Biography: Bruce Shepard

President, Western Washington University

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Bruce Shepard began service as the 13th President of Western Washington University on September 1, 2008. He draws four decades of distinguished service in higher education as an educator and academic leader.

Before coming to Western, Shepard served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay from November 2001 through June 2008. From 1995-2001, Shepard served as provost at Eastern Oregon University, where he was also a professor of political science. Prior to joining EOU, Shepard spent 23 years at Oregon State University, earning tenure as a faculty member in the Department of Political Science before moving into university administration. His administrative positions at Oregon State included state government liaison specialist, special assistant to the provost, assistant vice president for undergraduate studies and director of undergraduate academic programs.

Shepard has served as a visiting scientist at the Population Study Center in Seattle; policy analyst for the USDA Forest Service; and visiting fellow in the School of Communication leadership and Liberal Studies at the Mitchell College of Advanced Education in Bathurst, Australia.


Shepard's academic background includes bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of California, Riverside. His scholarship and teaching focuses on American government, public policy and policy analysis, research methods, and environmental and natural resource politics and policy. He has published widely and is active in numerous professional and community organizations locally and nationally, and serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Serving Western

President Shepard's approach to leadership is not about presenting "the answers." Rather, he relies upon asking tough questions, so that the campus community can do the difficult work necessary to find answers meaningful for them and effective for the university as a whole. He began service at Western by holding 90 Listening Sessions involving several thousand faculty, staff, and students. This was followed by 100 Conversations with diverse groups around Washington and beyond. The results of these listening sessions have contributed to the direction of the university in many ways, including development of a refocused single-page strategic plan.

Shepard has worked with colleagues to effectively advance what emerged early in his tenure as the university's most pressing need: to put in place decision making processes that are open, transparent, bottom-up, accountable, and effectively informed. Again responding to the university's expressed priorities, he has provided leadership for initiatives promoting diversity, sustainability, international education, off-campus programs, collaborative partnerships with many entities, and graduate programs. Another initial need faculty and staff strongly advocated and that Shepard helped lead was to effectively and collegially agree upon and then clearly express Western's core excellence, doing so in ways that then are meaningfully communicated to key external constituencies.

Shepard's top priority remains protecting the core excellence that has established Western as a premier destination university. During his tenure at Western, collegial decision making, careful listening to internal and external constituencies, a sharper focus on the difference Western makes in our local and global communities, and clarity in communicating the dimensions of Western's distinctive excellence have all been valuable means to that overriding goal.

A native of California, Shepard is an avid sailor, home coffee roaster and woodworker married to Cyndie, who serves as Director of Western's Compass2Campus mentoring program.

Page Updated 06.20.2016