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Dean's Annual Report (2019-2020)

A Word From Dean Helen Easterling Williams

September 21, 2020  | 4 min read

Over the 2019-2020 academic year, the Graduate School of Education and Psychology has faced unprecedented challenges due to multiple pandemics. At our fall launch in 2019, we could not have foreseen the massive change, loss, and grief that COVID-19 would bring to our world. As we pivoted to adjust, the brutal killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other members of the black community marked the pandemic of racism and white supremacy that has undergirded our society for centuries. As I mentioned in my June 4, 2020 letter, Racism - Truth Informed Solutions, the strident racial unrest in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a paradigm shift that demands change - a new normal. I am convinced that together we will define our new normal. Together we will rise!

In the midst of these unprecedented challenges, we have also seen unprecedented favor from the Lord. Across our education and psychology divisions, our faculty development and administrative affairs division, financial department, advancement, student success and advising, marketing and admissions, career services, alumni relations, the Foster Grandparent Program, events, and volunteering, we have experienced God's unprecedented favor. One of the ways that we are most blessed at GSEP is through our people, our family. I often say, “I have the best team." Their diligence, creativity, resilience, and strong sense of morality are a daily blessing to GSEP. In the following pages, you will see highlights of their many Labors.

Among their many daily successes centered around the smooth management of personnel challenges, curricular concerns, physical obligations, and instructional dilemmas, they have accomplished some amazing feats. They saw the urgency around this pending pandemic and readily shifted the on-ground programs to an online format. I am not suggesting that this was an easy feat, but with 27 years of teaching hybrid courses, and the support of a full-time instructional designer (Elias Saade) and a knowledgeable, well-trained faculty member (Dr. Jennifer Miyake-Trapp), Dr. Farzin Madjidi and the Education Division pivoted into fully remote learning. They even held a successful completely online global economics and education conference for 150 students with ambassadors, leading political experts, and others. Dr. Madjidi then developed the Optimal Engagement Immersion Pedagogy (OEIP). This technological innovation set a precedent in higher education throughout our nation, a roadmap for others to follow. Dr. Robert deMayo shifted the psychology division to a fully online experience with the strength of three years of highly successful partnership with 2U, arguably the most powerful force in online partnership management (OPM) in the higher education arena. Again, while this was not an easy task, and some professors preferred to use other systems, Dr. deMayo ushered all this change with the spirit of excellence and positivity. When our world erupted into a vocal and physical reaction to the systemic racial injustice that exists in our world, both associate deans and assistant dean, Dr. Lonnie McNamee, immediately rose to the occasion with town hall meetings, student surveys, and significant changes were possible.

Dr. Lonnie McNamee and his team worked diligently to ensure that each faculty and staff person was prepared with the necessary technology and other tools to work remotely. They secured our workspaces, being sure they were sanitized and disinfected when necessary. They provided appropriate safety and security protocols for COVID-19 in partnership with the Construction and Design division in Malibu.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the dramatic response to racial injustice in our world, GSEP continues to flourish financially. During the 2019–2020 fiscal year, we experienced a 130% increase in actual revenue from the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and we even exceeded our adjusted revenue projection for this year. While a significant portion of our surplus will be applied to the university's overall debt caused by COVID-19, GSEP remains a fiscally healthy organization. We have no debt whatsoever.

We rise together, and I project that we will continue to rise. As we enter the 2020-2021 academic year, I see us rising together by focusing on several major areas within GSEP. They are as follows:

  • Revising our strategic plan to accommodate the impact of COVID-19 on our world and to reflect consistency with the soon to be released University Strategic Plan.

  • Revising the curriculum of our learning technologies programs to meet the demands of our marketplace particularly as it relates to COVID-19.

  • Establishing a strong extracurricular technology focus that intersects with the communities we serve, particularly through the Urban Initiative 2.0 Program.

  • Establishing a strong focus on diversity and inclusion in all of our programming to the extent that we live out our GSEP mission and become an exemplar in our community.

  • Increasing scholarships for our students.

  • Celebrating the 50/40 anniversary of GSEP.

  • Increasing professional development for faculty and staff.

The evidence is clear. While COVID-19 has dramatically impacted our world in a negative way, we have examined the circumstances and developed a course of action to help us rise above the situation. We stood strong together trusting in God, and we didn’t just survive, we thrived. In like manner, we stand committed to work together to overcome any obstacle.

I am confident that no matter what the 2020-2021 academic year brings, as we stand together in a spirit of excellence, trusting that God will come through for us, we will rise together!


Let us acknowledge the LORD;

let us press on to acknowledge him.

As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;

he will come to us like the winter rains,

like the spring rains that water the earth.

Hosea 6:3


Your Dean,

Helen Easterling Williams, EdD

Dean and Professor of Education

Graduate School of Education & Psychology

Pepperdine University

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