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New Faces in the Deans' Suite

The Deans' Suite at the School of Law welcomed four new faces this summer. Richard Cupp stepped in as vice dean; Al Sturgeon took on the role of assistant dean for student life and director of academic success; Carlton Oliver became the director of student life and student outreach; and Robert Pushaw began his tenure as associate dean for research.

Richard Cupp joined the faculty at the School of Law in 1992 after serving two years as associate general counsel for Pepperdine. A 1983 graduate of Pepperdine's Seaver College, Cupp says he has remained incredibly committed to the substance and mission of the university.

"This is a place that regards each student as a person of infinite dignity," he said. "We are second to none academically. Pepperdine is unique in combining academic excellence of the highest order with a faith based environment."

In his newest role as vice dean, Cupp says he is inspired by Dean Tacha's energy and mission. Among his goals as vice dean are to develop and strengthen curriculum, experiential learning, and faculty scholarship. In addition to Dean Tacha, Cupp noted the history of leadership associated with Pepperdine University, including School of Law dean emeritus Ronald Phillips and former university president Howard White, both of whom he views as mentors.

"We are blessed to have a succession of leaders that own the mission of Pepperdine and further it," Cupp said.

Al Sturgeon graduated from the Pepperdine School of Law in 2011. A former pastor of 10 years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and former basketball coach and social science teacher, Sturgeon was drawn to the Straus Institute through his interest in gaining skills in diplomacy and mediation. Soon after passing the bar exam, he was offered a position directing the Academic Success Program at the School of Law. As assistant dean for student life and the director of academic success, Sturgeon's focus in on building on and enhancing the work of his predecessor and colleague, Jim Gash.

"I have a lot of respect for his work," Sturgeon said. "I think he did an amazing job, and I look forward to the opportunity to make a similar impact on the Pepperdine community."

Carlton Oliver joined the Pepperdine Law community in 2007 as the associate director of information services. For six years, Oliver worked to manage the day-to-day operations of the department, coordinating the technological components of all major events. In his latest role as the director of student life and student outreach, Oliver is most excited about working with students in identifying their passion in the legal field, and in helping them grow as individuals.

"My favorite part about working at Pepperdine University is the enjoyment that comes from working for a place I believe in," he says.

Robert Pushaw joined Pepperdine in 2001 after having previously served as a professor of law at the University of Missouri where he received the William Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, the university's highest teaching honor, and the Shook Hardy and Bacon Award for Research Excellence. Professor Pushaw is an original and prolific scholar in the fields of constitutional law and federal jurisdiction.

Dean Deanell Reece Tacha described Pushaw as one of the School of Law's "most productive scholars and an outstanding mentor to our colleagues engaged in active endeavors. In this day of very limited resources for everything that we do, it is extremely important that our research dollars promote and encourage faculty scholarship. I look forward to working with Bob as we continue to enhance the scholarly capacity of this law school and to help our faculty members realize their scholarly aspirations."