Shepard settling into new role

She comes with a big-time resumé and reputation and yet it's the small-town, small-school setting in which she thrives. Dr. Blythe Shepard seems a perfect fit for the University of Lethbridge – and vice versa.

Just wrapping up her first year at the U of L, Shepard, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education, came to Lethbridge from the University of Victoria. It was there she finished her master's and doctorate degrees (educational psychology) and had settled into a faculty position. Ironically, as Shepard helped grow UVic's research reputation and graduate programming, she found herself part of an institution that took her away from her teaching roots.

"Victoria used to be where Lethbridge is now, but it's moved into a much more research focused institution, more of a business model, and I found I was doing a little less teaching than I wanted," Shepard says.

"Being at a small school, working with smaller numbers, that seems to fit more with my style."

Invigorated with a new challenge, Shepard has been quick to contribute to the U of L's MEd (Counselling Psychology) program and the Master of Counselling program. Specifically, she's helping to overhaul the Campus Alberta Applied Psychology (CAAP) program.

"It needs to be revamped, so we're looking at all the courses," she says. "My colleagues and I are making revisions to them and making them more Lethbridge oriented and something that is unique for our students.

"Many of our students are mature students who are already out there practicing but they lack the credentials. They've probably been out of school for a while, so making that transition back into university is a pretty big step for them."

Shepard knows of what she speaks, because she was that student, coming back to school to pursue her master's degree as a single working mother in her mid-40s.

"I understand that aspect and having to juggle family responsibilities and a job you don't want to give up, all while going to school," she says.

It's no surprise many of Shepard's research initiatives revolve around this same theme. A native of small-town Ontario (she grew up in a rural setting near North Bay), Shepard offers a unique perspective. She did the majority of her undergraduate psychology degree through distance learning from the University of Waterloo. Her education and career path were moulded around the challenges of raising and providing for a young family in a rural setting.

Upon arriving on campus, Shepard applied for and received a Community of Research Excellence Development Opportunities (CREDO) grant to research the career paths of women and even more specifically, those in a rural setting.

"Most of the career theory out there is around men's career paths and women's are quite different," Shepard says. "Their paths are quite disrupted, at times, around family considerations. And for most women I've researched with, relationships are very important and they want work that is relationship-based.

"There's a lot more complexity to women's career paths."

Shepard has also collaborated with Dr. Priya Mani of the University of Manitoba as they embark on a three-part project to develop a Canadian career-counselling textbook. For that, she's also enlisted the U of L's Allison Roest of the Counselling Services Office.

"We're trying to find out what career educators across Canada would like in a textbook and then who would be interested in contributing to it," she says. "Allison has an expertise in that area so it's great we're able to work with her. What I'm really liking about the U of L is that it's small enough here that I'm starting to make connections very quickly."

It's the kind of fit that is already proving beneficial to both.


• Shepard is one of 12 directors to the National Board of the Canadian Counselling Association, taking over the Alberta/NWT position from Dr. Kris Magnusson

• She is also co-chair of the Inter-Provincial Mobility for the Counselling Profession: Phase 1. Its mandate is the further establishment of regulatory colleges for Canadian counsellors to create more uniformity throughout the country

• An avid hiker, she has enjoyed exploring the coulees around Lethbridge and making day trips to Waterton

• Before going back to pursue her master's degree in 1995, she was teaching and performing administrative duties at an alternative school in British Columbia

• She has three children, all living in Victoria, with two attending the University of Victoria