Deja Wells named Newman Civic Fellow

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Colin Threlkeld, Senior Staff Reporter

Deja Wells, a sophomore political science major, has been named a Newman Civic Fellow for her wide-ranging involvement in public service, organizing and student government at Tulane.

The fellowship aims to connect civic-minded students with the resources they need to expand their impact in their communities. In addition to being flown out to a conference in Boston in the fall, fellows will have many opportunities for virtual engagement and networking so they can give and receive feedback from other fellows.

To be eligible for the award, students must be nominated by their university presidents. In his letter of recommendation, Tulane President Mike Fitts wrote glowingly about Wells’ impact in her community.

“Through her powerful work as a facilitator, community organizer, and Senator in the Undergraduate Student Government, Deja Wells is fostering a Tulane community that is more equitable, inclusive and ethically engaged with the New Orleans community,” Fitts wrote.

Wells, who is in the Law School 3/3 Program, is heavily involved on campus at Tulane. She is a public service fellow, a diversity fellow, a manager for the women’s basketball team, an executive board member of the Residence Hall Association, a community engagement advocate and a senator in Undergraduate Student Government as well as the treasurer for both the African American Women’s Society and the Black Pre-Law Society. She recently ran for USG president.

She is also a member of Les Griots Violets, the group of Black anti-racist organizers who earlier this year drafted and pushed for the passage of the Equity Fee resolution in USG.

As an aspiring attorney who is passionate about ending mass incarceration, Wells said some of the most meaningful work she has done has been with Project Butterfly, a pro-Black organization mentoring girls whose parents have been incarcerated.

Going forward, Wells said she hopes to help the organization grow by leveraging the institutional resources of Tulane, both financially and by getting members of the Tulane community involved.

“… I feel like there’s a lot of work that Tulane can be doing for the New Orleans community, and we have access to a lot of resources, so basically trying to create a pipeline in which Black women on this campus can join the organization,” Wells said.

In addition to what students could provide to the organization, Wells hopes the work they do with young girls through Project Butterfly will have a profound impact on students as well.

“A lot of our students aren’t necessarily from New Orleans, and I think it would mean a lot for them to actually learn the community and culture that they are going to be a part of,” Wells said.

Not all of her involvements deal with such weighty issues, however. Some of the most fun she’s had has been helping to organize events for students through her position on the exec board of the Residence Hall Association.

“This semester we had laser tag … so that was really cool.”

Still, keeping track of all her commitments can be challenging.

“Google Calendar is my best friend,” Wells said. “If it wasn’t for that, I probably would be late for everything. If it’s not on my Google Calendar, I don’t know it’s happening.”

While she finds meaning in all the work she does, Wells said she wouldn’t necessarily recommend that everyone get as involved as she is.

“I’d advise not to do what I’m doing. A lot of the things that I’m doing all have a purpose and help me in some shape or form and I find to be necessary to do. If it’s not necessary, let it go, and if you’re not fulfilled by it, let it go.”