First Generation Spotlight: Nathalie Adourian (JD ’10)

July 15, 2019 | Pepperdine Law graduate Nathalie Adourian is not only the first lawyer in her family, but she is the very first person to ever receive any form of higher education in both her immediate and extended families. A proud first-generation alumna, Nathalie has advanced her career as a high-ranking official for the City of Orange. She shared her personal history of the places and people that made her the compassionate, driven, and service-minded person she is today.

Nathalie was born in France after her parents fled the civil war in Lebanon in the 1980s. When she was nine, her family left France for the West Indies where her father secured lucrative work as a wholesale retailer. His commercial success, however, marked Nathalie and her younger brother as kidnapping targets, so her parents made the difficult decision to send their children away to live with their grandparents in California. Nathalie adapted to a new life in Orange County, learning English, applying for her green card, and discovering a world that existed beyond high school.

Nathalie pictured with her brother

When Nathalie was in the tenth grade, she began researching schools and FAFSA applications–all things that were self-learned as there was no family member who could guide her through the entirely foreign experience of higher education. “I am the first of all my family, not just immediate, to get a bachelor’s degree,” Nathalie says. It was her AP European History teacher, Mr. Armstrong, who really started the gears turning in Nathalie’s head. He had students research universities, write down their goals, and put educational dreams into motion. Under Mr. Armstrong’s guidance, Nathalie wrote a letter to her future self about her college dreams – dreams that, at the time, did not include studying to become a lawyer. 

Nathalie and her grandfather pictured in France

Nathalie received this letter sometime between 2007 and 2010 when she was a juris doctor candidate at Pepperdine Law. Nathalie turned down a full scholarship in order to attend Pepperdine, the institution she instinctively knew was the better fit. “Have you ever been to the Malibu campus?” she laughs. 

Nathalie at her high school graduation

“Pepperdine was the best school I was accepted to,” she explains. “There is something special about the Pepperdine community. The people genuinely care.”

Graduation is momentous, and for the Adourian family, it was a moment that filled them with particular pride. When it came to the hooding ceremony, Nathalie faced the difficult decision of choosing between fiance, father, or grandfather. Ultimately, Nathalie asked her grandfather to place her hood at graduation, demonstrating the importance of his presence in her life leading up to that moment. 

“Having my family there…,” Natalie trails off. “It was incredible.”

Speaking of her Pepperdine Law experience, Nathalie shares, “I became the person I am today because of Pepperdine – how to be an attorney who has a sense of empathy and compassion in this world – we all gravitated naturally towards this attitude.”

Nathalie and Dean Starr

Today Nathalie is the Risk Manager and Assistant City Attorney for the City of Orange, CA.

She describes her career as that of a public servant. She manages risk, ensures financial and legal protections for policemen and firefighters, handles various liability claims, and oversees the payouts of benefits. Nathalie also serves as an advisor on personnel matters from lawsuits and insurance coverage to the police officer bill of rights. Reflecting on her career, Nathalie says, “I love it. I’m home. The puzzle piece finally fits.”

Nathalie and her family (2019)