Big Promises Made Everyday
Andrew K. Benton
One of the campus shuttle buses that roam our mountainous Malibu campus day and night, transporting students from classes to rehearsals and other destinations, moved up the hill that I was descending. As it passed, I noticed printed on its side the words I’ve seen thousands of times—"strengthening lives for purpose, service, and leadership." I will admit that my first thought was a bit juvenile, "Wow, even our buses are committed to the University’s mission!" My second thought was a bit more sobering. "Wow, we are making a big promise everyday to thousands of students, parents, alumni, and supporters."
The challenge of reducing our mission to a simple tagline on banners, brochures, and even buses is that it can become so commonplace that in our hurried, everyday world we drive right past it and occasionally lose sight of its significance. If we are not careful, commonplace becomes complacency.
So, how well are we fulfilling the grand claim we make everyday? We are promising each student that their Pepperdine experience will prepare them to compete and contribute in this challenging world. Implied in all of this is a pledge that each student will have the opportunity to become more knowledgeable, skilled, thoughtful, spiritual, balanced, and healthy. In short, we are promising positive personal transformation—changed lives.
To keep the challenge of our mission fresh, over the past year Pepperdine has given a great deal of attention to the important work of self-assessment and strategic planning. The process has been rigorous and ambitious. We turned our attention first to the question of performance in the classroom. How do we know that our students are being prepared to contend in a highly competitive environment? How do we know they are being prepared for lives of purpose, service, and leadership? We learned where we are strong and where we need to do some work.
Secondly, we turned our attention to evaluating Pepperdine’s physical plant. The facilities on our Malibu campus are aging and lack some of the features required to serve our student scholars and athletes at the highest levels. We identified areas where a sense of community, a vital element of the Pepperdine promise, can be fostered. Recently, having completed a very important assessment of the environmental impact of our Campus Life Project, we introduced our early plans to address these facility issues to the Pepperdine and Malibu communities. We look forward to sharing more detailed plans soon.
In our graduate communities, we took immediate steps to elevate the image and improve the academic and student spaces in our Encino Graduate Campus with the intention of duplicating this model in other graduate campuses. Pepperdine must commit itself to providing both our undergraduate and graduate students with excellent spaces for learning and growing together.
The work we have done over the last year has revealed strengths that we can build upon to increase the value of our offerings, as well as opportunities for improvement. Addressing both will secure our future as a leading provider of world-class post-secondary and graduate education.
At the conclusion of this, my 10th year as president, I am most grateful for the dedication of the faculty, staff, and administrators at this institution who have prepared Pepperdine to enter the second decade of the third millennium with confidence and a sense of excitement that a new leg of a journey is about to begin.
Andrew K. Benton