Over the past eight months, I have been given the tremendous opportunity of working in President Benton’s office as his Leadership Fellow. The fellowship has been a growing professional experience and a valuable addition to my resume, but more importantly, it has been a beautiful display of Pepperdine’s heart.
At the risk of using cliches, Pepperdine has been a near-flawless example of what it means to “freely receive and freely give.” Don’t get me wrong, Pepperdine is not without its flaws. It is not a perfect place — particularly by the world’s standards.
There have been times when I wanted to pull my hair out because of the outdated technology. And I have been frustrated as I watched friends apply for jobs, unaware of the Pepperdine alumni network. But ultimately, acquiring better IT equipment and creating better processes for streamlining career services are areas that can and will be improved.
While I surely have a list of tangible ways I feel Pepperdine could “step up their game” in the competitive world of higher education, I would never trade Pepperdine culture for tactical or structural change.
I recently attended the Center for Women and Leadership Conference, where I heard the story of Carmen Lundrum, the first female graduate from George Pepperdine College. As I heard her story, I was struck by our similarities — we both came to Pepperdine from Tennessee; we both were beneficiaries of Pepperdine staff who took us under their wing; we both were granted the opportunity to work on campus our first year to help with our tuition and expenses; and we were given the opportunity to work in the Office of the President for a year after our graduation.
While these similarities struck me, what first and foremost struck me, was that, despite a time lapse of 77 years, we were both recipients of an undeserved gift — the kind of gift that can only be found in a community that prioritizes showing Christ-like love above all else.
Throughout my time at Pepperdine, as I have compared my experience alongside my peers at universities that are ranked near or above Pepperdine, I have gained perspective and appreciation for the love, support, care and opportunity Pepperdine has provided me.
I was recently speaking with an alum who described the benefit Pepperdine leaves you with as follows: Pepperdine may not launch you into the highest-paying, most competitive job at the very beginning of your career, but its mission of “freely ye received, freely give” prepares you for longevity and gives you the traits that help you sustain a successful career for the long haul.
I am now at a point when I am asking myself, “What can I possibly do to pay back all that Pepperdine has given me?” But the beautiful thing is, Pepperdine freely gave to me, not so that I could freely give back to them, but so that I could freely give to others, spreading the gospel-led mission far outside these walls.
As a recipient of a countless number of undeserved gifts, it is not only my duty, but a fervent passion of mine to freely give to others so that they may experience for themselves the power of receiving an undeserved gift.
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