Homecoming 2017: Aaron and Jathniel Shepherd

By: Emily Neideck

Photo contributed from Facebook

Each Fall, Indiana Wesleyan University awards an outstanding IWU graduate with the Distinguished Young Alumni Award. This award is granted to an alumnus or alumna who graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences within the past 10 years and has exhibited excellence in serving his or her profession, community, church, or alma mater in the spirit of Jesus Christ. This year, two distinguished alumni won this award – Aaron and Jathniel Shepherd.

The Shepherd’s met at Indiana Wesleyan University and currently, live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Aaron is employed with Procter and Gamble. His position involves working with advertising, contracts and trademark law. Jathniel currently works part-time for their church as the financial administrator, and she also stays home with their three children.

Both Aaron and Jathniel believe that many friendships were formed for them during their time at IWU, and both worked for The Sojourn. Aaron stated, “Most the friendships that I made I have been able to keep, even though some of those friends are local.” Jathniel graduated from Indiana Wesleyan with a degree in Nursing, and Aaron was a double major with Political Science and Writing.

Indiana Wesleyan was Jathniel’s first Christian schooling experience. She stated, “I had always gone to public school before that. Going to a school that had a Christian background changed me. I really appreciate that.” She believes her time at IWU was formative to who she is now. Even though she is not practicing as a Nurse, she believes that the things she learned and the professors she encountered have impacted what she is currently doing.

For Aaron, the most beneficial part of his time at IWU was the professors. He said, “They were always challenging me, but also, always believing in me.” He believes this increased his confidence for graduate school and in his current workforce. His professors also encouraged him to trust in God’s plan for his life, leading him to be more confident in the tasks he was completing.

The Shepherds exemplify what it means to live out God’s calling in the present. Aaron stated about winning this award, “I think we are overall just humbled by it. We certainly know that we have not, from our view, done any grand or amazing thing in our lives. In many ways, we are just trying to live out the calling to serve Christ in our community, church and careers.”


Written by Emily Neideck, writer for the Alumni Center and a junior Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at www.emilylehner.wordpress.com.

Meet Young Alum – Rilee Catalano

Being offered a solid job right out of college is not a common occurrence, but our very young ’15 alum, Rilee Catalano proved that it is possible. Her hard work while at school paid off, and she is grateful for every opportunity.

Riley CatalanoCatalano officially graduated last spring Summa Cum Laude with a double major in Public Relations and Business Administration. She then moved to Columbus, Ohio to live with friends and has been preparing for her job through an internship. For over a year, she has been virtually interning with the Fortune 20 Health Care company called Cardinal Health. In June, she will begin a full-time position with them in the Managerial Training Program called EMERGE.

Leading up to her full-time position, Catalano has been getting familiar with the company’s internal communication through her Communication Internship. She has been working on a project with Cardinal Health’s corporate social media Internet, which is similar to a corporate Facebook. “Our corporate Facebook is called ‘Engage.’ It was created about two years ago by my supervisor, the Director of Internal Communication, as a way to first, connect the workplace, second, generate open two-way communication, and third, enable collaboration and idea sharing,” she said.

Her supervisor approached her and said that the Chief of HR and the Vice President of Communications were wondering if her project, Engage, was meeting its goals. Without any metrics or measurements in place, Catalano had a large task ahead of her. She was presented with the job as their intern to quantify how the social media was performing, so they could prove to the Chief and VP that it was working. This included researching to seek out measurements of collaboration, communication, and networking online.

“I’ve been able to go into the data system and create metrics and case studies, so I’m creating both quantitative and qualitative measures of various indicators of networking, two-way communication, and innovation,” Catalano said.

She sometimes cannot believe how far she has come, thinking back to being at Indiana Wesleyan just a year ago. “Being at IWU, I was able to be a big fish in a small pond,” she said. Catalano served on the leadership team for PRSSA [Public Relations Student Society of America], contributed writing for the school newspaper, The Sojourn, and broadcasted as a host for the WIWU TV station.

“I honestly learned so much at school that I never went into an interview where I didn’t have an experience to relate to. My experiences at IWU were amazing because of all the opportunities I was able to have just by taking the initiative and wanting it,” she said. “All of it was so valuable. IWU definitely helped make me the professional person I am today.”

Another opportunity she is grateful for is her senior internship with the Grant County Economic Growth Council. During her time with the Growth Council, she coordinated three professional networking events, one of which was new. This event was called Date to Innovate, and is now on it’s second year.

Riley 2When Catalano found out that the upcoming PRSSA team will be partnering with the Growth Council to continue Date to Innovate, she was thrilled and humbled. “That wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for me, and I can’t say that about very many things in this world. It’s awesome to know that somehow, I made a tangible impact that I can actually see. That’s so rewarding for me,” she said.

Catalano believes that the best experiences in life are those that make you grow, and you cannot grow without being challenged. Everything she did throughout college was challenging, especially her internship at the Growth Council: “In that role, they required me to take a lot of initiative, be a self-starter and a self-manager, and manage my own time… I know that all of my experiences while in college in Marketing and Communications definitely prepared me to be a big fish in a really big pond.”

Once she starts her full time Managerial role at Cardinal Health in June, she sure will be in a “big pond.” The program that she will enter is called EMERGE and it is focused on offering leadership development through experiencing different positions. Catalano will we placed in a different position every year within her function. Since she is in the Marketing role, she will be training to become a Marketing Manager with their business by doing a different Marketing role every year for the next three years.

“This year, I will be working in Pharmaceutical Consumer Health doing Marketing with independent Pharmacy owners. I’ll curate content, research, work with customer service, and plan events,” Catalano explained.

She has not even technically started her job yet, but is already booking flights and hotels for a retail business conference in Las Vegas this summer: “The team that I am with has a big hand in coordinating the function. I’ve already started on it and it’s really fun.”

It is encouraging to see our graduates succeeding in their career paths and enjoying every step. Catalano is one example of many who has an obvious passion for what she does. She thanks everyone who pushed her to become the woman she is today: “I’ve been empowered and given a lot of confidence. I can now look at a blank piece of paper and say, ‘I can make something of this on my own, because I’ve done it before.’”


Written by Kelly Reed. Kelly is a senior Strategic Communications major with a focus in Public Relations. She is the President of IWU PRSSA and hopes to work as a communications director of a nonprofit organization after graduation.