Waves of Innovation: Creativity and Community at Pepperdine University

September 2015
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Could an institution with a long history of risk taking and entrepreneurial decision making regain its creative momentum after being slowed by a stagnant economy and a need to conserve resources? Pepperdine University sought to find out.


Pepperdine University’s Waves of Innovation program is celebrated for its unique approach to stimulating collaboration and creativity across the university. Designed to unleash the minds of students, faculty and staff toward solving problems and addressing inefficiencies, the program has reinvigorated the school’s entrepreneurial spirit while inspiring higher levels of learning and new revenue opportunities. In this paper, the program’s principal creators describe what made it so successful and how it can be adapted at other institutions.

Key Insights
The program has been received enthusiastically and has brought together the university’s five schools in a broad-ranging discussion about improvement.
Proposals for improvement were submitted by all university constituents, including faculty, staff, administration, and undergraduate and graduate students.
To select the final ideas for funding, Pepperdine holds an event at which each finalist gives a brief talk. This event has helped generate much discussion of innovation across the university.
Outcomes of the program include: a new masters of analytics degree, a student financial literacy program, a Gameful Design Lab, research funding for an environmentally safer biodegradable plastic, and a new Center for Women in Leadership.
Fully funded projects reflect interest in and attention to the topics most pertinent to higher education today, including sustainability, technology and learning, and accessibility and equity.
The Waves of Innovation model to spur creative new ideas for institutional improvement can be readily adapted and launched across a wide range of institutions.

Working with an interdisciplinary committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni, the authors issued a call for innovative ideas that could potentially change Pepperdine. The call was open to all members of the university community. They asked that proposals address at least one of five criteria, all tightly linked to the school’s strategic plan.