Blythe Shepard joined the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge in July 2008. She received her doctorate in Educational Psychology with a specialty in Counselling Psychology from the University of Victoria in 2002 where she was a faculty member (2002-2008) and graduate advisor (2005-2008) in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies.
Shepard is currently completing the first Canadian textbook for Career Practitioners as well as writing a national handbook for the supervision of counsellors/psychotherapists. She is the 2011 recipient of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association’s (CCPA) Professional Contribution Award in recognition of outstanding promotion of the counselling profession in Canada. She has served on the BC Task Group responsible for the creation of a profile of entry to practice competencies for mental health therapists and has co-chaired the National Symposium on Counsellor Mobility for the past three years. She was recently nominated to the position of president-elect of CCPA.
In many rural areas in Canada jobs in traditional employment sectors are disappearing while few new jobs in expanding, knowledge-based manufacturing and service industries are being developed. Rural Canadians have expressed concern about the loss of young people through urban migration. When rural communities lose their youth, they lose the creative and innovative ability of young people to find possible solutions to community problems. As a long-time rural resident, I was curious about how rural young women perceived themselves within the context of a rural community, now and in the future. I also wondered how active these young women were in the construction of future plans. A doctoral SSHRC fellowship allowed me to pursue this study.
Based on the themes that were identified in interviews with rural youth a community workshop was designed in collaboration with rural youth. Future Bound: A Lifeworks Expedition Workshop for Rural Youth is an activity-based workshop designed to help youth to examine their past, current, and projected future life paths. The workshop activities are readily adapted for use by counsellors and teachers. Selected activities have been used with groups of rural women aged 20 to 60.
From 2000 to 2005, I was involved in a unique experiment in genuinely interdisciplinary research funded by SSHRC and NSERC. A set of carefully-constructed complementary case studies on the East and West Coasts of Canada were developed to achieve an integrated analysis of the long- and short-term impacts of socio-environmental restructuring on the health of people, their small communities, and the environment. Seventy natural and social scientists and 167 trainees worked together with local communities to produce leading-edge research. Upon completion of the project the Coasts Under Stress Research Team was awarded the University of Victoria Craigdarroch Team Award for Societal Contribution.
At the beginning of my academic career I was the first recipient of the 2003 Canadian Educational Researchers’ Association (CSSE - CERA): David Bateson New Scholarship Award for a presentation that I gave at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education on The Life-career Development and Planning of Young Women.
I believe in maintaining an active role in supporting and collaborating with graduate students. A mentoring relationship that acknowledges our different worldviews, epistemological understandings, learning styles, etc. is a powerful form of social learning. I encourage and support students to take an active role in all parts of my research program in order for students to develop as researchers and academics. My vision for our work together is that of a facilitator who guides students “over their shoulders.” Since I began my academic appointment in 2002, I have provided research assistance to 22 students and offered 9 directed study courses. Students have contributed to 6 peer-reviewed articles, 3 articles in edited journals, 2 conference proceedings, and have co-authored 5 research reports.
My research interests would continue to focus on rural women but would expand from a national to an international perspective. The following questions would guide my research: (1) How do rural women weave work into the tapestry of their lives in communities experiencing social and economic change? (2) What are the work life issues, supports, and challenges for rural women? (3) What are the differences in socio-economic structures in each rural community and how do they affect women?
"Shepard settling into new role," The University of Lethbridge Legend June 2009