BA '03 - Political Science
IPFW alumnus, Brent Wake, has served the office of a nationally prominent moderate US Senator, the mayoral administration of Indiana’s second largest city, and recently, has embarked on a new career journey. The State Alliance of Indiana YMCA's has hired Brent as the director of Healthy Living Initiatives to participate in the YMCA's statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities Initiative. We had the pleasure of chatting with Brent about how IPFW has impacted him and his career.
Q: How has your degree been beneficial to you and your career?
A: My IPFW degree validated the training that I received to understand the political realities within northeast Indiana and our State. I was fortunate enough to employ my education immediately upon graduation when I accepted a position within a U.S. Senate office and again when I accepted a position with the local mayor’s office. Those experiences combined with the practical education gained while earning my degree have provided me with the necessary knowledge and relationships to be effective in my current position.
Q: How did you become interested in political science?
A: I credit the realization of my interest in government to inspirational and motivational professors like Georgia Wralstad-Ulmschneider and other IPFW Political Science department faculty (as well as one IUPUI professor). It was professors like Georgia who helped me to connect government to everyday life, helping me to perceive roles through which I can shape everyday life without having to serve as an elected official.
Q: What is the best career advice you were given?
A: The best career advice that I was ever given was to never grow callous when continually hearing or listening to the hardships, concerns, laments, gripes and allegation of others. In the same way that skin becomes calloused by repeated friction, pressure, or other irritations, a public servant’s heart can become calloused when he or she is forced to be continually subjected the same. While a citizen’s needs might be addressed as a result, a calloused public servant may handle that business and individual in a matter-of-fact way. The person in need can be viewed as a task at hand rather than an individual with his or her own set of life experiences that have brought him or her to where his or her life currently rests. One of the most attractive features of Jesus Christ is that He seemed to consistently deal with individuals for whom they were and where they were at in their life’s journey despite facing their consistent iniquities, hardships, simple faithlessness and attacks from all around. He never seemed to grow callous but was always engaged—physically and emotionally. My conviction is that striving to keep from being callous in my work is another way to strive for the same heart behind His service.
Q: Was there anyone during your time at IPFW who acted as a mentor to you? If so, tell us about the relationship and why it was valuable.
A: During my time at IPFW, I perceived that Georgia Wralstad-Ulmschneider served as a mentor more than anyone else on campus. George was motivational and inspirational, while holding no punches. As my Pre-Law advisor she was realistic about the challenges that I would face in pursuing a law degree, yet she helped to point out a path that could lead to that success if law school was to be my pursuit. The relationship was valuable because it provided a guiding voice during hectic college years, it provided an in-your-corner coach when many others seemed indifferent, and it provided a balanced measure of ego-boosting and pomposity-deflating encouragement that kept me steadily heading towards my degree and future successes. It's natural for me to recommend her courses to any IPFW students that I meet.
Q: What course(s) have you found to be most valuable in your professional life?
A: Various classes have proven to be most valuable to my professional life at different times. While working for the U.S. Senate, almost all of my Political Science courses have proven to be valuable because they helped me to understand the environment in which I was working. Perhaps the most valuable of these courses were Constitutional Law I & II and Judicial Politics. In working with people, I’ve found that Philosophy of Religion, Intro to Logic, and Psychology have proven to be of value.
Q: What would be your advice to someone who is considering IPFW (either as a new student or a returning adult)?
A: I advise students considering IPFW to first think about their (or their parents') pocket books. It makes sense to get useable education with as little debt as possible, especially if a student has yet to identify a major. While other institutions may be more ideal for some majors, a student need not rack up debt at another institution only to eventually come back to Fort Wayne and learn that the same degree could have been obtained through IPFW and afforded him or her the same opportunities.
Q: What advice would you give to current IPFW students?
A: I advise current IPFW students get involved in campus life. IPFW is at just the right size and students are just enough involved that many students can learn valuable skills, build useful relationships and improve their resumes simply by taking advantage of the opportunities made available on campus through student organizations and services, athletics, and various academic and departments.
Q: Do you have a favorite and/or funny story about your time at IPFW?
A: While I don’t have a favorite or funny story to share about my time at IPFW, I do acknowledge that my time spent serving in student government was memorable. It’s not that there were no funny or great stories…but what happened in IPSGA stayed in IPSGA. Like many groups of student leaders, we strove to make meaningful changes for students, improve campus life and represent the University well. Hindsight reveals that we had a great group of leaders, in general, as the decade concluding this year has seen us be leaders in the not-for-profit sector, serve in a local government administration, run or work on various campaigns for local and federal offices, and work within various federal offices, including U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. General Services Administration, U.S. Senate and The White House. Good times then, and good times since!
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments, both personally and professionally?
A: My greatest personal accomplishment is my family. While IPFW prepped me to make good career choices, life prepared me to make a great wife choice. I was smart enough to propose, and she was generous enough to accept, and we were married while I was still a broke student. Since then, we’ve had three rugrats who continually enrich my life in too many ways to count. While I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that past employers have bestowed on me and I feel good about all successes I have had thus far, I do not yet consider any of my accomplishments to be “the greatest.” They have been good and meaningful, but my prayer is that a worthy accomplishment is still somewhere down the road.
Q: Where do you hope to be in ten years?
A: At this point, my aim is to be working on state or federal public health issues. My mind is not so set in regards the position I hold in doing so (senior staff for an elected officials, member of a think tank, public health department, etc.)
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: Disciple of Christ, Striving Husband, Exemplary Father, Community Servant (in that order)