February 27, 2014

Changemaker of the Week: Ben Gellman '14

by Swearer Center

Ben Gellman '14 has spent his four years at Brown exploring the intersections of race, sexuality, urban development, and social change. He is now launching the Motor City Exchange, a startup network of summer fellowship programs in Detroit's social sector.

Q: What is your involvement in social change and how did it start?
A: I grew up in Southeast Michigan, and during my senior year of high school, I started working part time at a community development corporation on Detroit's East Side. Through this work, I got affiliated with a network of really amazing advocates and community leaders who have worked their entire lives to make their neighborhoods better places. I launched Motor City Exchange with some of my Detroit friends as a program to boost capacity at institutions like these, that have committed to neighborhood-based economic development.

Q: What is the most important lesson you've learned through your involvement with these issues?
A: That people are unbelievably willing to connect and chat about ideas. It took a long time for me to open up about my ambitions and ideas but once I did that, I realized how helpful and incredible people could be.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any college student thinking of becoming a "changemaker"? A: Talk to people that excite you! I have had so many mentors at Brown, who have taught me to be a confident queer man, how to talk about and own up to my passions, and how to be a better friend and listener.

Q: What is your personal mission statement?
A: I strive to make my mom proud and to be supportive to the people that enrich my life.

Q: What's one surprising fact people might not know about you?
A: My goal in life is to open up a gay bar in Detroit.

If you know a Brown student or alum who is making a difference on campus, in Providence, or around the world, nominate them here to see them featured as Changemaker of the Week.