The Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum's current show—Walking in the Spirit—features self-taught folk artists who turn everyday objects into religious visions. An anonymous carving of Noah's Ark, described as "Tramp Art," was whittled from the planks of a fruitwood crate. My favorite among the paintings—"Baptism"—sets the white garments of an African-American Sunday against a dark backdrop painted over cardboard squares, all thickly coated with shellac and held in place with upholstery tacks. It is the work of William Hemmerling, a retired Sears & Roebuck window dresser from Louisiana who, late in his life, transformed scrap materials and recycled paint into works of empathy and sudden acclaim.

In many ways, it is just the right exhibit for the visit of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus as the President's Breakfast speaker. In the 1970s Yunus' microfinance programs began giving small loans to impoverished Bangladeshis to develop their own enterprenneurial ideas. Villagers found livelihoods in bamboo crafts, enriched cattle feed, and new biofuels. The potential of small investments and local ingenuity to function as a global antidote to poverty, especially in the midst of larger economic forces and political agents, will be a focus of our conversation with Yunus this Friday. As I note below, several students have been preparing for the Convocation panel. As they have probed some of the geopolitical questions raised by microfinance, they have been equally drawn to the idealism of Yunus' vision that even modest gestures of confidence in the disadvantaged can be an art of hope.

Mark Sargent


Pirates of Penzance


Westmont’s Pirates of Penzance returned to the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival in Los Angeles on February 14. The production was one of only seven selected among the Far Western States for the regional festival. Two students—Connor Bush and Paige Tautz—made the semi-finals in the Irene Ryan acting competition at the event. And Elaine Pazaski, who plays Isabel in Pirates, won the National Critics Institute Competition for critical writing. She has been invited to Washington, D.C. for the National Festival in mid-April. Her winning review examines Pool '63, a play about desegregation in Birmingham, Alabama. According to Elaine, this story about a white and a black girl wishing to swim in the same public setting prompts an ache for justice "like the chlorine sting from a pool that persists and burns long after leaving the water." (Read the full review.)

Curt Whiteman


This spring four decades of full-time service to Westmont will draw to a close as Curt “Doc” Whiteman marks his retirement. He began as a resident director in 1974, and soon stepped into a tenure-track faculty position in the Religious Studies Department. On two occasions (1981 and 1988) he was selected as the "Teacher of the Year," and he also led the European Semester twice (1989 and 1990) with his wife Erlyne, who served for many years as an associate professor of dance.

For more than a decade Curt served as the associate academic dean. He was in that post when Stan Gaede arrived as provost in 1996. Stan remarks that Curt “was one of those folks who paved the way for me. Teaching me, regularly. Warning me, periodically.” [continue reading]

Enrico Manlapig


Enrico Manlapig will be joining the Economics and Business Department in the fall of 2014. Of Filipino descent, Enrico grew up in Australia, and completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Queensland. He earned both his M.A. and his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University, specializing in microeconomics, game theory, and group decision making. Currently, he works for the Deloitte Financial Advisory Services in New York City as a capital efficiency senior associate, and previously he was a decision analyst and executive for PriceWaterhouseCoopers Financial Advisory Services. From 2010-2012 he served on the faculty of Hope College in Michigan. During his time at Columbia Enrico was the president of the Intervarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship.


Westmont's valedictorian in 2001, Sarah Jirek will return to her alma mater next fall to fill the human services track in the Sociology and Anthropology Department. Upon finishing her M.S.W. and her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, Sarah joined the faculty of the University of Tampa, where she has worked for the past three years. She has expertise in post-traumatic growth among young adults, and has done research in deviance, crime and prisons, as well as in social stratification and inequality. Her clinical experience includes advocacy for survivors of domestic violence at the SafeHouse Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After graduation from Westmont, she spent a year as a case manager for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program in Santa Barbara.

Muhammad Yunus


At the Convocation on February 28, Kha-Ai Nguyen, James Sievers, Kristabel Stark and Andy Wood will form the student panel asking questions of Muhammad Yunus. They have spent some time exploring his work, notably his book Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism. Andy, an English major who grew up in Ometepec, Mexico, notes: "Two things struck me about Muhammad Yunus. The first is his desire to revolutionize the entire structure of business by growing 'social businesses.' The second is his belief that in our profit-driven world the average person would choose to help humanity over growing his own pocket." That idealism has clearly been inspiring, but also raises new questions about the future. Khai-Ai is a second-year biology and business double major with an eye on a career in healthcare administration at a clinic for lower-income families. She observes: "To start a social revolution, we must involve the global community and encourage the peoples to abandon their self-serving desires and invest . . ." [continue reading]

John Bertram


John Bertram, the captain of the men's tennis team, was named the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Scholar-Athlete of the Year for Westmont. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Bertram is a chemistry and physics major who carries a 3.87 GPA. He placed in the 99th percentile on the American Chemical Society (ACS) General Chemistry 2 exam, and last semester achieved the 100th percentile for ACS Physical Chemistry 1 exam. In 2012 and 2013 he finished third in doubles at the NAIA national tournament. "John's leadership abilities and his concern for his teammates are topnotch," observes his coach Mark Basham. "He also has a real gift for community service, which was evident when he interacted at the local Special Olympics tennis event and when he served at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. He has been a joy to coach."



Last week the Western Division of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) met in Santa Barbara, an event organized by Steve Hodson, who is serving as the Division's president. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Western ACDA, the conference began with performances by Westmont's Chamber Singers and College Choir. About 875 choir directors attended, along with another 2000-2500 singers, friends, and family, virtually overwhelming the 1550-seat Granada. Twelve Westmont students or alums (Isaac Kay, Lalia Mangione, Samantha Wilson, Rebecca Shasberger, Daniel Fraats, Jeremy Kubiak, Chyna Charbonneau, Joe Sidebotham Jim Connoly, Laura Walter, Paula Hatley and Paul Mori) joined with the Honors Choirs. Highlights of the conference included a male ensemble from Cuba, an African children's choir, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Steve conducted two choirs in the world premiere of Richard Burchard's setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "Bright is the Ring of Words."



The Westmont Mathematics and Computer Science Department hosted the 27th High School Mathematics Contest earlier this month. More than 100 students attended and competed in the event. One school in the Los Angeles area has actually formed the Westmont College Mathematics Club for the specific purpose of preparing for the contest each year. The entire department (faculty and students) help run the event but the real catalyst behind the operation is Russ Howell. Since this was the 27th contest, the motif for this year was the Menger Sponge (photo)."The first stage in its construction has volume 27, " Russ explains, "and the fractal dimension of the sponge itself is 2.7." The theme of the Chalk Talk contest was "cubics" since 27 is a perfect cube. If the schedule holds, the 29th contest will fall in February 2016—right on time for leap year.