The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Alissa is a Denver tutor specializing in several subjects including SAT prep tutoring, ACT prep tutoring, GRE prep tutoring, Grammar & Mechanics tutoring, and more. She graduated from Pepperdine University in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. See what she had to say about her alma mater:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Alissa: Pepperdine is the epitome of beauty. The campus sits right on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, and though I’ve traveled quite a bit, I’ve still never found a beauty quite like the view from the library windows. Pepperdine is small and compact, and the fact that it sits on the side of a mountain means that the entire campus is filled with stairs and hills. There is a campus shuttle that loops around the ring road and provides access to the majority of campus buildings, including on-campus dorms and apartments, but Malibu is relatively isolated from surrounding cities, including LA. If you hope to spend time in other parts of Los Angeles, you would want to have your own vehicle, or make friends with someone who owns one! One of the advantages of the isolation of Malibu – there is almost zero crime recorded in the area. The Pepperdine campus is closed and gated, and I often ran on the track at midnight without a concern for my safety. The greatest threat on the Pepperdine campus? Wildfires coming through the canyon.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Alissa: Pepperdine’s size and hiring practices translate into a teaching faculty with a large amount of practical application of their craft, and a willingness to help, guide, and engage unparalleled in higher education institutions. The school’s emphasis on service learning often places students and professors in environments outside of the classroom together and allows them the chance to get to know each other in a deeper, more meaningful way. There wasn’t a single professor in my time at Pepperdine that didn’t have clear office hours and made themselves available to students for additional help or to talk through class concepts or expectations.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Alissa: Pepperdine dorms, aside from the fantastic view, are extremely comfortable for student housing. Rather than giant shared bathrooms and mindless roommate matching, freshman dorms are structured in “suites,” with four rooms sharing a common area and a bathroom, with two individuals per room. Roommates are matched using the same system as eHarmony, which was developed by a Pepperdine alum, and has a 99% satisfaction rating with the matches it produces. Each dorm has a Resident Advisor and a Spiritual Life Advisor that live in the dorm as well, and RA’s often plan social activities, parties, and volunteer projects with other dorms to facilitate socializing. The dorms are all lined up in a row and close, and Pepperdine’s size means that you know (at least by face or name) the majority of people in your class, so it’s easy to meet up with friends. All students in the dorms have a meal plan, with one main cafeteria and a fewsmaller options. The food is delicious and provides options at several stations. All freshmen are required to live in the dorms – all other years have the option of living in on-campus apartments or finding their own housing.
VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?
Alissa: The most common majors at Pepperdine are Business and Communications. I studied Creative Writing and Philosophy, as I thought I wanted to go in to a career in publishing. I loved my Creative Writing courses, though with it being a smaller major, there weren’t a lot of internships or field-related opportunities like I might have had had I attended a university in New York or Chicago. That said, being a Creative Writing major in Malibu has certain unique advantages, including an emphasis in writing for film or television and direct access to the major studios and talent in LA.
VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?
Alissa: Pepperdine’s size and the nature of the school means you don’t have a choice but to make friends your freshman year! It’s extremely easy, beginning with New Student Orientation week, and moving into your first year and beyond. Pepperdine makes every effort to create a sense of community in its student body, with numerous student groups and organizations and a Volunteer Center devoted to year-long and short-term community service initiatives. Over 60% of the student body is Greek. There are no houses (as they are not allowed in Malibu), but sororities and fraternities play a major role in the environment of the campus, leading spirit, sport and student engagement activities, and making up the majority of the student leadership of the school. I myself was a part of a sorority, and now consider a number of my sisters my closest friends. My best memories of Pepperdine, of which there are many, are of my time with my sorority.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Alissa: The Career Center provides as many opportunities as one is willing to ask for and take advantage of. They’re extremely helpful in assisting you in deciding on a career path and the steps you’ll take to get where you’d like to go. There is a distinct effort to engage alumni, who are a powerful base of support and guidance, with the current student population. The Pepperdine graduate Business program and law school are well-known, and often provide opportunities to undergraduate majors that other schools wouldn’t be able to offer.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Alissa: The library is extremely comfortable, and has views that make it difficult to study! It’s relatively accessible, but can get crowded around finals time. There are plenty of other areas to study on campus, including the dorm common areas, which often host study groups for certain general education classes in which a large number of freshmen are enrolled.
VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in?between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?
Alissa: Most Pepperdine students stay relatively close to campus, as Santa Monica and LA aren’t easily accessible. They do, however, head out on the weekends or for big events, and it’s a relatively easy drive (30 minutes or so) on one of the most beautiful highways in the world to one of the greatest cities in America. There are plenty of opportunities in the arts, sports, and beyond in LA. Closer in in Malibu or through the canyon in Thousand Oaks, there are numerous award-winning restaurants, a movie theater, parks, and beaches. The majority of students spend their time surfing, paddle-boarding, sailing, playing Frisbee or tanning on the beach, hiking, or bonfiring.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Alissa: The student body is small, between 3,000 and 4,000 undergraduates. This means that class sizes are kept small (the majority of classes are kept under 20 students) and you have focused attention from professors. It’s the perfect environment for someone who enjoys engaging in discussions and taking full advantage of what they pay in tuition. It’s probably not the right school for someone who wants to sit in the back of a large lecture hall and doze. Pepperdine only has one large lecture hall, and even then, professors are known to play games with the crowd!
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Alissa: I particularly loved my Logic class. That may seem like a ridiculous class to enjoy, but the professor made it for me. He taught philosophy with passion and with relevance, and I loved the reason, the order, and the thought in it all. That professor fought hard for me to be granted a Philosophy major status and I came extremely close. He taught me my love for philosophy, which led me to eventually earn a Master’s degree in it from The University of Chicago. He retired the same year that I graduated Pepperdine, but he remains my mentor and friend even today.
Check out Alissa’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.