ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Suzanne Sheppard, CID

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You may know Suzanne Sheppard’s office is on the second floor of the 1010 Westwood building, and is our Student Affairs Advisor, but did you know she was born in Hungary, and has lived in a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe building in Chicago? We surely did not, which is why we are excited Suzanne took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions so we could get to know her a little better this month!

Suzanne is a cornerstone of our program, and it is apparent she loves working with students because she radiates a passion for helping to give students a start to making their dreams a reality. If you have not met with her, or have any unanswered questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to her at SSheppar@unex.ucla.edu or drop by her office to introduce yourself!

When did you attend UCLA’s Extension ARC-ID program?

1979 – 1987

Where did you grow up? Where did you attend undergrad?

Born in Hungary; then moved to New Jersey; then to Los Angeles; then to Chicago; then back to Los Angeles. I graduated from CSULA, majored in Education; then graduate work at UCLA.

What brought you to LA?

The first time, as a child, was with my family, - by train from Perth Amboy, N.J., - to pursue the dream of living in the land of gold! The second time, from Chicago, as a married woman with a husband and 5 children, from Chicago.

What attracted you to enrolling in this program?

In Chicago, I lived on the 27th floor of a Mies van der Rohe building, overlooking Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. It was heavenly and sparked my interest in art and architecture! The furniture in the lobby was all Mies van der Rohe’s. After living there for 10 years, my husband, a criminal defense attorney, had purchased a house in the Hollywood Hills, - sight unseen. When I arrived with the children, I opened the front door to find the entire downstairs living space painted black with strobe lights everywhere. Because the landscaping was also in decline, I went into UCLA Extension’s Landscape Architecture program. I changed to the Environmental Design Program (which our Interior Design Program was called then) when I was not interested in taking a Landscape class dealing with irrigation ditches and retaining walls. So, I then turned my attention to the interior of my house. I found a house painter, or rather, he found me at Koontz Hardware. He was able to cover the black paint with 5 coats of white paint, and then we got a bit creative with some of the rooms! I decided that I needed some professional education. I enrolled in the Environmental Design Program (as it was called then),  and I thoroughly loved it! The program was flexible and it took me 7 years to complete the 3 year program, but that was fine, because, simultaneously, I was raising my 5 children and helping to run my husband’s law practice. Design projects came to me and I was also painting and taking art classes.

How did you end up in your current role in Education?

My previous degree was in Education. I taught gifted children for the L.A. Unified School District, and I was a Master Training teaching for UCLA for the LAUSD, before moving to Chicago. I particularly loved the History of Environmental Design courses, and became the T.A. for Jody Greenwald’s classes. Jody founded the Interior Design program at UCLA Extension. When I graduated from the Arc ID program, Jody “commanded” me to become the Advisor to the program. In addition to the 7 years in the program, I have been in this position with UCLA Ext. for 27 years.

What are 3 qualities that got you to where you are today, professionally?

  1. Loving what I do.
  2. Building good relationships.
  3. Striving to do everything to the best of my ability.

What is one of your biggest challenges?

Overcoming bureaucracy!

What does your typical day look like?

Emails, telephones and meetings with prospective students and ongoing students for both the Certificate program and for the Master’s program; transcript and portfolio evaluations, review resumes, assist with connecting students to internships and jobs; attend staff and UNEX meetings, coordinate with Cal Poly Pomona for the Master’s program, prepare reports, assist with open houses and orientations, maintain relationships with professional designers and architects and stay current with their work, etc., etc.!

What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to our students as they enter the field?

Build a professional design network, i.e., belong to a design organization (s), like ASID; and maintain your friendships from UCLA Extension!

Best career advice you’ve gotten?

Always try to do something that you really love!

What is your favorite ‘thing’ in your own home?

My library.

What is something on your bucket list?

More travel to distant lands.