ASU government professor is community leader

Photo courtesy of Dave Wells
Dave Wells is more than just a government professor. Between his Ph.D. in public policy and political economy and his two campaigns for Tempe Union High School District Governing Board, Wells teaches his students to not only talk the talk but walk the walk.

Wells, who has been teaching at ASU since 1998 and the Downtown campus since it opened, has his Ph.D. in public policy and political economy. Wells teaches political science and interdisciplinary classes at the Downtown campus and is known for his ability to engage students.

“He goes out of his way to get people into it,” said Travis Moore, a sophomore at ASU who is minoring in political science and has Wells for American National Government this semester. “He’ll post things on his Facebook, make discussion board questions and incorporate novels into our discussion.”

One of Wells’ signature teaching techniques is dressing as George Washington on the day his classes discuss the Constitutional Convention.

“It was awesome,” Moore said. “It’s funny how much he goes out of his way to get us engaged.”

But while many of Wells’ students enjoy his teaching style, they may not be aware of how involved he is in the community. Wells just ran for a second time for a seat on the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board. Though he lost both races, Wells, who is a parent of three students in TUHSD, shows he desires to make positive change in the district.

Wells at work in the classroom.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Wells)

“I believe you run for office because you believe you can make a difference,” Wells in an email. “I have a passion for improving education and a great deal of experience and expertise that I wished to share as a member of the Governing Board.”

One of his goals in running was to amplify voices that are often silenced, such as parents from low-income households, as wells as students, teachers and staff.

After two losses, Wells said he doesn’t plan to run again.

“I’ve lost twice now,” he said. “I suppose it depends on what’s going on in two or four or six years … if the board is in urgent need or if they are veering off in a dire direction.”

He said he would consider seeking a position in the state legislature, which would allow him to follow in the footsteps of his friends, former Congressman Harry Mitchell and recently elected Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema.

For now, however, Wells is focusing on his roles in other organizations. This includes the Grand Canyon Research Institute, a non-profit corporation he cofounded with Gary Cunningham, deputy chief of staff for former Gov. Janet Napolitano.

“The Goal of the Grand Canyon Research Institute is to guide Arizona policy to be more centrist,” said Wells, who serves as the group’s research director.

Recently, Wells worked on issues like the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which he is advising Arizona to adopt. He is also researching education funding, something he finds crucial in the wake of Proposition 204’s rejection.

Wells will continue serving on other community and TUHSD committees. But mainly, he will continue to teach students at the Downtown campus.

“I’ve enjoyed teaching down here,” he said. “It’s nice that it’s a small campus and you can run into students.”

As far as students go, it seems running into Wells would be a treat for them as well, especially if it happens to be on a George Washington costume day.

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