Emerging from spring break, I always feel that we are off on the final sprint. So, perhaps as inspiration, there's a story here about our new national track champion Elysia Hodges. Fortunately, I can report that we have reached a few finish lines ourselves, including some completed searches. The WASC reaccreditation continues— admittedly, a triathalon rather than a dash. I encourage you to review the brief summary below of work-to-date, largely because it will be helpful during the WASC visit if faculty and staff are aware of the general contours of the self-study process. And, as usual, there is plenty to celebrate in the achievements of our teammates.

During spring break week Gayle Beebe and I were graciously hosted by Heather Keaney, Jim Wright and our students in Istanbul. That visit prompted some final Lenten reflections.

Mark Sargent


Jesse Covington


Congratulations to Jesse Covington, who has been appointed a William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life at Princeton University for the 2014-2015 academic year. His appointment is in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, associated with Princeton's Department of Politics. This ten-month appointment is a research fellowship during which his primary responsibility will be to work on a book, provisionally entitled Taken on Faith: The Concept of Religion in First Amendment Jurisprudence. The book will examine how the Supreme Court has conceived of religion in its free-exercise and establishment-clause decisions, focusing on the Court's philosophical, sociological, and psychological approaches to religion. Jesse will take a full-year sabbatical to serve in this post. For a quick survey of the other sabbatical projects, click here.

Meagan Stirling


Currently on the faculty of the University of Denver, Meagan Stirling will be joining the Art Department next fall. A graduate of Whitworth University, Meagan completed her M.F.A. at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. While primarily a printmaker, she often combines photography, printmaking and painting in her work. As an art educator she has worked in museums, galleries, schools and nonprofits to introduce students and teachers to the "art of our time." Much of her work explores the promise of "safety and well-being" embedded in the "Americana" after World War II, as she looks at the "antithetical patterns of daily suburban life."

Sue Savage


"Susan Savage is above all, a woman of infectious integrity," observes Lisa DeBoer. "Who she is, is integral to what she does as artist, teacher and colleague. We are all better people for her presence in our community." Those sentiments have been echoed by so many around campus as Sue prepares to retire from Westmont after more than fifteen years in the Art Department. Scott Anderson remarks: "Sue's greatest hallmark is her constant kindness and graciousness—both to her students and her colleagues. Even when the workload was exhausting, Sue would steadfastly look for the good in all people and situations."

After graduating from UCSB in art education, Sue began her career at La Colina Jr. High School, where she would teach for ten years. During this time she completed an M.F.A. in painting from UCSB, and eventually decided to open a business. Known as . . . [continue reading]

Jonathan Hicks


Westmont graduate Jonathan Hicks will be returning to his alma mater as our new technical director in the Theatre program. Currently on the faculty at Huntington University in Indiana, Jonathan will assume responsibility for lighting, set design and other technical aspects of the Theatre Department, and will teach two courses each year. His areas of expertise include installation art, performance art, architecture and museums. This year, he was contracted to do the lighting of Westmont’s Pirates of Penzance show. Jonathan earned his M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Elysia Hodges


It's been over a decade since Jason Finch won Westmont's last national indoor track and field title (mile, 2003), and now junior Elysia Hodges has added her name to Westmont's list of NAIA champions. At the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Ohio, Elysia won the women's 600 meters in a meet record time of 1:30.49. To claim the victory, she had to outrun the defending national champion and to establish a new Westmont record, slicing more than a second off her own mark of 1:32.34. “Elisha ran an ideal, strategic race,” according to coach Russell Smelley. “She was under control, found her spot and kept out of the fray. When it was time to go she made her move.” Elysia joins Amber Nixon (high jump, 2002) as the Westmont women who have earned national indoor titles. Already this spring Elysia has won outdoor sprints against UCSB, Pepperdine and Azusa Pacific.



First-Year Seminar: The Academic Senate has approved a pilot “First-Year Seminar” for the 2014-2015 academic year. We will offer about 5-6 sections of this one-credit, seven-week seminar, each crafted for about 12 students. Within these small cohorts, faculty will guide students through discussions of classic and contemporary essays and books and help them reflect on their transition to Westmont. The new seminar seeks to help first-year students build connections with faculty, discover the joy of conversation about ideas, and prepare to get the most from Westmont’s liberal arts experience.

NASM Review: The Music Department recently underwent its site visit by an evaluation team from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). The visit is one of the concluding events in Westmont’s full accreditation by NASM. While the formal written review is still to be completed, the team did offer some final words of appreciation for an “extraordinary” visit and program. Kudos to Michael Shasberger, Steve Butler and their department for their excellent work building the program and earning such high commendation.

Westmont Forum: On April 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Founders, we will offer the second “Westmont Forum” dedicated to conversation about difficult issues. Earlier this year a poll identified “women’s leadership in the church” as one of the two issues that most interested students, and this second Forum will be devoted to exploring diverse perspectives on that theme. While the Forum will air some sharp differences, it also seeks to produce more light than heat—to encourage irenic discourse rather than acrimonious debate. Margaret Chapman, Bruce Fisk, Helen Rhee, Kelly Soifer and Kyle Wells will present an array of views and challenge one another, with Cheri Larsen Hoeckley as moderator. In the first Forum on February 19, Paul Morgan, Tom Fikes, Randy VanderMey and local physician Carolyn Griffith did a fine job probing the controversies about health care.



Our WASC reaccreditation process is well underway. Here's a quick summary of work-in-progress:

In January our WASC Steering Committee launched our institutional self-study, which is due in spring 2015. In this self-study, we must evaluate how well we comply with WASC’s four major standards for accreditation. Each of the four standards has multiple sub-standards, known as “Criteria for Review” or CFRs (click here for details on the standards and CFRs). In February the Steering Committee members met with selected groups of faculty and staff to identify the evidence that we could cite to demonstrate our compliance with each CFR.

In March the Steering Committee members have asked various committees and employees to analyze this material—to determine whether the evidence does indeed show that we are performing effectively in each required category. In April we will identify the prevailing themes that have emerged from this broad-based appraisal, especially areas of strength and matters that need more attention before the accreditation visit.

Summaries of these preliminary conclusions will be shared with the faculty and staff, and you will be given an opportunity to add your own comments on the themes and the evidence.

science workshop


Seven faculty spent the first day-and-a-half of spring break thinking together about how to improve their teaching. They joined fourteen colleagues from UCSB and Santa Barbara City College at a workshop organized by Patti Hunter. The workshop focused on "inquiry-based learning," an approach that emphasizes student discovery and peer instruction. Most of the participants were mathematicians, but our own Jane Wilson and David Vander Laan found themselves helping the group work through some ancient geometric problems. Other Westmont participants were Michael Everest, Russ Howell, Dave Hunter, and Ray Rosentrater.


Blue MosqueAt 5 a.m. the traffic in Istanbul had not yet congealed, so the taxi driver rushing me to Ataturk International Airport for my flight home had little reason for restraint. He slowed just slightly for the suspension bridge over the Bosphorus Strait. Well before dawn the cityscape was a luminous blue-black: the dome of the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, and the minarets of the many mosques were all flood-lit, while the full moon was low, catching the crests of the Bosphorus swells. From high above the water, at such high speed, the vista seemed expansive: Asia on one side, Europe on the other, with Bob Marley on the radio singing of hope in a Kingston shanty. . . [continue reading]