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Pepperdine | Graziadio Business School

Alumni Spotlight | Beth Waitkus

MS in Organization Development (MSOD) '04

Beth Waitkus

Why did you choose Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School?

I chose Pepperdine University because I was looking for a highly respected Organization Development (MSOD) program. Pepperdine’s MSOD program is one of the top transformative programs in the country. It incorporates online learning with face-to-face intensives and has an international reputation.

How would you define the “Pepperdine difference”?

The MSOD program teaches students the multiple sides of organizational development, and in particular the human side of business from a systems perspective—not just the business element. There is an emphasis on team building—working with a variety of people and collaborating with others is essential. It also focuses on personal transformation, so we can be the best we can be with our clients.

How did getting your MSOD from Pepperdine help to advance you in your career?

Pepperdine’s MSOD program helped me become a good facilitator and allowed me to create a transformative program for people in prison. Understanding how to enter and navigate large systems in my MSOD program helped me navigate a complex, very hierarchical prison system in order to launch and sustain Insight Garden Program. The Garden Program is now in three California prisons, and starting in two more this Spring, including California State Prison – Los Angeles County (Lancaster).

Where do you see the Insight Garden Program headed in the next 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope Insight Garden Program is in hundreds of prisons across the country — and has transformed thousands of lives inside and outside prison walls, ended ongoing cycles of incarceration, and created safer communities. IGP graduates become productive and successful members of society as well as community leaders. The program has the potential to save hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars through reduced recidivism. Through this work, people deeply understand their interconnectedness to each other and the natural world, and that understanding leads to a more humane society, where honoring human dignity and care for the earth is deeply valued.

What is one lesson learned at GSBM that you have been able to apply to your career or personal life?

I learned the art and science of managing strategic change. As a result, my values and mindset changed. I am not the same person I was 12 years ago when I began Pepperdine’s MSOD program. I view the world from a broader perspective, think through a systems lens and know I have the power to shape my future.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering seeking an MSOD? How do you think an MSOD differs from an MBA?

The two programs are a world apart. An MSOD deals with the integration of people, place and systems focusing more on the human element of organizational life. I recommend an MSOD program for anyone interested in effectively working in small to large systems, managing human dynamics, and developing and maintaining authenticity and core values despite external pressures.

How would you describe your ROI on your MSOD?

My MSOD experience changed my life. I think differently and act differently. The thesis process for me was so rigorous that it literally rewired the way my brain worked. Ultimately, the program impacted every aspect of my life and led me to where I am today – the Executive Director of a hugely successful prisoner rehabilitative program that is in the process of state and national expansion.

The experience was priceless. My lifelong passion for reconnecting people to the natural world is a dream turned into reality. I couldn’t have managed working in prison systems without that perspective.

About Beth

In 2002, Beth Waitkus founded the Insight Garden Program, a rehabilitation program designed to transform prisoners’ through connection to nature. Beth's work is featured in the book Eco Amazons: 20 Women who are Transforming the World by Dorka Keehn. She is the recipient of the Hotchkiss School’s 2013 Community Service Award and has been featured on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, as well as the Washington Post and Huffington Post. She sits on the American Correctional Association’s Clean and Green Committee, and is a board member of Bay Area Green Tours. As a former communications and organizational consultant, Beth has integrated years of experience developing, managing, and implementing social marketing and strategic communications campaigns. She holds a M.S. in Organization Development from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School.