A Conversation About the Future of Pepperdine University

Creative Tension

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ANDY » I feel like every day of my professional life is a tightrope walk. There are people in higher education who think you cannot be both academically excellent and faith-based at the same time. I will confess to you that there are days when I feel like I’m leaning one way, and there are days that I’m leaning the other. My job is to make sure we don’t fall off and that we strike that middle ground. I’ve often said that we must aspire to be both good by anyone’s standards and true according to what George Pepperdine had in mind, and to fail at one is to fail. We can’t just satisfy ourselves with being successful in one area. We’ve got to be successful in both.

ROBERT W.P. HOLSTROM member, University Board and Seaver Board of Visitors » I think the creative tension of trying to balance those two is what brings excellence. We’ve almost put competition upon ourselves, as opposed to others, to truly be excellent at something that is very unique in the United States, which already has such a wealth of universities and college systems. So I think we need to keep that there, and I think that will continue to propel the University forward of that creative tension.

What we’re in the business of doing is creating students who are successful but understand that they also have to have a significance in this world. And I think just too many institutions just really push on success. And here in Southern California, in Hollywood–this is a place that’s all about success and the bling and the glitz. What I want for kids coming here is success, yes, but significance. I think a life of success without significance is a life wasted, and that’s what the University really does a fabulous job of communicating, molding and teaching that, and modeling that through all of its programs.

Donna Nofziger-Plank

Donna Nofziger-Plank

MIKE » I think the challenge before us is to continue to maintain this creative tension that Robert talked about, where we fully embrace our Christian heritage and values-based education and yet also fully embrace the research and cutting-edge teaching and cutting-edge curriculum that we should be pursuing as a major university. I think we are committed to that, and I think you are committed to that, and that’s clear to me and I think to all the faculty. But the tension remains. There’s always going to be that tension.

I continue to believe that a critical mountain for the future of this school is bringing in faculty who are comfortable in the paradox that lies between our faith tradition and important research and teaching that’s current and contemporary in terms of curriculum. I know that if you take for granted that we have accomplished that, we can start to fall very quickly back down to a place where we’re not holding that paradox in our hands.

DONNA » The thing I appreciate about Pepperdine is that it is a courageous place. Oftentimes people have the opinion that to be a person of faith, you can’t be open to intellectual inquiry. It is a tightrope at times, but that tightrope needs to be embraced. So I would encourage you to let us continue to be fearless when it comes to open inquiry and seeking the truth and not being scared to open up different avenues of research because if you hire the right people, they’re going to go down the right path. Don’t buy into the idea that if you get good researchers, good academics, good scholars, that somehow you’re going to get rid of the faith element. There are a lot of good people of faith who are great scholars who welcome the opportunity to come to a place like Pepperdine where both are valued.

  1. Introduction
  2. Faculty and Administration in Partnership
  3. Measures of Success
  4. Creative Tension
  5. Students and Faculty: The Heart of Our Story