I was at the beach last week, trying to get rid of my skin’s winter hue in preparation for my sorority formal that day. Turns out that falling asleep in the afternoon sun, even for only 30 minutes, can do some serious work on your body if it has been locked away under lots of clothes for months. My goal was to resemble a bronze goddess by the time I left, just sun-kissed enough so that people knew I go outdoors. I left the beach resembling a waffle fry: swollen and crispy. So that was a great way to go take pictures, especially considering my dress had thin straps, exposing every inch of my tender shoulders. Oh well. Live and learn. Except I feel like sometimes I’m too busy living (laying out) to do any of the learning (wearing sunscreen).
Anyway, all this to say that during my brief, but somehow incredibly tan/burn efficient time at the beach, I heard this conversation between two white, tank-topped young men:
Guy #1: Isn’t there a school near here?
Guy #2: Yeah, like, up the hill, like five minutes away.
Guy #1: Damn, do you even need a GPA to go to that school?
I was heated. Granted, I had just woken up realizing that I would probably need to soak in a tub of aloe later that night, but I was heated emotionally too. Guy #1 had, with his cocky little comment, insinuated that because our school is located in Malibu, that we had all paid our way to get into Pepperdine. I think we can all agree that Malibu can be a pricey place to live eight out of ten times, but still, there are Manager’s Specials at Ralph’s where you can get a loaf of bread for 69 cents and last time I checked, no one said you had to shop at John Varvatos or Planet Blue for your fashion needs. You can live cheaply, even in Malibu.
But this Guy #1, with all of his sweeping generalizations, got me to start thinking about how we portray, how we advertise and how we represent our school. One of my biggest annoyances with humans that I encounter is that they inevitably make some kind of statement like, “Your school is so beautiful!” or “Oh, that campus!” Okay, great, I’m so glad you think we have a beautiful campus. I happen to agree with you — but is that really all that people think of when they think of Pepperdine?
Does the outside world and the random guys on the beach who I secretly hoped got as sun-burnt as I did think of Pepperdine as a resort university with no other purpose than to educate the rich kids of Malibu? Forgive my blatant honesty, but last time I checked, I am the grateful recipient of financial aid from Pepperdine and from private scholarships through my academic division. Most of my friends have also received financial aid or taken out loans or work two sometimes three jobs just to meet tuition payments.
Putting the financial mess aside, though, I have come to believe that Pepperdine serves a unique purpose; believing and working towards the fruition of its founder’s mission more than any other higher institution of learning that I have encountered. Pepperdine has its quirks, sure, I’ll give you that. By no means, however, is it just a playground for the Barbies, although they are welcome here as well. Pepperdine, to a student who loves and believes in freely giving and freely receiving and every other annoying, but somehow endearing buzzword so much (that would be me, surprise), is eclectic, strange beyond belief, academically rigorous and provoking, a welcome home, and where I have met the people who changed my life.
Pepperdine is the people and the experiences, not the green grass (California drought got nothin’ on them sprinklers) nor the ocean view, although those things are nice. As I contemplate being an alum, I want my alma mater to be known for more than the stuff it manufactured to be aesthetically appealing. I want to represent Pepperdine to those whom I encounter so that this dear place becomes more than just a “beautiful campus” to those who watch its continued development.
As we go into the last two weeks of school and whoa, yes, I really did just say that, let us hold gratitude close to our hearts. I love this school, quirks and all, and somewhere, deep down, you love something about it, too. Show that to those watching, tell them your Pepperdine story. I’d be honored to hear it, if you ever care to share with me. Ayo Waves.
Follow Taylor Nam on Twitter: @nam_nam330