Liberty Sheppard: Life is never going to go like you planned – so find the joy and adapt

Posted by Beth Funkhouser
What happens when a pandemic changes all your plans?
You succeed.

Liberty Sheppard and her team of public health master’s students at The Ohio State University just won a big time public health competition where they made suggestions about how the prison system in Ohio might have better handled the Covid-19 situation for inmates. They beat out doctoral students at The Ohio State, and they ended up besting a team from Case Western University. She loves her graduate school department in public health, loves The Ohio State (except for maybe the mascot), and feels she is in the absolute best place she can be.

But that is not at all how things were going in March of 2020.

Finishing her senior year at Emory & Henry she had plans to visit graduate schools, look for apartments near her newly chosen campus, serve as a teaching assistant on an E&H study abroad venture to Panama, and end the school year with all the fun, friends, love and hugs we look forward to at that juncture of college – but a worldwide pandemic has a way of upending things. “My plans melted very fast. I got to do two grad school visits before everything fell to pieces.” She was headed to her top choice, University of Wisconsin, the very week when the world began to shut down. “They told me I could still come to visit, but then they said someone in the department had Covid – so I said no thanks.”

As it turns out, she loves being in Ohio and feels like she landed in just the right place. She even says the crazy experience of going online with classes at the last minute at Emory & Henry has served her well in grad school because she’s only actually been on the Ohio campus three times this year. “We had to learn Zoom very fast! But that last semester at E&H taught me how to self-regulate my time better, and it has served me well in grad school. It was a blessing in disguise.”

Liberty had intended to be a physician until she had an epiphany. While a doctor deals with one person at a time, a public health worker can positively affect entire communities and improve the health of entire populations. Now that she’s getting to know the field better, she is torn between all the many exciting options in public health. “There are so many places where I’d like to make a difference! But I’m particularly interested in health equity. Our country could do better at providing health care opportunities for everyone.”

Liberty says the thing she missed most about her senior year is that they “never got that last goodbye,” and she and her friends have pledged to meet up on campus in Emory on Homecoming for the hugs and laughs they missed out on last spring – turning that last goodbye into a joyous hello.

And showing wisdom beyond her years, Liberty says she gained real insight from the spring of 2020. “I learned that you need to make the most out of any opportunity no matter what the world throws at you. Life is never going to go like you planned it so being able to find the little pieces of joy and good in everything will go a long way. And it teaches you to adapt. Just because it doesn’t go like you planned that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of it.”

You can enjoy a conversation with Liberty in the WEHC archives (interviews are in alpha order).

  • Liberty Sheppard
    Emory & Henry Class of 2020

“Just because it doesn’t go like you planned that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of it.”

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