13,000 students led by one Shepard

Manny De Los Santos

Andrew Linnabary, Managing Editor

“This is my life.”

That’s how second-term Student Body President Joseph Shepard describes his role in Student Government Association.

When he wakes up, he immediately looks at his calendar to see what the day’s meetings are.

When he gets on campus, no later than 9:30 a.m., he heads to the SGA office in the Rhatigan Student Center second floor and starts poring through emails.

“I don’t like people to have to wait for a response, so typically when people email me I respond within the next hour,” Shepard said. “I do that, then get off to my day, which usually means going to meetings, engaging with the faculty, administration and staff, and making sure I’m talking to my staff here in the office.”

When he has a moment, Shepard likes to pop into the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“The students in that office, they should know who their student leadership is,” Shepard said.

And when headed to get something to eat or at any other spare moment, Shepard likes to roam with Vice-President Taben Azad through the RSC, engaging with students.

But, for the most part, Shepard is in a meeting or in his office.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Shepard has classes from 7 to 10 p.m.

Afterward, Shepard isn’t heading home – he’s heading back to the office.

“Taben and I, we’re passionate, we love what we do, so most times we come back to the office, do our homework, and then we’ll finalize some things,” Shepard said. “Most of my free time is spent here.”

There is one consistent “breather time” for Shepard: lunchtime.

“Taben and I will go to lunch together, unless he’s in a meeting or engaging students,” Shepard said. “Most times we go to Chipotle, because I’m a Chipotle fanatic, and we bring it back here and just chill out and talk – talk about life, SGA, things we can do better.”

Shepard said Taben knows when he’s hungry.

“When I’m not eating, Taben catches on to that, and he says, ‘You need to eat,’” Shepard said.

Taben is Shepard’s right-hand man in SGA, but don’t call him Shepard’s best friend.

“We have this joke where Taben tells people, ‘This is my best friend,’ and I always say, ‘We’re not friends. We’re brothers,’” Shepard said.

Shepard said he and Taben reassure each other that they always have the other’s back.

With that said, they don’t agree on everything.

“For example, making decisions on senators,” Shepard said. “We’ve had interviews with qualified candidates, and sometimes Taben thinks someone is more qualified than I do. The beauty in that, though, is we can work together to see which strengths and weaknesses from each candidate would benefit the Association, and that’s how we get over hurdles like that. We are able to walk away and still be in each other’s corner.”

Shepard said his passion for SGA is fueled by the WSU student body.

“The individuals who voted me into this position, and even those individuals who did not, they’re counting on me to represent them,” Shepard said. “I’m doing them a disservice by not putting my all into it. If I’m staying up late at night, and I’m not going to go to sleep anytime soon, why not put my best foot forward and serve these individuals?

“There are 13,000 students on this campus who are depending on me.”

The pressures of his position can be pressing, Shepard said, but he finds support in his SGA advisor, Christine Schneikart-Luebbe, and his vice-president.

“I’m grateful to have a brother like Taben who tells me, ‘Calm down. Take a breather. Let’s relax a bit. Let’s process this,’” Shepard said.

And when it comes time to unwind, Shepard likes to watch Netflix and Hulu. He’s also a big music fan, citing a variety of genres.

“Dirt Road Anthem (by Jason Aldean) is one of my favorite songs,” Shepard said. “I sing it all the time in the office.”

He also spends as much time as possible with his nephew Malik.

“My nephew’s father is not in his life,” Shepard said. “I know as a young man of color how damaging that can be. So I want to do my part to show my nephew I’m here.”

But that free time is elusive, Shepard said, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“For me, again, I just want to stress that I see this as my job,” Shepard said. “This is my life. And I’m okay to say that. I just got comfortable saying that. A lot of people shunned me for saying that for quite some time, like, ‘SGA’s your life, you need to chill.’ No. I’m passionate. This is what I’m about, and if I can put in the hard work so that others can have the opportunity, it’s worth it. It’s so worth it.”