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Our History: Intentionally Different

Dr. James Wilburn where SPP would be built

“Pepperdine University recognizes an emerging need for a new School of Public Policy that will take a fresh, innovative, and student-centered approach to this increasingly important, interdisciplinary field. The Pepperdine School of Public Policy will be built on a distinctive philosophy that will impact the study and application of public policy.” – June 1995 “Conceptual Plan / Pepperdine University School of Public Policy”

From the beginning, the School of Public Policy was meant to be different—a response to the many graduate policy programs prioritizing government (usually federal) approaches to public problem-solving. This required a distinctive curriculum, which highlighted America’s exceptional role in human history, including its emphasis on civil society and citizen participation in the formation of public policy. It also required more of a leadership-focused course structure, mixing coursework in Constitutional history and political philosophy with analytical coursework in economics and policy evaluation.

Moreover, as one of the very few programs of its kind based at a Christian university, SPP’s founders saw an important opportunity to teach and highlight the role people of faith have and continue to play in addressing a myriad of public challenges. As SPP’s founding dean, Dr. James Wilburn, noted in a Los Angeles Times’ essay about the new program in 1997, “A renewal of public policy should recognize that all the intermediary institutions that thrive in the space between the central government in Washington, DC, and the daily concerns of each solitary individual—our nonprofit associations; our churches, synagogues, and mosques; our families; and even the private commercial sector of labor and business associations—are equally critical as creators and implementers of public policy.”



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