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

J. Goosby SmithJ. 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 will join Pepperdine following her most recent roles at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, where she 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. 

“What an honor it is to announce Dr. Smith is returning to the Pepperdine community,” said Pepperdine president Jim Gash. “I’m especially grateful to the Search Committee for identifying an amazing and experienced leader. I simply cannot wait to work alongside Dr. Smith as we chart a distinctively Pepperdine path forward addressing one of the great issues of our time. Our goal isn’t just to have a community of belonging but to train generations of graduates to create the same in their own communities.”

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. 

"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," says Smith. "I am humbled and excited to engage fully in this endeavor with my Pepperdine family."

Smith previously served as an assistant professor of organizational behavior in the Seaver College Business Administration Division from 2002 to 2006, and then as a tenured associate professor of organizational behavior in the same division from 2011 to 2015. She has also served as assessment coordinator for the Seaver Diversity Council and as an adjunct professor in the Graziadio Business School’s MBA program. 

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. 

Smith received her BS in computer science from Spelman College and her MBA and PhD in organizational behavior from Case Western Reserve University. She anticipates earning her master of divinity from Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in December 2021. 

April Harris AkinloyeHarris 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.”

Harris Akinloye is a double alumna of Pepperdine, receiving her BA in speech communication and religious studies from Seaver College and her MA in education from the Graduate School of Education and Psychology. She earned her PhD in education with a focus on cultural perspectives from the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“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 Gash. “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.”