The month of May is framed by Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day, two holidays with roots in the 1860s. The Mexican anniversary recalls a victory at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, though Cinco de Mayo did not really gain broad recognition until the 1940s, when the "Chicano Movement" for civil rights began to popularize the celebration of Mexican heritage. Both Union and Confederate states set aside days to decorate the graves of soldiers near the end of the American Civil War, yet it would take over half a century—and a "Great War" in Europe—before all states agreed to observe Memorial Day on the same date.
I was more conscious of both holidays this year after spending a few days in May with the Westmont colleagues who traveled to the border of Arizona and Mexico. This "immersion experience" explored many strands of the dilemma over immigration, a struggle with its own legacy of conflict, sorrow, and memory. Organized by Cynthia Toms, the Westmont cohort included Brad Berky, Dinora Cardoso, Jason Cha, Mary Docter, Rachel Fabian, Chris Hoeckley, Cheri Larsen Hoeckley, Liz Robertson, Rachel Urbano, and Rachel Winslow. What we saw there was unsettling—poignant, enigmatic—but also full of reminders of courage and compassion. My final entry in this report shares briefly about the experience.
Earlier this month, even as we were handing out diplomas, we honored several of our faculty and staff for distinguished work at the college. I have echoed here many of the words used to celebrate them at those occasions. As Mayterm slips into June, I trust that your summer projects will be productive. I will be acknowledging some of them, most likely, when the Provost's Report returns in the fall.
NEW PHYSICS COLLEAGUE: JONATHAN MITCHELL
I am delighted to announce that Jonathan Mitchell has chosen to join the faculty of Westmont College in our Physics Department. Currently a tenured faculty member of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA, Jonathan is a Westmont alum who completed his master's degree and his doctorate in Astromony and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. He has been an Einstein Fellow and a W.M. Keck Foundation Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. His primary research interest is understanding planetary phenomena, including surface-atmosphere interactions on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. He is also interested in superrotating atmospheres, tidal interactions of synchronous satellites, and Earth’s paleoclimate. Jonathan has been the recipient of grants from NASA and has served on a NASA review panel.
PROMOTIONS TO FULL PROFESSOR
Five faculty members have been granted promotions to full professor by the Board of Trustees. All of the actions follow the positive review of the candidates by the Faculty Personnel Committee.
At the start of the fall term Scott Anderson will become Professor of Art; Alister Chapman will be Professor of History; Eileen McMahon McQuade will be Professor of Biology; Helen Rhee will be Professor of Religious Studies; and Mitchell Thomas will be Professor of Theater Arts. Congratulations to all five on these milestones in their careers.
ADJUNCT TEACHING AWARDS
Westmont is fortunate to have a number of high-caliber professionals who have been faithfully teaching as adjuncts for many years. At the annual Employee Brunch we recognized four of them with the Adjunct Teaching Awards. Here are excerpts from the presentations:
LIBRARY NEWS: INTERIM DIRECTOR AND PRESERVATION GRANT
I am grateful that Mary Logue, currently the Associate Director of the Voskuyl Library, will serve next year as the Interim Director. Mary has graciously agreed to shoulder this task during the coming year when we will be continuing our search for a permanent director. A graduate of Westmont, Mary completed her master's degree in Library and Information Science from San José State University. As the Associate Director, she often filled in when the Director was gone for substantial spans of time, and she has been the liaison for the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics and Computer Science, Kinesiology, and Physics.
The Westmont College Special Collections and College Archives has been awarded a California Preservation Assessment Award this spring by the Western States and Territories Preservation Assistance Service. The grant, written by Jana Mayfield Mullen, will fund an evaluation of preservation needs for the books, papers, newspapers, photographs, maps, audiovisual materials, textiles, and musical scores housed in the Voskuyl Library. The site visit will be conducted June 6-7 by Susan Allen, director of the California Rare Book School at UCLA.
MATHEMATICS NEWS: ONE-YEAR APPOINTMENT AND RESEARCH
I am pleased that Austin Scirratt will serve in a one-year position in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. Austin, who will complete his Ph.D. at Louisiana State University this summer, has won several teaching awards from his department and the university. He holds a master's degree from LSU and a bachelor's degree from Baylor. He will be teaching statistics and calculus while the department continues its search for a tenure-track faculty member to fill the position opened by Jonathan Leech's retirement in 2015.
One group of our summer research students, working with David Hunter, has its work partially funded by a Tensor Women in Mathematics Grant from the Mathematical Association of America. Abigail DeYoung, Emma Donelson, McKalie Drown, and Bethany Le are developing new statistical techniques to analyze data on orientations in three-space and on income inequality. These investigations, which employ calculus, linear algebra, topology, and programming, reinterpret applied studies in biomechanics and sociology. Russ Howell and David Kyle are attempting to generalize a formula that counts the number of solutions to an equation that lie inside the unit disk.
SUMMER RESEARCH STUDENTS
In addition to all the Mathematics students involved with research that I mentioned above, there are several other Westmont students undertaking scholarly inquiries on campus this summer, in most cases partnering with faculty. Eight Chemistry students, including Patrick Burree and Karli Holman, are being supported by the recently funded Stauffer Endowment. Holly Bowler is collaborating with a botanist at Santa Barbara City College to analyze the toxicity of plants grown and cooked according to traditional Native American methods. Ryan Korlewitz is using a laser to measure the interaction of an intriguing molecule with various glass surfaces. Nick Choi is studying photoactive nanoparticles for water purification applications. Matt Lariviere is preparing redox-active organometallic networks in order to figure out why some support mixed-valent redox states and others do not. Nicole Marsh's work synthesizing some proteins may contribute to the understanding of Lou Gherig's disease. Han Chung and Chris Riba are learning to make a rough surface as reflective as a mirror by first freezing molecules on the surface and then moving them around.
The two students in Steve Julio's lab, Rachel Maragliano and Coleman Schaefer, are investigating the role of a genetic control system in the whooping cough bacteria, Bordetella. Anna Vandebunte's research with Steve Rogers involves neuropsychological assessment of patients with disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Tim Van Haitsma's students Danielle Costa, Sarah McGough, and Tyler Salinas are exploring whether mental strength and mindfulness have an effect on physical fatigue. Conner Gibbs is examining the experience of biculturalism, particularly how different types of biculturals respond to relevant cultural cues in our increasingly globalized world. Kenny Chism and Nicole Kabey are studying reptiles and wolves with Amanda Sparkman. Look for the outcome of their efforts in September's Celebration of Summer Research.
SHAKESPEARE ON SCREEN: THE "COMPLETE WALK" AT WESTMONT
Thanks to John Blondell, Westmont has secured the remarkable privilege of hosting the showing of several short films prepared by the artistic team of Shakespeare's Globe in England. A reproduction of the open-air seventeenth-century playhouse in London (photo), the Globe is the site of numerous Renaissance plays. As expected, the theater produces a wide range of Shakespeare's canon. This year, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death, Shakespeare's Globe set out to create a ten-minute film of excerpts from each of the 37 plays traditionally attributed to Shakespeare. Each short film was shot on the actual site associated with the play: Hamlet in Denmark, Macbeth in Scotland, The Merchant in Venice, and so on. Last April, the films were shown on 37 screens built along the banks of the Thames, an event called "The Complete Walk."
Now, due to John's long friendship with the artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe, Westmont is the American college with permission to show them again next fall. John has coordinated several events for November, when the fall production will be As You Like It and his Lit Moon Company will produce Julius Caesar. We are also exploring ways that the films might be shown in various settings—including some outdoor ones—downtown as a gift to the community. But we are also quite interested in ways that the films might be used in various venues on campus: classes, social events, forums, services, etc. Anyone with a creative idea—or a desire to be a part of the "walk"—should contact John this summer so we can plan accordingly.
Soon after 9:00 p.m., about twelve hours after we entered Mexico, we walked into the immigration checkpoint that separates Nogales in Arizona from Nogales in Sonora. One passport scanner did not work, but at that hour the foot traffic was light and the line thin. The passage to the United States took five minutes. Less than two hours later, via Interstate 19, we could be in Tucson.
For those without documents, the journey to Tucson usually requires 7-10 days. It often starts in the hills to the east and west, well beyond the last edge of the 4-mile fence that divides the American Nogales from the Mexican one. The pavement ends out there as well, making the terrain more difficult to patrol. Poor migrants, eager for work in the United States, will find guides in the arroyos and canyons, some of them thieves or members of drug cartels. It is not uncommon for migrants to be robbed or stranded by the coyotes, the human smugglers who often take them into the desert and leave them without food or water. Even for those migrants who are not betrayed by their escorts, the long trek of la caminata (the border crossing, literally "the walk") through the Sonoran desert presents a continual hazard of dehydration, snake and animal bites, blisters, and wounds from brush, rocks, and barbed wire. In the winter, the ground is occasionally frozen, the thorns and cacti masked by snow.
So many who are apprehended once they have crossed into the United States immediately need medical attention. (There were about 120,000 caught in the region south of Tucson during 2012, down from over half a million in 2000.) Many surrender themselves to get care. I was not present for the hikes that our colleagues took into this desert, when they found crosses marking sites where migrants succumbed. Those walks were coordinated by the Tucson Samaritans, a mission of Southside Presbyterian Church. With the consent of border officials, the Samaritans bring water, food, and emergency supplies into the desert. At times they encounter human remains. In the last dozen years, the bodies of more than 1000 migrants have been recovered in the Arizona wilderness. Some of our faculty spoke of the fierce paradox of the scene: the beauty of the open fields and red-rock strata matched with the legacy of fear and fatality.
Four days—and, for me, only 48 hours—in an “immersion experience” is not long enough, of course, to refine the policy solutions to a moral crisis and to a political dispute that seems to grow more intractable. But those hours do give the dilemma human faces and leave searing impressions about the need for a “just mercy.”
Many of the faces we met were exhausted. We spoke with a handful of recent deportees, relying on Dinora Cardoso, Mary Docter, and our guide Scott as translators. Some of these people were waiting at Grupo Beta, a Mexican government organization that aids recent deportees, who are easy targets for miscreants or the mafia. Others had found a few days of respite at San Juan Bosco, a Christian shelter. We conversed with a thirty-year-old man who had left his children with his mother in Mexico, never admitting to them his intent to cross until after his capture. Another 23-year-old deportee had a child on the American side. A teenage Guatemalan seemed to be resigned to return home, his long journey at a dead end. Some teenagers, already deported twice, insisted that trying to cross again was the best way to help their families. One father, now separated from his wife and child for over a year, asked us to pray for him. We prayed for several people, uncertain of any advice we could offer. Most of those we visited are adrift in Nogales, without work in a city where laborers average about 4 dollars a day—less than half of the minimum hourly wage just a hundred yards away in Arizona. Two or more of our conversationalists were clinging to hopes that they would get the papers to cross legally, though anyone with a record of an unauthorized entry faces long odds.