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Center for Faith and Learning Leads Exploration of Faith and Vocation with Faculty Retreat in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Faculty pose together on the colorful streets of Buenos Aires

The Center for Faith and Learning at Pepperdine University led a cohort of more than two dozen new Pepperdine faculty members and their spouses to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a week-long exploration of vocation, faith, and scholarship. The trip, which is the first international retreat the center has hosted since the COVID-19 pandemic, continues the long-standing tradition since the center’s founding in 1999.  

“It’s always so encouraging to see faculty find a sense of belonging within Pepperdine’s mission during these retreats,” says John Barton, who serves as the director for the Center for Faith and Learning and as a professor of teaching of religion at Seaver College. “They are able to dive deep into their own vocational stories and how their story contributes to Pepperdine’s. A distinct, united university needs bridges to connect all parts, and this program is just one of those many bridges at Pepperdine.” 

Faculty participants—including Caruso School of Law professor Jennifer Koh; Graduate School of Education and Psychology professors Dominique Malebranche, Earl Turner, Jennifer Vaughn, and Melissa Wasserman; Graziadio Business School professor Clemens Kownatzki; and Seaver College professors Ruth Bernstein, Jaz Gray, Helen Holmlund, Howard Jean-Denis, Paul Kim, Adam Pennell, Karie Riddle, and Pierre Tang—were led by Barton, Center for Faith and Learning associate director and Seaver College associate professor of English Jennifer Smith, Pepperdine’s associate chaplain Zac Luben (’05, MDiv ’13), chaplain Sara Barton, and Center for Faith and Learning program administrator Stephanie Cupp in various workshops and seminars. 

From July 5 through July 13, as the group held discussions on several texts including Scholarship, Pepperdine University, and the Legacy of Churches of Christ by Pepperdine Professors Emeriti Richard Hughes and Thomas Olbricht, they also experienced the Casa and the surrounding city in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the central point of one of Pepperdine’s many International Programs. Their deep discussions and meaningful times of fellowship created strong connections and uncovered shared interests for future interdisciplinary and cross-school research collaborations. Because of the established success of the retreat and positive impact on faculty community building and retention, Barton is often in discussions with universities across the nation so they may use Pepperdine’s retreat as a model for their own programs.

“The retreat was a phenomenal experience in many ways,” says Koh, “I appreciated the opportunity to connect with faculty across the University and find common interests, and I walked away feeling refreshed, challenged, and energized about my next steps at Pepperdine.”

To learn more about the center’s work, visit the Center for Faith and Learning website.