Presidential Vision Statement
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Since being named as Pepperdine's eighth president, I've been thinking about these things—particularly about Pepperdine's tenacious pursuit of excellence. I'm convinced we're now living in a new world at a time unlike any other. There's been a palpable shift in our way of life—one that provides us with a compelling opportunity to reflect and dream about what is true, noble, and right. This moment beckons us to look into the future—to eagerly embrace what's coming and to discern how Pepperdine's distinctiveness has prepared us for this moment.
We've committed to ascend together—to reach and grow and climb to new heights of excellence. As I stated in my inaugural address, "We climb because God wired us that way. He created us for life. He created us to live—to really live. And to live is to grow, and to grow . . . is to climb. If we aren't climbing, there's something inside us that feels like we're squandering the gift of life."
We cannot squander this gift.
I've also been listening. I've been listening to the highest hopes and dreams of each of you—faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, and Regents alike. What I hear is a beautiful and towering vision of what Pepperdine can become over this next decade—a shared ambition to be a light to the world.
I hear a shared conviction that service . . . is faith in action and that we best engage the world through humility and service.
I hear a shared passion for Pepperdine to dream big and pursue new heights of excellence for the glory of God. We know that as we climb together, we will face challenges, obstacles, and opportunities, and while we'll certainly make strategic course corrections along the way, we will not compromise our relentless pursuit of the summit.
A compelling vision for the future must incorporate . . . and follow . . . a clear
understanding of Pepperdine's identity and its purpose.
Who We Are
Let's talk for a moment about who we are. When George Pepperdine founded this institution, he offered a clear and enduring vision of Pepperdine's identity. In his dedicatory address he said, "The work which shall be done in the days and years and generations to come, will be of very great importance if that work is guided by the hand of God."
Since its modest beginnings in 1937 as a small, regional, undergraduate, liberal arts college in Los Angeles, Pepperdine has charted a distinctive path with one central, compelling idea that has inspired the University—pursuing faith and truth together. We steadfastly refuse to separate the sacred from the secular and reject the notion that achieving excellence in both faith and scholarship is either impossible or incompatible. At Pepperdine, we are resolutely committed to both the relentless pursuit of truth through academic and scholarly excellence and to embodying our Christian faith and values. Pepperdine's distinctiveness is found in its embrace of this bedrock conviction and the great promise it offers.
That is who we are.
Why We Exist
George Pepperdine went on to clarify why he founded Pepperdine University. He said, "America and the world need Christianity. Therefore, I am endowing this institution to help young men and women to prepare themselves for a life of usefulness in this competitive world and help them build a foundation of Christian character and faith which will survive the storms of life." As a lifelong member of the Churches of Christ, George Pepperdine established this institution as an unapologetically Christian university with enduring ties to the Churches of Christ that was called to serve our students by preparing them to be purpose-driven servant leaders with a foundation of Christian character and faith guided by the hand of God.
Eight-two years later, I revisited this question in my inaugural address asking, "Why are we here and what is our unique gift to the world?" The answer remains simple and yet profound—preparing our students to lead and serve. We believe that what the world needs most is what we do best. The world needs servant leaders. But not just any kind of leaders—brilliant servant-leaders marked by faith, wisdom, character, courage, and creativity. Pepperdine produces such leaders.
That is why we exist.
A View from the Summit
What follows are my reflections from listening to the dreams of our Pepperdine community.
This is the vision I see coming to life over the next decade—the new heights of excellence
for us to attain.
1. Academic Excellence and Classroom Culture
I see an intensified passion for exploration of the intersection of faith and reason through the cultivation of a vibrant marketplace of ideas where there is genuine intellectual diversity and a deep commitment to academic freedom. I see an increasing number of faculty members who are truly outstanding teachers emerging as renowned thought leaders who are publishing scholarly research in partnership with the students they are mentoring. As we invest in faculty excellence, I see the funding from external research grants, as well as the number of endowed chairs and the financial resources they bring, doubling over the next decade. I see faculty members at other institutions from around the world seeking to relocate to Pepperdine to join our thriving community.
I see excellence in state-of-the-art classrooms and other educational spaces where students are receiving a first-class education. I see scores of students being transformed through the mentoring and guidance that takes place in the classroom, as well as after class in faculty offices, laboratories, and studios, and in the evening in faculty homes. I see a new influx of resources that provides strategic opportunities for a new mixture of majors, degrees, and programs across all five schools that respond to the needs of our students, our industry, and the marketplace.
I see all five schools continuing to support and enhance the university's Christian mission, national reputation, and financial resources in their critically important and distinctive ways. And while I see this reputation enhancement translating into higher rankings, I see us steadfastly resisting any sacrifice of our mission for the sake of rankings.
2. Spiritual Life and Worship Culture
I see vibrant spiritual life emerging from this season of distance learning and disconnection. I see Pepperdine equipped to meet this moment and to deliver an exceptional transformative spiritual life experience. I see our community eagerly gathered together weekly in an uplifting time of spirit-filled worship and in joyful fellowship around a shared meal. I see Pepperdine hosting some of the most inspiring Christian recording artists, speakers, and thought leaders every semester. I see the kind of intimate mentoring that comes from intentional and relational discipleship. I see a Kingdom culture of the love and power of Christ and His Holy Spirit calling our community to unity, hope, and divine purpose. I see people longing to grow deep in the word of God and in His truth. I see a positive and powerful partnership between the University Church of Christ and the University's Spiritual Life Team. I see Pepperdine with a global platform to bring a joyful, Christian voice of unity, reconciliation, and faith to the challenging issues of our day.
I see high school students from around the country who are eager to integrate their academic pursuits with their faith making Pepperdine their first school of choice. I see similarly minded university students and graduates who are contemplating graduate school having Pepperdine at the top of their lists.
3. Mental Health, Resilience, and Wave Culture
I see Pepperdine emerging as a recognized national leader in student wholeness and resilience, where its mental health and wellness programming are seen as the model to emulate. I see students graduating with mature emotional and relational intelligence. I see crowds of students connecting for fun and fellowship in best-in-class fitness and intramural facilities, and I see a sharp decline in loneliness, isolation, and anxiety as a result. I see student life professionals from other institutions around the country looking to Pepperdine as a leader in achieving such positive outcomes.
I see a student and event center we are calling The Mountain, with premium athletic facilities and a concert venue that includes a long-overdue campus village showcasing a spacious fitness center, with outdoor community dining experiences flowing onto an expansive park and overlooking the Pacific panorama. I see our whole community gathered regularly for concerts, performances, and speakers on weekends at The Mountain. I see a community life where thousands of students are cheering together for our Waves on Friday and Saturday nights under the lights in the stadium seating watching our nationally ranked women's soccer and men's baseball teams, and our basketball and volleyball teams in our new event center at The Mountain. I see students in orange and blue face paint on Saturday afternoons watching tennis and waterpolo, and swimming and diving, experiencing the joy of being connected around a common identity as Waves.
4. A Community of Belonging and a Culture of Humility and Hospitality
I see students finding their sense of belonging in their shared identity as God's children and as Waves. I see a deeply hospitable community as people with completely different cultural and racial backgrounds, experiences, and countries of origin eating together and talking with each other, listening to each other, including each other, and learning from each other with mutual humility. I see weekly community gatherings at the Brock House on Pepperdine's campus. I see faculty meetings and staff meetings and mealtimes in the Waves Cafe . . . and I see Revelation 7:
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
I see this Revelation 7 vision reflected in Pepperdine's administration, faculty, staff, and students, and manifested in worship, on the athletic field, in the performing arts, and in the homes of faculty and staff. I see what God has given us in all its unity, beauty, and wonderful diversity. I see a Revelation 7 center led by our Vice President for Community Belonging bringing thought leaders from around the world with different viewpoints welcomed to Pepperdine to vigorously, meaningfully, and respectfully debate the greatest challenges of our time. I see every student, staff, and faculty member receiving the encouragement, mentoring, and support they need to belong and to thrive.
5. International Campuses and Our Global Culture
I see all five schools engaged globally, with faculty, staff, and students, and alumni alike learning, leading, and serving around the world. I see a Pepperdine campus in Sub-Saharan Africa where students spend a summer, a semester, or a year in an internship-intensive environment, where the experiential learning outside the classroom is even stronger than the exceptional teaching inside the classroom. I see the world coming to Pepperdine at the exquisitely restored Château d'Hauteville in Vevey, Switzerland, that serves as the international headquarters for Pepperdine's global vision. I see the Château as the envy of every college and university in America. I see programs in dispute resolution addressing global conflict with leaders of nations. I see global partnerships convening at the Château to advance international business and public diplomacy ideas. I see summits on global religious reconciliation. And I see our students fully engaged with world leaders and gaining a powerful and transformative global perspective.
6. Athletics, Arts, and Our Creative Culture
I see Pepperdine's performing arts programs growing in national acclaim and attracting fans and patrons from throughout the creative culture of Malibu, Los Angeles, and beyond. I see our music and cultural arts centers named in honor of generous donors who provide substantial resources to enable state-of-the-art facilities that put our performing and studio arts on grand display. I see performances of our choir and orchestra that frequently lift our community into the presence of God. I see our creative and cultural arts programs contributing greatly to the student academic experience.
In the same way, I see our athletics programs growing in national recognition and success both in the classroom and in competition. I see athletes graduating at rates on par with the general student body and exemplifying the character and courage that we instill in all of our students. I see perennial national contenders in a majority of the sports we sponsor. I see All-Americans, Academic All-Americans, and National Coaches of the Year, each of whom demonstrate Pepperdine's God-honoring pursuit of excellence in everything that we do. I see our student-athletes having a hard time hearing their coaches when they compete because there is so much energy and excitement in the stands. I see equally resourced womens' and mens' facilities that reflect the spirit and excellence of national championship athletics.
7. Fundraising, Endowment, and Our Giving Culture
I see annual giving doubling what it was compared to the prior decade, enabling us to double the size of the university's endowment. I see an increasing percentage of our operating budget covered by the annual payout from our growing endowment, and a dramatic increase in our annual student financial aid budget. I see students graduating with manageable debt loads that both allow them to pursue the opportunities to serve as God has called them, and enable them to pay off their debt. I see names on all of our schools and buildings, as well as on appropriate aspects of the Château, The Mountain, and the Village—names that demonstrate the compelling and contagious Pepperdine story and vision. I see us investing in the strategic priorities that will empower us to be a preeminent, global, Christian university.
8. Engagement and Our Alumni Culture
I see engaged alumni mentoring our students at each of our schools, passing down the tradition of service, leadership, and character that makes us Waves. I see an alumni community that plays an integral part in the lives of each and every student. I see a newly admitted student on a Zoom call with an alumnus the day after accepting admission to one of our five schools. I see alumni spotlighted on our campuses as speakers, experts, and consultants where we can capitalize on their wealth of wisdom and experience for the advancement of Pepperdine. I see a groundswell of alumni who so love and admire Pepperdine, who feel such a deep sense of belonging to our community, and who are so inspired by our vision that they sacrificially give resources to perpetually empower us to climb to these new heights. I see a wave of brand ambassadors all over the country as our graduates tell their stories of transformation and belonging.
9. Malibu and Los Angeles Engagement and Community Culture
I see Pepperdine deeply immersed in the life of Malibu. I see our students tutoring local Malibu kids and interning in Malibu businesses. I see our faculty experts and university administrators partnering with local government leaders to bring solutions to some of Malibu's challenges. I see a model relationship between town and gown between city and university.
I also see Pepperdine's visible presence in Los Angeles growing, perhaps even to include a downtown campus. I see Pepperdine expanding its partnership with businesses, government, and nonprofit organizations helping to address the challenges of this global city. I see Pepperdine in closer relationship with LA political, business, and community leaders. I see us providing our students with internships and experiences to engage and serve, and to enhance their educational experience.
This . . . is a bold vision. Some may question whether it is achievable, but from my vantage point, I'm convinced it is. Pepperdine is distinctive. We bring something to higher education that no other school in the nation does. The passionate and uncompromising pursuit of faith and truth together. The development of brilliant leaders of faith, character, courage, and creativity. College can be one of the most transformative times in our lives. Pepperdine makes a promise—and we're committed to keeping that promise. Our promise is to provide a world-class, rigorous Christian education and a transformative spiritual life experience in a vibrant culture of community belonging. In order to make good in that promise, we have to pursue this vision. And we have to pursue it together.
I hope you will join me in the pursuit of this bold vision. Together we can see Pepperdine become the premier, global Christian university in the world.