40 Under 40

At Pepperdine, purpose, service, and leadership is more than a mission statement. It’s a way of life, reflected in the impact and achievements of more than 100,000 extraordinary alumni around the globe. This year’s inaugural 40 under 40 alumni represent just a sample of these incredible stories. Selected from hundreds of nominations, these young entrepreneurs, executives, doctors, lawyers, educators, and public servants are innovating in their fields, inspiring their communities, and leading by example as the next generation of Pepperdine Waves.

Excerpts have been edited for length and clarity. See each honoree’s full responses: pepperdine.edu/40under40.

kimberly-amundson

1. Kimberly (Mansen) Amundson (’10)
Program Officer, PATH
Seattle, Washington

Describe your success:

I’ve been a part of a team that is fighting malnutrition from preconception through the stages of growth and development to help nourish children to thrive. We do this by innovating in the space of nutrition and global development to address issues in malnutrition, stunting, and disease.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine continues to mean community to me, whether that lies in friendships carried forward or new friends that also went to Pepperdine. There is a unique camaraderie between Waves and a sense of deeper meaning, holding each other to higher expectations of integrity and mission.

james-azadian2. James Stephen Azadian (JD ’01)
Shareholder and Chair of Appellate, Writs, and Constitutional Law Practice, Enterprise Counsel Group ALC 
Laguna Beach, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

My law professors modeled honest, hard work with a dogged commitment to integrity in the practice and study of law. But they equally modeled bringing a humanitarian component to all aspects of the service lawyers provide their clients. The “whole lawyer” is not simply a great legal technician or one who is able to develop top business for her or his firm. Pepperdine Law teaches the importance of becoming the “whole lawyer.” I don’t know that any other law school can make that same claim.

Who’s your inspiration?

In a professional sense, I have always been inspired by Abraham Lincoln. I doubt there’s been a finer advocate or communicator than him. I often reread his Bixby Letter, which a friend blew up on a poster board for me, and which hangs in my office. I am awed by Lincoln’s unmatched ability to say the right word at the right time.

meri-barnes3. Meri Barnes (’04)
Founder/CEO, The Shop Forward Creative Director, Michael Gerald LTD
Santa Monica, California

Describe your success:

I am most proud of starting the online fundraising platform The Shop Forward (TheShopForward.com). In less than two years since launching, The Shop Forward has raised nearly $1 million for various charities. We’ve partnered with some amazing influencers to raise funds for deserving causes through apparel and accessories sales.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine taught me to make giving back part of my growth strategy, which in turn made a huge impact on the foundation of my work. The business program at Pepperdine instilled the importance of ethics, values, and philanthropy. At the same time, it also equipped me with business skills
and experience that I use on a daily basis as an entrepreneur.

meredith-benton4. Meredith (Sullivan) Benton (’01)
Senior Program Officer, The Healing Trust
Nashville, Tennessee

Describe your success:

My success is in service to others as I advocate for change in the communities in which I live and serve. I have worked on both sides of the political aisle in service to a U.S. senator and two governors. I also served at the Carter Center, President Jimmy Carter’s organization, planning election observation missions and traveling to Africa to see new democracies host their first elections. I now lead a team that grants millions of dollars to Middle Tennessee nonprofits to improve health outcomes.

Who’s your inspiration?

My husband, Jim Benton, who graduated from Seaver in 2000, inspires me. While he passed away four years ago, he taught me so much about love and life. I also learned that leadership and success is not about accomplishments, but rather about positively impacting the lives of those around you. His life and legacy is a daily reminder of what’s truly important in this life, and I work hard to live that out in honor of him.

tara-bracher5. Tara (Lawrence) Bracher (’04, MA ’09)
President, Hats Off for Cancer
St. Louis, Missouri

Describe your success:

I founded a national nonprofit organization, Hats Off for Cancer, at age 14 to focus on improving the quality of life for kids and teens battling cancer. We do this through the collection and donation of hats for those young people who lose their hair during their cancer treatments. In the past 20 years, the organization has been able to collect and donate nearly three million hats and send them to deserving kids and teens battling cancer around the world.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

As a student, Pepperdine embraced Hats Off for Cancer and held hat drives through my sorority, Alpha Phi, along with other student groups on campus. Now as an alumna, Pepperdine Family Camp held a Hats Off for Cancer activity for kids and parents, making hats and writing notes of encouragement for those battling cancer. Pepperdine’s emphasis on service helped to keep me focused on my goals of continuing my organization and the importance of giving back.

pierce-brown6. Pierce Brown (’10)
Author/Screenwriter, Penguin Random House
Los Angeles, California

Describe your success:

In 2014 I released a novel with Random House called Red Rising. It managed to sneak onto the New York Times Bestsellers list at number 16. In 2015 its sequel, Golden Son, landed at number six. This year, the final book in the trilogy, Morning Star, debuted at number one. My novels have been translated into 33 languages and a film is in development with Universal Studios.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

The real triumph of Pepperdine, as far as I’m concerned, belongs to the Great Books Colloquium, particularly to Dr. Don Marshall—one of the giants who shaped my brain back when it was just a lumpy, arrogant, SAT-obsessed ball of clay. He never tried to teach me what to think, but he always endeavored to teach me how to think.

What’s next?

It’s the engineers, scientists, businessmen, and humanitarians who really change this world. But each of their journeys begins with a dream. I want to make them dream of worlds better and worse and different than this one. Whether it’s through books, TV, film, or comics, that’s what I want my life to be about—waking the wild imagination in others.

40sambercoffman7. Amber Coffman (’04)
Development Director, Best Buddies International
Marina del Rey, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Attending Pepperdine was a gift and an extension of the foundation upon which I was raised. Purpose. Service. Leadership. Being influenced in such a way at a pivotal time in my life led me to the life I now have, which embodies those three principles.

Who’s your inspiration?

Mother Teresa is a constant in my life. She inspired me to start my own nonprofit at the age of 10 and to live a life of service, seeing the face of God in everyone I serve. Her spirit is alive and well in me.

What’s next?

I would like to find a creative way to influence people globally about the importance of service and advocacy, making it attractive and attainable to everyone.

40stodddildine18. Todd Dildine (’09)
Pastor, Lakeview Church of Christ
Chicago, Illinois

Describe your success:

I’m a young pastor at a great church in a neighborhood that experiences too much chaos. What I am most excited about moving forward is the direction my church has chosen to take. Instead of retreating towards comfort and safety, my church is advancing towards the pain and violence in our neighborhood.

What’s next?

I minister in a neighborhood in need of healing. In the next five years I hope that the graduation rates increase significantly in my neighborhood, that gun violence drops by 50 percent, and people on the margins are brought into leadership within my church. In 10 years I hope that I can inspire other churches to play a bigger role in lifting their neighborhoods out of poverty and violence and into healing and hope.

40selizabethedwards9. Elizabeth Edwards (’99)
Founder and President, Volume Public Relations
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine helped me recognize the need to fill the void that exists in communication, education, and execution. By not having that combination, Pepperdine gave me a world class communication education and then triggered in me the personal desire to become a lifelong student of psychology and neuroscience in order to bring to the table what does not exist anywhere else.

What’s next?

To continue establishing Volume as the nationwide premier integrated communication and PR agency that delivers the most results and precision outcomes possible. Not just practicing the art of communication, but also adding to it the science of communication.

Favorite quote?

“Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.” –Winston Churchill

40skenellsworth10. Ken Ellsworth (MBA ’10)
Senior Manager, Customer Analytics and Strategy, Intuit
San Diego, California

Describe your success:

I now lead an analytics organization at Intuit that partners closely with senior leadership up to the CEO to make better business decisions. The work we are doing directly influences go-to-market strategy, identifies new target customer segments to pursue, measures retention and customer lifetime value, evaluates multi-million dollar bets the company places, and makes strategic business recommendations daily. I have been fortunate enough to lead key initiatives that have had a material impact on the bottom line of multiple Fortune 500 companies.

How do you prepare for a busy day?

If I have a big presentation I will write an outline of everything I want to say, including introductions and jokes. I’ll read over it a few times and practice a bit before going in. This makes sure I don’t miss anything I wanted to cover and helps me appear more natural.

40szekefortenberry11. Zeke Fortenberry (JD ’07)
Assistant District Attorney, Collin County District Attorney’s Office
Dallas, Texas

Describe your success:

I have been trying criminal cases to juries since my first month in the district attorney’s office. What is more important to me than my success in the courtroom is my commitment to giving back and teaching others who are interested in becoming a trial attorney. The time I spend teaching trial advocacy, coaching mock trial, and mentoring law students is what makes me feel most successful when I see those students grow into thriving young lawyers.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine Law taught me the fundamental skills to be a great trial advocate. But perhaps more importantly, at Pepperdine Law I also learned to integrate my faith into my career. As a Christian lawyer, I strive to practice law with the utmost integrity and the highest ethical standards.

40sdaniellegreg12. Danielle L. Greg (’01, PsyD ’10)
Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice
Calabasas, California

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

This honor is particularly meaningful to me because I was diagnosed with cancer during my final year as a Pepperdine GSEP student. At that time, I was not sure that I would be able to carry out the career that I had long dreamed of and prepared for. I am extremely grateful for the work I have been able to do since then and for Pepperdine acknowledging my achievements.

What’s next?

I plan to continue my work in private practice and perhaps begin teaching some university courses soon. I would also love to write a book about developing a healthy body image. I am currently brainstorming about a children’s book focused on helping young girls appreciate their bodies for all of its magnificent abilities. Additionally, I would like to do some advocacy work related to the need for more mental health services in our society.

40smarinelagombosev13. Marinela Gombosev (MBA ’12)
Executive Vice President, Operations and Marketing Evoke Neuroscience
Corona del Mar, California

Describe your success:

In my current role at Evoke Neuroscience, our team is taking on the important mission of providing access to advanced-brain-function care to patients concerned about their memory and cognitive function—right in their physician’s office. I am proud that our company was ranked number 131 in the Inc. 500 | 5000 fastest growing private companies in the United States.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine’s MBA program created a paradigm shift in my career and in my aspirations. It catapulted me from an engineering career into the world of global business and leadership where I could leverage my background in product development into building and growing teams and companies.

40skeithgormley14. Keith Gormley (’08)
Vice President, Social Marketing and Communication, Prudential Financial
Montclair, New Jersey

Describe your success:

Since graduating with a master’s degree in communication from Pepperdine, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really amazing brands—both large and small—helping them to form meaningful connections and engage with audiences through digital. I’ve spent my short career looking for unique ways to create value and innovate through digital, inspiring audiences to take action.

What’s next?

My outlook and plans are simple: be a leader and find ways to inspire. And I will continue to push for innovation and positive change by following the best advice I’ve ever received: “Don’t look for a new job; do your job better.”

seth-haye15. Seth A. Haye (’02)
Executive Director, Morgan Stanley
Westlake Village, California

Describe your success:

I have been very fortunate to help grow our wealth management practice at Morgan Stanley to more than $1 billion in assets (as of November 1, 2016). We take pride in saying that virtually all of our clients are also personal friends.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

I feel like I owe much of my success to Pepperdine, so much so that if it weren’t for my association with Pepperdine I don’t think I would be in my current industry or be working with my business partner of 13 years. We met at a Pepperdine Crest Board meeting in 2000 when I was a student speaker and he was a new prospective board member.

Who’s your inspiration?

Some of the people who inspire me are longtime Pepperdine administrators who have helped to shape the University, legends like Charlie Runnels, who taught me what it means to be a good friend and thoughtful to others, and Andy Benton who speaks with unparalleled sincerity.

40sloridarakjian16. Lori A. Harer (JD ’07)
Attorney at Law, The Law Offices of Lori A. Darakjian
Woodland Hills, California

Describe your success:

After nine years of working for highly accomplished family law attorneys, I started my own practice and have had the opportunity to make a very direct impact on my clients. I feel most successful when my clients are less anxious about the legal process because they trust me to protect the most important people and things in their lives.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I received a minor in education from UCLA and in my pre-law career taught 6th grade math and science at LAUSD. The students were at an impressionable age and a lot of them lacked positive role models. I was passionate about making math and science fun for the students and showing them that being smart is cool. I would love to return to academia in a law school setting in the future.

Who is your inspiration?

While at Pepperdine I interned at the YWCA Glendale Domestic Violence Project in collaboration with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County to provide pro bono legal assistance to domestic violence survivors. Their strength and determination to protect themselves and their children inspire me daily to provide the best and safest outcomes for my clients.

40sstefanholt17. Stefan Holt (’09)
Anchor and Reporter, NBCUniversal
New York, New York

Describe your success:

It has been a fun adventure that has taken me to two of the country’s top television markets working as an anchor and reporter. This year I became the 4 PM anchor for the company’s flagship station, WNBC-TV in New York. Prior to New York I anchored the morning newscast at WMAQ-TV in Chicago where I was also recognized with Emmy Awards for anchoring and for spot news.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine is where I fell in love with journalism. I remember flipping through channels one day in the dorm and found myself watching a student-run newscast called “Newswaves.” I thought to myself, “This looks cool!” Kind of on a whim, I went to an information session and then auditioned. I was immediately hooked! I’ve always had the news bug, but it was the Pepperdine program that really helped me build the practical skills that are essential for anyone who wants to be a reporter. By the time I graduated from Pepperdine, I was fully prepared to shoot video, edit, and report the news.

40stiahooper18. Capt. Justina “Tia” Hooper (’07)
Chief, Recruiting Branch, HQ U.S. Air Force JAG Corps
Alexandria, Virginia

Describe your success:

Pepperdine’s core values motivated me during my four years, specifically, service. It was the idea of service that pushed me towards law school, where I knew I could learn a skill that would allow me to help others. And it was the idea of service that led me to pursue a career as an attorney in the U.S. Air Force, where I knew I could serve my country.

What’s next?

I hope to promote to the rank of major within the next year, and along with that promotion I plan to take on more leadership responsibilities within the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. In the next couple of years I plan on being a deputy staff judge advocate, which means that I will be second-in-command to a staff judge advocate who leads a legal office at an air force base.

40shopehorner19. Hope Horner (’09)
CEO, Lemonlight
Santa Monica, California

Describe your success:

I currently own a company called Lemonlight. Our team has grown to 30 people in two years. We measure our success on team happiness, client happiness, and financial growth, all of which have steadily increased month over month since inception.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

The most important thing that Pepperdine taught me is the motto, “Freely ye received, freely give.” I can confidently say that by taking the time to help others on their own path, it has opened me up in ways I had never thought possible.

40sarjunjolly20. Arjun Jolly (MBA ’14)
COO/Cofounder, adQuadrant, Inc.
Irvine, California

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

This recognition affirms that growth and achievement are created by stepping outside of your comfort zone. Hard work alone is no longer enough to create value in today’s world. Now it’s about pushing yourself beyond your own limits and doing the things that intimidate you in order to live a life filled with happiness and success.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine has exposed me to the foundational elements that are crucial for building businesses and, more importantly, lifelong relationships. I choose to leverage that education by sharing my knowledge and supporting others in their journey towards their own success and personal growth so that we, collectively, will have a beneficial imprint on society.

Who’s your inspiration?

My father is my greatest inspiration. Like many first-generation immigrants, he never let his unpleasant predicament deter him from succeeding, though this isn’t why he inspires me. What inspires me is his altruistic nature. He often says “to truly be successful, you must bring those around you to your level of success.”

40stravisjones221. Travis D. Jones (’11)
Judge Advocate (JAG), U.S. Navy
Newport, Rhode Island

Describe your success:

Currently I am a judge advocate for the United States Navy. JAGs, as we are commonly known, serve as legal advisors in a number of different areas of law including criminal, administrative, international, and operational. Specifically, over the last few years the probability of obtaining a commission as a judge advocate has been shockingly low with selection rates hovering between four and seven percent of the thousands of candidates that apply to each selection board.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

I can say with complete confidence that I would not be the person I am today without the training Pepperdine provided me. Not only did Pepperdine train me intellectually, but also spiritually. Pepperdine ingrained in me the concept of having a vocation and using that vocation to serve the greater good.

What’s next?

Ultimately, whenever my time in the navy does end, I want to transition into academia as a law school professor. I spent a lot of my time in law school teaching younger students the art of trial advocacy and the intricacies of the Federal Rules of Evidence. I want to make a career out of developing the next generation of trial advocates.

40santhonykennada22. Anthony Kennada (’08)
Vice President, Marketing, Gainsight
San Francisco, California

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

Being a 40 Under 40 honoree is a good reminder that our actions represent not just ourselves, but also the affiliations we carry with us after graduation. Whether our alma mater or company, our family or customers, we owe it to the communities in which we belong to live with intention.

Describe your success:

Since my time at Pepperdine, I’ve had the opportunity to move to Silicon Valley and play a part in the stories of some of the most influential startups in enterprise software. Today I’m building the next great category of enterprise software in customer success.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine’s commitment to instilling Christian values into vocation has given me a context in which to frame my perspective on career. I can share my faith authentically, not by rocking a bumper sticker on my laptop, but rather by serving my employees, leaders, and customers while doing exceptional work and giving God the glory rather than claiming it as my own.

40skylekeojampa23. Bounmany Kyle Keojampa (’01)
Surgeon, Del Rey MD
Los Angeles, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

My experience with Pepperdine’s international program in Catacamas, Honduras, helped to foster my career in medicine. I experienced firsthand a humanitarian medical mission. I was able to study medical Spanish and volunteered at medical clinics to provide healthcare to the local population and helped build latrines. My experience in Honduras is one of the reasons for my continued involvement with international humanitarian medical missions today.

What’s next?

In the next five years, I would like to expand my international medical volunteer missions in Laos. In the next 10 years, I would love to be an integral part of developing the healthcare system in Laos.

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

Musical production. I have a home music production and recording studio. These days, though, are filled with playing with my daughter Eloisa who just turned 1 year old.

40srobk24. Rob Khatchadourian (MPP ’06)
Engineering Program Manager, Apple, Inc.
San Jose, California

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

I’m truly humbled to be on this list alongside so many people who have made such a difference in their communities. It’s also a validation that success comes when natural curiosity meets hard work, humility, and a realization that you have to enjoy the journey. Success at a greater scale happens when more people who think this way come together around a common purpose. None of this would be possible without Pepperdine giving me the opportunities to stretch myself beyond what I thought I’d be capable of handling and opening some doors.

How do you prepare for a busy day?

Fill your calendar before someone else does it for you. Next, write down the top three to five things you need to get done that day. Nothing should slip to the next day. If it does, then move it to the “nice to have” category and have it be something you’ll get to that week or month.

40sbrittanylane125. Brittney Lane (JD ’12)
Associate, O’Melveny & Myers
Washington, D.C.

Describe your success:

After graduating from the School of Law, I clerked for two of the most prominent federal circuit judges in the country: Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. I currently work for one of the largest and most successful law firms in the country, and next year I will clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court.

What’s next?

I look forward to clerking for Justice Thomas next year. After that, I plan to return to work at a firm and ultimately hope to serve my community in some way—either through undertaking significant appellate pro bono work, educating young lawyers, or working in a public service position.

What is your secret sauce?

Four cups hard work, four cups support from friends and family, a prayer, and a dash of luck.

40sdavidmansdierfer26. David Mansdoerfer (MPP ’11)
Deputy Chief of Staff, California State Senate
Mission Viejo, California

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

When I graduated from the School of Public Policy, I can remember thinking that I wanted to be able to return one day to prove to those who invested in me, through both scholarships and their time, that they made a good investment. In receiving this honor, I know that I’m on the right path to honoring those who invested in me.

Describe your success:

This year, I was named chairman of the Mission Viejo Planning and Transportation Commission. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on several great projects including SB 1273, which resulted in Proposition 63 (Mental Health Services Act) money being able to be used for crisis stabilization services for those in mental health crisis; having the month of May designated Lupus Awareness Month via California Resolution SR 65; and labor negotiations reform through the Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance.

Who’s your inspiration?

My wife of nearly 10 years, Megan. Megan, who has lupus, an autoimmune disease, in having the ability to overcome the constant pain and discomfort that she lives with on a daily basis, consistently shows the best in humanity in her joy, compassion, and endurance that I could only dream of achieving. There is no one I admire more.

40salecmcnyer27. Alec McNayr (’00)
Founder, McBeard
Los Angeles, California

Describe your success:

I cofounded and grew social media advertising agency McBeard from startup to acquisition and beyond, now 250 people with offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. We get to work with great clients from both the entertainment and brand worlds.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

As a student, Pepperdine prepared me with lots of opportunities to lead, both in and out of the classroom. After graduation, I worked for Pepperdine alumnus (and future McBeard business partner) Alan Beard (’94, MPP ’99) and then enjoyed five years of working for Pepperdine in the alumni and marketing departments. During those years as a Pepperdine employee, I learned what great company culture can look and feel like, which directly impacted what I later built with McBeard.

What is your secret sauce?

I spent years studying improv and writing comedy after graduation. It left me with the confidence to stand up in front of an audience of any size.

40svaleriemickela28. Valerie Neumark Mickela (MA ’03)
Cofounder and Brand Strategist, Rootid, LLC
El Cerrito, California

Describe your success:

As a cofounder of my own communications strategy firm, I am driven to build genuine relationships and leave the world better off than I found it. As long as Rootid has a thriving and cohesive company culture and our clients feel understood, well taken care of, and a part of building something important, then I will feel successful.

What’s next?

For a smaller/lean company, we have a pretty unique set of skills on staff and would like to help build technological capacity in the nonprofit sector as a whole. Since we have a unique perspective and see issues arise across the organizations we work with, there is a huge opportunity for coalition building to solve some of our clients common issues in more impactful ways.

40srichardmontano29. Richard Montano (’03)
CEO, LIV Capital Group, Inc.
San Diego, California

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

Pepperdine forges individuals who instill high levels of moral aptitude, academic excellence, work ethic, and community service. To be listed among some of the greatest who have graduated from such a prestigious school is humbling and inspiring all at once.

Describe your success:

Success for me is defined by my ability to serve. I have worked hard my entire life and feel the most fulfilled when I am able to give and serve others. Service has many forms, and we each have our unique way of giving it, but what’s most important is the gift of service.

What’s next?

I believe in building a legacy that has longevity, integrity, and value. As a child I was homeless and had very little education until the seventh grade, and because of these hardships, I feel as though I was born without a legacy. So it is my intention to create one for my family and to provide a foundation for many generations to build upon.

40sfranciscomontes30. Francisco Montes (BSM ’16)
Realtor, The Enright Company Founder, Rundalay
Los Angeles, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

My critical thinking professor, Michael Magasin, once said, “The key to life is finding your bliss.” Graduating from Pepperdine and creating a foundation that will leave an impression in people’s hearts brings satisfaction in my life, and so as long as I continue to lead from my heart and passionately move forward, I believe I am moving towards reaching bliss.

What is your secret sauce?

A smile and running shoes.

Favorite quote?

“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” –Ray Goforth

40smargaretmoodian31. Margaret Moodian (MA ’08, EdD ’11)
Board Member and Governance Chair, Blind Children’s Learning Center
Rancho Santa Margarita, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine has a great reputation and has opened several doors for me. Several faculty members were active in the fields they taught, and the knowledge they brought with them was invaluable. My husband and I had our wedding celebration at Heroes Garden and the Villa Graziadio, so Pepperdine plays a significant role in our successful marriage.

What is your secret sauce?

A guest in one of my doctorate programs, who I believe was a superintendent, shared that you should always treat everyone you meet as if they are having a terrible day and you want to make them feel better. You never know what they might be encountering in life. How you treat others has a ripple effect, so why not make a positive difference with each interaction? This is my philosophy.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Astrophysics because there is so much beyond Earth that fascinates me.

40smerrillmoses32. Merrill Marc Moses (’99)
Assistant Water Polo Coach, Pepperdine University Thousand Oaks, California

Describe your success:

While I was at Pepperdine from 1995 to 1999, we won the 1997 NCAA Championship. I was voted as one of the MVPs of the game. This propelled my water polo career to the national team level. I represented Team USA in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic Games. In 2008 we won the silver medal, and I was named to the all world team.

What’s next?

I plan to continue coaching water polo at Pepperdine University for the next 20 years plus. I would like to have coach Terry Schroeder by my side for that whole time and help bring another NCAA Championship back to Pepperdine for water polo.

40sbenmurrie33. Ben Murrie (’02)
Director of Contracts and Client Relations, Catharsis Productions
Raleigh, North Carolina

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

It’s a recognition of the various ways in which we all try to do some good for this world and an acknowledgment that there is no perfect prescription. It’s exciting to see how our alma mater plugs into their graduates years down the line and truly looks to understand how the ethos they cultivate early on plays out in those people’s lives.

Describe your success:

I work on programs that prevent sexual harassment and assault. Success, in this setting, is about reframing the discussion so people can focus on the big truths like honor or equality instead of on the small roadblocks like dogma or stereotypes. When people realize that their small belief is keeping them from remaining true to their big belief, that’s when learning occurs.

40stalianosrati34. Talia Eytan Nosrati (MBA ’10)
Senior Manager, Global Brand Marketing, 20th Century Fox
Los Angeles, California

Describe your success:

After graduating from the Graziadio School, I accepted a position at the Walt Disney Studios on their home entertainment global brand marketing team. My strengths in applying strategy, building relationships, and executing across all levels of business on a consistent basis were quickly recognized, and I was soon promoted into a role with more visibility and higher stakes, leading marketing campaigns for tentpole titles that went on to break home entertainment industry records. I began a new role in January 2016 at 20th Century Fox where I am currently a senior manager of global brand marketing in their home entertainment division.

What’s next?

My 10-year plan is about merging my professional and educational experience with my personal passion. Animals hold a very special place in my heart, and I’d like to open an animal sanctuary for the many brave, homeless animals who deserve a home—a place where cats and dogs can live their days freely in a safe, nurturing environment or potentially meet a loving, adoptive family who can’t wait to welcome them into their home.

40sndukanwanko35. Nduka Nwankwo (’13)
Fixed-Income Analyst, Wells Fargo Bank
San Francisco, California

Describe your success:

I serve on the boards of Alternatives in Action and Grow with Nigeria, two purpose-driven organizations looking to transform the lives of young people. I use my financial services background to ensure these organizations remain financially sustainable. Success for me is every young person having the tools to be a change agent in her or his community.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine taught me that the only life worth living is that of service to others. I have the words “purpose,” “service,” and “leadership” on a sticky note by my bed; those have become my watchwords and the lens through which I view my life on Earth.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I would love to be a talk show host. I studied creative writing at Pepperdine and uncovered my love for telling people’s stories.

40sashleyrhame36. Ashley Rhame (’14)
Head of Marketing and Communications, HoyleCohen LLC, A Focus Financial Firm
San Diego, California

Describe your success:

I attribute my success to two things: my faith and my parents, both of which have shown me that even the impossible can be made possible. I am incredibly passionate about my career and making it one of purpose, which is why I have intertwined my career in marketing with philanthropy. I currently work for HoyleCohen LLC, a rapidly growing wealth management firm with approximately $1 billion in assets under management, as the head of marketing and communications for all HoyleCohen offices.

Who’s your inspiration?

Malala Yousafzai. When I first heard Malala’s story, I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. I felt truly inspired that this child was able to overcome an evil and unjust attack, emerging from it stronger than ever. She did not let her traumatic experiences put her down, but instead used her experience for good and has continued to be an incredible advocate for women’s education all over the world.

40sclarerice

37. Clare Rice (MDR ’13)
Director of Care, Encounter Bible Fellowship
Executive Director, Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement
Ventura, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Earning my master of dispute resolution from the Straus Institute sharpened the gifts and skills in my heart while giving them academic credibility. I continue to look to my mentoring advisor for encouragement and advice and I welcome opportunities to mentor undergrad and graduate students as they travel their own journey.

What’s next?

In the next five years, I look forward to growing and learning from the teams I work with at VCDS and Encounter. In 10 years, I hope that I will be running my own nonprofit specializing in faith-based conflict resolution and teaching at the university level.

40sryansawtelle238. Ryan Sawtelle (’09)
Founder and Executive Director, White Heart Foundation
Los Angeles, California

Describe your success:

To me, success is not necessarily determined by financial self-worth. Rather, it is determined by self- fulfillment. I’m most fulfilled when helping others, and I have an opportunity to do that through my foundation. To date, we have been a part of helping heroes walk again, building specially adapted homes for amputees and purchasing life-enhancing rehabilitation and mobility equipment.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Had I had not been allowed to establish the Waves of Flags display on campus, the White Heart Foundation never would have been created. In addition, Pepperdine has a great nonprofit program led by Regan Schaffer. The partnerships and great nonprofit minds that she brings into the program are invaluable resources.

What’s next?

My hope is that five years from now White Heart will have changed the military charity landscape as we know it. The ability to give directly to a warrior without operating costs being deducted will bring a level of transparency to charity that will hopefully force the rest of the nonprofit market to follow suit.

40sbradtatum39. Brad Tatum (MBA ’12, MS ’13)
Mechanical/Fluids Department Manager, National Technical Systems
Santa Clarita, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine gave me a wonderful gift in my education and supported me through the Yellow Ribbon Program and the GI Bill. Without the University’s commitment to veterans, I would not be where I am today. As an Iraq War veteran, transitioning into the civilian world and returning to school was a challenging task, and I was afraid that I would not be welcome among my peers and the faculty, but within the Pepperdine community the exact opposite was true.

Who’s your inspiration?

My friend, Ademola Fabayo, a Marine officer who is currently in Iraq, and who has never met his 3-month-old daughter. Major Fabayo is a true war hero, having been awarded the Navy Cross in Afghanistan, but more importantly he is a humble man of morals and principles who demands the absolute best from everyone around him.

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

I play softball every Tuesday night on a team in my town. It’s such a great release from everything to get out on the field and compete with a group of guys who don’t take themselves too seriously but still want to win every week.

40samandawickramasinghe140. Amanda Wickramasinghe (EdD ’16)
Director and Vice President of Educational Programs, Einstein Group, LLC
Ladera Ranch, California

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine University has given me a strong foundation for leadership, academic excellence, purpose, and service. The faculty and my fellow peers have been so influential in my life and encouraged me to make a difference in the world. My dedication to academia will continue to grow, and it is my hope to enlighten my generation and future generations through education. The University has encouraged me to follow my heart and stay true to my values.

What’s next?

My husband and I want to own and operate a hospital one day. We want to emphasize patient care and provide the best treatment for the patients and the community. We want to continue to travel the world and learn from other cultures.

Favorite quote?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

–Nelson Mandela

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