During the last couple weekends I found some time for riding my bike near the coast. The grass along the side of the roads and bike paths is thick and green now, the gift of recent rains. On the Obern Trail, I watched a single white egret treading beside Atascadero Creek, a long walk from the Goleta Slough, where the egrets often linger. It strode slowly, intermittently, as if reluctant to take wing. The poet John Ciardi—famed translator of Dante—once wrote an Easter poem that alludes to an egret’s flight as uncommon and numinous, “the idea of prayer.”

Rainfall in Santa Barbara is still below normal, but the resurgent hillsides are a welcome prelude to Easter. One of my favorite poems to read at Easter—“Enoch” by Mark Stevick—links Genesis with the gospel, largely through images of a verdant land:

In the cool of the evening
there were so many things to touch—
the leaves of maples, dripping,
the brushy needles of spruce,
the wet vines tapping his calves.
More than any lip against his
he felt the rough grain of a leaf
he didn’t know, or the touch
of magnolia, folded for night.
Handfuls of water plunged
into his face, his hands, his hair.
Not just my feet, Lord, he thought:
I could walk like this forever.

I hope for more rainfall in this month before Easter, more rides along the water, and more common prayer.

Mark Sargent





It is a pleasure to announce the appointment of Carmen McCain as an assistant professor of English. She will be developing the Anglophone literature curriculum, especially the literature of the global South. Dr. McCain is currently a senior lecturer in the Department of English and the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Kwara State University in Nigeria. A graduate of Messiah College, she completed her doctorate at the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her current research focuses on postcolonial literature, film, and popular culture in Africa, and she has a special interest in Nigerian Hausa-language cinema and the translation of Hausa texts into English. At Kwara State University, she is currently leading the new “Centre for Nollywood Studies,” an institute devoted to the analysis of Nigerian film. Carmen has been exploring responses in literature, film, and music to the Boko Haram insurgency. Recently, she also worked with her brother Dan on a film (“Nowhere to Run”) about environmental degradation in Nigeria due to climate change and reckless oil production.

Kirsten Burdick


I am delighted that Kirsten Burdick has joined us as the executive assistant to the provost. She is, of course, quite familiar to the Westmont community, as she has served as the assistant director of the Martin Institute/Dallas Willard Center for the past two years. A graduate of Westmont, Kirsten completed her Master of Divinity degree from North Park Theological Seminary. She is a trained spiritual director and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church. Prior to working at Westmont, she has served on pastoral staff at two different churches and as the director of admissions for North Park Theological Seminary. Kirsten is a lover of the outdoors (hiking, walking, combing the beach, and exploring the mountains) and a lover of reading (Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children is a recent favorite). Given the scope of the job, she will have some big shoes to fill, but she should be well prepared—in fact, as a child she was a shoe model in advertisements. Kirsten will settle into her new role in the middle of March. We look forward not only to the ways that she will help keep things running in the Provost's Office, but also to how she will help us think of new ways of serving and caring in our community.




Three new faculty columns in the Vistas series are available this month. To read the articles for February, simply click here.

In her essay Rachel Winslow, who is completing a book on international adoptions in the middle of the twentieth century, discusses some of the challenges and perceptions about international adoption today. Grey Brothers draws on his interest in Latin American music to explore themes about singing the "Passion" during the season of Lent and Easter. During this election year Tom Knecht continues his series "From the Desk of a Political Scientist," this time focusing on money, interest groups, and lobbyists.

Caryn Reeder


Caryn Reeder has received a Graves Award to support her research on family, slavery, and violence in Roman monumental art. Caryn plans to travel to Rome, Pompeii, and Herculaneum to study the visual and physical spaces of the Roman Empire. This work will enable her to reconstruct the common, shared knowledge of the authors and audiences of the New Testament books and will contribute both to her teaching and her scholarship.

Graves Awards, administered by Pomona College under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies, are "made to those for whom there is evidence of unusual skill and enthusiasm as teachers and who can show that their projects will enhance their ability in the classroom." Awards are given biannually to approximately ten humanities faculty members of private liberal arts colleges in California, Oregon, and Washington. Caryn has also recently published an article for the Bulletin for Biblical Research, which is entitled "1 Peter 3:1-6: Biblical Authority and Battered Wives."


Keith Brooks


On Thursday, February 25, Westmont held a forum that explored racial tensions on American campuses and universities. The forum featured a presentation by Dr. Keith Brooks (photo), a leader with Chosen Path Consulting and former faculty member at Bethel University in Minnesota. Dr. Brooks’ remarks sought to give some context to the latest campus protests over issues of race. A short video told the poignant story of Lloyd Gaines, an African American who eventually "disappeared" after being deprived of admission to the University of Missouri law school, part of the long backdrop to the recent unrest on the Missouri campus. The protestors, Brooks claimed, can frequently be seen simply as "causing trouble," while they still perceive themselves to be "invisible" to the general public. While noting that it had been 52 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Brooks observed that there were still 397 years between the first slaves at Jamestown and the passage of the Civil Rights legislation. Racial injustice, therefore, has deep roots in American history, and it will take considerable time to undo its systematic effects in culture. Citing II Timothy 1:7 ( "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind"), he called attention to some of the fears we still have in conversing about race, including fears of guilt or fears that people will see through our "anti-racist rhetoric." Nathan Huff and Meredith Whitnah—along with students Alysa Kim and Brittany Bland Boyd—provided some commentary of their own, largely on the relevance of the themes for our campus.

Troy Harris


Troy Harris has been invited to serve on the national Higher Education Emergency Management Needs Assessment Advisory Committee, an initiative of the National Center for Campus Public Safety, funded by the Department of Justice. The committee's task is to advise federal legislators on regulation and policy development related to emergency planning for colleges and universities. Troy has had three peer-reviewed articles published in the annual journal of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association, and has contributed a chapter for a book on study-abroad programs. His most recent article—"The Response Iceberg"—emphasizes that it is easy for institutions to focus simply on how to respond once a crisis occurs, and he sets out to describe all the work that colleges need to do "below the surface" to be ready for any major disruption.


Winter Hall


Earlier this year we announced a new opportunity for departments to apply for “Innovative Edges” grants to support curricular refinements in their programs. One goal is to promote ways of refreshing the curriculum by connecting it to new developments in pedagogy or in their disciplines. Here are a few of the grant projects:

For the History Department, Chandra Mallampalli will develop resources and assignments for History 10 (Perspectives on World History) that will expand student opportunities to initiate and direct their own learning. Using learning modules that include primary texts, links to online sources, video documentaries, and links to archival material, students will prepare presentations, lead discussions, and engage in debates. These modules will correspond to designated topics in the syllabus for which students take primary responsibility, replacing some of the traditional lectures in the course.

The English Department's grant will contribute to the implementation of its revised curriculum. The department will hold a retreat this May, focusing on how to expand the traditional canon with more voices from different cultures and subcultures.

The Spanish Department will develop a pilot version of a capstone course and explore revisions to its upper-division offerings. The department is particularly interested in adjusting major requirements to expand the range of topics that students are exposed to beyond the traditional literature courses.

The Art Department will adapt ART-010 (2D Design), a course that meets GE and major requirements. The revised course will introduce solarplate printmaking, a new technology that fuses traditional methods with digital techniques.




Westmont senior Karlie Storkson (photo)—co-captain of the women’s basketball team and a religious studies and sociology double major—was the sole NAIA player named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “Good Works” team for the state of California. The award recognizes a small group of athletes from all levels of collegiate play. She was honored for her considerable off-the-court efforts, including two service trips in Africa, leadership of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and work in summer sports camps in underprivileged neighborhoods. Karlie and two other seniors—Lauren Sende and All-American Krissy Karr—were saluted at the final home game of the regular season. Having played through four of the finest years in women’s basketball at Westmont, Storkson and Sende will end their careers as the two athletes who have won more games than any other women's basketball players in the history of the college.

Plato in Latin


As we continue to look for ways to enhance our academic support for students, the Library has launched a new "Reading Corner," modeled in part on the longstanding "Writers' Corner." Librarians are available during evening hours and by appointment to consult with students who are looking for guidance on reading comprehension in all academic disciplines. The librarians will work with students to improve their understanding of assignments, and to develop strategies to increase their reading skills for a variety of texts. One-on-one coaching is available to help with annotation and outlining as well as with close reading. Jana Mayfield Mullen can provide you with more information about how this service can help students.