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Ram Spotlight


Diallo Brooks

Class of 1996

Major: Political Science

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

“Since graduation I’ve had several incredible opportunities to contribute toward making the world a better place through leadership development and fighting for social justice, civil rights, and progressive advocacy all over the country. For the past eight and half years, I have been working for People For the American Way—an advocacy organization founded by television producer Norman Lear— where I serve as a national spokesperson on issues including civil rights, voting rights, and civic engagement. I also have the privilege to serve on two non-profit boards: the Network For Public Education and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Shepherd had a huge role in helping me gain the skills I needed to do what I do now: the political science program challenged me to build the depth I need to navigate different communities and enhance my critical thinking skills; the radio station helped sharpen my public speaking skills; the men’s basketball team (1992 champs) helped with teamwork and leadership; student government was valuable in navigating the politics of campus life; and founding a campus organization with friends and the support of faculty taught me so much. It was good to have supporters at Shepherd that invested in me and put up with me as I advocated for things that I thought would make Shepherd a stronger community and campus. My advice to current students is to enjoy your time in college and take full advantage of all of the opportunities that the school has to offer. The future can take you in so many different directions but it should always be grounded on a strong foundation and Shepherd can help build that for you. Network with faculty and other students and build authentic relationships with them. Help Shepherd continue to evolve by sharing your input so the school can continue its legacy and relevance for the future and give back to the school in whatever way you can.”


Brandon O’Dell

Class of 1997

Major: History

Hometown: Canvas, West virginia

Current City: Amsterdam, Netherlands

A solid liberal arts education helped me make sense of the world, recognize my place in it, and navigate my own, unique path. At Shepherd University, I honed my natural inquisitiveness under the guidance of some amazing professors. I learned to question and to seek my own answers. And, the proximity to Washington was perfect. I followed my passion for dance in the city and at the same time, I could focus on academics in a quiet town. After graduating, I went on to have an international dance career that lasted nearly 15 years, moving to Europe in 2001. When I stopped dancing professionally, I built on my undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge receiving an MBA in 2012. Now I have my own consulting business focused on fundraising and relationship management based in Amsterdam.”


Alejandro Campero Oliart

Transfer Student/Class of 2018

Major: Psychology

Hometown: Germantown, Maryland/La Paz, Bolivia

“During my final semester as a sophomore student-athlete at Hagerstown Community College, I held talks with a number of soccer programs from four-year college institutions and visited several of them. After visiting Shepherd and talking with coaches and admissions counselors, I realized this institution was the one which offered the best academic and athletic opportunities, scholarships, and support systems for those with the right attitude, mindset, and character when pursuing their endeavors. As a Shepherd student, I have taken the time to get involved with altruistic individuals (e.g., Dr. Chiquita Howard-Bostic) and organizations (e.g., Multicultural Leadership Team) and participate in events to raise awareness and social action towards social discrepancies such as domestic violence (e.g., “Red Flag” Bystander Intervention Campaign), gender and racial inequality (e.g., March for Equality) and suicide (e.g., “safe-TALK” Suicide-Prevention Training Seminar) among others. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to be an active community member by engaging in volunteer efforts (e.g., “Goodwill” volunteer; “The Vagina Monologues” volunteer). Once my undergraduate studies conclude, I plan on moving forward into other educational spheres to further my education, pursue a career in the field of industrial/organizational psychology and become a scientific-practitioner in the field. ”

Brianna Hester

Class of 2018

Major: Computer and Information Technology

Hometown: Charles Town, West Virginia

“Attending Shepherd University has allowed me to get involved in so many wonderful things and figure out what means the most to me. I chose Shepherd because it is one of the best schools in West Virginia, and I loved the idea of having small class sizes. I was also drawn to the University because both my mother and grandmother are alumni of Shepherd. In my time here, I have been very involved and was able to find many things I am passionate about. I am a former student athlete for the women’s soccer team, treasurer of the International Student Union, and acting president of the Black Student Union. These organizations have given me opportunities to be involved in wonderful campus events. Homecoming, Relay for Life, the Color Run, and Rams Rally for Respect are just a few. Here, I have been able to connect with all kinds of people and even connect more with myself. I will always be thankful for Shepherd University. I would also like to thank my wonderful family who have all continuously supported me through this time. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Rachel Bani

Class of 2015

Major: Music Education

Hometown: Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

Current city: Tallahassee, Florida

“The musical, educational, and leadership opportunities afforded to me through both Shepherd University’s music department and honors program prepared me to pursue my current course of study in musicology at Florida State University. Since attending Shepherd, I have travelled to national conferences and spoken with leading scholars in my field. In addition, I recently received grant funding to travel to Scotland, where I conducted research and gathered materials related to my forthcoming master’s thesis, in which I examine the lives of historically underrepresented Jacobite Scotswomen through their eyes, their words, and their songs.”


Dr. James Michael Cherry

Class of 1996

Major: Biology

Hometown: Germantown, Maryland

Current city: Frederick, Maryland

“I had mentors from Shepherd who got me where I am and took me under their wing when I got to Shepherd, starting with Dr. Burt Lidgerding, Dr. Phil Simpson, and Dr. John Landolt, who are all retired, and Dr. Bob Warburton, and Coach Monte Cater. They all played a role in giving me guidance, getting me to Shepherd, and sending me off to continue being successful in the graduate schools I went to. Shepherd allowed me to be exposed to areas that I potentially might not have been exposed to if it wasn’t a liberal arts college. I was able to take Dr. Lidgerding’s general biology class, and he recognized my ability to do biology and enjoy it. That allowed me to be exposed to something that I potentially would be afraid to explore without his guidance, mentoring, and pushing to be successful. That was one of the beauties of being at Shepherd. I think the road that I traveled has played a big role in allowing me to deal with some of the adversities. It’s hard to accept failure because when you fail you feel you’ve lost. Looking back, failure is a part of success. Especially in science, you’re going to fail more than you succeed. That’s something you’ve got to get used to.”
Cherry works at the National Cancer Institute, Frederick Campus, (NCI at Frederick) as scientific program director for the laboratory of animal science program and the advance biomedical computing center, scientific advisor for student internship program.

Maigen Briana Lawson

Class of 2013

Major: Sociology

Hometown: Frederick, Maryland

Current city: Baltimore, Maryland

The leadership opportunities at Shepherd, including the Multicultural Leadership Team, Relay for Life, and Alternative Spring Break programs, ignited my passion for giving back and serving others. This passion then fueled my post graduate career. Since graduating, I have used those experiences and the skills gained from my degree to uplift impoverished communities in Baltimore City, develop Veteran’s service programs on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, create pathways for anti-hunger programming throughout Maryland, and serve in a leadership capacity to strengthen national service programming across the U.S. In addition, I am an AmeriCorps State and AmeriCorps VISTA alum and I have also served as a member of the Governor’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland, the Baltimore City Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Director’s Association. I currently serve as the Maryland/Delaware State Program Officer for the Corporation for National and Community Service and am an active member of the Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism for both Maryland and Delaware.


Ryan Manuel

Class of 2010

Major: Biology

Hometown: Front Royal, Virginia

Current city: Rapid City, South Dakota

“Shepherd’s bioscience, field ecology, and laboratory research opportunities paved my way to a career in backcountry field science and environmental research. I have had the opportunity to conduct research in some of the countries wildest places across 20 different states and am currently studying long term vegetative trends in the Northern Great Plains.”

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