Within days of beginning his presidency on August 1, 2019, president Jim Gash commissioned senior vice president for strategic implementation Tim Perrin, provost Rick Marrs, and vice provost Lee Kats to appoint and lead a Strategic Planning Task Force to begin the work of envisioning a bold future for Pepperdine.
They formed a ten-member task force to guide and facilitate the planning process. This task force included Graziadio Business School professor Mark Chun, Seaver College professor Cynthia Colburn, associate vice president and university Title IX coordinator La Shonda Coleman, senior vice chancellor Rick Gibson, chancellor Sara Jackson, vice president Nicolle Taylor, and Graduate School of Education and Psychology professor Natasha Thapar-Olmos.
The task force assessed the current state of the University and higher education and invited members of all the University's constituencies to meet in small groups to consider Pepperdine's challenges and to articulate their hopes and dreams for the future. More than 800 faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members, parents, donors, and friends of the University participated in the early part of the strategic planning process.
Relying on the Pepperdine community's responses, the task force initiated a draft of the Pepperdine 2030 Strategic Plan. President Gash worked closely with the task force, the University Steering Team, University Planning Committee, and the Board of Regents in developing the plan, including drafting a presidential vision to accompany it. Pepperdine's Board of Regents likewise played an active and constructive governance role by participating in a March 2020 envisioning session, offering important feedback and guidance on early drafts of the plan, and adopting and sharing a Strategic Guidance document that describes five key distinctive pathways for Pepperdine in the decade ahead. In the summer of 2021, the document, “Pepperdine 2030 Strategic Plan,” was presented to the University community for a 60-day period of review and comment.
When done right, strategic planning is an ongoing and iterative process. New information, data, and trends are always emerging that must inform our strategic priorities such that we are constantly in a state of refinement and recalibration to maximize the excellence we deliver. In fact, the position of senior vice president for strategic implementation was developed to ensure that the strategic plan is central in our day-to-day work. This document casts a vision for the next decade at Pepperdine, and the University is committed to regularly revisit the goals and aspirations, with an intensive review after five years.
Like other universities, Pepperdine has historically engaged in ongoing strategic planning. The University's prior plan was entitled “Boundless Horizons,” which carried Pepperdine to 2020. Its expiration coincided not only with the retirement of Andrew K. Benton after 19 years of exemplary service as Pepperdine's seventh president, but also with a series of events and emerging trends that make the development of a new strategic plan for the next decade particularly timely.
These events included the global COVID-19 pandemic, which heightened fears and feelings of isolation and separation and caused unimaginable amounts of sickness and death; televised acts of violence against Black individuals, which provoked widespread social unrest and intensified both public discussion about racism and racial injustice and the longing for genuine racial harmony; and the contentious 2020 election, which heightened the politicization of everything. All of this combined to worsen the troubling mental health crisis and to cause Pepperdine's renewal of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, envisioning a welcoming community of belonging where each person is treated with love, respect, and fairness as an image bearer of God.
While the events of 2020 have reaffirmed Pepperdine's vision, the social strife, division, disconnection, and dislocation occasioned by these events have shifted the landscape of higher education in ways we are only beginning to understand. Considering the coming demographic shift that will almost certainly reduce the number of students enrolling in American colleges in a few years, combined with the major technological changes in educational content delivery, higher education's future is perhaps less certain than ever.
Through the strategic planning process, Pepperdine finds itself well positioned to flourish in these challenging circumstances because of the strength of its reputation and its distinctive mission. The coming changes and the opportunities they bring call for Pepperdine to shine brightly and to lead with courage and creativity. In such a time as this, there has never been a greater need for who we are and what we offer to our students, our community, and our world. Pepperdine University's distinctive mission of preparing our students to lead and serve through a transformative experience of academic excellence and Christian faith will continue to attract brilliant and creative students to our stunning Southern California and global campuses.
In September 2019, the Pepperdine community gathered for the inauguration of its eighth president, James A. Gash. President Gash shared a bold and compelling global vision for Pepperdine's future, calling on the University community to ascend together and rededicate themselves to Pepperdine's distinctive mission to strengthen students intellectually, spiritually, and relationally for roles as brilliant and courageous leaders with a global impact. Sharing his view from the summit, President Gash's Vision Statement, which accompanies this strategic plan, calls upon the University community to join with him in imagining a grand and limitless future for Pepperdine.