Pepperdine Graziadio Hosts Annual George Awards to Honor Exemplary Students, Alumni, and Faculty

LOS ANGELES--()--Pepperdine Graziadio Business School will announce the winners today of the 10th Annual George Awards, which recognizes outstanding members from the Graziadio community.

“Eco Amazons: 20 Women Who are Transforming the World”

The George Awards—named after the Graziadio Business School benefactor and Imperial Bancorp founder George L. Graziadio Jr.—recognizes students, alumni and faculty who exemplify integrity, stewardship, courage and compassion while enriching the business world through their superior skills and entrepreneurial spirit.

“This year’s awardees not only make us proud, but they showcase the kind of Best for the World Leaders that we strive to shape at Pepperdine Graziadio,” says Deryck J. van Rensburg, dean, Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. “Those who are recognized have made significant contributions to their community and society-at-large. Through these awards, the legacy and namesake of our school, George L. Graziadio Jr., continues to lives on.”

This year’s student recipients are Monica Doster (MBA); Hannah Jones (MSOD “Upsilon Prime” cohort); Ryan Leahy (MSML); Carlos Lopez (MSRE); Arash Malekahmadi (MBA); Cory McKnight (EMBA); and Shaina Poulard (MBA). Student award recipients must have maintained a minimum 3.5 GPA, completed at least two trimesters and be outstanding leaders in the classroom.

Alumni Beth Waitkus (MSOD ‘04) and James Balla (BS ‘84, EMBA ‘94) will both receive Waves of Service awards. Waitkus is founder and executive director of the Insight Garden Program at San Quentin Prison, which transforms prisoners’ lives through a connection to nature. Waitkus has won accolades for her prison work and is featured in the book, “Eco Amazons: 20 Women Who are Transforming the World,” by Dorka Keehn. She is also a recipient of the Hotchkiss School’s Community Service Award, was featured on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, and recently received the (California) Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA). Balla is CEO and President of Pacific Clinics Mental Health and an advocate for improvements to healthcare to benefit people with mental illness. Balla merged a $15 million nonprofit mental health organization with a $60 million nonprofit mental health entity to create the current Pacific Clinics, which has grown to a $100 million nonprofit organization that annually serves the mental health needs of more than 30,000 adults, teens and children of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in communities throughout LA. Pacific Clinics also employs more than 1,500 people and has become the largest non-profit mental health entity in Southern California.

Britta Wilson (EMBA ‘92), VP of Inclusion Strategies at Pixar Animation Studios, will also receive the Alumni award. As vice president of inclusion strategies at Pixar, Wilson focuses on creating a culture of inclusion, predicated on respect, valuing differences and learning, which in turn results in increased psychological safety and belonging. Wilson also served on the Graziadio Board from 2011 to 2017 and was honored with the Graziadio Distinguished Alumni Award at the Pepperdine Graziadio January 2013 commencement ceremony.

John Mooney, PhD, executive director of the Institute of Media, Entertainment, and Culture and Associate Professor of Information Systems Technology Management, will be honored with the Outstanding Faculty Member Award. Dr. Mooney has been with the Graziadio School for 15 years, and during his time at the school he has been actively involved in building industry relationships for the university. He has successfully connected Pepperdine University with industry leaders through the Institute of Media, Entertainment, and Culture and the Hollywood IT Symposium. Dr. Mooney is also a member of the editorial boards of MIS Quarterly Executive, the Journal of Strategic Information Systems, the eService Journal and the Journal of Global Responsibility.

George Award recipients will be honored during a noon luncheon ceremony at Casa del Mar in Santa Monica. Learn more at:

About Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School

Anchored in the core values of integrity and innovation, the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School challenges individuals to think boldly and drive meaningful change that positively impacts their organizations and communities. With an entrepreneurial spirit, the Graziadio School advances experiential learning in small classes that deepen connections and stimulate critical thinking. Through our wide continuum of MBA, MS and Executive degree programs offered across seven California campuses, Graziadio faculty inspire full time students and working professionals to realize their greatest potential as values-centered, Best for the World Leaders. Follow Pepperdine Graziadio on Facebook, Twitter at @GraziadioSchool, Instagram and LinkedIn.


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Lisa Perry
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Pepperdine Graziadio Business School announces recipients of the 10th Annual George Awards.

Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School