Students at Pepperdine’s Caruso Law School eat and converse outside on the school’s patio Feb. 10. Kimberly Prince, Caruso director of marketing and communications, said COVID-19 regulations have prevented the school from feeding students at events indoors, so many clubs and organizations have pivoted to hosting outdoor events. Photo by Samantha Torre
At the beginning of the spring 2022 semester, COVID-19’s Omicron variant made the future of in-person classes uncertain. Now, as cases decline from the winter peak, Pepperdine’s graduate programs have found a rhythm adjusting to COVID-19 protocols.
All five of the University’s schools began instruction in an online format until Jan. 13 when all five schools returned to in-person classes.
Pepperdine’s four graduate schools all boast a vaccination rate above 80%, according to Pepperdine’s COVID-19 dashboard. As of Feb. 9, 95.4% of the Pepperdine community across all five schools is vaccinated.
“I think as we go forward, now, with each step, we’ve built a protocol,” said Bernice Ledbetter, dean of students at Graziadio Business School. “Beginning of each term, it’s going to get easier because we have a new protocol that we’ve developed. That’s probably the biggest challenge.”
Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology did not respond to requests for comment.
COVID-19 guidelines and requirements are the same across all schools, wrote Pepperdine’s Student Health Center in a Jan. 31 email to the Graphic.
Off-campus students who need to quarantine or isolate are doing so at home, regardless of the school they attend, as the University is unable to accommodate off-campus students in addition to residential students.
“They [the students] are given quarantine/isolation instructions, guidelines (i.e., duration, how to be cleared) and COVID-19 self-care information,” the SHC wrote.
While the SHC does not service employees, faculty use the on-campus testing sites, according to the SHC email.
Pepperdine updated its COVID-19 dashboard Feb. 9, showing the newest vaccination data. The vaccination rate for the School of Public Policy has fallen since the beginning of the fall semester, where each of the other schools have seen an increased vaccination rate. Graphic by Samantha Torre
Caruso Law School
Kim Prince, director of marketing and communications, said Caruso School of Law’s administration follows up with Caruso faculty and students on University COVID-19 updates, after the University publishes new information.
“We’re trying to make it a more direct contact for our students, since we are the people that the students are the most familiar with,” Prince said. “And so we want to make sure they know that they can come to us if they need support.”
One of the biggest challenges for the law school through the pandemic is maintaining Caruso’s unique sense of community, Prince said.
“We were able to stick together and so once we got back on campus, of course we wanted to jump right back into a regular schedule of, we have guests come in from out of town to talk about different topics that they’re experts on,” Prince said. “But we haven’t been able to do that as much and so we’ve had to find creative workarounds.”
Many Caruso events are held on the school’s front lawn, and the school has set up extra chairs and tables, Prince said. The school also distributes Pepperdine blankets.
“The biggest challenge is getting together in a way that makes people feel safe doing so and the creativity of our events team and our leaders has really been put into play,” Prince said. “Also the student groups who will set up a table out in the courtyard and grab you as you walk by and have a conversation.”
A traditional event that Caruso is still in the process of planning, is the annual School of Law Dinner, Prince said. Caruso postponed the event multiple times to ensure the reception could be “as large as possible,” Prince said.
“We don’t want this to be a small and intimate thing, because it’s usually a huge celebration,” Prince said.
Caruso, Prince said, was the only law school nationally to offer in-person classes in the beginning of the spring semester.
“We’re really proud of that,” Prince said. “I think we are able to do that because our community is so good at complying with the regulations.”
School of Public Policy
The School of Public Policy offered students six online-only courses, wrote Pete Peterson, dean of the School of Public Policy, in a Feb. 7 email to the Graphic. Students were allowed to choose the modality that best suited them, with 40% of students choosing in-person only classes, 17% choosing online-only classes and 43% of students opting for a hybrid style learning.
“Several of our second-year students had made various living and career arrangements, which made it difficult to return to Malibu for their final year of classes,” Peterson wrote. “We responded by creating a small but diverse subset of classes taught remotely, which at the same time provided students with access to incredible adjunct faculty who also couldn’t come to Malibu to teach.”
Pepperdine’s school of Public Policy offers several modalities for students, wrote Pete Peterson. The model with the most students is hybrid. Graphic by Samantha Torre
Graziadio Business School
Ledbetter said Graziadio’s part-time MBA program for working adults operates with a hybrid modality, where students attend in-person classes one week and virtual classes the next.
“I think that’s going really well and it’s a bit of a pilot test, but we’re really very satisfied with what we’re seeing and I hope that that will be a modality that will transcend this particular time in history,” Ledbetter said.
Graziadio began planning the hybrid modality for working students before the pandemic prompted campus closures in March 2020, Ledbetter said. When students returned to in-person classes in fall 2021, the University used the opportunity to test the hybrid model.
“We are feeling like this is a little bit easier for folks and is a good transition from having been fully online for instruction for over a year,” Ledbetter said. “It’s a much more workable way of completing a graduate business degree. And I think it will be something that will help us be more competitive in the marketplace in Southern California.”
Ledbetter said while the beginning of the spring semester was difficult due to changing policies, her team adapted to sending tailored messages to each group of students at Graziadio. Programs included full-time students, part-time students and executive students who take more difficult courses and have business experience.
Graziadio is home to four executive programs, Ledbetter said, which operate differently, so nuance and specificity in messaging was of the utmost importance when sending updates. Updates are located on WaveNet community pages and in student’s Pepperdine emails.
“We’ve all learned how to be flexible,” Ledbetter said. “That’s just the recurring mantra, which is ‘I’ve learned to be flexible, and to do the best with the information that we have at the time and make a decision and move forward with it.’”
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