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Amy Renner Hendricks, Allison Barlow Hess, Karin Hurst and Jaime Winston MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS

Remember R.L. Stine’s Give Yourself Goosebumps books that were popular with kids in the 1990s? You know, the ones that turned young readers into main characters, the ones that allowed kids to choose their own adventures? Some of the stories had over 20 possible endings, good and bad. “The great thing about the books was, if you didn’t like the ending, you went back and started over, you jumped to page 23 instead of 32,” said professional sales alumnus Shaun McBride BA ’12. “My life has kind of been like one big choose-your-own-adventure story.” Shaun, aka Shonduras, went from skateboard shop owner, to online jewelry seller, to sales representative, to social media guru, to a marketing and advertising honoree in Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 (in other words, he skipped from page 23 to 32, went back to page 14, hopped to 35, then turned to page 60). “All of us have a story,” Shonduras said, “and we’re in charge of what it looks like.” How true. Take Jessica Schreifels Miller BS ’09, MPC ’13, for example. She moved straight through her story: bachelor’s degree, journalist, master’s degree, Pulitzer Prize. Joe McGill BS ’03, however, skipped back and forth: football, NFL dream, foot injury, derailed dream, accounting major, manager to the stars in L.A. Amanda King’s ’17 story sent her around the globe: Ogden, West Point, Afghanistan, Ogden. Over the next few pages, we’ll share the stories of 10 alumni. Each took a different path, at a different stage in life, but they all have two things in common: Their journeys started right here at Weber State University and today, they are …

Living the Dream

The Social Media Guru

The Geologist

Jessica Castleton used her Weber State University education to become one of the best at helping Utah communities prepare for the worst. “Weber prepared me the most by providing me with handson fi eld education,” Castleton said. “We learned how to apply what we were learning in the classroom in the fi eld as a professional geologist would.”

Now, Castleton creates maps of possible geologic hazards for communities as a hazards geologist with the Utah Geological Survey. “I also get called out for hazards response when there is an event such as a debris flow, flood, rock fall or other geologic hazard,” she said. “I like helping people be prepared for disasters and understand the environment they live in.” One of her most exciting projects involved creating a map for Moab. “The project stemmed from a disaster response visit to determine why a sinkhole had formed under a home,” she said. “Being able to do fieldwork in Moab was fun, and communicating the geologic hazards to the community has been rewarding.”

Castleton earned her master’s degree in geology from the University of Utah in 2015. She has volunteered with local chapters of the Association of Women Geoscientists and the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG), and she currently serves as regional director for AEG, supporting chapters in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. In addition, she serves on WSU’s Geosciences Advisory Committee.

“I have had the opportunity to work with professionals from universities all over the world, and I can honestly say that Weber State is the best,” she said. “The geologic education I received at Weber was world class.”


The Paramedic

Amanda King followed her dream when her friend could no longer live hers. King graduated from the United States Military Academy, aka West Point, in 2006 and served eight years in the Army. While on one of her three tours of duty in Afghanistan, her close friend and fellow soldier, Jennifer Moreno, an Army nurse, was killed during a rescue mission.

“That was really a game changer for me in determining that medicine was a true passion in my life,” King said. “I wanted to go on and follow in her steps with medicine since she was unfortunately not able to,” King said.

King, who was handed her diploma at West Point by former President George W. Bush, decided on Weber State to pursue her dream. “My first day at Weber State, I was greeted by a whole lot of very smiling faces and donuts and people helping me find my classes,” said King, who recalls upperclassmen yelling at new students on her first day at West Point.

However, King didn’t pick WSU for its friendly atmosphere. WSU offered the quickest path for King to fulfill her dream. Now, she works for a private ambulance service as she awaits training to become a fire department paramedic.

“Weber State was definitely what I needed to make my dreams come true,” she said. “Weber State embraces people like me who, at a later age, decide they want to switch career paths.”


The Teacher

Their school mascot may be a tiger, but every Wednesday, students in Ginny Shepler’s classroom at Juan Bautista De Anza Elementary in San Jacinto, California, turn into Weber State Wildcats. Most wear purple and white, although there is a smattering of Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers T’s among them.

Shepler is an intervention teacher. Her students, kindergarteners through fifth-graders, need extra support to be successful in English and language arts. She uses the shirts as incentives in her classroom. “All students end up having a chance to wear them multiple times throughout the year,” she said.

In addition to Weber Wear, her classroom features several pieces of Weber State paraphernalia: a pompom, banner and bumper sticker hang from the wall. Approximately 85 percent of students at De Anza Elementary come from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes. Part of the school’s mission is to prepare students for college. “I want my students to know they are talented, capable and smart,” Shepler said. “One time a student wrote, ‘Mrs. Shepler knew we could do it even if we didn’t know we could.’ I also received a note once that said, ‘Mrs. Shepler is the best teacher because she cherishes us.’ If I can make all my students feel that way, I know I’ve done my job.”

Originally from Michigan, Shepler turned down a partial scholarship at Michigan State University to attend Weber State with her best friend.

“I loved Weber,” she said. “I really enjoyed the personal relationships we had with our professors. By the end of my freshman year, I was placed in work study jobs completely aligned with my school focus, so my work experience enhanced my learning experience. And, since my family was so far away, the people at Weber became my family.”


The Surgeon

When then-cabinet builder Daniel Cox enrolled at Weber State in 2004, he wasn’t sure he’d enjoy science, so he decided to take his required science classes first, just to get them out of the way. It was a good decision.

He recalled, “I wasn’t a good student in high school, but during my freshman year at Weber, I took Glenn Harrington’s microbiology course, and it opened my eyes. I remember going home and reading my textbook, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The next day I was sanding cabinets — I loved to work with my hands — and all of a sudden I just stopped, looked at a coworker and said, ‘I’m going to go to medical school.’”

Fast forward to June 20, 2017. Cox and his wife, Tori Edwards Cox BS ’08, had just welcomed their fourth child into the world at 2 a.m. Daniel was days away from finishing his ENT residency at the University of Utah Hospital. He was weeks away from moving his family to Atlanta, where he would be participating in an endoscopic skull base surgery fellowship at the prestigious Emory University.

Endoscopic skull base surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that allows surgeons to remove tumors and lesions through the nose versus a large opening in the skull.

“Weber State offered so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten at other, larger schools,” Cox said. “During my first anatomy class at medical school (at Washington University of St. Louis), the professor asked how many of us had performed dissections on human cadavers. I’m surrounded by students who had attended Harvard and Yale, and only three people raised their hands. “I was one of them, thanks to Weber State.” 


The Artist

Emily Hart Wood’s artistic voice came from an unlikely source — Bill Murray, the iconic star of Ghostbusters, Zombieland and Groundhog Day. It happened in 2010, when a Los Angeles art gallery invited Wood to participate in its group show Mr. Bill Murray, A Tribute to the Legend. Before producing a whimsical, whiskered, pipesmoking Murray clutching a goldfish bowl and straddling the bow of a sailboat, Wood had separated her abstract work from her illustrative work.

“Now those two styles have come together,” Wood said. “Bill was my first painting where I feel like I found my style. Oh, Bill Murray ... you sneaky little devil!” Wood’s “style” is abstract art and collage meet illustration. And while a Hollywood heavyweight may have inspired her style, Wood got her scholarly appreciation of art from Weber State.

“I would not be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t gone to school,” she said. “At Weber State, I developed an understanding and a perspective — more so than skill — that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.” At the heart of WSU’s visual art and design program is individualized teaching. “Those professors are so involved with each student,” Wood said. “They were so passionate about what they were doing it was just contagious.” Wood paints at home in a light-flooded space she calls The Paper Moon Studio. She accepts commissions and exhibits her work extensively in galleries throughout Utah and California.

Wood was especially touched recently when she learned that Wonder Rising, a small painting purchased at a gallery in Park City, Utah, now “resides” in California with the Palm Springs Police Department, where it symbolizes fighting Internet crimes against children. “I didn’t have crimes against children in mind when I painted it,” Wood said. “But now when I look at it, I see a child being rescued.”


The Journalist

Jessica Schreifels Miller arrived at Weber State with a clear idea of what she wanted to study: journalism. She’d found her passion in high school, writing for TX, the teen section of the Standard-Examiner. “I didn’t really know how to write articles, so I would look at the stories from the ‘grownup reporters,’ and I just copied their style, and I called sources,” she said, laughing. “Like I actually called real people for my stories, which apparently I didn’t have to do, but I did.”

At age 20, Miller was selected as editor-in-chief of The Signpost. Driven, she graduated from Weber State in just three years and earned her Master of Professional Communication degree four years later. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Miller reported first for the Standard-Examiner and then as the cops reporter at The Salt Lake Tribune. There, she received a call that a Brigham Young University (BYU) student claimed she was punished for honor code violations following a report of sexual assault. That story led to a yearlong, statewide investigation and to The Tribune’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting.

“Other people in Utah did this story,” Miller said, “but we kept pushing. I wonder if we hadn’t done that, if we hadn’t kept writing story after story, it would have just been dismissed as a bad week in public relations, and nothing would ever have changed.” In June 2017, BYU announced it had formally adopted an amnesty policy for victims or witnesses of sexual assault.

“Journalism makes you curious,” Miller said. “You look at things, and don’t just take them at face value. You think, ‘What’s the real story? What’s really going on?’ Journalism has become part of my identity: I am a woman, living in Ogden. I am a wife, and I am journalist. It really has become the core of who I am.”

The Business Manager

In 1998, Joe McGill was voted Most Athletic at Bellflower High School in Los Angeles County, California. He was so set on getting to the NFL that it surprised him when a teacher asked what he was going to do if football didn’t work out. “What do you mean if football doesn’t work out?” McGill recalled asking. “I was 17. I was going to the NFL,” he said, laughing at the memory.

“She said, ‘But you have to have a plan B,’ and I told her I’d like to run my own business. She knew math came easy to me, so she asked if I had ever considered accounting. My family was all blue collar. I didn’t even know what a certified public accountant was, or anything about the accounting world really. I had been putting marketing/advertising as my major on college applications, but from then on, I switched to accounting.”

McGill committed to play football at the University of San Diego but eventually decided to play for a community college, where Weber State noticed him. He was recruited and arrived on campus in January 2001. During his first semester, during spring practice, he injured his left knee. It derailed his football career. But, thanks to his high school teacher, McGill had a backup plan.

“I became involved in Beta Alpha Psi, an accounting and finance fraternity,” McGill said. “It was great. Professionals would come speak. We’d hear about interesting careers. During my senior year, I was elected vice president of special projects.”

McGill graduated from WSU in 2003. A CPA and business manager, he owns Topline Business Management, LLC in Los Angeles. His clients work in entertainment and include actors, actresses, writers, producers and athletes. When asked who, specifically, he laughed and said, “People you’d recognize.”

Today, McGill thinks of Weber State as a “blessing in disguise.” “Weber took me outside my comfort zone,” he said. “I was away from home, not around my family, so I had to do a lot on my own. It allowed me to interact with professionals at an earlier age and understand the concept of networking, which was key to my success.” 

The Harvard Professor

Todd Rose came to Weber State in the late 1990s a highschool dropout with a 0.9 GPA. He had been labeled a class clown, a troublemaker, and, as he explained in his new book The End of Average, “More than one school official told my parents that they would have to temper their expectations about what I would be able to achieve in life.”

Rose, however, felt that “something wasn’t right with [that] analysis.”

“I felt sure I had something to offer; it just seemed like there was a profound mismatch between who I really was and the way the world saw me,” he wrote. At WSU, Rose forged his own path based on his strengths and weaknesses, and found success. Today, he is the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he leads the Laboratory for the Science of the Individual. He is also a co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a nonprofit organization that promotes individuality in work, school and society.

Rose believes that “the average” is a mythical yardstick that hurts everyone. His mission is to dispel the myth of “the average” and help the public understand that there is a “powerful alternative”: individuality. Rose explains in his book that there are three principles of individuality: the jaggedness principle (talent is never one-dimensional), the context principle (traits are a myth) and the pathways principle (we all walk the road less traveled).

“We no longer need to be limited by the constraints imposed on us by the Age of Average,” Rose wrote in his book. “We can break free of the averagarianism by choosing to value individuality over conformity to the system. We have a bright future before us, and it begins where the average ends.”

The NFL Coach

At 43 years old, John Fassel has quite the résumé. Under work experience, he adds: special teams coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, special teams coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, interim head coach for the L.A. Rams, and special teams coordinator for the L.A. Rams. Under achievements, he adds: family man — he and his wife, Elizabeth, have two daughters, Lilah and Avery — triathlete, and even lifesaver — he and a surfer rescued a drowning man at Manhattan Beach in 2016.

Fassel was a wide receiver at Weber State in the late 1990s. He transferred to WSU from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where the football program was dropped in 1996, during Fassel’s sophomore year.

Dave Arslanian, who spent nine seasons as Weber State’s head coach, from 1989- 1997, recruited Fassel. “John actually started out as a quarterback, and he certainly added to our depth at that position, but we already had our quarterback lineup, so we moved him to wide receiver,” Arslanian said. “He was one of those athletes you just wanted to play. He was a prototype quarterback, but he quickly became a prototype wide receiver.”

Today, as the special teams coordinator for the L.A. Rams, Fassel enjoys “helping young guys make the transition from being a college student-athlete to being a responsible professional,” and says his three years at WSU were “three of the most memorable years of my life.”

“I had GREAT teachers and GREAT coaches and GREAT friends. I am forever grateful to them, and to the cafeteria workers (I ate every meal in Promontory Tower!),” Fassel said, laughing. “I’ve been back a few times. It still feels a little bit like home.”