When the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce announced the 2016 Michiana Forty under 40, nine IU South Bend alumni were on the list. The annual award shines a spotlight on the region’s most talented and dedicated young executives, professionals, and leaders who demonstrate career success and community engagement. "More than 70 percent of IU South Bend graduates remain in the area after graduation," said Chancellor Terry Allison, "and like these nine outstanding alumni, they make positive contributions in our community and the places they work."
Forty Under 40
Nathan Boyd, MS’08, Special Education and Building Leadership
Grissom Middle School Principal Nathan Boyd knows first-hand how strong role models can inspire children to succeed. "My high school football coach was my first real male role model," he explained. "He helped me establish goals in my life that I could not have accomplished without his encouragement." Boyd's coach inspired him to be a better student-athlete, and as a result, Boyd earned a full athletic scholarship to play football at Ball State University.
The middle school principal recently achieved three distinctions: he was named to the prestigious 2016 Michiana Forty under 40 list; he was awarded Principal of the Year for Northern Indiana District Two; and was selected Indiana's Middle School Principal of the Year. "I pride myself in being creative, and approaching this job in a different way," he commented. A self-proclaimed people-person who enjoys kids and their families, Boyd spends his time out of the office engaging with students and staff. He enjoys having fun with the kids, chatting in the cafeteria, making videos, or teaching the choir a new song. "Children want to do well," he explained. "We try to provide avenues so they can succeed in multiple areas."
He credits much of his career success to IU South Bend Professors of Education Dr. David Hendrix and Dr. Barbara Thomas, as well as Penn-Harris-Madison Schools (PHM) Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker. "I've been lucky to have strong mentors and inspirational professors in my career," he said. Boyd is currently pursing a doctorate in educational leadership at Purdue University. He also serves on the South Bend Housing Authority Board and the Youth Service Bureau.
Shahir Rizk, BS’00, Biological Sciences
I had no plans for graduate school when I came to IU South Bend as an undergraduate student," said Shahir Rizk, BS'00.
Inspired by an undergraduate research project with Professor of Biochemistry Gretchen Anderson, Rizk shared his interest in pursuing a career in academia. "I told her I wanted her job, and she said, 'you can't have my job but you can go get your own job,'" Rizk said with a smile. And he did just that.
After graduating from IU South Bend, Rizk earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Duke University and became a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. Today, he is an assistant professor in IU South Bend's Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.
Prior to joining IU South Bend's faculty, Rizk was a member of the faculty at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame as a research assistant professor. He was also the director of external programs at the Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases. "I liked my job at Notre Dame, but I wanted to be more involved with teaching," he said. "When a position became available at IU South Bend, I applied. I knew the culture, and it was an opportunity to work with some of the same professors who inspired me when I was an undergraduate student.
Rizk is also a founding member and the president of Ultreia, Inc., a local non-profit organization that promotes art and art education in Michiana.
Amy Simeri McClellan, BS’03, MBA’07
Not entirely sure she made the right choice when she transferred to IU South Bend, McClellan's doubts were quickly defeated. "I knew after one semester I made a good choice," she explained. Small class sizes and the quality of the faculty made the difference for her. "The small class sizes held me and my classmates to a higher standard."
In her position as vice president of sales and marketing at Martin's Super Markets, she oversees the local grocery chain's marketing and merchandising initiatives. She finds her understanding of market research and business statistics very relevant to her job today. "As I have had to make competitive pricing decisions," she explained, "I know that my education has helped to guide my choices. As it relates to advertising, forms of media continue to change and evolve over time, but the science behind why and what should be communicated doesn't change."
McClellan also appreciated the diverse student population she found in her classes at IU South Bend, especially the international students. "It was a great experience to work in teams with talented, smart people," she explained. "We learned how to tap each other's skills and abilities" something I do every day in my job.
A True Veteran Leader
Andrew Chilafoe, B.G.S. ’15, insurance agent at Leliaert Insurance Agency
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, and brother, Andrew Chilafoe, BA '15, served in the Army as a counterintelligence agent for nearly nine years, operating on several U.S. bases and deploying overseas to Afghanistan and Korea. "After graduating from high school in Owensboro, Kentucky, I joined the Army because I didn’t know what I wanted to do," he explained. "The Army was a good place for me to figure that out."
After his discharge from the Army, Chilafoe settled in the South Bend area and began working as a security guard at a car dealership and later as a car salesman. “I was grateful for the opportunity, but it was not something I wanted to do for the next 30 years.” He decided to return to IU South Bend as a full-time student to complete his undergraduate degree.
Taking advantage of an opportunity to complete an internship at Leliaert Insurance Agency while he was a student at IU South Bend resulted in a job for the Army veteran. Today, he works as a licensed insurance agent at the agency selling personal and business line insurance products.
During his tenure at IU South Bend, Chilafoe embraced opportunities to be involved in the Student Veterans Organization (SVO). Chilafoe served as the events coordinator for the organization. Under his leadership, SVO hosted several events that raised funds to support the Robert L. Miller Sr. Veteran Center, a new addition to the Center for the Homeless in South Bend and a Habit for Humanity home for a St. Joseph County veteran. In addition, SVO provided a free lunch to honor veterans on Veterans Day.
Chilafoe continues to pursue opportunities that allow him to support veterans and veteran organizations. He works diligently to raise funds for the Veteran’s Appreciation Fund, which hosts holiday dinners for local veterans and a summer barbeque. In addition the group has also helped individual veterans in need with groceries and utility bills.
An avid motorcycle enthusiast, the Army veteran serves as president of Army Riders, a Michiana group of Army veterans who are also motorcycle buffs. In addition to providing comradery, the group provides aid and support to local veterans and their families.
As he looks to the future, Chilafoe plans to embark on a career aimed at helping veterans with their legal issues. This fall, he began pursuing his law degree at Valparaiso University. “My experience in the military and SVO has focused my career aspirations on helping veterans,” he explained
Humbled he achieved the 2016 Michiana Forty under 40 list for his accomplishments in his career and his leadership with veteran outreach in the community, Chilafoe said, “I’m honored I was chosen for the award, but a lot of people help and lead the way.” Spoken like a true veteran leader.
A Leader in Education
James Ryan Seitz, BS Education ’05, principal at John Adams High School, South Bend Community School Corporation
South Bend Community School John Adams High School Principal James Ryan Seitz, BS Education ’05, appreciates making a difference in the community he has called home his entire life. Seitz left South Bend briefly after graduating from John Adams High School to attend college on a basketball scholarship, but found he missed his family and returned home to attend IU South Bend.
Still passionate about basketball, Seitz decided to major in math education, so he could teach and coach high school students. Taking upper level math courses at IU South Bend, he found the coursework challenging, but worth the effort. “My math teachers were outstanding. I got as much or more out of my classes because the coursework was so difficult,” he explained. “With the support and mentorship of my professors, especially Drs. Michael Darnel and Anne Brown, I learned the value of hard work, and I gained confidence in my abilities.”
Likewise, Seitz also felt his education classes prepared him well to be successful high school teacher. “My education psychology course taught me how to teach my students to measure their own progress,” he explained. “My practicum classes were insightful and well-rounded, providing experiences in all types of classrooms.”
Recently, Seitz was named to the elite 2016 Michiana Forty under 40 list. As he reflected on how his education at IU South Bend contributed to his success as a teacher and an administrator, he said “I’m proud of the level at which IU South Bend prepared me and other educators to be successful teachers. I see it on a daily basis with the teachers I work with in the South Bend Community School Corporation.”
After graduating from IU South Bend, Seitz taught math and coached basketball at Washington High School for eight years before earning his master’s degree in educational leadership. He served as assistant principal at Riley High School for one year before becoming the principal at his high school alma mater John Adams High School in 2014.
“College is an extremely difficult transition from high school,” Seitz explained. “IU South Bend offers a more personal touch as well as a world-class curriculum, where people will push you to excel and become the best version of yourself.”
A is For Apple Pie
Seianna Giden-McCray, BS ’10, elementary education; founder of “A is for Apple Pie” and compliance officer at DePaul Academy
After winning two small start-up grants, Seianna Giden-McCray, a compliance officer/trainer at DePaul Academy, launched her business “A is for Apple Pie,” a supplemental education program for elementary school children that links learning with cooking.
Combining her two passions—elementary education and cooking—Giden-McCray, set her sights on developing an affordable, supplementary education program for grade-school age children held on Saturday mornings at Beacon Resource Center. “I’ve never done anything like everybody else,” she explained. “I knew I loved education, and I had to make it work for me.”
Giden-McCray credits her professors at IU South Bend with her success in the classroom and in her career. “I never sat in the front of the class until I took Dr. Randy Isaacson’s educational psychology class,” said Giden-McCray. “I found my early education classes with Dr. Ni Chang very creative and inspiring, too.” In addition as a student she appreciated the strong connections professors had in the community. “IU South Bend faculty are involved in the community. If I needed a placement or an internship, they could connect me with someone.”
In 2016, Sienna was honored with the IU Schurz Library Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award, the St. Mary’s College THRIVE Champion of Community Engagement Award, and she was named to the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce 2016 Michiana Forty under 40 list for her efforts to support elementary education initiatives for children in the community.
“I learned a lot at IU South Bend because it was a very supportive environment,” said Giden-McCray. “I worked 20 hours a week in the library, and I became very close to the library staff. They really helped me maintain my focus and continue to have fun at a time that was very difficult in my family life. My mom had cancer and my brother passed away, and the library staff and some of my professors really helped me get through and maintain my focus on earning my degree. ”
Like many IU South Bend alumni, Giden-McCray remained in the community after graduation, making a difference in elementary education in the district. “My goal for “A is for Apple Pie” is to eventually do contract work coaching teachers and parents in the practices, so they can supplement children’s learning in the classroom with fun projects at home.”
Championing Diversity in Her Profession
Victoria Wolf, BS’99, MBA ’02, attorney at Leone Halpin, LLP
IU South Bend Judd Leighton School of Business and Economics alumna Victoria Wolf, BS’99, MBA ‘02, recently joined the exclusive Michiana Forty under 40 list. The award shines light on talented young professionals who demonstrate career success and community engagement before the age of 40. Wolf, an attorney with Leone Halpin, LLP, attributes much of her success to the skills she acquired in her dual degrees from IU South Bend’s Leighton School. “While I was at IU South Bend, I learned to work in groups, and I mastered the technology available at the time,” said Wolf. “Both skills have served me well in my career.”
After earning her undergraduate degree in accounting, Wolf pursued her Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the Leighton School, while working in her father’s business, Performa Corporate Solutions. “It was an easy decision to pursue my MBA at IU South Bend,” she said. “I wanted to remain in the community, and I was very happy with my undergraduate education at the Leighton School.”
As a student at IU South Bend, Wolf developed strong connections with her professors, who she stays in touch with even today. “My professors made a huge impact on me, especially Professors Tracey Anderson and Randall Osborne” she recalled. “They really believed in me.”
Wolf also appreciated the diverse student body at IU South Bend, especially her international classmates, who came from countries such as Pakistan, Columbia, Turkey, Bali, Egypt, and Zimbabwe. She enjoyed getting to know them, working in teams together, and learning about new cultures as friendships developed. “It was very fulfilling and educational to have the opportunity to interact and strike friendships with people from so many different cultures beyond Indiana and the United States,” she commented. “I discovered how to work with a variety of people as well as learn from them, which is a valuable skill in any workplace.”
After working for a few years in her father’s business, Wolf decided to pursue a law degree at Valparaiso University. “My education at IU South Bend and the Leighton School prepared me well to succeed in law school,” she said.
Today Wolf champions diversity in the law profession. She serves as president of the St. Joseph County Bar Association, where she spearheaded the diversity committee. In addition to being an active member of the Indiana State Bar Association, she is also a member of the Young Lawyers Council, where she is past-chair of its diversity committee.
She is an avid swimmer, runner, and biker. She and her father have competed in two relay triathlons, winning their division both times. As a competitor, a professional, and a community volunteer, Wolf’s experiences at IU South Bend prepared her to succeed. “At IU South Bend, I gained the skills and the knowledge to compete and thrive in today’s technical and diverse marketplace.”
Prepared to Succeed
Bradford Shively, B.G.S. ’04, attorney and partner at Sanders Pianowski, LLP
Bradford Shively’s, B.G.S.’04, outstanding service and dedication to the Elkhart community began at the age of nine when he began working as a newspaper carrier, serving over 150 Elkhart Truth subscribers. In recognition of his exceptional seven-year career as a newspaper carrier for the organization, he was inducted into the Elkhart Truth Newspaper Carrier Hall of Fame.
After being accepted to several colleges, his commitment to family and community fostered his decision to choose IU South Bend. As an undergraduate at IU South Bend and a law student at Valparaiso University, Shively continued to shine as a student and an employee. “Throughout college and law school, I was employed at Martin’s Super Market, working my way up to assistant store manager,” he said. “I was able to pay my tuition as I went along, and I gained valuable employment experience, too.”
After graduating with high distinction from IU South Bend, Shively pursued his law degree at Valparaiso University, graduating cum laude. While in law school he was chief justice of the Moot Court Honor Society and a published notewriter and editor for the Law Review. Today, he continues to earn accolades for his achievements on the job and in the community. Shively was recently named to the 2016 Michiana Forty under 40 list for his outstanding accomplishments in his career and in the community.
Early in college, Shively knew he ultimately wanted to earn a law degree. “I enjoyed debating and I enjoyed advocacy,” he explained. “So that cemented law school for me.” As a general studies major with a concentration in social and behavioral sciences and a minor in psychology and criminal justice at IU South Bend, Shively was able to tailor his curriculum to prepare him to succeed in law school.
“At IU South Bend, the class sizes were small, and I wasn’t just a number,” he said. “The professors really cared about students and want to help them achieve their career goals.” One professor in particular stood out for Shively--Economics Professor and Director of General Studies Paul Joray, who helped him choose the best courses to accomplish his goals. “My professors were wonderful. I developed the strong writing and research skills necessary to succeed as an attorney,” he said.
Preparing for his future profession in law, Shively’s pre-law classes were his favorite. In addition, Shively appreciated the expertise and practical experience that his professors brought to the classroom. For example, his procedural and substantive criminal law classes were taught by Judge Michael Scopelitis. As Shively explained, “Judge Scopelitis was incredibly knowledgeable and experienced with respect to the study and practice of law. As a result, Judge Scopelitis had the ability to share real-life experiences which made his classroom lectures particularly informative, captivating, and inspiring. In short, my professors gave me the tools to succeed,” he explained.
“Because I remained in the community, I developed a lot of connections here,” he explained. “I clerked for the Office of the Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney and Sanders Pianowski, LLP, where I am a partner today. It allowed me to hit the ground running.”
In addition to his law career, Shively has served on the boards of the Pillars of Elkhart and the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce’s Beautification Council. At 19, Shively earned his private pilot’s license, and today, he is an active member of the Mishawaka’s Pilot Club and Mishawaka Air Activities. He enjoys taking his wife and their young daughter on short plane trips to visit attractions in the Midwest.
As he reflects on his decision to choose local, Shively said, “I’m proud of the education I received at IU South Bend. My ultimate goal was to attend law school and my education at IU South Bend made that possible.”
Inspired to Succeed
Carmen Williams, BS Education ’01, MS Educational Leadership ’07, principal at Jefferson Intermediate School, South Bend Community School Corporation
Inspired and challenged by her mother and her teachers to persevere and succeed in school, Carmen Williams, BS Education ’01; MS Educational Leadership ’07, was able to accomplish all she wanted. “My mother was a wonderful role model,” she commented. “She graduated with a business degree from IU South Bend while I was in school. She set high expectations for me.”
While in middle school a teacher’s caring concern also made a difference in William’s life. When she began to hang with students who were not on her path to academic success, her teacher took her aside and encouraged her to pursue the better path. “Because of these experiences, I wanted to help teachers reach more children,” she said. “It’s the way I want to make an impact.”
Achieving the 2016 Michiana “Forty under 40” list was a personal milestone for the intermediate school principal. “My career has been very intentional,” she remarked. “This is a great career achievement for me. It raises awareness about the good things this school is achieving.”
After graduating from Clay High School, Williams followed in her mother’s footsteps and attended IU South Bend to pursue an undergraduate degree in elementary education. She appreciated the “hands-on” approach her professors took in her education classes. “We gained a lot of classroom experience early in our coursework,” she said. “We not only completed a lot of observation hours, but we worked side-by-side the teacher in the classroom.”
After graduating with her degree in elementary education, Williams taught in Elkhart Community Schools for seven years while she pursued her master’s degree in educational leadership at IU South Bend. Upon earning her graduate degree, Williams served as the assistant principal for three years at Jefferson Traditional Intermediate School before becoming principal in 2013.
As a master’s student, Williams was part of a small cohort who came to know each other well. “They could speak to my strengths and my challenges,” she recalled. “The experience taught me to communicate well with all groups.” It’s a useful skill for the school administrator. “One of my biggest challenges is to listen to all groups and find ways to make them feel heard, while also being bound by the policies I must adhere to.”
Williams found the education faculty’s knowledge and experience in the field a valuable asset at IU South Bend, especially David Hendrix, who was the director of the graduate program at the time. “He had so much experience in the field,” she explained. “He could speak to a lot of issues and share strategies for handling them. He inspired us to be prepared, confident leaders.”
In addition to her responsibilities as a principal, Williams also makes time to give back to the community. She serves on the advisory board of the Robinson Community Learning Center, and she is a member of the Junior League of South Bend, which focuses its mission on early childhood education. The organizations current initiatives include preschool programming at Harrison Primary Center and an educational playground for the children of Hope Ministries.
“I have a strong sense of community,” she explained. “I am a great benefactor of what South Bend Community Schools and IU South Bend had to offer. I want to be that person who makes a difference and gives back.”