The first week that James Wangelin, '12, spent at Buffalo State significantly influenced the success he found at the end. During Orientation Week in the fall of 2008, an experience that Wangelin describes as “amazing,” the rural high school track star became immersed in all that Buffalo State had to offer. He was so impressed by the leaders’ enthusiasm that the following three Augusts found Wangelin leading a bevy of backpack-toting freshmen around the campus during Orientation Week.
These experiences gave Wangelin the impetus to pursue other campus leadership roles—residence hall director, first-year mentor, and captain of both the cross country and track and field teams. The culmination of that experience plus excellent grades prepared Wangelin for a supervisor leadership position at GEICO Insurance. He landed the job immediately after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in business in May 2012 when he also received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.
Wangelin, 23, now oversees a team of five employees who sell homeowner’s insurance.
“It’s phenomenal to work there,” he said. “I can’t believe the details that are involved in such a big company. Anything that I think of they’ve thought of already. I keep learning and I love that.”
Wangelin credits Robert Mead-Colegrove, director of orientation and new student programs, for serving as a guiding force at Buffalo State.
“From my own first-year orientation, Bob took me under his wing. With him, I attended the National Orientation Directors Association Conference for three years,” he said. In 2011, Wangelin won the Best First-Time Presenter Award as well as the Male Student Leader of the Year Award at the conference in Providence, Rhode Island. “I am now passing on the leadership skills that Bob taught me.”
Wangelin grew up in East Otto, New York, and graduated in a class of 32 students, few of whom attended college. Ambitious from a young age, Wangelin said he knew he would pursue higher education, and he sought a large college that would provide numerous opportunities.
“I wanted a school where I could meet someone different every day,” he said. At Buffalo State, Wangelin quickly got involved on campus, even while commuting his freshman and sophomore years. He thrived on the field and excelled in the classroom. Wangelin recalls one of his favorite courses, Retail Management taught by lecturer Gary Berger, where the students undertook real-world projects.
“In one of the projects we each started with a quarter to buy items and then resell them. We raised $4,000 as a class, which we then donated to a charity,” he said. “I liked the entrepreneurial spirit of it.”
In addition to working at GEICO, Wangelin has become something of an entrepreneur himself. He operates a side business storing and moving the belongings of college students. Wangelin’s hard work has enabled him to purchase his first home in Kenmore as he carves out a career at GEICO.
While the insurance industry wasn’t on his radar when he started studying business, Wangelin said GEICO has ended up as a great fit for the skills he honed as a student at Buffalo State.