Pepperdine University Takes Major Diversity Step Naming New VP for Community Belonging

Pepperdine University on Wednesday announced it has selected Dr. J. Goosby Smith to be the university’s inaugural vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer (CDO).

Smith, who begins her new position at the Christian college on June 1, is currently serving in a number of roles at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.

She is the 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.

Dr. J. Goosby Smith (Image credit: Pepperdine University)

“What an honor it is today 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,” he added.

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Smith received her BS in computer science from Spelman College and her MBA and Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Case Western Reserve University. 

She expects to earn her master of divinity from Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in December of this year.

Smith is already acquainted with Pepperdine having served previously as an assistant professor of organizational behavior in the Seaver College Business Administration Division from 2002 to 2006. 

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

Harris Akinloye Will Also Join University’s Diversity Team

Additionally, Dr. April Harris Akinloye will join Smith in leading the diversity and inclusion initiatives at Pepperdine.

Dr. April Harris Akinloye (Image credit: Pepperdine University)

Harris Akinloye will return to her alma mater as the assistant vice president for community belonging. She 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 also earned her Ph.D. in education with a concentration on cultural perspectives from the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Harris 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.

“When I was a candidate to be Pepperdine’s eighth president, I made it clear that hiring a chief diversity officer would be among my top priorities,” Gash said. “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!”

He added, “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.”

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The university has initiated a series of efforts that focus on diversity, including plans to host the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection at their Weisman Museum next spring. 

Pepperdine is one of three Christian schools within America’s Top 50 universities and the only Protestant school among them. Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and The University of Notre Dame in Indiana are the other two.

Founded in 1937, Pepperdine University is an independent, Christian university located 30 miles west of Downtown Los Angeles in scenic Malibu, California. The University enrolls approximately 9,500 students across its flagship liberal arts school, Seaver College; the Caruso School of Law; the Graziadio Business School; the Graduate School of Education and Psychology; and the School of Public Policy. 

Pepperdine is committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership. Follow Pepperdine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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