Two centuries ago some French and Argentinian buccaneers spilled dozens of marvedies, or Spanish silver, in the sand of Refugio Beach. From that cove just north of Goleta, they planned their raid on the Old Mission. That’s already more pirate lore for Santa Barbara than you would have discovered in the quiet British village of Penzance. When Gilbert and Sullivan wrote their comic operetta they had an inside joke: the real pirates they feared were not seafaring thieves but American bootleggers who sold unlicensed versions of their songs in the States. So the composers opened Pirates of Penzance in New York, printing the songs in the U.S. themselves before American publishers could steal their librettos from the London stage.

John Blondell, with the help of Michael Shasberger, has brought those songs to the forefront in Westmont's new rendition of Pirates. Letting go of some of the cartoonish mannerisms that have often defined the show, they turn it into "a kind of house concert" in Porter, at once rousing and intimate. To celebrate their show, I have snuck a few pirates into this report.

Of course, there are many honorable persons in here as well. Starting this month, with each report I will be acknowledging one of the five faculty members—Glenn Town, Curt Whiteman, Judy Alexandre, David Marten, and Sue Savage—who have chosen to retire in May. I am also pleased to say that we have appointed three students as "Provost’s Fellows." Peter Matthews, Leah Sadoian, and James Sievers will be helping with various projects for our office, including assisting with these reports. I look forward to working with them.

Mark Sargent


Santa Barbara Island


Recently Amanda Sparkman and six of her General Ecology students were nearly marooned on Santa Barbara Island, the smallest and southernmost of the Channel Islands archipelago. They had travelled there to help restore breeding habitats for two seabirds—the Scripps’s Murrelet and the Cassin’s Auklet. This work is sponsored by the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, which aims at reviving natural resources harmed by DDT and PCB contamination in the 1940s through the 1970s. Amanda and her students collected seeds from native shrubs, transplanted seedlings, and helped construct the irrigation system that will sustain the transplants until they can survive on natural rainfall. There are no pirates in this story, though you may draw your own conclusions after the government shutdown almost left them stranded on the island. A furloughed U.S. Park Service boat operator worked without pay to bring them (along with a group of hikers stranded on Santa Cruz Island) back home.

Amanda has also recently received a grant from the Southern California Research Learning Center to support her summer research on snakes in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and on Santa Cruz Island. The grant program is administered by the National Park Service.

Glenn Town


In the words of Glenn Town, the “bug got bitten” in 1972. After coming to faith during the last month of his service in Vietnam, Glenn returned to the States and evaluated his next steps. He finally decided to enroll in college and get his degree. But a gap remained between the end of his military career and the commencement of his studies, and where he spent that time has made all the difference. During that interval he lived in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park, hiking, fishing and surviving off cutthroat trout. As he moved on to his studies and a thirty-two year career as a professor, those weeks in the wilderness would never leave him. The outdoors became so ingrained into his life that they have overflowed into how he mentors and teaches.

Glenn is retiring in May, finishing the final ten years of his career in the Kinesiology Department at Westmont. Now as he looks forward to the next chapter, he remembers the role he played in the lives of many students. [continue reading...]



Mary Docter reports from Querétaro: "¡Saludos de México! The sixteen Westmont in Mexico students have adjusted extremely well to life in Querétaro. They are working hard, asking great questions, speaking only Spanish, and fully integrating into their families, university life, and local churches. At just barely the midpoint of the semester, we’ve already packed quite a bit into our time here thus far. Besides studying for six classes—five of which are in Spanish, taught by Mexican professors—we’ve danced cumbia, cheered for the Gallos (Querétaro’s soccer team), run a 5K, cooked sopa azteca, watched a bull-fight, and experienced multiple cultural events while strolling through the various plazas of this colonial city we now call home.

Outside of the capital, we have traveled to Sierra Gorda—where Father Junipero Serra began planting his missions—to Teotihuacan and Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende . . . [continue reading...]

Mia Chung


Before the QU4RTETS, there will be the quintet. “At the Still Point”—a piano quintet by Christopher Theofanidis—will be part of the opening of the “QU4RTETS” exhibition in the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. Like the paintings in the show, “At the Still Point” takes its primary inspiration from T.S. Eliot’s poetic sequence Four Quartets. The performance—a West Coast premier—will be held at 4:30, on October 23, in the Voskuyl Library. Admission is free. Acclaimed pianist Mia Chung (photo), who is on the faculty at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, will lead the ensemble of piano and strings.

The title of the composition is drawn from some of the most famous lines in “Burnt Norton,” the first of the quartets. Written after Eliot’s conversion to the Christian faith . . . [continue reading...]

students playing instruments


The Academic Senate has approved a proposal for a new bachelor's degree in music education, subject to endorsement from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). If approved by NASM, the new degree would be available for students for Fall 2014. Michael Shasberger and Andrew Mullen have worked together to create this program that satisfies both state and national standards. When the Music Department came under review a few years ago for accreditation by NASM, the college discontinued its music education concentration within the music major. Students who wish to teach music in schools can currently secure the necessary credits within a fifth-year single-subject music credential, but they lack the advantages of receiving a specified degree in music education. However, a change in NASM policies makes it unreasonable to continue the current practice, so Michael and Andrew developed this proposal to make music education a full four-year bachelor's degree, to be followed by a fifth-year credential program. The program includes observation and practicum experiences, involvement in local mentorship programs, and courses that equip students to teach brass, strings, winds, percussion and voice. Michael comments that the bachelor's in music education is "a bedrock component to virtually every music program."



More than thirty faculty are participating in a professional development initiative that supports small, interdisciplinary groups throughout the year. These cohorts will gather for conversations about books, teaching, and their own scholarship. Each group has been given funds to purchase books, defray research expenses, and share meals at their gatherings.

Two groups have committed to reading one another’s current research-in-progress, giving feedback and providing, as one member put it, “accountability and charitable engagement with the projects.” Another two groups are exploring spiritual practices and their role in teaching and learning. One of these cohorts is examining recent scientific research on how gratitude can enhance students’ learning. They will read Robert Emmons’s book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. The other cohort is reading Vicki Tolar Burton’s Spiritual Literacy in John Wesley’s Methodism: Reading, Writing, and Speaking to Believe; they plan to experiment with practices of “spiritual literacy” in order to deepen their understanding of faith-learning integration. Three groups are focusing on projects that will enhance Westmont’s Gender Studies minor, developing an introductory course and a senior seminar, and examing the work of several Chinese feminists from the turn of the twentieth century. Along with these groups, there are two cBook clusters reading books by colleagues, as well as a Provost's Reading Group focusing on issues of higher education. For a list of participants, click here.