Ryan Shepherd

Associate Professor, Department of English

Ryan Shepherd

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I'm from Indiana. I grew up nearby Fort Wayne, mostly in Monroeville, which is right on the Ohio border. I've lived in Geneva for the last year. It's a great area!

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I got my B.A. and M.A. from a branch campus of Indiana University in Fort Wayne. I got my Ph.D. in rhetoric, composition and linguistics from Arizona State University in 2014.

In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of English

What do you like about working at NIU?
The best thing by far about NIU is the people. My co-workers are kind and helpful. My students are smart and hardworking. So far, everyone at NIU has been a joy to be around. It's a great environment for working, teaching, researching and learning.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Talk to people. If you're having a hard time in a class, talk to the professor and other students. If you've missed a class or an assignment, talk to the professor about making it up. If you're having a hard time outside of class, talk to student support services or seek out one of the student centers. Everyone at NIU wants you to succeed, and 99% of us are happy to help you if there's an issue. Just let us know, and we'll be on your team.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
My main research area is in writing transfer. That's using writing knowledge in a context other than where you learned it. For example, it might mean taking what you learn in a writing class and using it in your major classes, in your part-time jobs, in your future career or on social media. I have an edited collection coming out this fall that includes wonderful work by many scholars on this subject.

What do you enjoy most about mentoring students?
I love helping students get where they'd like to go. Most of my students are going a different direction than I am, and I enjoy helping them get to the various placed they're trying to get. It's wonderful to see my students become successful in so many different areas — and it's wonderful to learn about those areas in the process.

What do you hope students take away from their college experience?
I hope that all my students learn to be better learners. College is wonderful for teaching new knowledge, but it's not possible for college classes to prepare students for every situation they'll encounter after their classes. Instead, what I hope we teach is what to do when we encounter those new situations.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
So far, I have two great memories from my first year at NIU. The first is from the fall of last year. I got to attend the open mic for first-year writers, and it was energizing to see the various kinds of writing that students are doing at NIU. The second was from my first few weeks at NIU. I attended a welcome event and got to take a picture with Mission.

What fulfills you personally and professionally?
I enjoy working closely with people on new projects and helping them achieve their goals. Sometimes we can't reach our goals without a little bit of help from someone with a little more experience, and I really enjoy being that person.

Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
Equity and inclusion. I think it's important for all people to have access to education and the benefits that brings. Historically, writing classes have been seen as "gateway" courses, and I never liked that metaphor. A gate keeps people out, and I don't want to keep anyone out. Instead, I like to think of writing courses as being "bridge" courses. They're helping people get across, and I'd like to help as many people across as I can.

Who has influenced your professional path?
Any successful person has had help from dozens of people along the way, and I'm no exception. I wouldn't be where I am without professional support from mentors in the field such as Shirley Rose (Arizona State), Paul Kei Matsuda (Arizona State), Kristine Blair (Duquesne) and many, many others. I also wouldn't have made it without the support of my mother (Kelly Shepherd), my wife (HyeSook Kim), and the rest of my family and friends. All of these people pushing me to be my best influenced me tremendously.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I've wanted to be many things over the years: a paleontologist, an engineer, a computer programmer, a video game designer, a fiction writer and many more. I wasn't interested in teaching until I joined my master's program. There, I was given my first class in exchange for reduced tuition. I went in expecting to hate it, but I loved it! It was so wonderful helping other people reach their goals. I haven't looked back since then — more than 20 years ago.

Are you participating in or have you participated in any NIU shared governance or professional development groups? If so, how has your participation enhanced your experience as an employee?
Last year, I took part in the FACCE (Faculty Academy on Cultural Competence and Equity) workshops. I think those workshops were helpful in opening my eyes to other experiences among my students and my fellow faculty. But it was also a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people from other departments.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional or community organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I'm a peer reviewer for a few journals, meaning that I read other people's research before publication and offer suggestions to improve it. I also am the chair of the nominating committee for the Council of Writing Program Administrators. This committee helps find new people to serve on the executive board for the organization, which offers direction for people who oversee writing classes at various institutions.

What community organizations are you involved in?
I volunteer at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. I encourage folks in the area to get involved. Everyone should have access to healthy food.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I'm a dedicated runner. Running several miles is usually the first thing I do every day, and I run a few races per year. I also read a lot. I particularly love science fiction and comics. And when I have time, I love to play video games.

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