W. David Baird

Since its founding in 1937, the raison d'être of Pepperdine University has been educational excellence and Christian transformation. Did George Pepperdine understand how much he was asking of future generations when he declared that the college that would bear his name would commit itself to advancing knowledge while preparing useful lives for service in a needy world? Did he really think that a Christian college, homegrown in Los Angeles, could succeed at being both academically excellent and faithfully committed to its Christian values? Were his expectations so great? I believe they were.

As I reflect upon my 10 years as dean of Seaver College and look at our accomplishments and at what will remain unfinished at the close of this academic year, I wonder if we have been good stewards of Mr. Pepperdine's vision of educational excellence and Christian transformation.

Changes within the Seaver faculty are one indication of our progress. In the last 10 years, the college has hired 80 tenure-track faculty. Among these are exceptionally well qualified and highly talented, young faculty trained at institutions like Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Vanderbilt, and Notre Dame. Their passion for teaching, excitement about scholarship, and commitment to our Christian mission is infectious and inspiring. Numbered among the new faculty are internationally acclaimed senior scholars, who have added luster and credibility to the academic reputation of Seaver College. This mix of youth and maturity has created an exciting and provocative intellectual community on the Malibu campus.

The Seaver faculty has increased its expectations when it comes to scholarly productivity. Since 2001, 51 members have authored 56 books and produced three CDs of musical recordings. About half of all members of the faculty annually author articles or books.

The Seaver faculty also has high expectations of our students. Through a revised general education program, students demonstrate deeper levels of learning and greater skills of research and writing. In honors programs, faculty members encourage students to realize their own scholarly agenda and to produce theses worthy of publication. In addition, Regents Scholars and other promising students design a four-year course of study that will enhance their competitiveness for prestigious postgraduate scholarships. Finally, the Seaver faculty asks students who want A grades to do A work, addressing a national epidemic of grade inflation. While it might sound like the kind of thing a dean would like to hide, those in higher education will understand why I am proud of the fact that the average GPA at Seaver College has declined each year since 2002. Our students are earning their grades!

Students come to Pepperdine well prepared to meet these high expectations. Today, the average GPA of incoming students is 3.65 with an SAT of 1228. They have challenged their teachers to provide even more scholarly opportunities through new majors, minors, and honors programs. They have also supported the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series, participated in summer research activities, completed internships, and engaged in study-abroad programs.

Since its founding in 1937, the raison d'être of Pepperdine University has been educational excellence and Christian transformation.

The results have been dramatic. Three of every four Pepperdine students applying to medical schools are admitted and pursue distinguished careers in medicine. Nearly all of our teacher education students find employment immediately after graduating. Most accounting students have passed the CPA exam and work at major accounting firms. Seaver graduates who are now practicing attorneys are almost too numerous to count. Political science majors are working as policy consultants in Eastern Europe, art history majors are employed by major museums, and history majors have completed their doctorates and taken positions in the academy as distinguished teachers and scholars.

It is especially gratifying that many of our students have competed successfully in national, postgraduate scholarship competitions. Thirteen have won Fulbright Scholarships; four have received Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships; 18 have won California State Government Fellowships; and others have received National Science Foundation, Woodrow Wilson, Goldwater, Coro, and Jack Kent Cooke scholarships. Equally impressive is that eight Seaver students have been finalists in the Rhodes, Truman, and Marshall competitions.

Winners of these national scholarship competitions are featured on the "Seaver Honor Wall" in the Tyler Campus Center, along with their faculty mentors. With a background of concentric circles radiating outward toward infinity, this display celebrates the realization of higher expectations, the promise of the future, the unique relationship between student and teacher, and the continuing commitment of Seaver College to educational excellence.

So after a decade-long journey these things remain: educational excellence and Christian transformation. The journey continues..