No Super Bowl tickets? Not going to the Academy Awards? No problem. There are plenty of wonderful events ahead at Westmont. After all, why sit outdoors in a cold New Jersey stadium when you can enjoy the theatre on a warm "winter" night in Montecito? (Sophocles' Electra opens outdoors on January 31.) Join the Gaede Institute's annual conversation and ponder whether the center of gravity is truly shifting in American higher education—or whether MOOCs are mostly hustle. Below I highlight just a few of the many noteworthy events in the days ahead.

As Bill Wright just reported, the spring semester began with bright news: our fall- to-spring retention this January was 98%, the second-highest in the last 25 years. Hope your semester has started well too.

Mark Sargent

Updates

Carly Richardson

CHAMPIONS OF CHARACTER

The fall athletic season ended on several high notes, with three teams—volleyball, women’s cross country, and women’s soccer—qualifying for the NAIA national playoffs. Every year, as the playoffs begin, the NAIA salutes an athlete from each qualifying team as the recipient of the Champion of Character Award. For this year’s honors, Westmont’s coaches selected Amber Collier (cross country), Carly Richardson (soccer, photo), and Marie Trudelle (volleyball). The awards recognize leadership, service, integrity, academic achievement, and respect for others. In addition to these individual awards, Coach Kristi Kiely’s soccer club was selected as the Champions of Character team for the whole nation—a distinguished honor for a group of athletes who progressed all the way to the national championship match. According to Coach Kiely, sophomore Carly Richardson is “everything we hope our student-athletes to be.” An excellent student (3.86 GPA), Carly is . . . [continue reading]

Judy Alexandre

JUDY ALEXANDRE: AN APPRECIATION

“I’m a social worker not a sociologist,” acknowledges Judy Alexandre, who has long sought to blend her clinical and educational vocations. A licensed social worker and board-certified diplomat, Alexandre has taught the human services sociology track at Westmont, starting in 1994. That career is coming to an end after this spring as Judy will be retiring following many years of service to Westmont.

“Judy exemplifies what it means to go above and beyond the call of duty,” observes Felicia Song, the chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department. “I am so grateful for her faithfulness to the department and our students through her years of service. I can only hope that one day, my students will describe my classes in the same way that they describe Judy’s: the most demanding and the most inspiring." [continue reading]

Dana AlexanderCelia Howen

LAUNCH PROGRAM

For the last few years it has been a tough economy for many graduates, and there is no shortage of editorialists and critics who question the value of liberal arts skills in the current market. Actually, there is more evidence than ever that liberal arts skills are needed, though the nation's best liberal arts colleges also realize that they may need to do more to help their students make the transition from Westmont to various employment and graduate study opportunities. We have intensified our own efforts to help students "launch." Perhaps the most popular new program is the “Career Café” held in the library on the first Monday evening of every month. Another new development has been the “Pathways for Majors” program, led by Dana Alexander and Celia Howen from the Office of Life Planning as well as faculty and alums from specific departments. For a more specific summary of Launch endeavors, click here.

Meredith Whitnah

MEREDITH WHITNAH TO JOIN SOCIOLOGY FACULTY

Meredith Whitnah, who is completing her doctorate at the University of Notre Dame, has accepted an offer to join the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her current research for her dissertation focuses on gender within the faith-based NGOs in South Africa that resisted apartheid. Meredith has also served with the Mellon Working Group for “Religion Across the Disciplines,” working alongside Christian Smith. She has taught a variety of courses, including sociological theory, the sociology of religion, and a survey of the Old Testament. She will begin her work at Westmont in January, 2015.

Westmont Fountain

FOUR UPCOMING EVENTS

Gaede Institute Conversation on "MOOCing the Liberal Arts?": A recent report from the "eLearning Caucus" of the U.S. Congress described the aggressive efforts to "educate lawmakers" on the progress of online learning and to undercut the long-held Carnegie unit (or seat time in class) as the prime measuring stick for academic credit. The Sloan Consortium now reports that over 30% of American collegians complete at least one course online, a three-fold increase in the last decade. According to Sloan, more than two out of three academic officers see online learning as essential to the future of their institutions, even though large numbers of those academics admit that they perceive online learning as inferior. In the midst of all of the debate, the Gaede Institute is devoting its annual conversation (February 13-15) to exploring the relationship between technology and learning in the liberal arts. Speakers will range from George Siemens, founder of the Society of Learning Analytics and an architect of some MOOCs, to Alexander Astin, the assessment specialist who questions the new emphasis on technology. And we will hear student perspectives on the digital revolution.

Westmont Forum: The Provost's Office and the Student Life Office, with assistance from the Westmont College Student Association, have developed a new forum to foster conversation about some controversial issues. At a time when much of public discussion is notable for polarization and acrimony, the "Westmont Forum" will seek to create hospitable space and contexts for civil discussion among those who disagree about key issues. Over the past few months, a group of students and faculty have helped develop some protocols that are designed to enable us to address the controversial themes in timely, respectful, and informative ways. Recently, we polled students to identify some of the contested issues that most intrigued them, and we have chosen the top two—healthcare and women's roles in the church—for discussion this spring. The heathcare discussion will take place on February 19, at 7:30, in Founders.

Spring Focus Week. Sponsored by the Office of Campus Life, the Focus Week (February 3-7) explores the theme "Beyond Colorblind." Against the notion that we all live in a cultural melting pot that reduces differences, the Focus Week will emphasize that we all have distinct stories to tell of finding our ways in a multi-ethnic world. Chapel speakers, films, panels and times of prayer are being sponsored by numerous student and college groups. Click here for a glimpse at the full schedule.

Westmont Downtown: This year's speaker for the President's Breakfast is Muhammad Yunus. the Bangladeshi scholar who won the Nobel Prize for his work in promoting microfinance in poor regions of the world. In anticipation of the event, Rick Ifland will offer the Westmont Downtown lecture on "The Future of Microfinance and the Role of Muhammad Yunus." The lecture takes place in Santa Barbara at the University Club at 5:30 on February 13.