CarterBaldwin Executive Search Places Chief Marketing Officer for Pepperdine University

August 1, 2022 – CarterBaldwin Executive Search has helped to place Sean Burnett, formerly with the Gulf Coast division of HCA Healthcare, as senior vice president for integrated marketing communications and chief marketing officer at Pepperdine University. mr. Burnett will lead Pepperdine’s award-winning marketing and communications team to share the university’s brand story through signature events, publications, and emerging technologies.

“I look forward to Sean’s stewardship of the Pepperdine brand and story and am energized by the knowledge and experience he brings from his years of leadership in strategic communications, organizational development, and advancing invaluable opportunities in the fields of healthcare and higher education,” says university president Jim Gash.

mr. Burnett joins Pepperdine with more than 20 years of experience in brand management and strategic planning, serving most recently as vice president of marketing and corporate affairs for the Gulf Coast division of HCA Healthcare, a leading provider of healthcare services.

Prior to his role at HCA, Mr. Burnett served as vice president of sales, marketing, and training at healthcare services firm Covia Health. He has launched comprehensive marketing programs, designed communication initiatives, and impacted global brands such as OSI Restaurant Partners Inc. (Outback Steakhouse), Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut), IKEA, Igloo Products Corp., and SYSCO Foods, among others.

Strong Experience

In addition to his corporate roles, Mr. Burnett served as director, MBA programs at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, where his efforts helped elevate Rice’s national ranking from 49th to 22nd in two years. Additionally, the Jones School’s entrepreneurship and finance programs became ranked in the top 10 internationally for the first time in the school’s 35-year history.

mr. Burnett received his MBA from Rice University and his bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as president of the board for Cornerstone Christian Academy, a K–8 school in Sugar Land, TX.

Pepperdine University is founded on the Church of Christ tradition and upholds Christian values ​​with the belief that they complement and support the pursuit of knowledge. Situated on a 830-acre campus in Malibu, CA, Pepperdine regularly ranks among the top 20 most beautiful college campuses in the US. There are four additional campuses throughout Southern California and seven permanent campuses around the globe that provide a range of international internships and programs on six continents. With 82 degree programs, Pepperdine boasts top-ranked graduate and undergraduate programs in schools dedicated to business, education and psychology, law, liberal arts, and public policy. Its NCAA athletic program is composed of eight men’s and nine women’s Division I teams.

Trusted Recruiters

Headquartered in Atlanta, CarterBaldwin provides executive search services in the healthcare, technology, non-profit, consumer services, industrial, and media/telecom sectors. Its clients include name-brand institutions, such as KPMG, ADP, Teradata, First Data, Duke University, New York Life, Fleet Pride, and Berkshire Hathaway. The firm is listed among a variety of rankings published by Hunt Scanlon Media, including its Top 50, Private Equity Power 100, and Top 40 Higher Education Search Firms.

CarterBaldwin Executive Search also recently placed J. Goosby Smith as the inaugural vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer at Pepperdine. April Harris Akinloye joined Smith as assistant vice president for community belonging.


How Culture Impacts an Organization

In this brand new episode of ‘Talent Talks,’ Rob Adams is joined by Chris Guiney, a partner at CarterBaldwin Executive Search. Lord, mr. Guiney discusses the topic of culture and its impact on organizations. He also examines how the culture of private equity firms differs from non-profit organizations and then closes by discussing the future impact of culture and DE+I initiatives. Listen Now!


The selection of a vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer is one in a series of initiatives that the university has been implementing to build and model “a diverse, informed, loving, and unified community” at Pepperdine. What began as a national search to identify a chief diversity officer expanded into the creation of two roles.

Well Qualified

dr. Smith joins Pepperdine from The Citadel, where she served as associate professor of leadership, associate professor of management, assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and director of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center. She was previously an assistant professor of organizational behavior in Pepperdine’s Frank R. Seaver College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences from 2002 to 2006, and then as a tenured associate professor of organizational behavior from 2011 to 2015. She has also served as assessment coordinator for the Seaver Diversity Council and as an adjunct professor in Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School’s MBA program.

In her new role, Dr. Smith reports directly to president Gash, serves as a member of the university’s steering team, and is a principal leader on the University Diversity Council for which she previously served as inaugural faculty co-chair in 2005.

dr. Smith received her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Spelman College and her MBA and doctorate in organizational behavior from Case Western Reserve University. In May, she received her master of divinity degree from Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

Related: CarterBaldwin Places 16th President at Oklahoma Baptist University

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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