Pepperdine University President Jim Gash announced Wednesday that J. Goosby Smith will serve as the school's fourth chief diversity officer as the West Coast Christian college seeks to implement a more diverse community of belonging.
Smith, Pepperdine’s new vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer, will join the staff on June 1. Smith will also serve as a member of the university’s steering team and as a principal leader on the University Diversity Council, on which she has served in the past.
"Unexpectedly, God has called me back to my first academic home to fulfill the calling on my life — to unite His people and empower them to be their very best selves,” Smith said in a statement shared with The Christian Post. “I am humbled and excited to engage fully in this endeavor with my Pepperdine family."
Smith previously served as an assistant professor of organizational behavior in the Seaver College Business Administration Division from 2002 to 2006, a tenured associate professor of organizational behavior from 2011 to 2015, an assessment coordinator for the Seaver Diversity Council, and an adjunct professor in the Graziadio Business School’s MBA program.
“What an honor it is today to announce Smith is returning to the Pepperdine community,” Gash said in a statement. “I’m especially grateful to the search committee for identifying an amazing and experienced leader. I simply cannot wait to work alongside Smith as we chart a distinctively Pepperdine path forward addressing one of the great issues of our time. Our goal isn’t just to have a community of belonging but to train generations of graduates to create the same in their own communities.”
Smith presently serves at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, as associate professor of leadership, associate professor of management, assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the director of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center.
She hopes to earn a master of divinity from Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in December 2021.
Gash has implemented multiple diversity and inclusion-focused initiatives as president to "build and model a diverse, informed, loving and unified community at Pepperdine," the university's website says.
Some of the diversity initiatives announced in fall 2020 include a president’s speaker series that features leaders with diverse points of view; a review of hiring and retention practices to ensure a diverse faculty and staff; more campus partnerships to increase institutional diversity; as well as the implementation of diversity and inclusion education.
In spring 2022, the university’s Weisman Museum will host the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection.
“When I was a candidate to be Pepperdine’s eighth president, I made it clear that hiring a chief diversity officer would be among my top priorities,” Gash continued. “Though we began our national search for a chief diversity officer, after getting to know these two extraordinarily qualified leaders, each of whom has a deep love for Pepperdine and our mission, we decided to hire a team — and what a team it is!"
April Harris Akinloye, a double alumna of Pepperdine, will serve as Smith’s assistant vice president for community belonging and has served as the chief diversity officer at Vanguard University, a private Christian university in California.
"Smith and Harris Akinloye will be a venerable force to help lead Pepperdine to a new level of inclusion, excellence, and genuine belonging, befitting the Pepperdine community’s unwavering commitment to radical Christian hospitality," Gash added.
Pepperdine is the only Protestant school among America’s top 50 universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report and one of only three Christian universities.