Facebook pixel Jessica Hooten-Wilson Receives Grant to Expand Pepperdine University’s Great Books Program | Newsroom | Seaver College Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Seaver College

Jessica Hooten-Wilson Receives Grant to Expand Pepperdine University’s Great Books Program

Jessica Hooten-Wilson

Jessica Hooten-Wilson, the Fletcher Jones Chair of Great Books at Seaver College, recently received a $40,000 grant from the Apgar Foundation to help share the benefits of a Great Books education with the broader Seaver College community. 

A student studies her book

“The Great Books curriculum combines character development with academic rigor,” says Hooten-Wilson. “It allows us to educate the whole person—both the heart and the mind. I believe that great books can show students who they are and fulfill the core tenets of a Christian education.”

Pepperdine University’s Great Books curriculum introduces students to some of the best writers and literary texts throughout history with a four-course cycle. Students are challenged to contemplate their own unique perspective on important questions raised by seminal works in the fields of philosophy, politics, psychology, science, and religion.

This reading- and writing-intensive approach has been a cornerstone of Pepperdine’s liberal arts education since 1986, but now, in 2024, Hooten-Wilson has taken the first of several steps toward expanding the reach of the Great Books curriculum. With the funding just acquired, she hopes to develop a broad range of resources for high school students, Seaver College students, faculty, and alumni.

“My vision for the Great Books Program goes beyond the four years that students are at Pepperdine,” says Hooten-Wilson. “Great books are for everyone, and I want this grant to be able to showcase how they can be used throughout one’s life. I want our program to reach all the different age groups, all the different demographics that have a part to play in a person’s holistic education.”

To accomplish these goals Hooten-Wilson is rolling out a number of new great books opportunities:

  • Next summer, middle school- and high school-aged students can sign up for a two-week-long camp centered around reading, which will be hosted on Pepperdine’s Malibu campus.
  • During the academic year, Hooten-Wilson and the Great Books Program will collaborate with the W. David Baird Distinguished Lecture series to advance the themes of the great books curriculum through various campus events.
  • Faculty members can enjoy expanded dialogue dinners, a literary discussion group, to further their connection with the great books tradition.
  • Alumni will also have the chance to participate in this new initiative, as a great books book club for alumni is in development. 

A Great Books course lecture

These numerous innovations all feed into Hooten-Wilson’s goal of expanding the reach of the Great Books Program. In growing awareness and appreciation for this field of study, she hopes to help others develop a love of reading, and a sense of their shared humanity.

“There has been an increase in anxiety, loneliness, isolation, fragmentation, and polarization in our culture, and at the same time, the popularity of reading has decreased,” says Hooten-Wilson. “We can help people navigate these obstacles by showing them the stories that they belong to, by filling up their hearts with this treasure trove of great works in which people can really find and see themselves.” 

Hooten-Wilson considers this grant award to be the inciting incident in her quest to grow Pepperdine University’s Great Books program. In the coming years, more steps will be taken to advance and refine the new opportunities she is creating; however, the recent forward progress speaks to the importance of this literary-based education.

“The Great Books curriculum reveals that we're becoming the kind of people who creatively and critically think about good things,” says Hooten-Wilson. “It says we're becoming the kind of people who love civil discourse, who love to debate good ideas, who love to ask enduring questions.  The Great Books curriculum says we're the kind of people who love things that matter and that last.”

Visit the Great Books Program webpage to learn more about Seaver College’s academic opportunities.