When Michael Wells was a little kid growing up in Colorado Springs he had already picked the college of his dreams: He wanted to go to Stanford.
“That was my goal. That was everything,” Michael said.
But as a high school student attending a tour at the university in the heart of Silicon Valley, he was surprised by a somewhat chilly reception.
“Every building is locked off. They didn’t want you to talk to anyone.”
A few months after returning from his visit to California, Michael was visiting family in Fort Collins, made an offhand decision to walk around CSU’s campus, and absolutely fell in love.
“The people were so nice, so genuine, I actually got to talk to teachers,” said Michael. “The openness that I got, I knew that's what it had to be.”
Following a good feeling
Starting classes in the College of Business, Michael began to realize that the feeling he got on campus was part of a strong set of community values that led professors to help students through project breakdowns at 6 in the morning, and led students to help each other understand complex topics and tackle group work, even if they weren’t in the same courses.
“That's just something that I've just enjoyed and loved, and I always know I have someone to fall back on,” Michael said.
As a sophomore, he had already found his way into two internships, and as the chair for the 2016 Business Day event, had created programming to help students network and learn about what companies in the area do.
Michael talks to students about his internship at F+W during a Business Day panel with classmates in 2016.
Through the experience, Michael began to realize that the same culture he valued at the university was something that he could seek in a career. He found his fit will a small web development company based in Fort Collins called F+W.
“If you asked 100 people, 99 of them would tell you they've never heard of it,” said Michael. “But to me it's worth it to me. I actually get something out of it because I get to show up to work and enjoy what I do.”
“I think that might be the biggest deal is that you know you can grow somewhere, that you'll want to grow.”
The position gave him hands-on experience working with computer programming and web design, and he was able to see how marketing was used to brand companies around the country, and internationally. Michael even saw some of his designs and programs implemented into the real world websites.
The next steps
Now, just starting his junior year, he’s moved on to become the director of finance for the Associated Students of Colorado State University, working with an internal budget of $1.2 million.
“What I love about this position is the fact that I can give back to students,” said Michael, who stepped into a role that is helping to bolster his concentration in finance.
Of course, he wants to get a good paying job at the end of his education and feels like he’s on track to get there, but Michael also believes there’s more to it.
“I want to get social experience. I want to have fun. I want to meet new people. I want to network with people that can be lifelong friends,” he said, “I want to be able to have this experience that when I go into the job market… I can apply to a job that I love to do, something that I can do to benefit the world.
“I think that if I can get at least a small portion of any one of those things I'll have gotten my return on the investment.”