Spring Break is finally here, just before we succumb to the madness of an endless March. It's been a full month, yet one with plenty to celebrate.

First, let me salute the Final Four—or the four who are first. We have four seniors who have 4.0 grade-point averages, and they are therefore tied for the First Senior Award. We will recognize all of them—Nicole Blois, Sophia Meulenberg, Heidi Walberg and Benjamin West—as well as all the departmental honors recipients at the Academic Convocation on April 13.

At its March meeting the faculty approved a new pilot semester program in East Asia, scheduled for the fall of 2016. The program will be led by Edd Noell and Helen Rhee and will travel to Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore. A fuller description follows below.

For the Athletic Department this may very well be the finest March ever. I am sure that I was not the only one at Spring Sing watching my cell phone to follow the outcome of the men's big rally and the women's triple overtime triumph in the NAIA basketball quarterfinals. John Moore's club took their wild and splendid ride all the way to the title game, as different players stepped forward each night to carry the team. Both the coach and the team won sportsmanship awards from the NAIA during the tourney. Congratulations to Kirsten Moore on her GSAC Coach of the Year Award and for leading her team to the semi-finals for the second time in three years. And kudos to Russell Smelley and the women's track program for earning fifth place in the NAIA indoor nationals, our highest finish ever. The club was led by Elysia Mitchell's repeat performance as national champion in the 600 and Alexus Dalton's runner-up finish in the pentathlon.

Finally, let me congratulate Steve Julio on his election as vice chair of the faculty. Steve will also be the featured speaker at the Westmont Downtown lecture series (University Club, April 9, at 5:30) when he will discuss new vaccines for the whooping cough. I've heard some speculation that he may devote the Fall Faculty Retreat to the same theme. At least that's how rumors get started . . .

Mark Sargent


woman and chalkboard


The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science recently got word that it had received a grant from the Mathematical Association of America. This "Tensor Grant" will support activities that encourage women to pursue studies and careers in mathematics. A luncheon in the fall will launch some networking activities that bring Westmont students together with local women professionals for career mentoring and the exploration of internship opportunities. These students will also host “Imagine Math Day,” an outreach event for high school students, and provide academic support for high school campuses throughout the year. The grant will also support two students in summer research work with faculty from the department. The project builds on several ongoing initiatives at Westmont: the long history of connecting with local high schools through the annual Mathematics Contest, the faculty/student research opportunities developed using the Presidential Planning Grants, and the Women's Leadership Initiative begun in recent years.



In the fall Cynthia Toms led a workshop with several faculty that explored new ways of integrating a broader range of global perspectives into existing courses. As Cynthia notes, the group "took time to examine our syllabi, our sources, our assignments and to ask ourselves if there were ways that we might move beyond the conventional narratives—or traditional interpretations—and to reach toward more enhanced, nuanced and refined approaches, where many voices are welcomed and represented. Part of our moral responsibility is to attend to these voices who have important ideas and perspectives." Participants included Grey Brothers, Dinora Cardosa, Alister Chapman, Deborah Dunn, Andrea Gurney, Nathan Huff, Tito Paredes, Lesa Stern, Randy VanderMey and Telford Work. Among the changes prompted by the workshop are several new artists that Nathan Huff added to his Principles of Art course: Ai Wei Wei (Chinese political activist), Sherin Neshat (Iranian female filmmaker), Carrie Mae Weems (African American photographer), Kehinde Wiley (African American painter), and Takashi Murakami (Japanese painter). "While much of the artwork I have used in the past is from diverse regions of the globe," Nathan remarks, "it was . . . [continue reading]

East China Normal University


As our Global Education Office endeavors to expand its offerings in new regions of the world, the faculty has given the green light to a two-year pilot program in East Asia. Edd Noell and Helen Rhee will lead the first iteration of the program in the fall of 2016, and we are exploring possibilities for a second version, including leadership by Westmont faculty or leadership by academics and organizations already overseas. The first rendition of the program aims to help students "understand the dynamics of Asian economies, their own ongoing contribution to the global economy, and particular social challenges facing East Asia in light of changing demographics, trade patterns, and security concerns." It will also seek to cultivate "an appreciation of the history, status, and current challenges facing the Christian church in East Asia." Students will all take core courses in the history of Christianity and the theology and economics of wealth and poverty; they will study the Mandarin language, visit firms and nonprofits, undertake service-learning projects, have short home stays, and complete some academic work at East China Normal University in Shanghai (photo: Liwa River on the university campus). In addition to staying at home bases in Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore, they will travel to Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Hong Kong.

Hamlow winners


The Golden State Athletic Conference has saluted two Westmont athletes—Madison Serrano and Russell Harmening—among the recipients of the Cliff Hamlow Champions of Character Award. The honor recognizes outstanding athletic achievement, campus and community leadership, and future ambition; the student-athletes should reflect the five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character program (Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Sportsmanship and Servant Leadership). Serrano, an All-GSAC volleyball player and captain of Westmont's team, is a political science major who is participating this year in the Model United Nations and has been awarded the Golden Eagle. She is also currently an intern for KEYT, the ABC affliate in Santa Barbara. Harmening was the 2014 GSAC pitcher of the year on the men's baseball team and an Academic All-American. He has kept his GPA high (3.77) and his ERA low (2.47). Both have done extensive work as volunteers.

King in Montgomery


This year Spring Break falls on Holy Week. The respite from the normal pace of the semester will blend with the days of reflection on the Passion. During the week staff members will have an opportunity to use part of this reflective season to join in a Diversity Engagement Workshop, which is scheduled for Wednesday, April 1 (9 A.M. through a complimentary lunch, in Founders). Toya Cooper, Mariah Velasquez and Jason Cha will provide mini-versions of the successful "Next Step" seminar and "Across Color Lines" film series.

While exploring complex issues of racial identity and multicultural understanding, the workshop will be full of interactive events, including work with sculpture and M&M's. Toya plans to show a scene from the popular prime-time series "Scandal" that explores violence against young black men and the role of protests. This will be a time for what she calls "Sacramental Listening." She asks: "Can listening to those things that are most difficult to take in be a way to find the God we seek? We think so. Join us. We want to listen to you."

In many respects, the sacramental motif is appropriate for an event on Holy Wednesday. This is the day when Jesus was in Bethany, where Mary anointed his feet with oil, a ritual premonition of his burial. By contrast, it is also the day when Judas Iscariot went to the Sanhedrin to forge his bargain of betrayal. Holy Wednesday, therefore, recalls the time when one follower of Christ gave up hope, while another offered tribute, even with its hints of sorrow. Some churches ring bells on the day with wooden clappers to subdue the sound.

Two years after his march in Selma, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his most memorable sermons on hope in the face of despair. It came on Easter morning in Montgomery, Alabama, at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where he had once served as a young minister (photo). "Some people feel that life is nothing more than a pendulum swinging between frustration and futility," King admitted. Looking at recent tragedies—including church bombings and children thrown into the Mississippi River—he conceded that the "forces of goodness seem to be trampled over." But he clung to the hope that Good Friday would pass: "As I look at the world, as I look at America, I can see Easter coming in race relations . . . through the love that [God] revealed in Jesus Christ, things move on. . ." Rereading those words, I am convicted again of the need to take next steps—even the small daily ones—to be sure that we are still moving.

If you are interested in attending, please let Mariah know.

A blessed Easter to you.