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Pepperdine | Graduate School of Education and Psychology

Spiritual Formation and the Christian Mission

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."
Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) at Pepperdine University fully supports the University’s Christian mission and promotes spiritual formation for the sake of serving the needs of others, and especially the needs of those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45).

In keeping with the holistic vision of faith/learning integration that Pepperdine has embraced for so many years – GSEP affirms all space as God’s space and all times as God’s time. For that reason, GSEP encourages its students, faculty, and staff to view their work as sacred work, regardless of where or when that work might be carried out. From a Christian perspective, a life of purpose inspires us to serve, and by serving, it shapes the way we lead.

Pepperdine University has three core commitments – Knowledge and Scholarship, Faith and Heritage, and Community and Global Understanding – along with the three interwoven values of Purpose, Service, and Leadership that inform the work of GSEP. The following discussion illustrates how GSEP encourages spiritual formation grounded in Christian tradition as its community members implement and work toward achieving the University’s core commitments.

Knowledge and Scholarship

Two highly influential and widely known educators – Ernest L. Boyer and Parker Palmer – model the kind of education GSEP seeks to offer. A vision of spiritual formation grounded in a Christian understanding of reality profoundly informs the work of both of these individuals. Yet, it is difficult to find in their works specific appeal to their Christian convictions. Rather, their Christian convictions both inform and undergird their thought in virtually all their published writings. For this reason, they have been able to exert extraordinary levels of influence on educators throughout this country and abroad, even on educators who come from faith traditions other than the Christian religion or no faith tradition at all.

Equally, GSEP – a school that guides students who represent a vast array of religious traditions and no traditions at all – promotes a Christian vision of spiritual formation that encourages students to turn "your ear to wisdom" and apply "your heart to understanding" (Proverbs 2:2).

GSEP works toward transforming students' lives through rigorous academic preparation in both the theory underlying their selected course of study and the practical knowledge applied to real-world settings for a wise individual "store[s] up knowledge" (Proverb 10:14) and "acts out of knowledge" (Proverb 13:16). To best prepare students to serve as leaders in their communities, GSEP leads by example by shepherding students to serve "as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5: 2-3).

Our faculty, as scholar-practitioners, facilitate student learning and encourage the pursuit of truth in the classroom. A heightened responsibility is placed on the faculty's shoulders to lead rich intellectual discussions that allow each student to share from his or her experience and knowledge in a respectful and safe environment. We expect our students to be prepared to lead or serve in whatever venue they choose. In order to fulfill our promise to our students, faculty must prepare them for this world of diverse perspectives and experiences. Likewise, staff contributes to the formation of students through offering a supportive learning environment and relevant services that attend to their academic, personal, and spiritual growth.

Faith and Heritage

GSEP is founded on Christian principles and will continue that course. It is because of this Christian vision that students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to pursue lives of purpose, heed the call to serve others, and lead by God’s example.

The beauty of a firm foundation in principles that do not change with time or situations means that we always have a touchstone to turn to when successes or difficulties arise – we "trust in God’s unfailing love" (Psalm 52:8) for guidance. It means that our course is steadfast and open to possibilities for growth. From above, we are also able to see that we are not alone in this journey, but are surrounded by the faces, hearts, and minds of others. As such, we honor this spiritual diversity by openly welcoming diverse individuals into our community and encouraging them along their journeys. This ecumenical pursuit promotes a spirit of friendship built on each individual's rich spiritual contributions.

Community and Global Understanding

With an open mind and heart, GSEP embraces the human spirit of multiple backgrounds and perspectives for "to walk humbly with your God" requires that we "act justly" and "love mercy" (Micah 6:8). We value the richness that results from a collection of contrasting and parallel thoughts, perspectives, and experiences. We value each member's contributions and we recruit, retain, and advance students, faculty, and staff who reflect the diverse communities we serve.

As an integral part of their education, GSEP students partner with clinics, classrooms, and organizations locally that provide them with critical hands-on learning. Extending this pursuit beyond the classroom deepens and refines their sense of purpose and brings our message to many doorsteps through sincere service to society. Many of our students also explore learning in a global context and serve "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45) in developing nations. Bridging the academy and profession makes the education offered students relevant and meaningful to both those served and those who are service providers.

We prepare students to assume leadership positions from which they become agents of change and influence the field of education and mental health. This preparation for leadership is grounded in humility and recognition of the God-given dignity and worth of all those we serve.

In these ways, GSEP promotes a Christian vision of spiritual formation and fully supports – and fully participates in – the Christian mission of Pepperdine University. We "serve wholeheartedly" (Ephesians 6:7) and live Pepperdine’s affirmation that "knowledge calls, ultimately, for a life of service."