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Pepperdine | Graziadio Business School

Faculty Spotlight | Rob Bikel

Rob Bikel MBA

Graziadio Spotlight Stories

A Change of Pace

"Believe it or not, "Socially, Ethically, and Environmentally Responsible" (SEER) values are what motivated me to go back to school and earn my MBA. I had taken a break from my film career, which was no longer bringing meaning to my life, and had become increasingly concerned with the plight of the environment. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, I saw an opportunity for business to change course and make a positive difference on environmental and social issues. When I came to Pepperdine as a student and heard about the SEER Certificate—a program that allows MBA students to take part in courses and activities regarding responsible business practices—I knew I'd found the right place.

Like most students enrolled in the SEER program, I wanted to incorporate my personal values into my career. Millennials, in particular, have a desire to live a life of meaning—they understand that work takes up too much of our time for it to be devoid of a greater purpose."

Enhancing my MBA experience

"The SEER program isn't a concentration by design, but, for me, it became the unifying focus of my studies. I found myself obsessed with answering basic questions such as, "Are there ways of reframing strategy to create net positives for investors, customers, and stakeholders?" and "How do responsible companies measure success?" Understanding how to answer basic questions about social responsibility through a SEER lens further enriched my MBA experience.

As a student, I treated every class as part of a holistic learning experience, which is something I encourage all my students to do. It's easy to treat earning an MBA as a compartmentalized series of boxes to check. The challenge lies in finding the points of connection. Working with SEER values means becoming comfortable with uncertainty and seeking answers to thorny questions. Being responsive and adaptable to change is a critical quality for the next generation of leaders to have."

Taking the Reins

"I took over the SEER program in 2015, and in some ways, it was the most natural thing in the world for me, and in other ways, it was an unbelievably daunting and humbling process. I began teaching SEER classes within months of earning my MBA, and began teaching the SEER Capstone course with Michael Crooke the following year, as well as helping out with the SEER Symposium and other efforts along the way. In a sense, I've been involved with SEER since its very start. Running the program is a lean operation, but I've received tremendous support from the Pepperdine University administration, the Graziadio School staff, the Board of Visitors, and my colleagues. Everyone recognizes that SEER is an essential part of the Graziadio brand and mission."

A Different Standard

“The hallmark of SEER is that it's a way of thinking, not a preset formula. By combining entrepreneurship, mindfulness, and long-term thinking, the program prepares students for uncertain business environments in which no business model is safe from disruption. As such, SEER is incredibly adaptable to every possible career path. I see this in the very different leadership roles our SEER graduates take on. SEER alumni accept corporate citizenship and sustainability positions, many go into traditional leadership roles in large companies, and, of course, a great deal of our graduates are entrepreneurs. What ties them all together is the ability to manage stakeholders, and integrate values into strategic decision making. Our SEER alumni have the ability to look for both positive social and financial outcomes.”

Teaching SEER

“I've taught the Role of Business in Society for six years, and I love how drastically the conversation around social responsibility and sustainability has changed in that short period of time. My favorite class to teach, however, has to be the SEER Capstone, which is an advanced strategy class that uses unconventional thinking to solve unconventional problems. Students find themselves sprinting to integrate and operationalize all the content they've learned throughout the SEER program and their entire MBA career. In addition, students get to put those ideas to work on real problems faced by real companies.”

SEER Values in Today's Business World

“If I could emphasize one trait necessary for the SEER Strategy it's Big "C" – Creativity. It's an important quality for professionals to use in the business world. Creativity pushes us to break paradigms and truly create new modes of thought. As the business world increasingly focuses on adaptability and resilience I believe that creativity becomes one of the most valuable commodities our students can bring to the table.”

The SEER Model in Action

“The SEER Symposium is a celebration of the SEER model in action. We see leaders from across industries and the non-profit world innovating and putting their values to work while simultaneously solving social problems. I think the most compelling aspect of the SEER Symposium is its depth. In one day, participants will hear from leaders and innovators across multiple industries and areas of focus.

This year we’ve been very lucky to get Seth Goldman of Honest Tea and Walter Robb of Whole Foods to talk about innovating into one of the world’s greatest problems—our food system. We’ll also hear about sustainable fashion, renewable energy, and economic opportunities for convicts.

What makes the SEER Symposium attractive is the range of speakers and range of attendees. By exposing such a wide audience of speakers and attendees to diverse ideas, we create opportunity for connections. Last year, one of our speakers established a partnership with an organization headed by a SEER Symposium attendee. Investors get to see our fast-pitch competitors road-test their startup ideas and network with other social entrepreneurs. It’s a day not to be missed!”

About Rob Bikel

Since 2011 as an adjunct professor, Mr. Robert Bikel has taught several courses in the SEER program as well as Strategic CSR Executive Certificate classes. He is also an independent strategy consultant specializing in sustainability-oriented businesses. His work has focused on strategic guidance and market intelligence for responsible companies in B-Corp/Benefit Corporations, cleantech, online media, e-commerce and food industries.

Most recently he has worked closely with SEER founder Michael Crooke (ex-Patagonia CEO) consulting on leadership and strategy for high growth companies, including Fox International Channels and HBO Latin America. A former investment banker with Smith Barney, Mr. Bikel also has 12+ years of experience in entertainment as a development executive and producer. A Harvard graduate, he has a SEER-certified MBA from Pepperdine and has GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) certification.