For my wife Arlyne and me, of course, this summer will be absorbed with continuing to learn about Westmont history, protocols, and programs as well as getting better acquainted with our new colleagues. My own schedule calls for a return to the Atlantic coast on May 12 for my son’s graduation from American University and a final dozen days at Gordon finishing my service there. I will be back around Memorial Day to start settling in for keeps, and to prepare to host the meeting of the Chief Academic Officers of the Christian College Consortium in mid-June. We’ll be helped in that task by the president of the Consortium, Stan Gaede. Something tells me that he and Judy might have a few thoughts about what we can see and do with our colleagues from other schools when they are in Santa Barbara.
Presidential Planning Grants
Last fall President Beebe invited academic departments to apply for $5000 planning grants that would fund the initial stages of projects for which we hope to seek additional, larger-scale support from foundations and donors. The proposals submitted by the departments offer a wide array of ideas, including ways of enhancing student-faculty research, creating outreach programs connecting students to the local communities, and developing research centers. I will be working with department chairs and the Office of College Advancement this summer to lay the groundwork for future proposals that grow out of this planning process.
The First-Year Experience. On a couple occasions during the year, I will be holding special Provost’s Forums, largely for the co-curricular staff, in an effort to prompt some discussion about vital educational issues that cut across our departmental lines. The first forum will be held on May 30 from 10:30-12:00, and will concentrate on the “First Year Experience.” So much research on higher education now emphasizes the critical importance of the first year—frankly, the first couple months—in helping students make a successful transition to college. Throughout the coming year I intend to prompt a closer look at some of the most essential and thorny elements of our students’ first-year experience, both in and beyond the classroom. While designed for co-curricular staff, the forums will be open to everyone as long as we have room. More announcements about the forum will be forthcoming.
This month, I will be forming a Westmont Commission on Spiritual Formation. The primary objective of this short-term commission will be to tie together some of the multiple strands of discussion and programming related to spiritual formation. That includes the faculty focus on assessing “Christian understanding and practices,” the Student Life focus on “Christian understanding,” the launch of the Martin Institute, and several themes in the College’s strategic plan. The commission will be charged with three major tasks: 1) drafting some common language for spiritual formation that serves the broad reach of the college and could be used to unify some of our endeavors; 2) identifying the questions that we want to probe further to learn more about our students’ spiritual knowledge and values; and 3) identifying some places and programs where we might collaborate more fully in promoting spiritual formation. The purpose of the commission will not be to implement changes, but to develop some recommendations about new ways of working together to enhance our students’ spiritual development. A report for the faculty and staff will be ready by October 1 for further discussion.
Global Education Programs
A high percentage of Westmont students study overseas, and we are eager to explore new ways of developing the “Global” theme as a vital part of the Westmont experience. We’ve just completed our first Westmont in Istanbul semester, and preparations are underway for a Jerusalem semester next spring. As we look to the future, we need to consider several dimensions of our global programs—their cost structures, curricular design, future locations, and impact on enrollment and recruiting. I will be working with Bill Wright and others this summer to gather some key data about the programs and develop some initial recommendations for discussion by the community in the fall.