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Pepperdine Excellence Postdoctoral Project For Equity Research (PEPPER)

September 14, 2021  | 3 min read

Please congratulate our inaugural class of Pepperdine Excellence Postdoctoral Project for Equity Research (PEPPER). As alumni of our PhD in Global Leadership and Change program, these three women bring a sense of professionalism, ingenuity, and academic inquiry that will propel them in their academic endeavors.

Our three Fellows are:

Jeannette Hutton Pugh HeadshotJeannette Hutton Pugh, PhD, SHRM-SCP, M.S.E.

Dr. Pugh has held a variety of increasingly broad line management and Human Resources (HR) positions at Fortune 500 organizations such as Merck, Bristol Myers-Squibb, and Amgen. With over two decades of unique international HR generalist and line management experience, Jeannette brings a proven track record in founding global employee networks, leading transformational talent management & retention initiatives, and implementing organizational/leadership development initiatives and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts. Dr. Pugh holds an engineering degree from Princeton, a M.S.E. from the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton School of Business, and completed her PhD dissertation with honors at Pepperdine University in Global Leadership and Change. The title of her dissertation is Transformational Triage: An Analysis of Best Practice Behaviors & Competencies in US Healthcare Executives During the COVID-19 Crisis. Her research interests are focused on crisis leadership, humanistic healthcare leadership, and meta-leadership as whole systems thinking approach to solving mega-messes. Jeannette currently serves as the Executive Search Lead for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and serves on the Board of the Association of Pan African Doctoral Scholars.

Sonya Sharififard HeadshotSonya Sharififard, PhD

Sonya Sharififard (she/her) serves as the inaugural Managing Editor of The Scholarship without Borders Journal. Dr. Sharififard's extensive research and scholarship centers around leadership, organizational change, teaching and learning philosophy, and scholarly communications. Dr. Sharififard recently completed her doctorate in Global Leadership and Change at Pepperdine University. Her dissertation explored the role of campus food pantries at public college and university campuses. Dr. Sharififard has co-authored book chapters in New Horizons in Positive Leadership and Change (Springer 2020) and Workplace Spirituality and Fulfillment (Palgrave 2018). She has presented at major international conferences and serves on the review panel for various associations and institutions in North America, Europe, and Asia, including the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the Academy of Management (AOM), and the International Leadership Association (ILA). Her current research focuses on advancing student success, creating equitable food systems, workplace well-being, and law and policy. Dr. Sharififard holds a PhD in Global Leadership and Change from Pepperdine University, a MA in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University, and a BS in Business Management from The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. 

Amanda S. Wickramsinghe HeadshotAmanda S. Wickramsinghe, PhD

Dr. Amanda Wickramasinghe is a scholar-practitioner. The Director of Education for ERA Brokers, she has been teaching for graduate programs in Human Resources Management, Organizational Leadership, and International Studies. During this time, she traveled extensively internationally, interviewing global leaders about foreign policy. Her other appointments over the years include serving on International Outreach Committees as an advisor, thereby creating global strategic partnerships. Furthermore, she holds the place of board member for the International Center for Global Leadership, as well as an active member of the International Leadership Association, a Research Advisor for the Emotional Connection Process (EmC), a Co-Country Investigator for the GLOBE 2020 Project, and a board member of the Work Life Integration Project. Her research now focuses specifically on global competencies, international relations, and global policy. Amanda earned her Ed.D. and then her Ph.D. at Pepperdine University. Further, she was appointed last year to the Board of Visitors and was recognized at Pepperdine University as an Honoree of the Inaugural 40 under 40. Most recently, she was chosen to be a post-doctoral fellow at Pepperdine University.


In a continued effort to create and foster a diverse community of inclusion, equity, and belonging, the Education Division of the Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) has launched the inaugural Pepperdine Excellence Postdoctoral Project for Equity Research (PEPPER) on September 1, 2021, to complete a one-year, part-time postdoctoral fellowship to engage in teaching and research in partnership with the Education Division faculty. We are humbled and excited to have them continue their journey with us.

Through the framework of PEPPER, GSEP aims to provide opportunities for research and scholarship and maximize the impact of diversity through pedagogy in order to increase both the number of professors who value diversity as a means to enhance the education of all students and the overall diversity in higher education.

“Many recent doctoral graduates often find it challenging to enter the professoriat or academic career tracks,” shares Farzin Madjidi (MBA ’88, EdD ’91), associate dean of the Education Division and professor of leadership at GSEP. According to Madjidi, students with previous work experience or relationships with strong mentors in the academy experience fewer challenges when seeking career opportunities in their chosen field of study. However, “This is not a pathway that is generally available to all students, especially those who systemically and historically have not had access to these mentorships or relationships,” Madjidi says. “The Pepperdine Excellence Postdoctoral Program for Equity Research creates the needed support for our recent PhD graduates to spend a year with us in teaching and scholarship to better prepare them to enter academia."