Sabbaticals

Several faculty have been awarded sabbaticals next year. Here are their projects: Scott Anderson will be working on illustration commissions and will lecture for five weeks at Gordon College's program in Orvieto, Italy. Phil Ficsor plans to learn and perform the premiere of Emma Lou Diemer's “Violin Concerto” as well as Steve Butler's "Three Pieces for Solo Violin."

Steve Rogers plans to continue his research on cognitive functioning with patients at a clinic in Oxnard. He will also be working on two papers based on data collected over the past five years from residents at local retirement centers, senior living communities, and day treatment centers, and a book chapter called, “Do Heaven and Hell Matter? How a Christian Perspective on Heaven and Hell Shapes our Psychology" for a a three- volume series entitled Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife: Eternity in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which will be published by Praeger Publishing.

Michael Sommermann will be developing computational physics modules for physics and engineering students. Bruce Fisk will continue his study of Arabic while working on some book projects and preparing for Jerusalem Semester 2013. Omedi Ocheing plans to travel to Kenya to interview philosophers as part of his research examining the accounts of the “good life” articulated by path-breaking works in African philosophy. Ray Rosentrater will be working on a real analysis textbook and a chapter for a linear algebra text.

Academic Grants

Kenon NealOver the past few weeks, the Provost’s Office has been working with Kenon Neal (photo), Alex Nizet, and Reed Sheard to refine some strategies for pursuing academic grants. Last year Kenon, who oversees academic grants for the Office of College Advancement, had one of the more successful years in recent Westmont history securing grants and foundation gifts for academic ventures. Our recent efforts are designed to find ways to help make even more matches between the dreams and objectives of faculty members and grant opportunities; we also want to streamline and focus our energies so we can be good stewards of our time and not duplicate efforts in the pursuit of funding. To that end, we have designed a new protocol that we will introduce to department chairs this summer as we launch the Presidential Planning Grants. But other faculty with special projects for which they might like to seek grant funding are welcome to contact Patti Hunter to discuss the possibilities and protocol.

Summer Scholars

Summer scholarsThe second year of the Westmont Summer Scholars—a program for high school students exploring college—is going strong, as enrollment has nearly tripled from the inaugural summer. Alister Chapman, Chris Hoeckley and Telford Work have offered classes while Joshua Canada has served as residence director. Natasha Dass, Emily McCardle and Daniel Gee are serving as RA’s and mentors. Even as this summer’s program wraps up, we would like to invite your participation for next year, when we intend to add a second three-week session. This summer’s offerings came from the humanities and social sciences; next year we would like to expand that to include classes in the natural and behavioral sciences. If a small, focused, intensive teaching experience over the summer sounds interesting to you, contact Chris Hoeckley to explore how your own course might further the aims of the program. Photo: Last year's Summer Scholars Will Breman and Katelyn Mena.

Faith/Learning Workshop

Tremper LongmanKristi Lazar, Michael Everest, Stephen Contakes, Sarah Skripsky, David Anderson, Carrie Stein, and Patti Hunter took part in the annual faith/learning Mayterm workshop on May 21-25. This year's session, taught by Tremper Longman, focused on hermeneutical issues in the Old Testament. In addition to the morning and afternoon sessions together, they had some great conversations over lunch each day. "This workshop was phenomenal," Michael Everest notes. "It was a great opportunity to get to know several of my colleagues better, particularly the one who was leading the seminar." Steve Contakes observes, "all too often Christian faculty do faith and learning at an amateur or popular level that no academic would tolerate when teaching their discipline. These experiences have made me extremely grateful for Westmont's faith-learning seminars. These seminars not only promoted a professional-level of engagement with contemporary Christian scholarship, they encouraged me to apply Christian philosophy and theology to the key epistemic and moral questions of my discipline."

Scholars' Retreat

treeThe annual summer Scholars' Retreat took place in mid-June at Oak Creek, just up the hill from San Luis Obispo and not far from Santa Margarita. Participants included Mark Nelson, Michael Sommerman, Jim Taylor, Randy VanderMey, Maurice Lee, Chandra Mallampalli, David Anderson, Wayne Iba, Bob Hamel and Scott Anderson. Organized by Deborah Dunn, the retreat was facilitated by Mark Nelson. It provided considerable time for the participants to focus on their own research and scholarship, but allowed occasions for enjoying one another’s company. According to Randy VanderMey, "the retreat was one of the highlights of my year and surpassed all my expectations." Michael Sommerman adds that the retreats “have been great opportunities to get to know each other a bit better, and to get some good work done as well . . . I also want to express my thanks to Maurice and Bob for leading our evening devotions, and to Mark for the morning readings from the Psalms."

War and Peace

crosses in sandNext February the Gaede Institute’s Conversation on the Liberal Arts will focus on "War and Peace as Liberal Arts," with political theorist Michael Walzer providing the keynote. Walzer will be joined by a number of outstanding speakers on the ethics of war and the theory and practice of peacemaking and conflict resolution. New this time will be concurrent sessions for faculty, administrators and students to present papers. The organizing theme is how a liberal arts education equips students to engage effectively and justly in issues of peace and conflict. Be on the lookout for the call for papers. If you have interest, by all means submit a proposal. But think as well how this might be an opportunity for some of our best students to get conference experience. Perhaps there are ways to frame research and writing assignments in the fall that could prepare some students, after a little of your advice and mentoring, to contribute a paper to the conference.

Hamlet

Hamlet scriptOnce again, Westmont will collaborate with UCSB to co-sponsor one of the events in its Arts and Lectures series. On November 8 and 9, we will be joining with the university to support Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s production of Hamlet. The production is directed by Dominic Dromgoole, who formerly ran the Oxford Stage Company, and Bill Buckhurst, an acclaimed British actor. With Westmont as a sponsor, our Theatre students will have special sessions with director and performers, and we have a generous array of tickets for the performance. Plans for our interaction with the Globe company are still in the preliminary phases, so if anyone has an interest in incorporating Hamlet—and access to the production and the players—into a fall course, suit the word to the action and let me know so that we can engage you in the planning.

Mary Collier

Mary CollierCongratulations to Mary Collier, who has been named by France as a Knight in the Order of Academic Palms. Nominations for the award are made by the French Minister of Education and are given for contributions to French national education and culture. The Consul General in Los Angeles will come to Santa Barbara in August to present the medal. Dinora Cardoso writes, "This is an honor for Mary, the department, and Westmont."

Reel Talk: “Epiphanies”

Westmont's Reel TalkWith the Hoeckleys in England next semester, my wife Arlyne and I have agreed to host the “Reel Talk” series in the fall. We will take a slightly new approach for this term. Rather than showing a full film each night, we will feature 4-5 faculty or staff sharing briefly about film clips that they found especially moving or significant for them. It’s an approach I have used before, and it can be quite powerful. Students and colleagues get a rich panorama of different films and aesthetics, and it is intriguing to hear faculty talk about why certain scenes inspire, provoke or challenge them. This is also a good opportunity for me to spend time with students and colleagues discussing art and ideas.Would you like to participate? Please let me know.

Martin Institute

Gary MoonGary Moon, the director of the Martin Institute and the Dallas Willard Center, led an advisory board meeting in Montana in early June, and will guide an E-team spiritual retreat in July. Seven faculty or staff members will be participating in the two-year spiritual formation program of the Renovare Institute, which Gary directs. The Institute is also working to develop an archive of Dallas Willard’s papers.

Final Thoughts: "Life Plan"

In "Struggling to Launch," a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeff Selingo acknowledges the rocky job prospects for new graduates in the current economy. Liberal arts colleges have been taking a hit in many editorials lately, but Selingo actually laments that the proliferation of vocational and applied programs at American colleges and universities has largely failed to equip this generation of college graduates for the job market. By contrast, he admits that “some of the most innovative ideas for helping recent graduates find work are coming from a sector that has long felt uncomfortable with the concept of preparing their students for jobs: liberal-arts colleges." The liberal arts colleges that have succeeded, he maintains, are those that link career planning more closely with “the academic functions of the institution." I would be interested in learning of any faculty who would like to explore some of these links—and the work of the most innovative liberal arts colleges—with us.

Recently, President Beebe challenged us to consider how we might help Westmont students develop a "Life Plan." In the coming year, we will be focusing especially on the first three years out of college—the time when students indeed are often "struggling to launch." Much of the evidence we often cite to affirm the value of the liberal arts focuses on the career trajectories of distinguished alums a decade or so after their graduation. But much recent scholarship on this generation of students also underscores that more and more college graduates are now “drifting” in their mid-20’s, as the so-called gap years between adolescence and adulthood increase.

With that challenge in mind, we do want to identify some very specific ways that we can assist students to make more coherent and compelling plans for their transitions from Westmont to graduate study or employment opportunities. One of the best ways of affirming the value of the liberal arts, I believe, is to help students perceive how the imagination, discernment and skills acquired during their college years do indeed prepare them to make a successful bridge into post-baccalaureate study and employment. Without succumbing to a narrow vocationalism, we can serve our students by being sure that they have the specific skills for that transition—from writing resumes to practicing interviews to researching opportunities to developing portfolios, etc. How can we cultivate these skills in ways that seem a part of the "academic functions of the institution," rather than a peripheral concern, sometimes sought only in the uncertainty of the final semester of a senior year?

Jane Higa, Dana Alexander, Celia Howen and I met recently for a preliminary discussion of what we might do to refine our strategies for helping students "launch," and we are able to draw upon the good work of the Experiential Education Task Force, co-chaired by Jennifer Taylor and Tom Knecht. Any faculty and staff with a special interest in pursuing these ideas further with us should let me know.

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