By Ashley Duong
The UCI Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion held its quarterly event, What Matters to Me and Why, on Oct. 12, inviting UCI Master of Advanced Studies program alum Dion Shepherd Jr. to speak to 70 students and other alumni at the Newkirk Alumni Center.
Shepherd Jr., the founder of a consulting start-up focused on helping people in the criminal system was invited to speak about his experiences and how attending UCI furthered his ability to achieve his goals.
Hosted by the Student Alumni Association, the What Matters to Me and Why program invites an alumni speaker who is “selected by an organizing committee composed of faculty, staff, and both graduate and undergraduate students,” with “special input from the UCI Alumni Association, as well as the office of the Dean of Students,” according to Jonathan Feng, professor of physics and astronomy and founder of the event.
“The special character of this program… [allows] both speakers and the audience to feel comfortable sharing their deepest and most heartfelt values and commitments,” Feng said.
In the hourlong talk, mediated by criminology professor Geoff Ward, Shepherd Jr. spoke about his experiences growing up in Detroit, not expecting to have an education beyond high school, working with Dog the Bounty Hunter and going to jail for 60 days for an A&E documentary.
Shepherd Jr. recounted the journey he took, which ultimately led him to start his own consulting firm, Justice League Consulting, which aims to help newly released inmates reintegrate back into civil life.
Having grown up in a family with incarcerated relatives, studying criminology allowed Shepherd Jr. to “put names on the things [he] saw happen while [he] was growing up.”
“I really want to help change the criminal system in our country,” he said after being asked by Ward what his ultimate goals are.
After studying criminology as an undergraduate, Shepherd Jr. worked as a bounty hunter for several years in Michigan, training under T.V. personality Dog the Bounty Hunter.
“I just kept emailing him, three times a day… I would send the same email, hoping eventually someone would see it,” he said as he explained how he got in contact with the bounty hunter.
After deciding to move out to California, Shepherd Jr. again decided to go into entertainment and looked for opportunities to tie in his criminology studies. Again utilizing emails, he managed to find an opportunity with entertainment company A&E, signing on to be in jail for 60 days.
“It was rough… I learned to keep my mouth shut and head down,” he said about his time in prison.
After being asked how he was able to find success, Shepherd Jr. credited his progress to “putting [himself] out there,” and “being comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
The event ended with a question-and-answer portion as well as a complimentary dinner, during which students and alumni were encouraged to mingle and share their own personal experiences.
Claudia Elizabeth Orozco, an undeclared/undecided first-year student who attended the event said, “I had a really great time… it was really cool learning about how his experiences influenced him and helped him find what he wanted to do.”