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Pepperdine Faculty Produce Powerful Research on Art, Business, Intimate Partner Violence, and More with Cross-School Collaborative Research Grants

The Pepperdine Cross-School Collaborative Research Program has awarded five faculty research collaborations for the 2021–2022 academic year. The five collaborative projects are led by more than 20 Pepperdine faculty members across a range of academic disciplines in four of Pepperdine’s schools. The program encourages scholarly interaction between Pepperdine’s faculty from diverse disciplines and schools. Funded by the provost and chief academic officer, the grants are highly competitive and have resulted in years of exceptional scholarly work. 

Ryan Board, director of choral activities at Seaver College, will work with fellow Seaver College fine arts faculty Gretchen Batcheller, Cynthia Colburn, and Lincoln Hanks as well as Center for the Arts director Rebecca Carson, professor of religion David Lemley, creative writing professor John Struloeff, and Great Books professor Don Thompson to produce a new oratorio entitled Satan’s Fall. The piece is composed by Stewart Copeland, former frontrunner and drummer of the band The Police, and explores the literary struggle between Satan and God. The project will culminate with the oratorio’s West Coast premiere in Smothers Theatre in April 2022 in tandem with exhibits and lectures from Pepperdine students and faculty centered around the concert’s themes. 

Seven faculty researchers from both Seaver College and Graziadio Business School—Clark Johnson, Sarah Fischbach, Cristel Russell, Alice Labban, Klive Oh, Corinne Novell, and Cristina Gibson—will collaborate to create a new behavioral research lab. The group hopes the development of the lab will foster creative cross-school and interdisciplinary research projects with a readily available pool of research participants. The lab will begin functioning in fall 2021 and will help students access human subject behavior research useful for any discipline. 

Organizational behavior experts Zhike Lei, associate professor of applied behavioral science and director of the Center for Applied Research at Graziadio, and Ben Postlethwaite, associate professor of organizational behavior and management at Seaver College, will collaborate to expand understanding of the concept of psychological safety in businesses and organizations. Psychological safety is considered an organization’s culture and contributes to people feeling safe to express themselves authentically. Lei and Postlethwaite, whose organizational research has appeared in some of the leading industry publications, are curious how psychological safety may impact collaboration and innovation and how it is cultivated and/or weakened. 

Grazidio's Stephen Gibson and Cristina Gibson will work alongside Caruso School of Law faculty member Cameron McCollum on their “Reimagining Prisons Project.” The research team will integrate their expertise in urban planning and organizational psychology with law and social justice to create an innovative approach to prison reform. A major facet of their research will restore dignity through work for those experiencing incarceration so they can reintegrate into their communities and reduce the chances of repeat offenses. As the project commences its first year of a multi-year project, the researchers hope to expand collaborators and disciplines.

Longtime collaborators Thema Bryant-Davis, professor of psychology at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Tanya Asim Cooper, associate clinical professor of law at Caruso School of Law, and Roslyn Satchel, Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Communication at Seaver College, will continue their collaborative research on intimate partner violence and opportunities for faith communities to support survivors. Over the last five years, the group has received a Cross-School Collaborative Research grant and has launched In Search of Sanctuary, an online resource center to strengthen faith communities' responses to intimate partner violence. The group has also led powerful workshops with churches in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. 

“As a female minister, I've been intentional about teaching and bringing awareness to abuse,” shares Naima Lett, co-pastor at Hope in the Hills in Beverly Hills, who participated in one of the workshops. “This is the first time that I've seen an organized effort from the faith community to provide tangible resources to equip our leaders on how to respond to intimate partner violence personally, corporately, and legally.”

To learn more about the Cross-School Collaborative Research Program, visit the program’s website.