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ODEA Member School Spotlight: Pepperdine

ODEA Member School Spotlight: 
The MSOD Program at Pepperdine University


Each month, Network News features one of the academic partners of the OD Network, including ODEA Member Schools and school sponsors of the OD Network Annual Conference. Our special guest this month is Dr. Julie Chesley, Director of the MSOD Program and Associate Professor of Organization Theory and Management at Pepperdine University.


Interview by Marco Cassone, OD Network Board of Trustees


MC: If you were to share a high level overview of the MSOD Program at Pepperdine University, what would you say is important for readers of Network News to know?


JC: What I really value about the program is its deeply experiential approach. A cornerstone of the education we provide is our fully supervised national and international fieldwork. MSOD students get to work with real businesses of all kinds and sizes in diverse industries and sectors. The program features three domestic face-to-face intensives, including a new one we’ve added in Washington DC. It’s amazing for students to get their first taste of consulting with organizations connected to the World Bank or the Department of Human Services, for example.


The MSOD Program also has 3 practicums in France, Central America, and China, where students gain substantial hands-on experience in an international setting. This blended learning design attracts top-notch students from all over the world, including developing countries such as Ghana, countries in Eastern Europe, and now Pakistan. Our cohorts are truly international and experienced, with an average age of 37.


MC: Prospective grad students have their work cut out for them trying to choose between great programs in OD. What else differentiates Pepperdine’s program?


JC: When talking to potential students, I always try to highlight our magnificent alumni network. We have close to 1,300 alumni, who are, as you know, very active. In fact, several are organizing a new practicum for continuing education in India. Dr. Kent Rhodes is working with alumnus Shefali Mody to help facilitate learning through consultation for a number of small systems and family businesses in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Bhavnagar, and Mumbai. From the looks of the itinerary, that’s going to be a really cool trip!


There are a few other aspects that make Pepperdine’s program unique. Connected to our alumni, one is the use of Learning Group Consultants, which are 5 experienced alumni practitioners, who partner with us to provide mentoring, coaching, and shadow consulting throughout our 2-yr program. The other is having our students do a graduate thesis. The requirement to do academic research really prepares students with the critical thinking skills to ask great questions and design data collection to address the complex issues they will face as practitioners. You only get that skill by having to do it yourself.


So our students leave the MSOD Program with a portfolio of completed work, field experience, and a thesis, all preparing them to jump into practicing in the field when they graduate. Here is a LINK to our landing page and WEBSITE.


MC: From your perspective, what are 1-2 challenges faced by today’s OD students, and how is your program uniquely positioned to address these challenges?


JC: Perhaps we’re all noticing an increase not only in the rate of change, but in the complexity of the issues that practitioners face in the modern day business environment. This is the reason we’ve added new academic material on complexity theory, neurosciences, and OD at a trans-organizational level. These subjects offer new frameworks, models, and ways of thinking that will help students deal with the dynamics present in the world today.


MC: So you’ve mentioned a new practicum in Washington DC, a new continuing ed practicum in India, and new academic material. What else are you looking forward to for 2016?


JC: This year we started a Career Insights Series that is open to current students, alumni, and prospective students. These informative events spark dialogue about OD in various industries, such as healthcare and media & entertainment so far. On August 10 we’ll be in Silicon Valley to present one on OD in technology. Each Career Insights event features 4-5 alumni panelists who talk about how they practice in a particular field. This can be very helpful for those interested in discovering how to transition into a particular industry, or wanting to know about career opportunities at NBC or Disney or Viacom or Hulu, etc. So far, we’ve had really great turnout, and expect the series to grow.


Related to MSOD Program faculty, we have a new core faculty member, Dr. Darren Good. We’re proud of his recent publication in the Journal of Management entitled, “Contemplating Mindfulness at Work:  An Integrative Review.” The full article can be accessed HERE.


Also connected to our faculty: Dr. Terri Egan and alumnus Suzanne Lahl are using their SyncUp4 model of mindset development in a program for 30 female nonprofit leaders in Pittsburgh through a grant from the Heinz Endowment and working with the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management. Terri, Suzanne, and I will have a chapter published in an e-book in conjunction with Roland Sullivan and sponsored by the OD Network. We propose that a critical and integrative neurobiological perspective holds the potential to advance OD in two ways: what we do (i.e., the nature and quality of our ability to assess and intervene in service of more effective organizations and a better world) and who we are (i.e., our competencies, resilience, and agility as practitioners). More information on the chapter can be found HERE.


MC: Last question: with so many great things going on for Pepperdine’s MSOD Program, what are you most proud of?


JC: That’s easy: it’s the impact we’re making on the field and in the world. We have accomplished alumni practicing all over the planet. That’s what I’m truly most proud of. I believe our alumni are the rainmakers that are enacting positive change around the world. Speaking of our alumni, and before I forget, at last year’s OD Network Annual Conference in Portland, we sponsored several successful alumni events, including one at Nike headquarters. This year we’re hoping to do the same in Atlanta. As always, Pepperdine will have a presence at the 2017 OD Network Conference, so whether you’re a prospective student or have interest in what’s going on at Pepperdine, be sure to come find us and say hello! We want members of the OD Network to know all about our MSOD Program!



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