#MyWheaton Alumni Blog

My Journey as a Novelist

Posted March 15, 2017 by Sam Hayes '12

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Q: What inspired you to write and publish your first novel, The Weather Man

A: I started working on The Weather Man while at Wheaton College. It was in Dr. Roy Joseph's Writing for Media class that I discovered how much I loved writing. 

The class, first of all, was one I thought I couldn't even take because of a scheduling conflict. But Roy saw my passion for a creative portfolio class like this, and allowed me to take the class by meeting with him regularly in his office. 

A professor had never done something so kind for me. But I can guarantee you, he didn't let me skimp out on the work. For my big assignment, I wanted to write a short story. He challenged me to write a novella. He said it had to be 100 pages. I had one quarter to do this. I thought it was impossible. But he had made me promise I would at least "Try." 

In trying, I discovered just how much I loved writing stories, and wound up turning in a “short story” at 130 pages. Roy loved it, and encouraged me to turn it into a full book. It was essentially a collection of short stories from my own life, exaggerated in the vein of Big Fish, and tied together thematically. I called it Reckless Orange. With his encouragement along the way, I finished it the summer before senior year at 250 pages total. 

Overall, it was not a book to publish. Let's be real—it was my first book—written by a 20-year-old with an extremely limited worldview. But I learned so much, and grew so much, and developed a voice in writing. I sent the book off to a random list of literary agents I had found online, and one of them really took a liking to my writing style. Her name is Lacy Lynch. Though she didn't think she could do much with my first book, I had already started writing my first real novel, The Weather Man. After I had finished the first 100 pages or so, she signed me. I was so excited, but so naive to how long the journey would be from there. 

I rewrote The Weather Man six times. And five years later—poof, it's been published by a small publisher for emerging writers, Amazon White Glove. The video above is one I made for my Kickstarter, when I needed $10,000 bucks to finish the book. I made the video with my Wheaton friend Jon Seneff ’15, who is filmmaker out here in L.A. My Kickstarter ended up raising $19,000, with 1,000 books pre-sold. Other Wheaties contributed in big ways too. Abigail Mitchell ’12 designed the cover, Chentell Stiritz Shannon ’13 (Convivial Production) crafted handmade mugs to be sold, and friends from Wheaton supported me. 

And still, the book, and me, are just getting started. I've got a long way to go. And thinking back to Roy—since he sadly passed away a couple years ago—I hope the book honors his legacy. 

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What do you do when you’re not writing and promoting your novel? 

Right after college I moved to Los Angeles to attend a screenwriting program called "Act One." After a year of that, I kept writing, and started working odd jobs, like being a production assistant on film sets, or driving for Uber. And after about a year or two or that I had built up my copywriting enough to start getting more serious advertising gigs. That's what I do now, other than the book. I write advertisements for start-ups and ad agencies around L.A. Some have been really fun companies that I'm proud to have gotten to work with. Most recently I've signed on as a creative director at a social app startup, so that's exciting. But nothing tops publishing The Weather Man for me, no matter how the book performs. It feels good to know I put everything I possibly could into it, and that it's out there for people to read. 

What has been one challenge within your current job(s) that you have overcome? 

Freelance writing work is great and pays when you have enough of it, but it's hard to maintain. You must constantly prove yourself over and over, do tons of free work, lots of last minute quick turnaround stuff, and slowly build up a wide client base. 

How did Wheaton’s liberal arts curriculum prepare you for the career/vocation you are pursuing today? 

Liberal arts gave me the freedom to explore what I really loved while still in college. Wheaton’s small classes and flexible professors who know and care about their students helped, too. When I entered college I had no idea what I wanted to do, and even though I loved storytelling, I didn't take writing seriously yet. I didn't know I could. I think it's ridiculous to expect an 18-year-old to know what he or she wants to do, or can do. We need that time in college to explore, rather than get locked into a certain track right away. Communication professors like Dr. Roy Joseph and Dr. Read Schuchardt gave me immense freedom to explore creative writing and creative thinking within the assignments given. Read let me start a t-shirt company for an assignment in his Iconography class, and he took time, even after I graduated, to give me pointers on writing The Weather Man. So anyway—classes were not rigid. I was allowed to push things in the direction of my passions, even encouraged to do so, and that was invaluable. English professors like Dr. Brett Foster and Dr. Roger Lundin encouraged me to write freely. They taught me the power of storytelling, and their passion for it had a profound effect on me. 

What advice or encouraging words do you have to share with current or prospective Wheaton students today? 

"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." -Steinbeck. 

Try things. If you aren't making any mistakes, you aren't trying enough things, and you probably aren't learning much of anything. If you're not changing, you're not growing.

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Sam Hayes ’12 graduated from Wheaton with a degree in communication (media studies) and a minor in English. Photo captions (from top): A video created by Sam and Jon Seneff ’15 to support a Kickstarter for The Weather Man; Sam doing “guerrilla marketing” for The Weather Man by putting up realistic government signs warning of the weather that Adam's emotions create—stories about the campaign have been featured in the Chicago Tribune, LAist, and LA Magazine. Sam says, “More guerrilla marketing to come shortly.” See one sentence excerpts of The Weather Man and one-minute passage reading videos on Sam’s Instagram channel, @storiesbysam. 

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

Wheaton Football Ministry Partnership: A Spring Break to Remember

Posted February 24, 2017 by Peter Jarrett '13

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senegalI can still remember the first time I saw a Wheaton Football Ministry Partnership (WFMP) video during my recruiting trip to Wheaton. As I watched the video I had to hold back tears in that Sports and Recreation Center classroom, which was shocking to me as an eighteen-year-old wannabe tough guy recruit who didn't want to care about much more than football. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of those trips. Not surprisingly, as a student and player at Wheaton College from 2009-13, I made sure that I went on every WFMP trip Wheaton offered.

Looking back, that meeting with WFMP played a huge role in my decision to come to Wheaton. God was in the process of awakening something in my heart: a desire to do something significant, something selfless with my life. Something that was eternal. I had not planned on caring much about that. I figured I would go to Wheaton, make some good friends, strengthen my faith in some way, and then graduate. I didn't have plans to live boldly for Jesus or actually rely on my faith in a tangible way. However, God knew that I needed to be challenged. In the end, it was WFMP that made me say yes not only to Wheaton football but also to a living a life that matters, as Coach Jeff Peltz likes to remind us at the end of his emails. 

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I learned through WFMP trips that living like it matters is only possible when Christ is the foundation and the motivation for whatever we're doing. Everything else we do will fade. I also learned the value and joy of tangibly living by faith. Rubbing shoulders with former Wheaton football players, who are at work in some of the most difficult places in the world, showed me that the rich and abundant life is the one lived through radical dependence on our Savior. Looking back on those week-long trips are some of my favorite memories as a Wheaton Football player and I can point to those trips as the inspiration for me entering into full-time ministry with Young Life.

Thankfully, WFMP has remained a part of my life since graduating three years ago. At first it was through donating to the program, but it turned into more when Coach Peltz asked me to help lead a trip. For the past two years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to help lead groups of players on WFMP trips to Palo Alto, in the Dominican Republic. When considering the cost of this trip financially-but also emotionally, and physically-the decision is never difficult. To have the chance to play a role in what helped shape me into the man I am today is an honor. I can say without a doubt that if I had not had the chance to see God working throughout the world on multiple WFMP trips I would not be in full time ministry today. It was through those experiences that God spoke into my heart and inspired me to go all in for Him in my vocation. 

My hope is that the same thing happens for the current players. I hope and pray that God grabs their hearts the way he did mine on these trips. So much good happens when we get out of ourcomfort zone, and I cannot think of a better way to do that than through a WFMP Trip.

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Peter Jarrett '13 graduated from Wheaton with a degree in biblical and theological studies. He participated as a running back for Wheaton Football from 2009-13, has traveled on several Wheaton Football Ministry Partnership trips, and currently works with Young Life full-time. Approximately 75 players plan to travel with Wheaton Football Ministry Partnership over spring break 2017, to Port Elizabeth, South Africa with Rod ’87 and Kathy Smith Duttweiler ’87; Loskop, South Africa with JD ’64 and Barb Timyan Borgman ’64; Havana, Cuba with Keith Cote ’84; Santiago, Dominican Republic with Kyle Bradley ’09, Seth ’88 and Anne Letsinger Cohen ’88; and Sevierville, Tennessee with Ryan McCaffrey ’02 at Wears Valley Ranch. 

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

Photo captions (top to bottom): Jarrett and teammates giving children a ride on their shoulders in Dene, Senegal, after digging a trench to lay a foundation for a wall that will someday be a classroom; Jarrett and teammates hauling concrete which would be used to make a large water cistern to provide water to a retreat center in Palo Alto, Dominican Republic; a Wheaton football player mending a barbed wire fence the team built for a mother and her six children in Loskop, South Africa.

Following God's Call to 'Seek Justice'

Posted February 10, 2017 by Alesha Guruswamy Rusk '04, Janelle Milazzo Lau '06

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We were both undergraduate students in 2004 when Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of International Justice Mission, came to speak at morning Chapel about God’s heart for justice. At the time, we were deeply moved by the message, but little did we know that over a decade later, we’d working side by side helping to advance IJM’s work in South Asia. 

My (Alesha) IJM career began almost a year after graduating Wheaton, when I was originally hired to serve as IJM’s receptionist. Shortly after I was hired, IJM began research in Sri Lanka, a country where I have family ties and had completed my HNGR internship, and so I was hired on to help support IJM’s work in South Asia. Today, I serve as the Senior Program Manager for IJM’s work in the region, ensuring the effectiveness of our work to combat sex trafficking and bonded labor slavery.  

Meanwhile, after graduating from Wheaton, I (Janelle) pursued a couple of different opportunities before going on to complete a master’s degree in social work. From there, my husband and I felt compelled to serve in one of IJM’s field offices together as “fellows,” so we left our jobs and moved to South Asia from 2011 to 2013. In 2014, I was hired as an Aftercare Specialist for the South Asia regional team (working alongside Alesha at the HQ office) to provide technical program guidance and to help empower and equip our field teams who are focused on social service provision for survivors of bonded labor slavery. 

Today, IJM is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization, working to end modern-day slavery, human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor. We partner with local authorities to rescue and restore victims, restrain criminals and transform broken public justice systems. IJM is out to prove that justice for the poor is possible. 

Working for an international Christian NGO that focuses on transforming public justice systems can draw a lot questions and doubt about whether or not we can make a lasting impact on the lives of the poor in the developing world in the face of so much corruption and brokenness. But during our time at IJM, we have seen very significant changes in government responses to slavery and sex-trafficking in our project areas. It has been incredible to see our staff in South Asia, 99 percent of which are nationals of the region, engage with their government on high-level initiatives such as advising on critical anti-trafficking legislation to collaborating with government officials as they work to release slaves for the very first time.  We have witnessed the development of a courageous team of social workers who have provided a community-based aftercare program to more than 3,000 survivors of bonded labor slavery in a remote, highly impoverished and difficult region in less than five years.

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While we get to see a lot of progress in our work, we are also continually reminded that there is much that remains out of our control. Our investigators in the field are haunted by faces of slaves they are unable to rescue. Criminals are not always convicted of their violent crimes against the poor. Walking with survivors on the road to recovery can often be met with frustrations and setbacks for our teams and for the survivors themselves. 

These are all reasons why IJM is dependent upon God in prayer: this is His work that He has invited us into, and we realize that the results are in His hands. In fact, IJM so highly values prayer that it is built into the culture and daily rhythms of the organization. Each day begins with 30 minutes of “Stillness” and at 11am all staff gather into one space for a time of corporate prayer for our daily needs. IJM also annually hosts a two-day event called the Global Prayer Gathering in which staff from around the world come to DC to share first-hand stories of rescue and restoration and to ask for prayer for areas of critical need in the work. (This year’s GPG will take place on March 3 & 4 and we would love for more members of the Wheaton community to join us.) 

In facing challenges in the work alongside our colleagues in the field and here in DC, we are both incredibly grateful for the time that we had as students at Wheaton College—especially for the academic and spiritual preparation that it built into us as young adults. Weekly chapels, special seminars, ministry opportunities, and our majors (International Relations for Alesha and Anthropology for Janelle), opened our eyes to the realities of the needs of the world. Most specifically, the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program (Alesha ’03 and Janelle ’05) instilled within us skills and values that we use in our current jobs, and gave us memories of life-altering relationships with people in the developing world that we treasure. 

Wheaton College was for us a place which sought to develop the whole person: mind, soul and spirit. Beyond academics, we were challenged at Wheaton to integrate our faith into all that we do and we also experienced examples of true Christian community. We were encouraged to pursue excellence in all of our endeavors, which aligns perfectly with an IJM’s motto that “the poor deserve an excellent organization.” Wheaton prepared us to work for an organization that values being Christian, professional and bridge-builders. If we had any advice to give to current Wheaton students, it would be to take advantage of as many holistic learning opportunities as possible, and also to pursue what God has made you passionate about. 

Through our work at IJM, we have witnessed some of the harsh realities of today’s world – a world that is often filled with unspeakable violence for the poor.  While there is much darkness, at IJM we are very mindful that the story is still being written, and that we are privileged to be a part of it. One of the frequent phrases you will hear around our office is “to the dawn,” which is a constant reminder to continue pushing forward until that new day dawns, and everything is made right.

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Alesha Guruswamy Rusk ’04 graduated from Wheaton with a degree in international relations, and Janelle Milazzo Lau ’06 graduated with a degree in anthropology. Both received Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) certificates. Alesha and Janelle currently serve with International Justice Mission: Alesha as a Senior Program Manager, South Asia; and Janelle as an Aftercare Specialist for Bonded Labour, South Asia. Photo captions (from top): A bonded labor slave tells his story to a police official during a rescue with IJM attorneys present; Madesh, who was rescued from bonded labor slavery on a rose farm, takes part in a fun game with his family while attending a “Freedom Training program” hosted by IJM aftercare (Janelle is pictured in the background); An IJM Aftercare manager leads a “Freedom Training” for survivors of bonded labor slavery. He says that Freedom Training is “a time for them to dream about their future, what they want to do next, and to set goals in their lives.”Photo captions (from top): A bonded labor slave tells his story to a police official during a rescue with IJM attorneys present; Madesh, who was rescued from bonded labor slavery on a rose farm, takes part in a fun game with his family while attending a “Freedom Training program” hosted by IJM aftercare (Janelle is pictured in the background); An IJM Aftercare manager leads a “Freedom Training” for survivors of bonded labor slavery. He says that Freedom Training is “a time for them to dream about their future, what they want to do next, and to set goals in their lives.”


To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

The Art of Medicine

Posted February 3, 2017 by Moire Yue '12

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moire-yue-12Medicine is often mistaken as strictly black-and-white—but my work as a physical therapist holds an immeasurable amount of uncertainty. In my hospital, I am part of a team with physicians, nurses, and other therapists that provide comprehensive care to critically ill patients. In the ICU, PTs promote physical and cognitive activity to address current impairments and prevent secondary complications. This is known as “Early Mobility,” a rising establishment for ICUs across the world, and a challenge to the traditional thinking that critically ill patients simply need bedrest. 

It’s hard to describe my work because of the ever-changing hospital environment. Every day, we face challenges ranging from respiratory failure to strokes, open heart surgeries to amputations, alcohol withdrawal to spinal cord lesions. Infrequent but real medical mistakes are difficult to deal with, and our team faces more patient deaths than we would like. On the flip side, it’s encouraging when someone makes his or her way out of the ICU and eventually to rehab or home. It gives me pure joy to walk alongside these people in, often, their most vulnerable situations. 

I can say confidently that each part of my Wheaton experience contributed to my career. The Applied Health Science department prepared me academically, but it was the influence of Dr. Susan Vendeland that urged me to identify a unique vision to carry forward. While taking her Prevention of Obesity & Eating Disorders course and serving as her teaching assistant, I developed a holistic perspective on health. Cultivating this mindset was the main reason I took on a psychology minor and subsequently learned how medicine goes beyond science. To be an effective healthcare provider, one must appreciate the emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of well-being. One class that influenced how I integrate this into my work is Dr. Cynthia Kimball’s Personality Psychology. She taught us how to read our self and the self in others, which is a crucial skill for meeting the needs of patients. 

As a sophomore, I served with Diakonoi to provide daily campus tours. Little did I know that the skill of building rapport with complete strangers would be useful years later at my job. Bedside manner requires much creativity and is often the biggest barrier in medicine. Sadly, not all patient-therapist relationships work despite the effort and time put into it. During my years of swimming for Coach Lederhouse, I learned that diligence didn’t promise success. Some swimmers worked unbelievably hard yet did not see its results. Others accomplished much with less work ethic and an unfortunate lack of zeal. 

In a similar vein, the “injustice” of seeing some patients suffer incredulously while others healed easily brought much anxiety when I first started working. Through much pain, I now see God’s command for me: to do my missional work without carrying the burden of either good or bad outcomes; and to remember that every minute spent with a patient, even if they pass, was eternally valuable. For our purpose on earth is not to achieve nor produce, but to do the will of Him who sent us (John 6:38-40).

Moire Yue ’12 graduated from Wheaton with a bachelor of science in Applied Health Science and a minor in psychology. She currently works as a physical therapist at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. Her areas of expertise are in the hospital’s three critical care units. Like in this photo below, PTs walk patients as early as day 1 after open heart surgery.

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Another great example of her type of work is illustrated in the photo at this link. Moire says: “This photo was taken at one of Singapore's largest medical centers, accurately depicting early mobility in the intensive care unit. Often times, medical necessities such as this man's tracheostomy does not inhibit activity with physical and/or occupational therapy."

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

Jibu: My Journey as a 'Forbes 30 Under 30' Social Entrepreneur

Posted January 26, 2017 by Galen Welsch '09

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jibu-1I chose to go to Wheaton because when I visited campus I noticed something different–music. Trumpets on Blanchard lawn, guitars in the quad, pianos in every dorm lobby, and a whole Conservatory devoted to music. I’m not a musician but it’s music that made me see Wheaton as more than the typical academic institution–it stood out as a place full of life.

And ‘living fully’ is the value I got out of Wheaton. Wheaton taught me about holistic and earnest personal development of my mind, body, and soul. I wasn’t a top student or a Pierce Chapel rockstar at Wheaton (unlike my French House housemates), but I did take full advantage of everything I could and joined College Union, Student Government, ROTC, intramurals, The Wheaton Record, snow crew, and many other clubs / groups on campus. I also formed some cohorts of best friends that I still meet with annually eight years later. I’m proud to have started the Roller Disco and to have co-led a few rings of healthy mischief, as well as to have engaged with brilliant professors like Dr. Sandra Joireman and Dr. Jacobson. 

Wheaton campus life and my experience as an international relations major interning in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2007 inspired me to join the Peace Corps which in turn inspired me to co-found the social enterprise I run today, Jibu. (Jibu means the answer or solution in Swahili. Like the English word "answer," in the imperative it can also mean "respond.")

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Wheaton catalyzed the journey that led to Jibu’s vision and holistic approach to equip African entrepreneurs, via an eye-to-eye partnership model, to launch and own safe drinking water businesses. Building a sustainable solution to the global emerging markets’ most pressing problems requires looking at a bigger picture–including human capital development, economic viability, relationships, and technology. Consistent with what I first began learning as a Wheatie, Jibu drives holistic, people-centered development.

Today, Jibu has launched over 140 locally-owned safe drinking water businesses that employ more than 450 people and serve safe drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people across three countries. Our vision is to empower many more entrepreneurs globally to build permanent, financially sustainable solutions to meet basic needs, including providing safe drinking water. There have been many steps along the way since I graduated in 2009, but Wheaton set the trajectory for the path I have taken and, ultimately, to the impact Jibu has made.

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Galen Welsch ’09 graduated from Wheaton with a degree in international relations. He currently works as co-founder of social enterprise Jibu, and was recently nominated as a member of Forbes’ 30 Under 30. Photo captions (top to bottom): Jibu water is transported to underserved populations; members of the Jibu team celebrate their finished product.

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

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