Featured entomology alumni Mark "Shep" Sheperdigian
Mark "Shep" Sheperdigian is our first ever featured entomology alumni.
Mark “Shep” Sheperdigian recently agreed to represent the Department of Entomology on the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Alumni Board. We spoke with Shep on the phone recently to thank him and learn about his experiences with a degree in entomology.
When did you graduate from MSU? I earned a bachelor’s of science in Entomology in 1982.
Why choose entomology? I took Roland Fisher’s introductory entomology course along with Fred Stehr’s systematics class, and became convinced entomology was the major for me. I worked in Ed Grafius’ lab and Roger Hoopingarner was my advisor, so they were certainly guiding influences. In reality, I had no idea what an entomologist does. After graduation, I moved to Georgia thinking I might go to graduate school, but the economy did not improve, and instead, I applied for a job with a small urban pest management firm. I didn’t know the field of urban pest management existed before moving to Georgia and it combines two of my favorite things: insects and people! Eventually, I applied to work at larger companies with more mobility and, by 1987, I joined Rose Pest Solutions where I am now Vice President of Technical Services. We are a regional company with offices in Michigan, Ohio, and northern Indiana. We do a bit of work in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
How does your work impact people’s lives? In urban pest management, we have daily exposure to the public. We are in factories where everything is made as well as in the wealthiest homes and the poorest neighborhoods. It is an amazing journey through humanity to see everything that happens. One of the problems is that so few people know much of anything about insects. They know they are bigger than the insects, but they don’t know how to control them. You can talk to these CEOs who handle millions and millions of dollars but can’t handle a thousand cluster flies. It’s a very powerful feeling.
Any advice for current students? Along with the fundamentals of entomology or another field, the most important skills you need to learn are communication skills. If you can’t get your point across -- I don’t care how smart you are – you must learn to communicate. If you shy away from the limelight, you’ll really cut back on the opportunities open to you.
How have you used communication skills in your work? Many ways. I do a lot of training, mostly adult education, like how to be a good client in a pest management program. I’m also speaking to groups about bed bugs. There is a tremendous knowledge gap related to bed bugs and we are hurrying to bring people up to speed as the populations explode. The resurgence of bed bugs is the most amazing development I’ve seen in my career. I, and others at Rose Pest Solutions, do programming with kids. The general populace has little understanding of science. We need to teach kids to think with a science mind or we’ll be blown to and fro as change occurs in our world. Rose promotes science education from elementary school on up. We help with bug rodeos for summer camps where kids catch insects out in the field and then pin and identify them. Science education is vital to the well-being of the country.
Read about past featured alumni in the Alumni Profiles section.