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Pepperdine University Celebrates School of Public Policy Class of 2024 at Commencement

A graduate laughing

On April 19, 2024, the School of Public Policy hosted its annual commencement ceremony at Alumni Park on the Pepperdine University Malibu Campus to commemorate the remarkable achievements of the graduating class. Robert and Katheryn Dockson Professor of Public Policy Robert Kaufman commenced the event and adjunct professor Abbylin Sellers followed with a heartfelt invocation.

Pepperdine University Provost Jay Brewster extended a warm welcome to the crowd, acknowledging the dedication and commitment of the graduating cohort. Brewster underscored the importance of service-driven leadership and the student's role in shaping a brighter future through selflessness. His simple yet profound advice was that we must not be driven by “a desire for personal wealth or glory but by a passion to serve others."

The student graduation address was delivered by Noah Jackson, who completed his Master of Public Policy with a specialization in applied economic analysis. Before attending the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, Jackson served under the US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and US Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Jackson has also spent time in the private sector building a bioenergy start-up that converts wood waste from California’s wildfires into low-carbon biofuel. In his address, Jackson emphasized the profound significance of relationships, humility in serving others, and finding joy in life's pursuits. His words resonated deeply with faculty and peers. "Life is not about money or material things. Life is defined by the relationships we have," stated Jackson. 

Next, School of Public Policy dean Pete Peterson welcomed back 2011 graduate Shelby Eli Steele as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. Steele, owner and president of Man of Steele Productions, has served in multiple capacities as director, writer, and producer and has created several feature-length films, including a self-penned drama and several feature-length and short documentaries. His work often explores current cultural issues and discussions of race, offering perspectives of those from regions across the nation. The award rightly acknowledged Steele's dedication to advocacy and innovation.

Finally, graduates heard from their commencement speaker, Eric Johnson, mayor of Dallas, Texas, who urged them to navigate the complexities of decision-making with integrity and compassion. Johnson discussed the transformative power of principled leadership grounded in values and said that facts, faith, and family should lead us as we make our decisions, especially the most challenging ones. 

Following the conferring of the degrees by Pepperdine University president Jim Gash, professor of public policy Dayea Oh delivered a benediction of blessings and wisdom upon the graduated class to close out the intimate occasion.