Amidst waves of change within the media industry, including claims of “fake news,” the emergence of artificial intelligence and a growing public affinity for vloggers, Gregory Shepherd has seen it all.
A distinguished communication faculty member and administrator of nearly 30 years between the University of Kansas, University of Iowa and Ohio University, Shepherd became dean of the University of Miami’s School of Communication in July 2011. Shepherd announced that he’ll be retiring Friday, May 31, leaving behind an eight-year-long legacy of transformative leadership.
The Minneapolis native said he will greatly miss many of his UM colleagues after his retirement, including President Julio Frenk, Provost Jeffrey L. Duerk, his fellow deans, vice presidents and associate provosts.
“I have developed close relationships with many of them, and while I hope to get together with them in retirement, it won’t be the same as seeing them so regularly at the school,” Shepherd said.
Although this will be Shepherd’s final year as dean of the SOC, he has agreed to stay and work on a few special projects for the university with President Frenk and Provost Duerk.
“President Frenk and I are thrilled to continue working with Greg, and he is excited and up for the challenge,” said Duerk.
Shepherd has spent his time at UM revitalizing the SOC and students say they will miss his presence.
“It’s bittersweet to see Dean Shepherd retire,” said Tre’Vaughn Howard, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism who serves as the SOC Dean’s Office undergraduate assistant. “In the short amount of time I’ve been at UM, I’ve been lucky enough to learn about the dean and watch some of his plans for the School of Communication come into fruition.”
At UM, Shepherd created waves of historic innovation by condensing the SOC’s seven individual programs of study into four central departments: cinema and interactive media, communication studies, journalism and media management and strategic communication.
“Creating the departmental structure was hard work,” he said. “We made many curricular changes in the school, starting a number of new programs.”
Shepherd said some of his “favorite memories as dean of UM” are working with students in Orange Umbrella, meeting with the championship-winning debate team and watching UMTV broadcasts.
“Sometimes as an administrator, it’s easy to lose sight as to why all of this exists, so moments like these really make me see my impact on the SOC community,” he said.
Under the guidance of Shepherd, administrators established two new centers for the SOC: the Koenigsberg and Nadal Interactive Media Center and the Robert and Lauren Mann Broadcast Center in December 2016. These facilities allow SOC students to share a collaborative space and to use the latest technology in media.
In the spring of 2017, the Orange Umbrella Student Consultancy was founded under Shepherd’s deanship. Orange Umbrella offers numerous services to clients while providing students with a chance to gain hands-on experience within the various fields of communication.
“His vision for creating a truly interdisciplinary and dynamic hub for students of all majors in the SOC was something we all wanted to see happen, and Greg made it happen,” said Alyse Lancaster, associate professor and chair of the department of strategic communication. “That’s the true essence of Greg’s leadership.”
Additionally, Shepherd helped lead the formulation of the Center for Culture, Collaboration and Change. He also designed a new master of fine arts degree in interactive media and created a program that allows students to spend a semester studying in Los Angeles.
Currently, a nationwide search is underway for the next dean of the SOC. Shepherd said administrators have narrowed down the applicant pool to three people.
Some of Shepherd’s colleagues laid out their expectations for the new hire.
“Greg is also one of the most dynamic, warm, and caring administrators I’ve ever known,” Lancaster said. “He has genuine compassion for others, and he is a man of great integrity and character. I think it’s important that our next dean have a similar positivity about our school’s future and a similar ability to adapt to the ever-changing field of communication in new and exciting ways.”
As a result of Dean Shepherd’s leadership, the SOC’s M.F.A. program has been ranked on The Princeton Review’s “Top 25 Graduate Schools for Game Design” since 2013. In addition, the motion pictures program jumped from number 38 in 2016 to number 27 in 2017, according to TheWrap Magazine, in recognition of its immersive curriculum, experienced professors and successful alumni.
“The world is less a set of boxes than it once was, so don’t put yourself in one here,” said Shepherd. “Build your own cognates, create an interdisciplinary team of researchers, put together a major and a couple of minors that are obviously connected to nobody but you.”
Abigail Adeleke student contributed to this reporting.