Photo by Matt Benton
The Convocation Office is making changes to its programming this fall that will include more on-campus speakers, fewer community chapels, increased training for spiritual mentors and pre-planned curricula for Club Convo leaders.
It is not clear if these changes will affect the overall number of opportunities to earn convo credit, although there will be fewer community chapels available, said Director of Convocation Gus Peterson. The programs will have a greater emphasis on spiritual development, Peterson added. This change is part of a greater plan to improve students’ engagement and experience with the university’s faith requirement.
“Our changes come out of a place of wanting to do everything with meaning,” Peterson said. “In some ways, if we’re doing something with more intentionality, we have to do less of it.”
Other changes include the opportunity for students to lead from an existing Club Convo curriculum, rather than having the sole responsibility for pitching and developing their own curriculum idea. In addition, Wednesday Chapel will feature less external speakers and more voices from within the Pepperdine community. Celebration Chapel will go back to one Friday service at 10 a.m. The 14-credit requirement will not change.
A New Theme
In conjunction with these changes, the Convocation Office will implement a comprehensive theme: Engage.
“Pepperdine is very good at inviting people to engage,” Peterson said. “Students that come here very much want to engage in not just classwork or social life, but in all of the extracurriculars.”
This theme will encourage students to hone in on their spiritual development.
“I want to flip ‘Engage’ to be basically about rooted engagement,” Peterson said.
Peterson’s plan is to execute this theme by investing in the quality and depth of the programs through partnerships with other on-campus departments such as Housing and Residence Life, Title IX, Pepperdine Volunteer Center and Intercultural Affairs.
“There will be less external voices, more people from our community expressing who we are as a community,” Peterson said.
The conversations that these departments open up during Wednesday Chapel will carry through into Community Chapel where the conversation can be more intimate.
The Convocation Office said its intention in providing Club Convo curriculum for student leaders is to lift the burden of creating a curriculum.
“We’re going to be moving toward a model that seeks students who are interested in leading while our office seeks to empower them as leaders,” Peterson said.
More Than a Requirement
Rachel Collins, assistant director of Convocation, said these developments are a step towards making Convocation more meaningful for students.
“A lot of these changes are basically the result of years of vision casting, dreaming and planning what it would be like to have a Convocation experience that meets every student where they’re at,” Collins said.
The Convocation Office recognizes that many students wait until the end of the semester to complete their required 14 credits. This creates a problem where the final few events do not have enough capacity, so student workers have to turn the overflow students away.
“We want to get everything out in the front end,” Peterson said. “We want to do more, and we want it to mean more, but that means that we are going to schedule in advance and put it on the students.”
Peterson said the Convocation Office will be urging students to plan ahead and suggest they try to attend one event per week.
“Convocation, by the nature of the number 14 implies a weekly rhythm,” Peterson said. “We are asking you all to be intentional with your rhythms.”
Convocation Office said it hopes students will find meaning in achieving a weekly rhythm of attending high-quality programs.
“We pray for students to go because they want to,” Collins said. “Our hope is for them to feel like when they go they will really have a strong spiritual experience, regardless of their background, and that there’s something about this Convo requirement that is actually fulfilling.”
The Convocation Office will also increase recruiting and training for faculty-student spiritual mentoring this semester.
Student Responses to Changes
Returning students have varying reactions to the changes.
Senior Parke Ross said he foresees push back from students.
“It’s difficult to get sincere engagement from students in a forced setting,” Ross said. “If students weren’t already going to go out and seek those opportunities, it’s going to feel insincere.”
Kimberly Brooking, a junior who tends to complete her credits in a timely manner, said she sees the value in the upcoming developments.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how these changes affect the Convocation experience because it is so fundamental to the Pepperdine way of life,” Brooking said.
Abby Hunt, a senior and former Club Convo leader, said she would like to utilize the new structure.
“I wanted to do another Club Convo this semester, but I was overwhelmed by the idea of creating a whole new curriculum,” Hunt said.
However, she does not agree with lessening the number of Community Chapels.
“I don’t feel like it would incentivize people to get their credits done earlier,” Hunt said. “If they’re going to procrastinate they will procrastinate no matter what.”
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