Pepperdine will open a Staples Center classroom in partnership with AEG

In a partnership with AEG, Pepperdine University will have a classroom inside Staples Center for students studying sports, entertainment and business.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Pepperdine University is expanding its presence in downtown Los Angeles under a new partnership with AEG that will create classroom space in Staples Center for students pursuing careers in sports and entertainment business.

The agreement, announced this month, will tap into AEG’s network of sports franchises — which includes the L.A. Kings — and develop classes co-taught by faculty and top-level executives. Course offerings could begin as early as fall 2017.

Internship programs, industry conferences and other educational events also will be created together. And Pepperdine will establish MBA opportunities for AEG employees interested in furthering their education.

“AEG will help Pepperdine build out a strategic, educational stronghold in the heart of Los Angeles’ preeminent downtown entertainment district, L.A. Live, while AEG will get a hand in sourcing, growing and supporting the next generation of sports and entertainment business professionals,” said Jon Werbeck, vice president of AEG Global Partnerships. “Working together, we are excited to develop this one-of-a-kind platform.”

The university, home to about 7,600 undergraduate and graduate students, is affiliated with the Churches of Christ and known for its scenic campus in Malibu. Its first campus was established in 1937 just south of downtown Los Angeles, at West 79th Street and South Vermont Avenue. Pepperdine relocated to Malibu in the 1970s.


Over the years, it has established classroom and office spaces around Southern California in areas like West L.A., Calabasas and Irvine. The school also has partnered with numerous nonprofits in the region, such as the Union Rescue Mission on skid row.

With the space in Staples Center, the university is developing certificate, master’s and MBA programs that focus on the business of sports and entertainment, Provost Rick Marrs said. Guest lectures, as well as a “business of hockey” educational series with the L.A. Kings, are also in the works.

Pepperdine’s partnership with AEG builds off a growing interest from students. Sports administration is now one of the school’s most popular undergraduate majors, officials said, and the university in recent years has developed a master’s program in sports entertainment law, as well as opened its Institute for Entertainment, Media and Culture, which folds in students and faculty from multiple fields of study.

“We have a lot of different moving parts that we can play into this new opportunity,” said Marrs, who noted that much of what Pepperdine is looking to do with AEG is uncharted in higher education.

Course and program details still are being developed, but Marrs said he envisions something similar to what the university is doing in Washington, D.C., where undergraduates can take on internships for a semester and enroll in classes that are anchored by a professor but taught, for example, by the lead budget director for the U.S. Senate.

Classes on topics such as sports marketing, organizational development and corporate human resources will become more relevant when they’re led by business professionals and taught in the environment in which they work, Marrs said.

AEG executives, who approached Pepperdine with the idea, said the university’s community service record and “collaborative values” aligned with what the company had in mind for its education partner.

“Pepperdine understood the vision and the mutual benefits to really build something special and unique that nobody has ever done in this capacity,” Werbeck said. “Cultivating educational opportunities is one of the ways we like to give back to the fans and neighborhoods that support us.”

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