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Pepperdine University to Explore Establishing School of Health Sciences

Seaver Campus with Students

As Pepperdine’s leadership team considers the evolution of its academic landscape and the necessity of equipping students with the tools they need to become purposeful servant leaders beyond their time at the University, it is formally evaluating the establishment of a school of health sciences that would meet the growing needs of students who wish to pursue careers in various healthcare fields. Aligned with Pepperdine’s strategic plan and mission to prepare students for lives of purpose, service, and leadership, this exploration will assess opportunities to strengthen the University’s culture of academic excellence and serve its community.

“This is an exciting and historic initiative for Pepperdine as we explore a new health sciences school in our pursuit of preparing Pepperdine’s next generation of students for meaningful global impact,” says Pepperdine provost Jay Brewster.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that overall employment in healthcare occupations will grow by 13 percent by 2031—a growth that will translate to 2 million new positions. In consideration of the current economic landscape and a reported national shortage of healthcare professionals, Pepperdine will develop a proposed business plan that includes a rigorous, academic curriculum that is responsive to the current state of health care. A new school of health sciences at Pepperdine would endow students with a high-quality education and reinforce the University’s commitment to academic excellence and Christian values with a strong emphasis on ethics and integrity. By entering careers in healthcare fields, Pepperdine students would have the opportunity to live out their faith in the communities they serve, both locally and globally.

In the coming months, the initiative will move into the next phase of exploration, which includes the building of a mature academic and business plan for a new school. While the work ahead will involve the collaborative efforts of a team of Pepperdine community members, a leadership team has been developed to explore the academic and experiential components of a potential new health sciences school.

As part of this exciting new initiative, Seaver College dean Michael Feltner has been appointed to lead the academic exploration of the new school as dean of academic initiatives. As he assumes this new role, Dean Feltner will take a leave of absence from his leadership of Seaver College for the coming academic year.

In addition to his legacy of exceptional leadership as dean, associate dean, and chair of the Natural Science Division of Seaver College, Dean Feltner has the ideal academic background and leadership experience to lead this important enterprise. He has served as a professor of sports medicine in the Natural Science Division since 1988, teaching courses in biomechanics of human movement, functional anatomy and kinesiology, and human anatomy. He also has published frequently in the area of human biomechanics and served as an associate editor of Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise and as an editorial board member of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. Prior to academia, Dean Feltner worked in health-related settings as a certified athletic trainer for a professional baseball team and in a sports medicine clinic as an athletic trainer and therapist. He holds a PhD in human performance from Indiana University and a bachelor of science degree in biological science from Miami University.

As Dean Feltner oversees the academic aspects of the exploration, senior executive vice president Gary Hanson (JD '80) will lead the operational and business aspects of the exploration. Hanson brings decades of experience and wisdom he has gained from leading innumerable projects and initiatives over the course of his more than 40 years of leadership at Pepperdine. 

Vice provost Lee Kats will serve as interim dean of Seaver College. Kats is an ecologist who joined the faculty of Seaver College more than 30 years ago, holds the rank of professor of biology, and is the Frank R. Seaver Chair of Natural Science. He has served in administrative roles for more than 20 years, including as associate dean of Seaver College for 10 years and as vice provost for the past 12 years. His work in strengthening institutional support for faculty scholarship resulted in the creation of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. He also serves as academic director of the Center for Faith and the Common Good.

While these transitions will officially take effect on August 1, 2023, collaborative efforts to ensure a smooth start to the 2023–24 academic year will begin immediately.

“President Gash and I want to express our utmost confidence in these two colleagues who will step into new roles during this time of evaluation and decision for Pepperdine,” says Provost Brewster. “It is a great privilege to know them and to serve with them.”