Carl Shepro, man of many hats

To those who know him, he's just Carl Shepro, which is how he introduces himself to everyone, but local and national television and newspaper reporters often seek his opinion during elections and on hot political topics. Shepro contributed an essay to the PBS program NewsHour Online coverage of the 1996 election and in October, he was quoted in the online version of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A modest man, Shepro is often generous with his time and has what can only be described as an open door policy as a UAA professor.           

Before coming to Alaska he taught at Bellevue Community College in Washington and the University of Washington.

Shepro's undergraduate degree is from Seattle University and both his master's and doctorate degrees are from the University of Washington. His doctorate major is in Urban Politics, with an emphasis on Ethnic Minority Politics and sub-fields in Comparative, Public Administration and Methodology.

With an expertise in American government and politics, he has also studied American national institutions, urban politics, and the politics of ethnic and racial minorities.

This made him a perfect candidate for his first job in Alaska: at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1980. He left Fairbanks in 1986 to work for two years at what is now what is now Ilisagvik College in Barrow.

“I went to Barrow because it was an opportunity to be a part of a brand new, predominately Inupiat college,” he said.

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The Barrow job, part of a UAF program to get Alaska Natives into management jobs on the North Slope, enabled people to take their first two years of education in their village before they went to UAF.

As part of his job, he said he had to prove he could work well with Inupiat students. “This is a requirement that I believe should be in place at UAA, given the large percent of the student body that is Alaska Native,” he said.

Shepro left Barrow to begin his University of Alaska Anchorage career in 1988 and has been at UAA since then. Shepro's wife, Kathleen, is an administrative coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences, and he has five grown children.

As a faculty member, Shepro wears many hats.

Currently, he is Political Science Department chair as well as faculty advisor for the Political Science Association, a student club; Alaska Native Studies interim director; vice president of UAA United Academics – the university's teachers' union, where he negotiates raises and better health insurance for professors, as well as teaching classes.

The list of classes Shepro has taught at UAA is long and diverse. Among them are Public Policy; Political Behavior and Participation in Democracy; Comparative Political Economy; and Tribes, Nations and Peoples, as well as his two introduction classes: American Politics and Politics and the Presidency and Congress.

Shepro has proven to be a popular professor at UAA. When he taught the Senior Seminar in politics, the topic – Women in Politics – drew both undergraduate and graduate students. His introductory classes draw about 60 students.

Teaching, to Shepro, means, “to be in a class where you get exchange of ideas and you see people are exercising their ability to think and come to conclusions and develop arguments that wasn't so evident maybe a year ago. That they kind of blossom, I guess,” he said.

Shepro's underlying hope is that his students “get an understanding that they can participate, particularly in local politics, and make a difference.”

An advocate of internship, he also promotes the university's Legislative Internship program in the fall semester and encourages interning in general to help students gain practical experience in their fields.

Serving on an advisory board, Shepro helped form the Alaska Native Studies program at UAA. He quickly pointed out that he had a lot of help from others, including students as well as professors David Maas and Larry, and Elaine Abraham, the first and only Alaska Native Vice-President for Rural Education for the University of Alaska.

His interest in Native Americans resulted from his study of Titano (Latino) politics in graduate school. There, he had contact with Mexican Americans whose background was a mixture of Spanish and Indian, but what really focused his interest in minority cultures was the time he spent working in Barrow, he said.

He has often lamented that people aren't as involved in giving back to their communities as they once were. Some of Shepro's community service has been with the Special Olympics. He and his wife accompanied their son to Austria where he participated in the 1988 Winter Games. While he admits he has been involved with the organization by coaching bowling, he quickly points that other people are much more involved with it than he has been, such as David Maas [Professor Emeritus], the Nordic ski coach, and his wife.

Shepro currently serves on the Alaska State Community Service Commission that oversees Americorps funds for the state. Americorps, a corporation for community service, started by President Clinton, recruits members who commit to one year of service in return for a monthly stipend and an Education Award for college tuition.

Shepro visited an Americorps program on Kodiak Island last year that had a member who applied over the Internet from Maine. She led a summer educational program for youth, operated by the National Park Service.

A handful of students keep in touch with Shepro after they've graduated, stopping by his office or sending him e-mail from time to time.

Perhaps the reason some students remain close is that Shepro has rarely turned down a student's request for independent study courses. As long as there are students who are excited about learning, he always tries to find a way to facilitate learning. He has also gotten to know many students well through his role as academic advisor.

As much as his students appreciate him, he appreciates them. This is what makes Carl Shepro more than just another face in the crowd.

 

Kate Amphay, who served as a legislative intern through UA's statewide program, has taken five courses from Professor Carl Shepro. She hopes to graduate in May with a history and political science bachelor's degree.