Dean of International programs Beth Laux poses with students in front of a sign in Jordan in May 2022. Laux has served as Dean of International Programs since August 2019 and will be stepping down in July. Photo courtesy of Beth Laux
After three years at Pepperdine, Dean of International Programs Beth Laux is stepping down from her role and leaving the University at the end of July. The announcement came from Dean of Seaver College Mike Feltner in a May 23 email to the Pepperdine Community.
In the 2022-23 academic year, Ron Cox, professor of Religion and associate dean of International Programs, will serve as interim dean with the University focusing on finding replacements in the coming months.
Cox, Feltner and Laux each expressed their dedication to International Programs, and a smooth transition for the 80% of Pepperdine students who study abroad, according to the International Program’s website. Laux said she is looking toward the future of international programs.
“I love international education,” Laux wrote in a May 23 email to the Graphic. “I believe in the power of intercultural learning and the impact that it has in the lives of students. But international education is changing, and in the next stage of my career, I hope to find new pathways that increase access to study abroad programs and provide timely solutions to evolving challenges.”
While Laux wrote she would welcome the opportunity to work with Pepperdine students again in the future, she is moving to the Midwest to be with family, so involvement with the University would have to be virtual.
Her biggest takeaway from her role, Laux wrote, is an admiration for Pepperdine’s students.
“Pepperdine students genuinely care about each other, their communities, and the world,” Laux wrote. “They are motivated to be change-makers and problem-solvers, and I was honored to be a part of their journey.”
In her time at Pepperdine, Laux wrote she is proud of the IP team, and their work to keep the programs running through evacuations, suspensions and changing regulations.
“If I could tell my successor one thing, I would advise them to be comfortable with the unknown,” Laux wrote. “The world is changing quickly, and it’s hard to anticipate needs and expectations in that environment. By embracing ambiguity, they can adapt quickly and provide strong leadership across cultures”
Feltner said Laux has fundamentally changed and enriched International Programs.
“While her time here was relatively brief three years, I believe it is how long since she started that the impact in the legacy of what she accomplished is going to last literally forever,” Feltner said.
When Laux informed Feltner of her decision, there was not enough time to conduct a national search for a replacement, and the University needed to find an interim dean so that Feltner and his office could find a full-time replacement by August 2023 Feltner said.
“In this situation, you look for the experienced individuals you have on campus and we’re very fortunate to have Dr. Ron Cox who has been the associate dean of International Programs for I believe, five years now, maybe a bit longer,” Feltner said. “And Dr. Cox was not only fully qualified to fill the role, but he’s the ideal candidate in multiple ways.”
When making the decision, Cox said he considered his term as associate dean of International Programs ending next year, his plans to be faculty-in-residence for the Lausanne program in the 2023-24 academic year and the time commitment associated with the position. Despite this, Cox said the decision was easy.
“I know how hard people have been working, how much they care, and how difficult the last few years have been,” Cox said. “And so wanting to see that we continue moving forward and helping that by leading the group into this period of transition, it seemed like the right thing to do. And my wife Shelly, we talked about it and she was in agreement. So I decided to accept the invitation.”
Cox said he is working with Feltner to fill the interim associate dean position, which will be a two-year appointment to provide continuity and a smoother training period. In terms of searching for a full-time replacement, Cox said he will not be involved, both because he is considering applying for the position and so he can focus fully on being the interim dean.
While the search for a full-time replacement has not officially begun, Feltner said some of the qualities he is looking for in Laux’s successor is someone dedicated to Pepperdine’s Christian mission, experience managing study abroad programs and a strong academic background. Feltner also stressed an understanding of the intersection between faith and curriculum in an international setting.
“International Programs are one of the signature experiences for the vast majority of students at Seaver College, providing our students a robust global learning experience that allows them to grow in so many ways cognitively, spiritually, emotionally, culturally, is critical, to how we tried to develop and prepare students for success in the world when he graduated from Seaver college,” Feltner said.
Cox said one of the goals of the upcoming year is to keep the program moving forward, while preparing the new Lausanne campus. Cox also said IP is working on returning to Asia and strengthening the University’s position in Africa.
“We hope to continue to develop the programming for Africa and, and and look to something that will be more regular and that will have a rich meaning and values academically, spiritually, experientially for students on that continent,” Cox said.
IP remains a priority of Feltner and his office’s leadership, Feltner said.
“This transition will be seamless to students and we will make certain that the learning experiences students have an IP next year, that the opportunities for service and exploration and cultural development and spiritual development, will continue the same as they have in the past,” Feltner said.
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