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May 19, 2021  | 8 min read

J. Goosby Smith Named Vice President for Community Belonging and Chief Diversity Officer at Pepperdine University

J. Goosby Smith has been named the inaugural vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer at Pepperdine University. April Harris Akinloye (’00, MA ’05) will join Smith as assistant vice president for community belonging. Smith and Harris Akinloye will commence their new roles on June 1, 2021.

Smith currently serves as associate professor of leadership; associate professor of management; assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion; and director of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. 

The selection of a vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer is one in a series of initiatives the University has been implementing to cultivate a community of deep belonging and to build and model a diverse, informed, loving, and unified community at Pepperdine.Harris Akinloye ('00, MA '05)

“In the first few months of my presidency, I made it clear that hiring a chief diversity officer would be among my top priorities,” said president Jim Gash (JD ’93). “Though we began our national search for a chief diversity officer, after getting to know these two extraordinarily qualified leaders, each of whom has a deep love for Pepperdine and our mission, we decided to hire a team—and what a team it is! Drs. Smith and Harris Akinloye will be a venerable force  to help lead Pepperdine to a new level of inclusion, excellence, and genuine belonging, befitting the Pepperdine community’s unwavering commitment to radical Christian hospitality.”

In her new role, Smith will report directly to President Gash, serve as a member of the University’s Steering Team, and be a principal leader on the University Diversity Council for which she previously served as inaugural faculty co-chair in 2005. 

“Unexpectedly, God has called me back to my first academic home to fulfill the calling on my life—to unite his people and empower them to be their very best selves,” said Smith, who previously served as a professor at Seaver College, an assessment coordinator for 
the Seaver Diversity Council, and as an adjunct professor at the Graziadio Business School. “I am humbled and excited to engage fully in this endeavor with my Pepperdine family.”

Harris Akinloye will join Pepperdine from Social Good Solutions where she is currently 
a senior consultant for diversity, equity, and inclusion. She previously served as the chief diversity officer at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California.

“I am excited to return to my alma mater and work alongside Dr. Smith in this new capacity,” says Harris Akinloye. “We are ready to complete the work required to cultivate an environment that is truly inclusive and will manifest a sense of belonging for every member of the Pepperdine community.”


Cornel WestRobert George and Cornel West Discuss Current Political Climate Through Lens of Humility and Hope at Inaugural President’s Speaker Series Event

On January 12, 2021, more than 1,300 members of the Pepperdine University community gathered virtually to view the inaugural event of the President’s Speaker Series, “Honesty and Courage, Humility and Hope: Robert George and Cornel West in Dialogue.” George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, and West, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, analyzed the deep character required to engage thoughtfully and respectfully in vibrant conversations that examine diverse viewpoints.

West expressed his passion for the freedom of speech and its integrity in allowing for the flow of all ideas. Highlighting that the defense of liberties cannot be just for tribal, 
racial, or ideological matters, he shared that he would feel uncomfortable with the repression of speech whether it is applied from the left or right side of the political spectrum. 

George explained that universities have a sacred mission to open students’ minds to the truth, and that Christian Robert Georgeuniversities like Pepperdine are ideally situated to encourage the inquisitiveness and openness that leads to a better understanding of the truth.


Weisman Museum to Display Kinsey  African American Art & History Collection in Spring 2022Kinsey family

From January to March 2022, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art will display the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, America’s largest privately held anthology of African American art, history, and ephemera. The exhibition was announced on February 24, 2021, during the President’s Speaker Series event featuring philanthropist and entrepreneur Bernard Kinsey (MBA ’73), his wife, Shirley (MA ’76), and their son, Khalil, 
in discussion about the “myth of absence” concept that has played a significant role in America’s view of African Americans and the many and often untold examples of African American achievement.

The award-winning Kinsey Collection celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans from 1595 into the contemporary era. Widely considered to be one of the most comprehensive surveys of African American history and culture outside of the Smithsonian Institution, the collection features more than 150 paintings, sculptures, photographs, rare books, letters, manuscripts, and more. A groundbreaking exhibition that has been viewed by more than 15 million people and received national media attention, the Kinsey Collection is currently spearheaded by Khalil, who serves as its general manager and curator.


Dee Anna SmithPepperdine Board of Regents Chair Dee Anna Smith (’86) Named AACSB 2021 Influential Leader

On February 16, 2021, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International named Dee Anna Smith, chief executive officer of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, and chair of the Pepperdine University Board of Regents, one of the association’s 2021 Influential Leaders. Along with 24 other business school graduates across the nation, Smith is recognized for her positive contributions to her industry and society.

“For years we have witnessed the outcomes of Dee Anna’s commitment to education and enterprise,” shares president Jim Gash (JD ’93).  “We at Pepperdine are proud of her contributions to both and are grateful for the ways her public leadership aligns with her extraordinary service  to the University.”


Legal Scholar Robert George Named Honorary Distinguished Professor at Caruso School of Law and School of Public PolicyCampus vista

Beginning fall 2021, Robert George will serve as the inaugural Nootbaar Honorary Distinguished Professor of Law at the Caruso School of Law and the Ronald Reagan Honorary Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy. During his five-year term at both schools, he will be invited to give academic lectures, lead student colloquia, and participate in other speaking engagements with members of the Pepperdine community.

“We are thrilled to have Robby join us as our inaugural Nootbaar Distinguished Visiting Professor,” shared Paul L. Caron, Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean of the Caruso School of Law. “He is one of the leading voices in the country on the intersection of law and religion as well as the important role for faith in the public square. We are all very much looking forward to his time as part of the Caruso Law community and the opportunities it will provide for deep study and engagement on some of the most important issues of the day.”

Pete Peterson (MPP ’07), dean and Braun Family Dean’s Chair at the School of Public Policy, expressed, “From the late James Q. Wilson to Bill McClay and Steve Hayward, our Ronald Reagan professorship has been held by some of America’s great scholars who have made the lessons of history and the Great Books relevant to our next generation of public leaders. We’re honored to welcome Robby George—an acclaimed academic with a commitment to viewpoint diversity—to serve as our next Ronald Reagan Honorary Distinguished Professor of Public Policy.”


Screenshot of 2U GraziadioGraziadio Business School Introduces FinTech and Digital Marketing Boot Camps

In December 2020 the Graziadio Business School partnered with 2U, Inc. to launch two new executive education offerings for working professionals in Southern California. Beginning in April 2021 through a dynamic virtual classroom experience—including live instruction with industry professionals, webinars with employers, and coursework with tutoring assistance—the Pepperdine Graziadio FinTech Boot Camp and Pepperdine Graziadio Digital Marketing Boot Camp will teach students the technical skills necessary for success in the financial and marketing sectors.

Students in the Pepperdine Graziadio FinTech Boot Camp learn how to use cutting-edge tools and technologies in the financial services sector, including programming languages Python and Solidity, financial libraries, machine learning algorithms, Ethereum system software, and blockchain. Those in the Pepperdine Graziadio Digital Marketing Boot Camp explore in-demand digital marketing skills, including marketing strategy and campaign development, user acquisition, digital advertising, content marketing, retention strategy, and search engine optimization.


coronavirusModerna CEO Leads Panel Discussion on COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Future

The March 2021 installment of the President’s Speaker Series featured a moderated panel of leading medical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology experts who shared their professional knowledge and experience with COVID-19 vaccines and examined what society might expect from vaccines in the future.

Moderated by Dee Anna Smith (’86), CEO of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, and chair of the Pepperdine Board of Regents, “Vaccines: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?” connected the audience with Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, Stephen M. Hahn, former commissioner of food and drugs at the US Food and Drug Administration, and Jonathan B. Perlin, president of the Clinical Services Group and chief medical officer of HCA Healthcare.

As the rate of vaccination increases across the country, Bancel shared that he is hopeful that by 2022 vaccination rates will increase so much that the mutation of the COVID-19 strain will be minimal. Bancel also shared his confidence in the development and distribution of a COVID-19 booster within the influenza vaccine to continue to stay ahead of the virus. He hopes that Moderna and US government officials will be able to find ways to export vaccines to other countries to support global public health.

“We really have a chance, with the abundance of the vaccine, next year, to nail down the virus, so that the mutation rate of any is very slow,” Bancel said. “And we can go back to an endemic world where you get your flu shot and you have a nice winter.”


Pepperdine Veterans Council Promotes Community of Belonging for Student-Veterans and Military FamiliesFlag flying in the breeze

In a University-wide effort to provide an active voice for student-veterans and military-connected students—including military family members and Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets—in fall 2020 a group of student-veterans representing all five Pepperdine schools launched the Pepperdine Veterans (PeppVet) Council, a leadership committee that focuses on developing new initiatives to help ensure these nontraditional students feel valued, included, and supported throughout their academic journey.

“Pepperdine is deeply committed to providing quality services and resources to our diverse military-connected community,” explains director of student-veteran affairs Eric Leshinsky, who served in the United States Air Force for nearly 30 years. “This includes finding new ways to reach our veteran students so they can connect, engage, and get involved in making positive change in their school and local community. The PeppVet Council provides student-veterans with a new platform to discuss, develop, and implement ideas to build fellowship and improve the lives of our military-connected students.”


Photo of the front of CSOL campusCaruso School of Law Hosts Inaugural Belonging Awards Ceremony

In celebration of diversity and belonging among students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the Caruso School of Law hosted the first-ever Belonging Awards on February 25, 2021. Throughout the ceremony, students, faculty, and alumni shared inspirational stories and discussed their approaches to prioritizing diversity and belonging within their academic, professional, and personal lives. 

“I truly believe that we can tell what an institution values by what it celebrates. An essential component of belonging is celebration, so that all members know that they are not only tolerated or welcomed, but truly celebrated,” says Chalak Richards (JD ’12), assistant dean of student life, diversity, and belonging and director of the Parris Institute for Professional Excellence at Caruso Law. 

“We are thrilled to highlight an impressive community of students and alumni who advocate for change and promote belonging in their studies, professions, and lives.” 


Graduate School of Education  and Psychology Hosts Women in Leadership EventStudent working on laptop

As part of the Margaret J. Weber Distinguished Lecture Series, the Graduate School of Education and Psychology hosted “Women in Leadership: Navigating Through Power Structures, Personal Challenges, and a Pandemic” on March 11. Moderated by family law attorney Stacy D. Phillips, the virtual event featured a dynamic panel of female leaders who explored their experiences and perspectives to inspire all genders and offered advice to attendees about growing professionally, expanding their network, and accessing resources. 

The panel members shared insights from successes and setbacks in the workplace and 
in life, and revealed how the pandemic has amplified obstacles and created opportunities 
that did not previously exist. They also highlighted strategies for navigating the contours of power related to gender, race, and the political structure in an organization, and the role male advocates and managers play in addressing workplace challenges faced by women and other underrepresented employees. 

“Our male colleagues can become allies, sponsors, and advocates to amplify the voices of women,” said panelist Christal Morris (EdD ’17), senior vice president and global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Peloton. “[This allyship] might look like introducing someone to your network who would benefit from your skill set for a project, or understanding your motivations and your career mobility options so they can be thinking of you for the next opportunity.”