News and Events
Answering the Call: Pepperdine Hosts a Day of Celebration to Mark Achievements of the Lilly Endowment-sponsored Voyage Program
In the summer of 2008, Seaver College senior Mike Masten (BA '08) facilitated the construction of a library in rural Ghana, after which the tribe leaders exalted him "African Chief" in a traditional ceremony.
For the past three years, Pepperdine School of Law students have traveled to Uganda, where they worked in partnership with Google to digitize official court documents, all the while clerking for judges on the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, or the Criminal Court in the capital city, Kampala.
In October 2007, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge (BA '08) started a program to enhance language and educational services to immigrant workers through the Malibu Labor Exchange.
And for the past six years, new faculty members have traveled together to Florence, Italy to discuss their vocation as professors at a Christian university and how to relate their faith to their classroom teaching.
These are just a few of the projects made possible by the Pepperdine Voyage program, which has enabled students and faculty at Pepperdine to experience new places and reach new heights in their personal journeys. Sponsored by the Lilly Endowment, the initiative aims to provide a "theological exploration of vocation." On March 26, the Pepperdine community will celebrate the conclusion of the funding through the Lilly Endowment and the enormous impact it has had on the University and its Christian mission.
"We would like to use the day as an opportunity for administrators, faculty, and students who have benefitted from the grant to come together and celebrate," says Todd Bouldin, director of the Pepperdine Voyage program and visiting assistant professor in the Social Science Division.
In 2002, the Lilly Endowment awarded $2 million to Pepperdine University to support a five-year participation in an academic and self-examination project through which students are challenged to consider the prospect of vocation, and specifically "What call has God put on my life?" In 2006, the Endowment awarded a renewal grant to help sustain the project. Since then, the University has found other support to incorporate many components of the project into existing programs. The funding will officially cease at the end of July 2009.
"We've funded student service grants to do social service on almost every continent," marvels Bouldin, who was named director in 2006. "The Lilly Grant has made an enormous impact on Pepperdine. It's provided an opportunity for all five schools of the University to interact on a topic of faith that was palatable and beneficial for everyone. It's been a rallying point to bring the whole University around our Christian mission."
Stephanie Cupp has served as executive assistant for the Voyage Project since its inception, and has helped many of the great ideas students have for service projects come to fruition thanks to the grant. "One day a few years back, Ethiopian student Wondirad Assefa-Tsegaye (BA '06) came to my office and asked me to be the staff sponsor for this club he was passionate about due to the loss of his sister from AIDS," Cupp recalls, noting that, as a registered nurse, she had a great deal of experience with HIV/AIDS herself. "I feel very privileged to have helped start the Acting on AIDS club on campus with the help of funding from this grant program," she says.
Another service grant project Cupp recalls fondly is the "Back to School Iraq" project, in which student Morgana Wingard (BA '05) arranged to have backpacks filled with school supplies put together by Pepperdine students and then delivered to Iraqi schoolchildren. Cupp also oversaw the development of the first conference for the Women in Ministry network. Created for women studying for or in Churches of Christ ministry positions, the first conference was held on the Pepperdine campus in 2005 and has continued annually ever since. Pepperdine will serve as host again in May 2009.
The March 26 day of celebration will bring back the program's initial director, Richard Hughes, who was also the founding director of Pepperdine's Center for Faith and Learning and is now a distinguished professor and senior fellow at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. Festivities will begin at noon with a luncheon for administrators and committee members to engage in a substantive reflection of the grant.
At 5 p.m., students are invited to attend a convocation in Stauffer Chapel devoted to the Voyage program, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Mike Metzger, an expert on the topic of Christian faith, work, and vocation. He is the director of The Clapham Institute in Annapolis, Maryland. There will also be a presentation with photos highlighting all of the various programs started at Pepperdine through the grant.
Finally, at 7 p.m., a dinner will be held to commemorate the past seven years of vocational exploration, and look to the future of sustaining these programs. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff will speak on their experiences through Pepperdine Voyage, including Masten (BA '08), who spearheaded the Ghana rural library project, and Jay Milbrant (JDM '07), who has coordinated much of the School of Law's relief efforts in Uganda.
Bouldin assures that, while the Lilly Endowment will no longer provide funding, many programs that have shaped the experiences of Pepperdine students and faculty will remain. "The sustaining grant has allowed us the opportunity to discover those programs that our faculty and students deem most vital for their vocational development, and to continue those programs that were created under the original grant," he says.
Cupp, who is also executive assistant for the Center for Faith and Learning at Pepperdine, explains that successful programs have either found a permanent home in various departments at Pepperdine or will be continued through the center. "The Center for Faith and Learning will continue the New Faculty retreat, spiritual discernment retreat for students, the freshman vocation reading program, service and social action grants, ministry internships and possibly the professional school internships. The center has received some very generous donations towards this work; however, we are continuing to seek an endowment to keep it going into the future."
For more information on the Pepperdine Voyage program, visit www.pepperdine.edu/voyage.