Dean of International Programs Ron Cox smiles for a photo with students in Uganda in summer 2022. Cox said he hopes to continue emphasizing global competence and cultural humility. Photos courtesy of Ron Cox
Seaver Dean Michael Feltner named Ron Cox dean of International Programs, Feltner wrote in a Feb. 21 email to the Pepperdine community.
Cox has served as interim dean of IP since Beth Laux stepped down in June and as associate dean for five years, Feltner wrote. Cox started at Pepperdine in 2005 and was a faculty-in-residence six times at five different IP locations: Florence, London, Heidelberg, Jordan and Uganda.
“My fundamental desire is that we have students at the center of what we do, and that we make decisions that move students toward achieving their educational and vocational goals,” Cox said.
Cox said he hopes to continue cultivating global competence and cultural humility — learning outcomes he set with Laux. The opportunity to help students learn more about themselves and their faith is what Cox said “animates” him as both dean of IP and as a professor of Religion.
Cox said his family is a significant part of his ability to lead, including his four sons, three of whom have attended or still attend Pepperdine, and his wife, Shelly Cox, international student services specialist at the Office of International Student Services.
“The real reason why I’m able to do the things that I’m able to do and I’m a better person is because of my wife, Shelly,” Cox said. “I don’t have the opportunity very often to give a shoutout to her, so she is a huge foundation for me, an inspiration.”
The Selection Process
Feltner said he finalized the decision about 10 days before sending out the public announcement.
Cox said he received his offer Feb. 15, and while he understood the time-frame, he was glad the process was done.
The selection of a “key leadership position” is a high priority for the University, Feltner said, meaning it takes time for the University to evaluate a diverse pool of candidates.
“I am thrilled that Ron Cox will continue his excellen[t] service to this university and our students through his leadership of International Programs,” President Jim Gash wrote in a Feb. 21 email statement to the Graphic. “I have deep respect for Ron’s leadership, his heart for our students, and his appreciation for Pepperdine’s global vision.”
Feltner said he considers perspectives from people throughout the community, such as the search committee, the feedback from the student and faculty forums and interviews with different stakeholders and constituent groups.
Experience Within Pepperdine
Cox said he is a Seaver alumnus as a graduate student (’96) and worked with campus ministry. He also served as staff and faculty, along with being president of the Seaver Faculty Association during the 2014-15 academic year.
IP has a historical presence at Pepperdine, Cox said, as Pepperdine created the Heidelberg program in 1963, making IP older than Seaver College and an important part of the Pepperdine “ecosystem.”
“We’ve always been an important feature and important part of why students come,” Cox said. “What I hope is that we will continue to be precisely that: A major part of what students want out of their education at Seaver College, what they value about their education from Seaver.”
Cox’s experience within IP and Pepperdine set him apart as a candidate, said Sabrina Musharbash, junior and vice president of finance for Student Government Association. Musharbash was the student voice in the selection committee.
“Being a faculty member, he had a better understanding of what faculty members in Malibu were looking for in the courses being taught abroad,” Musharbash said. “He made it very clear he doesn’t want International Programs to just be seen as a way to get easy A’s — the courses need to be just as rigorous as the classes here.”
Musharbash said one of her main focuses within the committee was that the new dean understands not all students can go abroad, such as STEM majors and pre-med majors, and that the dean does more to fit them within IP.
“[Cox] also really acknowledged that, and so I think that’s one change I’m really hoping for is just that IP can be more accessible to students all throughout Malibu,” Musharbash said.
Upcoming Challenges and Goals
Musharbash said expanding IP to include new programs in Asia and Africa and the opening of the Chateau D’Hauteville in the Switzerland program will pose new challenges in upcoming years.
“There’s always a little bit of struggle, but I’m pretty confident in him,” Musharbash said.
Cox said he views challenges — budget concerns, the changing GE landscape and evolving needs of students — as the “work side” of fulfilling IP’s mission.
Cox said he is “really excited” about the opportunities in Africa in particular, but also how IP can be more of a beneficial presence in the Malibu community.
Additionally, Cox said IP works to have faculty as involved as possible. However, fewer faculty are single-earners, and families are more inclusive and diverse, meaning faculty have to consider their spouses’ jobs when deciding to teach abroad.
There is an additional opportunity, Feltner said, in getting all IP programs back to the pre-COVID-19 level of operation. Furthermore, within the next year, Feltner said he expects to be making decisions on locations and timing for the Asia program.
“We need to make sure that our program directors in each of our campus sites continue to operate effectively, in that the experiences our students have are just rich, immersive educational, cultural, spiritual [and] transformative learning experiences,” Feltner said.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Contact Samantha Torre via Twitter (@Sam_t394) or email: email@example.com