The famous cross above Pepperdine reminds students of the significance of faith at the University. Associate Chaplain Peter Walton said Seaver 200 is a core element of the student experience. Photo by Abby Wilt
Faith on campus is a core part of Pepperdine’s mission, and Seaver 200 brings that to life, Associate Chaplain Rachel Collins said.
May 2021, the University announced the launch of Seaver 200 — a new version of the previous Convocation requirement. Collins said fall 2021 was a test run for Seaver 200, when the Hub for Spiritual Life learned how the smaller number of gatherings and the variety of interest-focused breakout group options allowed students to more clearly see how faith intertwines with their daily lives.
Spring 2022 will bring a renewed model of what the Hub has seen to be the most beneficial for students’ personal development, Collins said. Breakout group options are more diversified and foundation gatherings will take place only at the beginning and end of the semester — allowing for consistency with each group.
“The goal is sparking conversations about faith and cultivating spaces where students can have experiences with and grapple with their faith journey,” Collins said. “Because I do believe that every student is on some sort of spiritual journey even coming from all different backgrounds.”
Changes to Seaver 200 in the Spring
Assistant Chaplain Peter Walton said for the fall 2021 semester, the Hub organized 10 gatherings, with nine required to receive an A. There were a total of six breakout groups with four foundation events scattered in between.
This semester, Collins said the requirement will be the same, but the layout will look different.
“We instead have the foundations at the beginning and end now, so that the breakout leaders have a little bit more space for consistency,” Collins said. “They can see their students week-in and week-out. We’re trying to be responsive to what we have heard from our leaders and our students and — as this is only our first year — that’s something we’ve been hearing across the board.”
Because Seaver 200 is only required for first and second-year students, Collins said she sees Seaver 200 as stepping stones to further students’ independent faith journeys.
“It is creating that on-ramp for students to then branch out and experience all of the other ways to get involved with faith on campus,” Collins said. “That’s one of my goals for Seaver 200 — we get the entire student body for their first couple years, so I really want to make sure that they are exposed to all of the different spiritual life options through this program. I hope they have a good sense of what is available to them, particularly once it’s no longer required.”
Seaver 200 is not only beneficial to the students, Collins said, but also strengthens relationships between faculty and students.
“We are not just about bringing students here and throwing a bunch of information into their brains and then sending them out,” Collins said. “We see that from the faculty and the way that they relate to students. The communal aspect of Pepperdine comes from programs like this, so I think that faculty and staff alike have a commitment to the formation of students as whole people.”
Seaver 200 incorporates student leaders into the breakout groups. The goal, Walton said, is to give upper-level students who show dedication to their faith the opportunity to share their faith with students newer to Pepperdine.
Collins said this semester, most student leaders come from an on-campus faith-based program to ensure commitment to their spiritual journey. Most student leaders come from faith-based programs already, such as the Spiritual Life Advisors program or a student ministry.
Senior Raica Kwizera is on the Black Student Association’s executive board as the head of service and spiritual life. She is also the sole leader of BSA’s new breakout group called, “Black Student Association — Why College Matters to God,” for Seaver 200 this spring.
Kwizera said she is passionate about encouraging faith and enjoys having a sense of community with BSA, so when the Hub pitched the idea to her, she was excited.
“They suggested doing it and then even the book that we’re going to be reading together — they ordered the book — so they’ve been very, very instrumental,” Kwizera said.
What to Expect from the New Spring Breakout Groups
The spring semester has the largest number of students participating in Seaver 200 due to the record-setting number of students living on-campus, Collins said. There are 60 breakout groups for this semester — plus 9 RISE groups. In fall 2021, there were 20 breakout groups for second-year students and 60 RISE groups.
“There’s so many different choices, and a lot of them are discussion-based which is just really exciting because I do think it gives everyone their best shot to find something that they connect with,” Collins said.
Christin Shatzer Román, director of Community Engagement and Service, is leading one of what Collins said was the fastest-filled groups of the spring semester: “Happiness Practices.”
Shatzer Román said the group is based on the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher of human happiness, and will teach students how to create happiness in their lives.
“Upwards of 40% of happiness really comes down to what we can do,” Shatzer Román said. “For myself personally, I have come across this research and have learned this at a later stage in life — so in my late 30s, and I’m currently in my early 40s. So I thought, if I had known this as an undergrad and a Seaver alum, that really would have made a big difference for me in my emerging adulthood years.”
The eight happiness practices Shatzer Román will teach in this group will fit into any student’s life regardless of their religion, she said. The core aspect is conversation and connection, so Shatzer Román said she set a limit of 15 people.
Shatzer Román also leads a service-based group called “Ethical and Effective Service.” A goal of the Hub, she said, is to encourage students to have a community impact through volunteer-work — a sector of the Hub that has been lacking in student engagement.
By the end of the semester, Shatzer Román said she hopes students in her groups are able to take their happiness, leadership and faith into their own hands.
“I am just looking for students to take ownership of their own practices, whether those be faith practices, whether those be Christian disciplines or something else — take ownership of that,” Shatzer Román said. “Learn practical things that can be implemented and integrated into life, because what students develop now will be habits of mind and practices that will carry forward after they leave here.”
Jeff Walling, director of the Youth Leadership Initiative at Pepperdine, is leading the new “Secret to Joy” breakout group this spring. Walling said he will teach his 250-person group practical ways to apply what the Bible says about cultivating joy in their own lives.
“One of the requirements is that every class session, we have to talk about things that are going to make everyone smile — because that’s what joy does,” Walling said.
With mask rules still in place, Walling said he is cautious about having a large group that can still be interactive and engaged in discussion.
“We are going to do our best to be a joy-spreader and not a super-spreader to gather together,” Walling said.
Walling said he hopes to give students tools to bring joy into their lives in the present and into their futures.
“Whether you don’t believe in God at all or you were raised in a Christian home and made a personal dedication to Jesus, there will be a place for everybody to engage and find something that — hopefully — will bring them joy,” Walling said.
The new BSA group will read a short novel called “Why College Matters to God,” followed by interactive discussions and occasional guest speakers. Kwizera said she wants to create an open space for students from any background to have conversations.
“We will be discussing what is the purpose of education — especially college education — how you can use that as you’re going through your major and on your career path,” Kwizera said.
There are six students in the group, so Kwizera said she hopes the intimate setting builds a strong sense of community.
“I know how much it means to me to just have like a small group of friends that you can talk about life and talk about different things with,” Kwizera said. “I’m hoping that it can be that space for students who are part of BSA — although it is open to all students too.”
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