Forecasts are calling for some more precipitation in the weeks ahead—perhaps some further relief from the drought. Just light stuff so far. Soon, I hope, a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Our newest Nobel laureate wrote that line in 1962, on the eve of some of the most tempestuous events in American history, including the marches in Selma and the tragedy in Memphis. I appreciated that several presentations in our Focus Week on "Race Matters" stressed the continuities between the current racial tension and prior struggles against inequity. Michael Emerson's chapel address gave a compelling survey of how race and social stratification continue to be linked in modern America. A full house attended a panel on "Black Lives Matter," sponsored by the Racial Equality and Justice Club. Ogechi Nwaokelemeh, Ed Song, and Sameer Yadav underscored the movement's distinctive antecedents and concerns, many lost when the conversation gets shifted to more generic rhetoric about freedom and justice. Thanks to Jason Cha and his team for arranging conversations that challenged us to think more fully about our responses and responsibiities as Christians at a time when the discourse about race in the country grows ever more unsettled.

This report is filled, as usual, with notes about recent achievements of our community members, including a few awards and several scholarly endeavors. Some of the most notable achievements, of course, are the successes of our students. In that light, I was pleased to learn from Michelle Hughes that 14 out of 15 graduates in Education secured teaching positions this year. Here's a shout out to the department for their good work in cultivating students' "careers and calling."

Mark Sargent signaure




Congratulations to Lisa DeBoer, who has been named the recipient of the 2016 Arlin Meyer Prize in Nonfiction from the Lilly Fellows Program for her book Visual Arts in the Worshiping Church. The prize is awarded biennially to a full-time faculty member from a college or university in the Lilly Fellows Program National Network whose work exemplifies the practice of the Christian artistic or scholarly vocation. This is a prestigious honor:  the previous winners were Mark Noll, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Christian Smith

In her introduction, Lisa writes: "I, along with many others, believe this is an auspicious moment for both the arts and the church in our culture. Right now, artists, pastors, and church members alike have more energy for and hospitality toward the arts than ever before." Her study surveys Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant perspectives on the arts, and explores everything from icons to websites. Lisa challenges the "litany of lament" that often bemoans the "loss of visual literacy in our own Protestant traditions." By contrast, she proposes that "Protestants may, at the moment, actually have more room to experiment and more room to make the visual arts a living part of our worshiping community" than many other traditions.



I am pleased that Danielle Rogers has joined the Provost’s Office for 15 hours each week as an administrative assistant, providing us some valuable support because Kirsten Burdick is working on a reduced load. I am grateful for Kirsten for squeezing so many tasks into that load for the last several months without the additional assistance. Danielle attended Westmont for three years, before transferring to George Mason University to complete her degree in Global Affairs. She also earned a master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Concordia University in Nebraska. While enrolled at Westmont, she completed a semester in Thailand, and has since taught English for two years in South Korea and done volunteer work at the Children’s Rights Centre in Durban, South Africa. She is interested in International human rights law, peacebuilding, and linguistics, and admits to jumping into one of the deepest gorges in South Africa . . . with a high fever! We are glad she is here, and trust that she will help keep us from falling too far ourselves.


Twelve students are travelling with Religious Studies professor Helen Rhee on our first Westmont in East Asia program. They are exploring the history of world Christianity, the theology and economics of wealth and poverty, contemporary issues in East Asian society, and Mandarin—all in the context of globalization in Seoul, Shanghai, and Singapore. During their first four weeks, students learned about the social, cultural, and religious landscapes of Korea and were especially influenced by their encounter with the non-Western Church through several Korean church visits and a forum of church leaders from the Global South (Africa and South East Asia). The students also explored the Confucian and Buddhist roots of Korean culture in an immersion experience at the Sosu Seonbi Confucian Academy.  Westmont’s participation in the academy was featured in two local newspapers. 

The students are now settled into a new rhythm at East China Normal University in Shanghai, with a Chinese language class, contemporary Chinese society class, as well as the two classes taught by Helen (History of World Christianity and Theology and Economics of Wealth and Poverty). “As we often say,” Helen writes, “there are many TINA ('This is Not America') moments that surprise, challenge, amuse, and intrigue us as we engage with the city, culture, and people of Shanghai. Among some highlights are our fora with Chinese students from East China Normal University, sharing commonalities and differences in Chinese and American college experiences and perspectives about life in personal and meaningful ways. We have also enjoyed trying characteristic meals from different regions of China, appreciating regional differences through culinary experiences. Our field trips included a visit to a ‘Marriage Market’ in a public park where parents showcase their son/daughter on paper in hopes of finding a future spouse for him/her.”



Shakespeare wrote his comedy As You Like It in 1599—the year when he also wrote Julius Caesar, Henry V, and the first draft of Hamlet.  This last year of the sixteenth century brought Shakespeare’s imagination into some dark corridors—murder, fratricide, madness, and wartime slaughter; As You Like It stands apart with its bravura wordplay, witty subterfuge, and romantic gambols in the forest.  

The Westmont players in John Blondell’s production of As You Like It clearly enjoyed dashing through the forest—brilliantly envisioned as a greenhouse on the Porter Hall stage.  One of the leads—Anna Telfor—was splendid as Rosalind, among Shakespeare's most intriguing roles. Rosalind is a woman who spends much of the play disguised as a man in order to gain closer access to her beloved. I asked Anna about the process of developing her intepretation.

"Playing Rosalind is just plain simple fun," she noted. "The words themselves are tiny little tongue-twisters full of wit and humor and truth; they carry themselves in liveliness and pacing. Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most empowering female roles; she is such a multi-dimensional, heartbreakingly-strong, extremely quick-witted character. That also comes with its challenges though; it is often difficult to reconcile the contrasts in her character, which I found myself as the actress trying to do often, rather than allowing myself to just play them up and revel in her complexity."

"John Blondell's directing style was very conversational; those conversations are really what spurred Rosalind’s formation. Shakespeare gives you all the clues you need to uncover a character, so really the process was more of a deep-textual-analysis-turned-interpretation rather than a creation of some sort of new and improved Rosalind. . . ." [continue reading]



In the summer of 2015 Telford Work began a year-long sabbatical—and never stopped moving.  For the next sixteen months he taught and ministered in Africa, Asia, and Europe, working with seminaries, churches, and colleges. His journey began in Ethiopia, where he taught at two institutions: the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in Addis Ababa and St. Frumentius Theological College in Mekele. From there, he headed off to Klaipeda, Lithuania on the coast of the Baltic Sea, where he spent a semester teaching at LCC International University. The winter season took him for teaching at Asia-Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio, Philippines, and then he settled into Torch Trinity Graduate University, in Seoul, South Korea for the spring term.  During last summer he taught at the South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India. 

Along with teaching, Telford preached often and travelled further to speak at academic conferences. Those presentations included a talk at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in the UK (“'God Gave Us the Ministry of Reconciliation’: How Christ’s Threefold Office Heals Broken Relationship”), a lecture at Ukrainian Catholic University (“The Churches’ Life, Separation, and Hope in the Spirit”), an oration at Trinity Theological College in Singapore (“Reconciling Interpretation: Reading as Atonement”), and two talks at Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India (“Interpreting [Islam] through the Bible” and “Servants not Judges: Restoring Doctrines of Scripture and Critical Methods”).


Robert Ruiz (photo), Westmont’s baseball coach, has been awarded the “Coach of Character Award” by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC). He was chosen as the sole recipient among all sports, men and women, in the GSAC. This annual award is given to a head coach of an NAIA institution who has been outstanding in embracing the five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character initiative, using methods of teaching character through sport, and in community leadership through volunteering or service.

The GSAC also selected Westmont tennis player Tommy Nightingale as the recipient of the Leroy Walker Champion of Character Award—an honor given to one male and one female athlete from the conference. This award was created to honor Dr. LeRoy Walker, a former president of the NAIA and president emeritus of the United States Olympic Committee. It recognizes a current student-athlete with at least junior academic status who has demonstrated outstanding academic accomplishment, athletic achievement, future ambition, and leadership.


Once again, the Provost’s Office is pleased to sponsor a lecture by one of the recipients of the Martin Institute/Dallas Willard Center’s annual book award. This year’s recipients were Angela Reed, Richard Osmer, and the late Marcus Smucker—the co-authors of the book Spiritual Companioning in Protestant Theology and Practice (Baker 2015). “Like gold miners who travel deep into the earth hoping to spot promising veins in the rock that are worth their time and effort,” the authors write, “we are convinced that precious veins within the Protestant tradition sometimes hide overlooked, and can help us address the contemporary longing for connection . . .”  Angela Reed, a professor at Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, will receive the award on behalf of her co-authors and present the annual lecture on November 10 at 7:00 p.m. in Hieronymous Lounge.


The morning light outside Kerrwood can be strikingly beautiful at times, and I very much enjoy an image that Randy VanderMey recently sent me.  He had captured the play on light on his iPhone just outside my window in Kerrwood (photo). In September Randy exhibited 75 of his iPhone images at the Adams Center for the Arts in a show curated by Nathan Huff. By design, Randy limited himself to the editing features on the phone when he prepared these images for exhibition.  Two of those images appeared in a juried fine arts photography show called “Captured 4” at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club. During the summer, Randy attended an eight-day spiritual writing workshop at the Glen Workshop, sponsored by the journal Image, at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and while he was there he worked on his essay "Beauty, Prayer, and the Sticky Image: My iPhone Practice." “I guess this is my way of writing poetry these days,” Randy remarks.

mitchell macedoniaMitchell Thomas has been adapting Shakespeare’s poetry—in this case, the sonnets—for the stage. He directed the world premiere of a new play, Baby Maker, which was inspired by Shakespeare's Sonnet #2, when he traveled to Macedonia (along with colleagues John Blondell and Jonathan Hicks) to participate in an international Shakespeare Festival at the National Theatre of Macedonia (Bitola). While there, Mitchell also performed the role of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar as an actor.  Baby Maker (photo) will appear again in Santa Barbara during the Shakespeare@400.SantaBarbara events in November. The comedic play was multilingual and featured a cast of American and Macedonian actors.


Any scholar who specializes in presidential politics is always busy during election years and this has certainly been true for Tom Knecht. In a three-day period, he spoke at a Faculty Forum, gave a lecture in the Westmont Downtown series, and taught a course for alumni during Homecoming.  His talks have underscored different theories about elections—the debate about whether “candidates and campaigns” make the difference in the outcome, or whether “fundamentals” (e.g. demographics, the state of the economy, party in power, etc.) eventually determine the winner. This may be a year, Tom theorizes, that “breaks all of the rules,” as the final outcome may run counter to what the “fundamentals” predict. 

Tom has also been engaging with our students about the election in numerous ways.  His course Presidential Election Politics had a waitlist this fall, and he has hosted electionstudents for a viewing and discussion for two of the presidential debates. Finally, he along with three other faculty members also spoke to students as part of a WCSA-sponsored Election Lecture series.  While Tom gave a “Politics 101” talk, the other faculty focused on major policy issues: Enrico Manlapig on taxes and the economy, Heather Keaney on foreign policy, and Cynthia Toms on immigration. 

And Scott Anderson has made his contribution to the election season, as several of his drawings of the political melée have been featured in LA Weekly.