity and start pushing for causes she cared deeply about. When the Office of Student Involvement at UMSL was looking to recruit new graduate assistants to our team, I knew Michaela needed to be considered.”

That close relationship resulted in Dilley inviting Wells to UMSL to attend graduate school and apply for a graduate assistantship two years ago. Wells earned a master’s in higher education administration from UMSL in May.

“I wanted to do the job that she had been previously doing and was really interested in it, and she was like, ‘Well, we have a graduate assistantship in our office,” she said. “I applied and got accepted, and I think I moved here three weeks after I found out about the assistantship. I was like, ‘All right, yes to St. Louis.’”

Wells said working with student organizations is aligned with one of the strengths she discovered when she travelled to Flint, Michigan, to provide water for the struggling community: helping people deal with unfortunate situations. 

“My passion is in dealing with crises, but I realized that I don’t want to be dealing with life-threatening crises every day,” she said. “So, I realized that maybe social work wasn’t it for me and maybe student affairs was. A lot of times when the smallest crisis happens in a student’s life, it’s like the end of the world because it’s the first time they’ve had to go through something like that on their own. Even if it was a roommate dispute or their car battery was dead, something an adult has dealt with before and might not seem like a big deal, to them it is a big deal. And I realized that these problem-solving skills that I have, helping people through things, really applies in the field of student affairs.”

Before she began her new role on June 7, Wells was already working in the Office of Student Involvement, having successfully organized a MLK Day of Service campus event this year that was conducted remotely during the pandemic. 

“Throughout her time as our office’s graduate assistant, she has really proven herself to be a stand-out young professional,” Dilley said. “She navigated COVID-19 with such grace and thoughtful understanding. 

“I know Michaela is going to be a fantastic team member in the Office of Student Involvement. The duties she is assuming have been vacant for several months now due to staff transitions, so she truly has her work cut out for her right off the bat. However, with that being said, this is a great time for her to navigate how she sees those responsibilities being played out and forge her own path.”

Wells said she is looking at the best way to structure and organize student groups and get students involved in this now post-pandemic era. 

“I’ll be tasked with definitely figuring out where the students are and what they’re wanting but then also how they want to receive the things they want,” she said. “We’re coming out of COVID, so really this is a cool time to switch things up and really assess what are the programs that we’re hosting as student organizations and student groups, and how are they serving the students that we want to be joining because the way the student groups work is, people join people, they don’t join an organization.”


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