Building a Classroom in the Middle of Industry

Pepperdine University’s new learning space puts students right at the center of the sports and live entertainment industry.

Building a Classroom in the Middle of Industry

Pepperdine University’s classroom at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Pepperdine University)


It's not always easy for business faculty to integrate classroom work, guest lectures, and field trips to corporate offices into a seamless learning experience. But what if the students, faculty, and executives were already in the same place, immersed in the same industry context? Would that proximity support a more organic and dynamic learning experience?

Faculty at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, California, believe a new classroom opened last year in STAPLES Centera venue that is home to four professional sports franchises and more than 250 events a yearwill do just that for students pursuing majors related to sports and entertainment. Designed in collaboration with AEG, a sports and live entertainment company, the space is located in downtown Los Angeles, a sports and entertainment hub.

The multi-use space includes seating for up to 30 students and can accommodate 50 people for special events. It features collaborative technology for wireless projection and group work, as well as a 75-inch display that can run pre-planned content, broadcast live television, or display a closed-circuit feed of the arena. A videoconferencing system can connect guest lecturers to any Pepperdine classroom in the world.

The location will support students pursuing a new MBA concentration in entertainment, media, and sports management, offered for the first time last fall by Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Management. It also will be used by students pursuing sport administration majors through the Seaver College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, as well as those in the master's program in entertainment, media, and sports law at the Pepperdine School of Law.

Last year, for example, Mike Becker, director of event management at STAPLES Center, delivered a lecture to undergraduate students enrolled in a facilities and event management class at Seaver College and gave them a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility. After the tour, students examined the center’s schematics to determine how they themselves might coordinate a major event.

Other students from Seaver College have come to the classroom to meet the leadership of the National Collegiate Athletic Association during the NCAA West Regional Finals, and the law school and Pepperdine’s Sports Business Association have used the space to host networking and guest speaker events. Additionally, as part of the collaboration, AEG will deliver a “best-in-class” speaker series in which AEG executives will discuss industry trends.

"Access and proximity were two driving forces behind Pepperdine's interest in developing a presence at STAPLES Center," says Rick Gibson, the university's chief marketing officer and vice president of public affairs and church relations. The classroom and partnership with AEG, he adds, provide the school's faculty and students with real-world, real-time access to the people and resources that make the sport and entertainment industries run.