University of Southern Indiana

Student Highlight - Stephanie Draper-Moore

About Stephanie Draper-Moore

Class of 2020

Major: Bachelor of Professional Studies, Individual Studies

Minors: Anthropology, Gender Studies and Geography

Stephanie on an anthropology dig

Anthropology. Gender Studies. Geography. At first glance, you may wonder what these three subjects have in common. To Stephanie Draper-Moore, each subject represents something she found a passion for or strengthened her passion for during her time at the University of Southern Indiana. As a Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) student on the Individual Studies pathway, Stephanie was able to earn a degree that suited her unique wants, needs, and professional aspirations after working for over two decades in the political sector. So how did this veteran political consultant and campaign operative find her way to USI? What made her pick this institution and this degree over others? 

Stephanie’s career in politics at the city and state levels, working with Congressmen and being a member of the Indiana Commission for Women meant she had the opportunity to work on numerous initiatives and campaigns. But it was a multi-day event in 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. that would change her life. This event, which focused on the victims of the 2014 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping (#BringBackOurGirls), consisted of bringing together representatives from over a dozen countries fighting for ways to provide aid to the Nigerian government and getting the rest of the (276) girls home safely. Stephanie was determined to contribute more. This led to questions of, “What is the geographic landscape? Where do we look? What more can I do?” So, for her, wanting to be more educated on international matters meant going back to school. A chance encounter with USI’s Provost at the time, Dr. Ronald Rochon, followed by another chance encounter with USI’s President, Dr. Linda Bennett, cinched it. Both were adamant that Stephanie bring her talents to USI.

“Through the BPS program, I was able to put 23 years of government training to use,” Stephanie shares. Although, it was never what she would call easy. “BPS was very flexible. I was able to take classes I was interested in and hone my skills in those areas, but I took classes that I knew would be a significant challenge.” One of those classes was Geography. Dr. Joseph Di Pietro’s GEO 123 class was tough, but she could tell he was very passionate about the subject. Stephanie joked, “His exams were all memorization, which was terrifying. I was already a grandmother walking into that class!” But, determined to learn, she found ways to sharpen her memory and passed the class with an A, in what she considers the most pivotal course in her academic success.

Another fond memory she has is in an Anthropology field course with Dr. Michael Strezewski, which was originally taken to deepen her understanding of stratigraphy for her Geography studies. In it, the students were able to actually be a part of the unearthing of an ancient wigwam. On the final day of the dig, Dr. Strezewski was joined by fellow anthropologists from other universities and one of their comments stuck with Stephanie, “None of us got to do this as undergrads. Most people don’t get to do digs like this until graduate school.” It was then that she realized one of the most special things about USI: as a smaller institution, there are more opportunities for hands-on, real-world experience than on larger campuses and she experienced that value first-hand. An in-depth study of Medical Anthropology with Dr. Michael Rynkiewich the next semester sealed Anthropology as an additional major/minor.

Stephanie with Dr. Bennett Stephanie on a trip to Palm Springs for Geology

(Left) USI Day at the Indiana State House with Dr. Bennett. She and Cindy Brinker were honored on the House floor moments later ahead of their retirement. The Indiana Commission for Women also had a table there, enabling Stephanie to represent both USI and ICW for the occasion.  (Right) Trip to Palm Springs, visiting the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for her Geography Independent Study with Dr Joe DiPietro, studying geologic uses in the daily lives of mountain and desert communities. 

Though most her time at USI has been spent taking scientific courses that were quite foreign to her background in government and politics, she found a home for her first love—politics, with instructor in political science and global studies, Ellen Topper. “I have taken every course she teaches, and would do it all over again,” she proclaims. “The insight gained in Ms. Topper’s International Studies and Global Engagement courses helped identify how to apply the intersection of my interest in a real-world scenario. BPS is the only program on campus that allows that type of flexibility. I encourage anyone pondering educational pursuits to take the plunge, and closely consider BPS an option.”

Throughout her time at USI, Stephanie has been a full-time student balancing the duties of school, work and family. One highlight of going to school while also working with younger people in her role as a Job Developer at YouthBuild Evansville is that she gets to share the things she is learning in the classroom with her own students. She says, “I take what I learn in class to the community and vice versa.”

There is another unique highlight in her journey at USI: the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Stephanie admits that this semester, her final semester, has been rough but is thankful that professors have been very understanding. “I’m completing my degree in just four years, which I am told is quite unique for adult learners. I have taken classes every summer, and yet, nothing compares to this semester.” She likened this semester to an out-of-body experience with its several ups and downs but noted one particularly emotional email. She was very disappointed, but not at all surprised, when the University announced the Spring 2020 Commencement ceremony was canceled. It dampened what should be a very happy moment for her and her classmates. Thankfully, an upswing came in the form of an email, too. Stephanie was thrilled that the ceremonies were being rescheduled and revamped so she could celebrate this major accomplishment.

Stephanie with her classmates

Final day of classes in Dr. Casey Hoyer's “Study of Urban Africa” class. Dr. Hoyer allowed students to select the semester’s special guest speaker, Dr. Dawn Lindsay from Indianapolis, born and raised in South Africa's famed District 6 and survived Apartheid to become a successful global entrepreneur.

After graduation, you can find Stephanie finishing the newly-minted Yale Climate and Health Program which focuses on climate adaptation mitigation, or how communities can be more resilient against the environmental changes ahead. Below are a few other questions we had for this Wonder Woman:

  • What’s the best career advice you have received?

Women should negotiate their salaries just like men do. We get the job offer and we’re excited to start planning our future with the company... But the offer is only the beginning. Next step: negotiation. You’re worth it.

  • What’s the most effective daily habit you possess?

Quiet time with just a pencil and piece of paper. About 15 minutes. It’s almost like a moment of meditation but, really, just a moment of rest. Quiet your mind and what fills it? For me, it is writing down ideas, thinking about what to read next, or catching up with my to-do list. It may be a reminder to call someone or pay a bill but sometimes I also sketch.

  • Hobbies and Interests:

I love to read articles. I’m very much a beach person. And I love spending time with family. Game night is better than a night in Paris. We have done a lot of karaoke during quarantine!

  • What is one thing you can’t wait to do once we are out of quarantine?

Take the family to Florida and meet up with my best friend from New York. That and a reunion with all my children and friends on the beach would be nice!

Stephanie with her classmates giving a presentation

Professor Jo Olson's Study of Religions class final group project: the creation of a fictitious religion.

Contact Dr. Melinda Roberts


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