A Steward of Scholars

Bob Pushaw reflects on his career in faculty scholarship as he takes on the new role of Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development.

Over the course of the past 22 years as a law professor, Robert Pushaw has spent no fewer than one thousand hours per year on scholarly activity. Now, as the new associate dean for research and faculty development at the School of Law, he is set to apply that staggering statistic to enhancing and illuminating the teaching that takes place at Pepperdine.

Robert Pushaw

But Pushaw wasn’t always aware of the impact that the position could have on an institution. At Yale Law School he studied under numerous world-renowned legal scholars and began to engage in serious legal scholarship during his second year, writing a draft of what eventually became his first major article. At the start of his teaching career at the University of Missouri in 1992 he relied on his former law school professors Akhil Amar and George Priest to mentor and guide him through his research endeavors. However, he admits to making some rookie mistakes, which, he explains, could have been avoided if an established faculty research program had been in place.

At Pepperdine Pushaw will ensure that the law faculty has the resources to pursue their scholarship—summer grants, student research assistants, library research support, and travel opportunities to professional conferences to present their papers. He will also play an integral role in helping professors develop their ideas through informal discussions, critiquing draft manuscripts, and arranging presentations at Pepperdine. More broadly, he will assist faculty in spreading their ideas to the widest possible audience.

“Professors who are passionate about their areas of interest naturally seek to expand their knowledge and engage in scholarly debates in their fields,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to increase both the quantity and quality of faculty scholarship so that Pepperdine’s national academic reputation continues to grow,” Pushaw explains.

But beyond matters of rank and status, he endeavors to meet another, higher objective. “My sense is that law professors tend to be highly secularized—and skeptical that a religious law school can be committed to the production of rigorous scholarship,” he explains. “My goal is to shatter that stereotype.”

Although Pushaw insists that the law school will never sacrifice Pepperdine’s religious mission or commitment to students merely for the sake of rankings, “those rankings are important in opening up employment opportunities for our students and in enhancing the value of our JD degree, benefiting both current students and alumni.”

Pushaw is also committed to channeling the School of Law’s resources to faculty most actively engaged in scholarship, a duty he feels is of utmost importance as he begins his tenure as associate dean for research and faculty development. “Our greatest challenge is to try to encourage scholarly productivity in light of severe budget pressures,” he says. “We have to be careful stewards of our limited resources.”

Among the many reasons why Pushaw believes in the importance of faculty scholarship, he cites specific motivations behind his passionate pursuit. “Scholarship is an integral part of the mission of the University and the School of Law—and is therefore a critical component of our jobs,” he explains.

During his time as a law professor, almost every law school has begun establishing programs for research and faculty development to ensure that entry-level faculty develop appropriate scholarly habits and to help more seasoned professors continue to develop professionally. At the School of Law Pushaw has already seen the effects of his mentorship and guidance on Pepperdine’s faculty.

“I am most proud of the recent increase in high-quality publications, especially by our junior faculty,” he says. “I succeed only to the extent that the faculty succeeds.”

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