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David M. Johnson (’92, MIB ’94) - Pepperdine Magazine

Coming Home

“Pepperdine is listening and giving back to its alumni, and it’s doing amazing things to connect us once again.”

I’m a “Tsunami.” That’s what some of us call a Pepperdine Wave who comes back for more than one degree. My undergraduate experience rivaled most dreams—from visiting the Soviet Union while studying in Heidelberg during the summer of 1989 to chipping away bits of the Berlin Wall a few months later during an excursion from Florence. Two years later I got to represent the University as part of the Pepperdine Ambassadors Council at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where they unveiled a monolith of the wall I helped chip away. I subsequently returned for my Master of International Business (MIB) degree and studied in both Malibu and Germany.


But I drifted away, as many alumni do. Around 30 of my MIB cohorts live all around the world, and it’s nearly impossible to plan a reunion when Maria is in Dubai and Frank is in Romania. I loved my time at Pepperdine and missed the great friendships, but I graduated before cell phone numbers were permanent and the internet could connect us at lightning speed.

In my heart I was still a Wave, even though I hadn’t been on campus in two decades. That was when I saw President Benton again at my wife’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology commencement, and I wasn’t surprised when he remembered me. We discussed the idea of me getting more involved with the University again, and I told him, “The answer is yes. Now you tell me what I just volunteered to do.”

A month later I received a call from Jason Pates (’95, MPP ’99), a former freshman in the residence hall where I was resident advisor. He was now the president of the Alumni Leadership Council (ALC), a diverse group of active alumni that represents all five schools of Pepperdine. This was my chance to reconnect.

The ALC is the highest-level alumni advisory board at Pepperdine, providing research and strategic advice to the executive administration. Our objective is to develop and strengthen lifelong relationships between the University and its alumni and to serve as leaders of the University mission.

The ALC had a vision to invite all alumni to reconnect with their friends and affinity groups while also creating a vibrant career community. PeppConnect was our solution. This July, with the support of the University, it became a reality.

PeppConnect is an online environment where alumni can meet each other at local, global, and virtual career events; where every business industry has a platform to chat and share opportunities; where every student will soon have an opportunity to develop a network for mentorship or job placement; and where affinity groups can create their own mini-communities and plan events or partner with an event already sponsored by Pepperdine.

The ALC is now in its 11th year, and our advice has become the foundation of the University’s first-ever five-year alumni engagement strategic plan. It’s not just a departmental plan—the University has taken an earnest approach to alumni engagement, creating synergy in goals among all five schools and calling on the deans to adopt more effective alumni engagement strategies.

Pepperdine is listening and giving back to its alumni, and it’s doing amazing things to connect us once again. Never has there been a better time to come back home. So, log in and find your friends, your career network, or your professors. Reconnect like I did. Contact Alumni Affairs at alumni@pepperdine.edu, join PeppConnect atconnect.pepperdine.edu, or write to me atdavidjohnson@expertresource.com. If you say yes, I’ll do my best President Benton impersonation and reconnect you.

By David M. Johnson (’92, MIB ’94)
President-Elect, Pepperdine Alumni Leadership Council