Just over 20 years after graduating from Penn State, Amy Shepherd, class of 2001, is in the C-suite of a nationally-recognized law firm.
Shepherd began her Penn State journey at University Park in 1991, majoring in business administration. After her first year, she decided to take a break from school and work as a salesperson at a car dealership. Seven years later, in 1998, she realized she needed to go back to school and chose to attend Penn State Brandywine (previously known as Penn State Delaware County) to earn her business degree. Amy was thrilled the campus welcomed her with opened arms.
“Back when I first started at Brandywine, four-year baccalaureate programs through the Commonwealth College were just launched, so I knew it would be a great fit for me,” Shepherd recalled. “And it truly was. I made so many connections during my time at Brandywine. The past 22 years of my life would not have played out the same way if it wasn’t for the foundation that Penn State Brandywine provided.”
"The past 22 years of my life would not have played out the same way if it wasn’t for the foundation that Penn State Brandywine provided."
—Amy Shepherd , class of 2001
As an adult college student, Shepherd worked and attended school full time. She also was a part of the Adult Student Organization, a club that connected students who started college later in life. She was also a founding member the Student Business Association, an organization that helped students learn more about how to succeed in business and learn about it outside the classroom.
“As a Philadelphia native, I really enjoyed making the commute to Penn State Brandywine,” Shepherd said. “I hadn’t really spent much time in Delaware County before going to school there, so I learned a lot about the area and grew an appreciation for it and the community.”
She noted that her favorite part about attending Penn State Brandywine were the relationships and life-long friendships she made.
“I made one of my life-long friends during my time there,” Shepherd said. “I also was mentored by several professors who gave me so much support that I don’t know I would have gotten if I stayed at University Park. I really enjoyed the small campus feel.”
Upon graduating from Brandywine, one of Shepherd’s professors offered her a position as a teaching assistant for a summer session business course. Through her connection with the professor, she was landed a job as an administrative coordinator at a law firm in Center City Philadelphia.
After working at the firm for a few years, she realized she wanted to go back into business development and marketing. Using her 10 years in automotive sales and marketing as experience, she was able to land a special projects manager position in the marketing department, which kickstarted her legal marketing career.
“I started working in the legal industry in August 2001, which has led to a more than 20 years in legal marketing and a launch pad for my career,” she said. “None of that would’ve happened without Penn State Brandywine.”
In 2012, Shepherd began working at her current firm, Ballard Spahr, LLP., an American Lawyer “AmLaw 100” firm headquartered in Philadelphia with 15 offices across the United States. Starting as a director, she made her way to the C-suite in 2017 after being promoted to chief marketing and business development officer. In this role, she oversees a team of almost 50 professionals across the country. She also oversees marketing budgeting and operations, marketing technology, business development, proposals, events and communications.
Of all the projects she’s worked on at Ballard Spahr, LLP., she says one of her favorites was making a commercial that aired nationally on NBC during the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in 2021.
“I found out with three weeks’ notice that we had the opportunity to have a television commercial air on NBC during an LPGA golf tournament. Corporate law firms like Ballard Spahr don’t really air commercials like plaintiff-focused law firms – it’s not really our thing,” she said. “When the opportunity was there, though, to have a commercial for our firm air nationally, we couldn’t turn it down. We were basically in the same arena as Doritos and Budweiser. Never in a million years did I think an opportunity like that would come up.”
“That was the first time I had visual representation to show others what I do. Putting together that commercial and watching it on television was easily one of the coolest and most fun things I’ve done in the last couple years.”
"Don’t let a fear of not being good enough or not being strong enough hold you back. Opportunities are going to arise, and you should take advantage of those, especially if it leads to being exposed to something outside of your core area of focus."
—Amy Shepherd , class of 2001
When asked what advice she would give to Brandywine students, she says to not be afraid of putting yourself out there.
“Don’t let a fear of not being good enough or not being strong enough hold you back. Opportunities are going to arise, and you should take advantage of those, especially if it leads to being exposed to something outside of your core area of focus,” she said. “If someone wants to talk and connect with you, schedule a meeting with them. Don’t simply rely on preconceived notions of you think you know about where opportunities lie or what path you could take. Don’t limit yourself to just those in your immediate sphere. around you. Look for ways to connect beyond what you think you know and don’t be afraid to take some chances. Always bet on yourself.”
She also noted that students should not be afraid to advocate for themselves.
“Don’t assume that people know your interests, value and worth,” she said. “Never stop advocating for yourself and do it in a way that isn’t off-putting. Create awareness without being overly aggressive and demonstrate how you add value.”