I Am UAA: Kathleen Shepro

December 4, 2012

I AM UAA: Kathleen SheproAdministrative Specialist, Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Seattle, Wash.
Fun fact: Enjoys traveling (some of her noteworthy trips include the Galapagos Islands, Ireland and Tibet)

Kathleen Shepro grew up in Seattle, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Alaska’s always been home for her. As a kid, her whole family would drive up the Al-Can Highway every year to spend the summer in Delta Junction. And every year, much to the kids’ disappointment, they’d have to drive right back down at the end of the season so Kathleen and her siblings would be in Washington in time for another school year.

“What’s interesting is when we were kids, we wanted to move up here. We loved it. We didn’t want to go home,” Kathleen says. It’s no surprise then that as her siblings began graduating from school, the family started to trickle up to Alaska—this time more permanently.

First, her brothers moved up here during the pipeline years. Her sisters came up to visit, met people, married and settled down as well. For Kathleen, however, the spur was a little different.

Although it was school that kept Kathleen’s family from moving up here when she was a kid, it was school that convinced Kathleen to move her own family up here as an adult. Married and with her own kids in 1976, Kathleen joined the rest of her siblings in Fairbanks after learning Fairbanks North Star Borough School District gave parents the opportunity to develop an alternate program for their kids.

Through the program, Kathleen and her husband, Carl, were able to develop a curriculum that helped their son Joe excel in ways a traditional classroom setting wouldn’t. The custom program featured a lot of early on-the-job training and hands-on projects to help develop his strengths and learn better. After all, if someone doesn’t thrive in it, “there’s no reason to keep someone in an academic setting all day long,” Kathleen says. “Alaska was the perfect place to create and investigate and find out what’s available and new.”

In true Alaska style, the Shepros set to building their own home as well. They bought land, made the pilgrimage to Seattle for supplies and brought everything back up in a flatbed. Within five years, the house was built.

By that time, Kathleen and Carl were working at UAF—Carl was a professor in the political science department and Kathleen was a program coordinator in what is now UAF’s Center for Distance Education and Independent Learning. Eventually, Carl got a job in UAA’s Department of Political Science while Kathleen stayed in Fairbanks for a few more years so Joe could finish school.

Upon her arrival in Anchorage in 1994, it was a no-brainer to look for a job at UAA. “I wanted to stick with the university,” Kathleen says. “I’d been there long enough to know it was a great place to work.”

“I really like being in an environment where there’s no confusion about what the goal is. It’s a university.” Even better, that goal is shared by a diverse crowd. “I love to be in an environment in which people think differently and encourage types of thought that don’t have to be the same.”

So she applied for a position coordinating the humanities departments within UAA’s College of Arts and Science and has held that position ever since.

“The jobs that I’ve held have been pretty much the same at UAF and UAA,” Kathleen says. “Both campuses are extremely supportive.”

Her current position at UAA involves working with faculty and staff, helping to coordinate and organize special projects so that everything goes smoothly. One project she frequently helps with is recruiting new hires for the departments under her charge.

Her pitch to these potential new UAA employees? “I always say it’s a wonderful place to work. There are a lot of opportunities to grow and develop. There’s a great career ladder. Even myself, as long as I’ve been here, I just constantly do different things. Things develop around you.”

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