Type to search

Features Top Stories

Drake doctoral candidate has passion for the international


Molly Shepard spends weekdays sitting at a desk in Collier Scripps, managing data and marketing Drake University’s school of education graduate program. On weekends, she also sits at a desk, but in these instances, she’s a student in the very program she markets during the week.

Shepard is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership from Drake, and she said her employment at the University directly influenced her decision to do so.

“When I first started working here, I’m not sure I was interested in pursuing another degree,” Shepard said. “You’re just kind of surrounded in the field of academics … the faculty are so entrenched in research … I kind of caught that bug.”

As an undergraduate student at Central College, Shepard pursued French, which led to lengthy traveling excursions around Europe. She accredites her choice in major to her “fabulous” high school French teacher.

“I loved her, and she was just kind of an inspiration, and I learned an exceptional amount from her,” Shepard said. “I think my pursuit of a foreign language really opened my eyes up.”

After she graduated from Central, Shepard took a job in industry for a while, which only gave her more opportunities to travel. When she had kids, the traveling got harder.

“My world shrunk a little bit, but pursuing this degree has given me an opportunity to kind of expand this world again,” Shepard said.

Shepard’s two kids are both in high school and both pursue a foreign language. Her daughter, a senior and soon-to-be Drake student, has studied Spanish since sixth grade. Her first-year son has taken after Mom and is studying French.

“He does not like to study with me,” Shepard said with a smile. “I have a tendency to correct the pronunciation, and it drives him crazy.”

Spanish and French are both romance languages, so Shepard has fun with her daughter sometimes by guessing the meaning of Spanish verbs based on her knowledge of French.

In Shepard’s free time, she cheers on the Drake Bulldogs in addition to many Chicago-based teams like the Cubs and Bulls. She is also regretfully a Chicago Bears fan, perhaps only when the team deserves it.

“It’s hard to be a Bears fan, it really is,” Shepard said. “I did live in (Chicago) long enough to know that it was required to hate the Green Bay Packers … there’s a hierarchy of tolerance.”

Shepard is a little more secretive about her music taste.

“I’m a closet country music fan; it’s kind of like being a Bears fan,” Shepard said before a laugh. She also likes listening to Top 40 radio with her kids.

Shepard has done her best to immerse herself in all things Drake, evident by her employment, choice of grad school program and her special infatuation with Griff, illustrated by her office decorations and excitement for the upcoming Beautiful Bulldog contest. In addition, Shepard has even chaperoned a international J-term trip before.

Dr. Thomas Buckmiller, a Drake first-year seminar and School of Education graduate professor, has been very fortunate to have gotten to know Shepard both in and out of the classroom setting.

“I know Molly as both a colleague and as a former student of mine,” Buckmiller said.  “Drake is lucky to have her in both capacities. She is talented, intelligent and has a fun sense of humor.”

After obtaining her doctorate, Shepard would love the opportunity to stay at Drake to combine both her love of French and research to possibly cross over to doing work for the study abroad office.

“I love what’s happening as it relates to the international experiences,” Shepard said.

Growing up in small-town Iowa, Shepard knows how important it is to advocate for every student to engage in a different culture from their own, whether that means going overseas or spending a summer in New York.

“(Studying abroad) was a big experience for me in college … it shaped who I was,” Shepard said. “I really think that’s an amazing experience that really just opens the minds of students … it’s worth the fear and it’s worth combating those things that you’re scared of.”

Skip to content