A Conversation About the Future of Pepperdine University
Faculty and Administration in Partnership
ANDY » Shelley Saxer has sent one child to us. She is a professor in a profession that I admire very much, and now she’s an administrator. We have a partnership. Shelley teaches, Shelley leads, and the administration provides and encourages. I know she does her part. But what’s our part? What’s the University administration’s role in encouraging the law school and encouraging you as a faculty member?
SHELLY SAXER, JD alumna, Class of 1980; associate dean, academics and professor of law, School of Law » I think that one of the things that Pepperdine certainly does well is to allow people to dream, to allow individuals to have great ideas and then encourage those ideas. That is a blessing, but it can also be a curse because some of what we have to deal with is if we have these dreams, how do we support getting to those dreams? It’s the infrastructure, the resources. I think that’s how the administration can be there–not only to allow the dreams, but then also to come alongside the dreamers and say, “This is how we can help you do that.”
ANDY » I don’t know if you would agree with this or not, but I think the only thing that stands in our way is a vibrant endowment that provides us sustaining support year in and year out and lets us move confidently toward excellence. Would you agree with that?
SHELLY » Partially. I think we have to be concerned not only about endowment but about our people resources. We have to continue to encourage the people who are actually making the things happen. Those are the people who aren’t necessarily at the top with the dreams, but they’re the people who are keeping things moving forward and keeping support for those things that we’re doing well.
ANDY » Donna, what’s my part in this equation?
DONNA NOFZIGER-PLANK PhD associate professor of biology, Seaver College » Though there are times there’s been tension between faculty and administration, of course, I feel like I speak for the other faculty when I say that we feel very much in partnership with the administration. So, just keep the dialogue open, continue to bring us in when you make decisions. But that’s the way Pepperdine operates, and that trickles down to the students because I think the faculty then partner with the students in the classroom. It’s all connected. The tone of the University is going to be about how we treat each other. If we are a team, how do we treat our teammates?
Though I don’t always agree with the administration, I know they hear me, and I know they listen to me before those decisions are made. In terms of what you want from us or what we would want from you is to continue to consult us and value our opinion. But also, continue to find ways to support where we want to go and appreciate what development does. Let us know what we can do to help development as well.
ANDY » Mike, you’re a professor at the Graziadio School of Business and Management, and it’s an important school with a reach all across the United States and around the world. When you greet your graduate students in business for the first time, how do you hope to influence their lives when they’re in your classroom?
MIKE WILLIAMS PhD assistant professor of information systems, Graziadio School of Business and Management » Well, there are a variety of mechanisms that I think are useful for cultivating meaningful relationships with the students. What I like to do is just be transparent. Because I’m working with graduate students, it’s a different setting, of course, than probably undergraduates, but I establish upfront a rule where they don’t have to call me Dr. Williams or Professor Williams. Of course, many of them have a hard time getting beyond that, but just having a relationship where we can call each other by our names–that fosters a sense of transparency and relationship that I think sets a good foundation.
And I also have a practice of having the students over for dinner every semester. That gives them a chance to meet my wife and my children, and that’s such an important thing, especially for business students, to see, “Hey, you can have a balanced life where you continue to honor your family and honor your commitments to those things and yet work hard and achieve success in many ways.” So those things help me create a rich soil for the relationship to grow.