This is the season of lights: Advent tapers near the altars and candles carried by choirs. In recent days, though, we have also seen candles held on street corners by mourners in Paris and San Bernardino. We light Advent candles as expressions of hope, even as the anticipation and example of Christ urge us toward solidarity with those in sorrow. I trust that the joy and renewal of Christmas season will also embolden us to return next semester ready to reengage the sharpest questions about local and global dilemmas. In that respect, let me say a word of thanks to the faculty who organized the "teach-in" last week on the Syrian refugee crisis. I was moved by the reading of a refugee's story, and appreciated the multidisciplinary lenses on the maze of political issues. Listeners heard calls for understanding, empathy, and action.

This report accents a few more opportunities for participation in seminars or workshops on global challenges and Christian responsiveness. There are also updates on a few new programs, and some collegial expressions of gratitude to Debra Quast, who has announced her retirement in May.

Merry Christmas. May this season draw us closer to the Prince of Peace.

Mark Sargent



Debra Quast


Debra Quast, who has been director of the Voskuyl Library since 2009, has decided to conclude her service at Westmont at the end of the spring semester. As she prepares for retirement, her colleagues have been quick to praise her vigorous enthusiasm for their own growth and development during her tenure at the college. “Debra wants her employees to become their best selves,” Mary Logue observes. “She always encourages professional development in whatever form that may take. She is willing to push you out of your comfort zone in order for you to learn, develop, and use new skills. In the end she is just as excited as you are in looking back over your growth and accomplishments.” Patricia Noormand commends Debra for “her amazing ability to zero in on her staff's individual gifts, and then to pair those gifts with their duties and assignments. In addition, she is a boss who will go to bat for you, and she is always enthusiastic when presented with new and innovative ideas.”

Debra came to Westmont from Azusa Pacific University, where she completed the M.Ed. degree in educational technology to accompany her M.S. in library science from Cal State Fullerton. When she arrived, she clearly faced the challenge of remodeling the facility and initiating new programs. Ruth Angelos recalls that time . . . [continue reading]


Cynthia Toms


After three years of innovative work as our director of global education, Cynthia Toms has accepted a faculty post in the Kinesiology Department, a role that will enable her to balance interests in public health and global studies. The heart of her new work will be teaching kinesiology courses, yet we also envision that a portion of her load will be devoted to helping us launch a new “global studies fellows program,” a year-long seminar offering research opportunities and a synthesizing, capstone experience for several students after they return from their study overseas.

Earning her master's degree in applied anatomy and physiology at Boston University, Cynthia spent time working for the United States Olympic Committee in a performance laboratory. Her doctorate at APU led to a dissertation on “Global Development Through International Volunteerism and Service-Learning," which has now won two major awards, most recently the Dissertation of the Year from the Comparative and International Education Society’s Higher Education Division. I am very grateful for Cynthia’s guidance of global education, as she has overseen the development of new programs, widened our efforts to engage global themes in the curriculum, strengthened our protocols for managing travel risks, and fostered greater attention to community engagement and cultural immersion during off-campus study. While I will miss her service in the director’s role, I am delighted that she is continuing at Westmont and will have a prominent voice in enriching the conversation about cross-cultural learning. Plans for seeking a new director of global education will be discussed with the faculty in January.

Oak tree


Westmont College is one of 84 private colleges and universities that has received a multi-year grant to build a youth theology institute. The program—which provides about half a million dollars to each institution—is part of the Lilly Endowment's "commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society." The institutions receiving the grant reflect a wide variety of Christian traditions, including Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, and nondenominational schools, among others. According to Chris Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment, these schools "have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply those insights to contemporary challenges."

Westmont's proposed program—entitled "Trailhead: Seeking God's Call"—will be overseen by Chris Hoeckley and the staff of the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts. Chris, along with assistant directors Aaron Sizer and Christen Foell, helped author the proposal, with considerable assistance from Dan Thomas in the Office of College Advancement. Westmont will collaborate with Fuller Theological Seminary in developing and implementing the program, and will draw upon the expertise of those involved in the Martin Institute and Dallas Willard Center, the Mosher Institute, and the Religious Studies Department. Helen Rhee will serve as the liaison to the RS Department. The core of the program will be several four-day modules for high school students addressing major social concerns and theological themes; modules will include visits with ministry and social service providers, theological reflection, academic analysis, and worship experiences. We'll share more about the specific features of the program as it is developed in preparation for its launch during the summer of 2017.

Uganda Christian University


Next year we will be pleased to enter into a new collaboration with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and its Uganda Studies Program (USP). Located in Mukono—about two hours from Lake Victoria—the USP has been one of the popular destinations for Westmont students who spend a semester abroad. With the new partnership, Westmont students will complete an orientation and re-entry course in Montecito as bookends to their experience at Uganda Christian University (photo) in the fall. The two-credit orientation class will introduce students to the history and social context of East Africa as well as to the factors that shape global health, with a close look at the distinctive health challenges in Uganda. The re-entry course will focus on transferring global learning to the local context, with a particular emphasis on comparative perspectives on public initiatives in Santa Barbara County.

Along with these courses, Westmont will contribute a three-credit course on site in Uganda during August, which will be available to our own students and those from other colleges attending the program. The topics of these courses will vary from year. For our first foray, Ray Rosentrater will teach Statistics of Public Health in Africa next August. The class will seek to show how descriptive statistics can help a worker identify the existence and magnitude of a public health problem; it will also demonstrate how inferential statistics are used to determine whether a proposed solution is actually having an effect or whether the observed changes could be the result of random variation. Anticipated future courses include Nutrition and Community Health, Food Systems and Global Health, and Community Health and Special Populations.

bridge at westmont


The Academic Senate has ventured over many parts of our academic terrain this fall. Here’s a quick report on a few of the actions and the work in progress.

Along with evaluating various proposals and curriculum refinements, the Senate has endeavored to ask broader questions about our innovative edges in the curriculum.  The conversation has led us to explore a few new projects, most in developmental or exploratory stages:  a first-year aesthetic production, more ways of supporting faculty-student research, and new ideas for interdisciplinary engagement at the upper-division level. We are pleased to announce one new grant program for academic departments that want to restructure and refine existing courses in their majors to capture innovations in their fields (click here).  All academic disciplines undergo continual change, as knowledge expands, new theories and methodologies emerge, and scholars venture across disciplinary boundaries. . . [continue reading]




Not long after we welcome the new year we will have a chance to return to the nineteenth-century, as the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum will open a new exhibit of paintings from the collection of Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree. At the heart of the exhibit are works by artists who convened in the small village of Barbizon, a wooded setting about sixty miles from Paris, during the tumultuous years of Napoleon III and Les Misérables. Their work—generally done outdoors, or “en plein air”—emphasizes direct encounters with nature, the play of light on the landscape, and looser brushstrokes; it had a profound influence on the Realists and Impressionists who followed them in the latter half of the century. One of the distinctions of this exhibit will be the catalog, edited by Judy Larson with support from Rachel Urbano and Chris Rupp. Along with splendid reproductions of the paintings, the catalog features short reflections on each work written by Westmont colleagues. Those reflections take many forms: there is commentary on the social milieu of the paintings, personal responses to the work, poems, and even a musical composition. The exhibit promises us a glimpse into how art influences several generations of artists—and into how it still challenges and provokes our own community.

The exhibit opens on January 14 and concludes in mid-March. Paul Tucker, professor of art emeritus from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and one of the world's experts on Monet and Impressionism, will give a special lecture on the exhibit on the evening of February 1.

Marcia Dickstein


The annual Christmas festival once again showcased the gifts of several Westmont musicians, and it provided us the world premiere of Steve Butler’s new composition on the life of St. Nicholas. Along with the work of our full-time faculty (mentioned in the sidebar column), we are grateful for the considerable talents and dedication of our adjunct music professors. Recently many of them have offered some notable performances, including some work for movie soundtracks. Instructor of bassoon Andy Radford is featured on the soundtrack for the Disney animated film Zootopia, using Westmont’s recently acquired contra-bassoon. Other recent films in which he has played the contra include: Jurassic World, Inside Out, Tomorrowland and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He also conducted the fall concert of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. Instructor Marcia Dickstein (photo) played harp for the new Spike Lee movie Chi-Raq and recently performed for the soundtracks of Creed, Hail Caesar, and The Finest Hours. She also recorded for the Fox TV network show Empire. Her new Debussy Trio CD is now available. Entitled Three by Three, it includes three world premier recordings. [continue reading]




Shortly after Commencement faculty will once again be able to join with colleagues in a seminar designed to stimulate new ideas about teaching, learning, and scholarship. On May 16-20, Joel Carpenter, director of the Nagel Institute for World Christianity at Calvin College, will serve as our primary facilitator for the seminar, entitled "Christian Higher Education in Global Perspective." A prolific scholar, Joel has written widely about Christianity throughout the world. Recently, he has produced two edited collections: Christian Higher Education: A Global Reconnaissance (Eerdmans, 2014) and Christianity and Public Life in China: Religion, Society and the Rule of Law (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). The seminar will be coordinated by Lisa DeBoer, and will feature the expertise of several on our own faculty as well as Rebecca Kim from Pepperdine (a scholar on immigrant and refugee churches) and Jonathan Anderson and Andy Draycott from Biola, two contributors to the Nagel Institute’s programs.

The seminar will seek to provide some wide-angle perspectives on Christian higher education around the world, consider the challenges and opportunities that global Christianity presents for a place like Westmont, and offer faculty the opportunity to refine syllabi, design research projects, and envision curricular changes. Those interested in participating or knowing more about the sessions should contact Lisa DeBoer.




Our “institutional learning outcome” this year is “quantitative literacy." Stephen Contakes, Ray Rosentrater, and Enrico Manlapig make up the team that is looking at how effectively a Westmont education equips students with quantitative skills. They have already started to identify where quantitative reasoning plays a role in Westmont's curriculum. To gain an understanding of students’ skills when they arrive at Westmont, the team is using a tool developed at Bowdoin College in Maine with support from the National Science Foundation. This test appraises incoming students' abilities to engage in proportional reasoning, analyze charts and graphs, estimate probabilities, and make predictions based on numerical data.

That same Bowdoin College test will be used to assess Westmont seniors. By comparing the aggregate scores of incoming and graduating students, we will get some ideas about how well Westmont's curriculum helps students improve their quantitative reasoning abilities. The team selected the Bowdoin-developed tool since it does more than just test for students' ability to solve abstract mathematics problems; it also evaluates their capacity to interpret numerical and graphical information and use mathematical reasoning to analyze realistic scenarios.



It was another fine fall on the fields, courts, and courses. At 20-7, the women's volleyball team ended their season with their second-best winning percentage of the last thirteen years. Chantél Cappuccilli (photo) stepped in to lead the women's soccer program, and the club finished 16-4-2, won their second consecutive GSAC title, and progressed to the quarterfinals of the national tournament. Kelsey Steck, a senior forward for the team, scored 22 goals during the season and was the GSAC Player of the Year and an NAIA first-team All-American.

The cross country teams also closed their campaigns on a strong note, as the women finished 10th in the NAIA finals while the men finished 18th. Three Westmont athletes—Sophie Fuller (soccer), Nathan Evans (cross country), and Kelly Collins (cross country)—were named to their All-GSAC Team and to the conference's Scholar-Athlete Team.

Both basketball teams have enjoyed December. Kirsten Moore's women's club was ranked second in the nation when it defeated Vanguard, the nation's top-rated team. New ratings will be released on January 5.

I am also glad to report that, at the recommendation of President Beebe, the conference has voted to change the date of the GSAC baseball tournament so that it does not conflict with Westmont's finals week or Commencement.




On May 23-27 Westmont faculty and community partners will have an opportunity to participate in an immersion learning experience exploring questions of immigration near the Arizona-Mexican border. A primary focus of this seminar will be the intersection of religion and civic issues. Participants will be able to observe legal proceedings; tour a Border Patrol and detention facility; visit a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora; and hear from faith leaders about their current and past engagement with immigration challenges. Readings will examine the reasons why migrants leave their home countries, recount their struggles through their journeys, evaluate American responses, and assess proposed policy solutions. Anyone with an interest in the seminar should contact Cynthia Toms in the Office of Global Education.