Augustinian Scholars Program
About the Program
The Augustinian Scholars Program (ASP) offers a four-year scholarship and honors curriculum to students committed to academic excellence and Christian formation. The ASP invites students to study the work of St. Augustine of Hippo and other key thinkers in the Christian intellectual tradition because a rigorous pursuit of truth grows out of our pursuit of God. Rather than a separate honors college, ASP operates within Westmont, providing support and intellectual fellowship to the scholars and enhancing their engagement with the broader community.
Westmont awards at least 60 Augustinian Scholarships to incoming first-year students each year, which cover 85 percent of tuition for four years.
If you are a high school senior graduating in 2020, start thinking today about the Augustinian Scholarship and apply to Westmont by November 1, 2019. The college invites candidates to campus in January to compete for the awards and announces the recipients by the end of February.
Augustinians begin their Westmont career with a two-semester course sequence on Augustine and the Christian intellectual tradition. The fall seminar— “Faith Seeking Understanding” —provides an introduction to the liberal arts and the idea of scholarship as a Christian calling. Together, the scholars mine the riches of the Christian tradition to understand how rigorous academic inquiry—the pursuit of truth—involves a lifelong journey closely linked to spiritual commitments and personal formation. After building this foundation, Augustinians move into the spring semester course, “Pilgrim Citizens,” to understand how to serve society, including churches, families, neighborhoods, and broader political arenas. Scholars explore questions of calling and vocation in pursuit of faithful citizenship, activities, and service involvements.
During these first two semesters, scholars can anticipate a demanding yet stimulating agenda of classical and contemporary readings, writing assignments, seminar discussions, guest lectures, external activities, and opportunities for spiritual formation. The two-semester sequence will fulfill three of Westmont’s General Education requirements—Philosophical Reflections, Understanding Society, and Writing-Intensive—which helps scholars make progress toward graduation.
In their second and third years, Augustinians enroll in one-unit honors seminars (at least one per year) on a range of topics, including good stories, vocational calling, interpersonal relationships, the Church, stewardship, and encountering creation. They deepen their ongoing connection and intellectual fellowship within the program while gaining opportunities for spiritual formation, service and preparation to launch well from college—all with sufficient flexibility for students to pursue diverse majors, off-campus programs, athletics, etc.
In their final year, scholars share an integrative capstone experience that provides sustained reflection on ASP themes as they get ready to graduate from Westmont.
- “This course has allowed me to really ponder the question of vocation and calling in my life and the role that I am supposed to play here as a ‘pilgrim citizen.’ It is challenging and sometimes can be overwhelming but it is something of great significance that I cannot simply ignore or take lightly.”
- “I am eternally grateful for the exposure this class has given me to so many voices of the Christian tradition. It has helped me to realize the distinct differences and fundamental commonalities between denominations, and my faith has become more resolute because of it.”
- “This course has given me a group of people that I can have deeper conversations with. Most of the time (when a discussion topic is interesting) the conversations continue outside of class. I have really enjoyed getting to know how my peers tackle different theological puzzles. It has also given me a group of friends who I know are able to discuss deeper questions.”
- “I have found the contents of this course to be demanding in their implications for my life as a Westmont student and for the rest of my life. It has challenged me to both root myself in this community with the right motivations, but also to implement personal spiritual disciplines to attempt to evaluate and align my will with God’s.”
- “I concluded that I know next to nothing about Christianity’s intellectual tradition, and I am so happy. I am ecstatic that I will always have something more to read, to learn, and to know about God and his Word. I also have a newfound respect for premodern Christians and their skill in articulating and defending concepts that still bewilder people today.”
- “Coming in, I was probably most excited about the fellowship and community aspect of participating in a program like this. Even though it took me a little longer than I expected to feel like I fit in and could really be myself around everyone, the friends I have made in this course have been one of the biggest blessings I have experienced at Westmont. It’s really encouraging to look back on the dynamic of the group in August versus now and how the chemistry of our group has changed so dramatically. I am so grateful for all the memories I have made because of this course – sharing unpopular opinions at the start of class, playing Apples to Apples at the Covingtons’, poring over essays together in the library until closing time, and feeling how close we have grown as we affirmed one another in one of our last discussion sections.”
- “I could wax eloquent for many pages about how this class changed me, but the first thing that comes to mind is my growing confidence. The discussion sections proved to me that I could effectively engage complex topics in discourse with other people. Often these discussions also engendered new friendships that I am so happy to have moving into the future.”
- “This course has exposed how inadequately I am living and helped me to understand that how I live right now matters. I hope to make my life more of a liturgy of worship and establish better routines. These routines include time with God and scripture reading, but also mundane practices like cleaning my room more often to respect my roommate. I’ve been convicted by how much my beliefs and the way I live do not match up and want to live with greater integrity.”
“I have begun to understand the importance of spiritual disciplines and I have a greater appreciation for the Christian faith. I have started practicing the Sabbath—something that I had never considered before—and I now have a greater respect for rest in its truest and fullest form. Hearing the practices of the guest lecturers was also especially helpful, because they often provided us with advice and specific disciplines that correlated to what we were learning. I have become more intentional about making sure that I actually practice these spiritual disciplines and I now have a broader understanding of what it looks like to truly live a Christian life.”
- IS-010H Honors: Augustine and the Christian Tradition I: Faith Seeking Understanding.
- This course offers an introduction to higher education as a Christian calling, exploring the pursuit of truth as a lifelong journey that is closely linked to spiritual commitments, communities, and formation. By engaging with primary texts, seminar discussions, interdisciplinary guest speakers, and written communication, students are introduced to select thinkers in the Christian intellectual tradition, including St. Augustine of Hippo, the North African bishop renowned for his contributions to Christian thought. (4 units, G.E.: Philosophical Reflections)
- IS-020H Honors: Augustine and the Christian Tradition II: Pilgrim Citizens.
- Thematically grounded in St. Augustine's rich theology of the two cities, this course draws from the Christian intellectual tradition to enrich students’ understanding of society, its institutions, and their callings to love both God and neighbor. Using a pilgrimage framework, the course invites students to pursue increasingly faithful citizenship through reflective participation in activities and service. (4 units, G.E.s: Understanding Society, Writing-Intensive [combined with 010]).
Second and Third Years:
- IS-030H—Honors Seminar: Stories Worth Telling: provides a context to explore and enjoy a good story (biography, fiction, history, etc.) together, focused on one or more narratives chosen by the instructor in light of her/his interests and/or expertise. (1 unit)
- IS-031H— Honors Seminar: Calls Worth Answering: offers an opportunity for inquiry into the ideas of Christian vocation, application of those ideas to students’ lives, including structured opportunities for service and post-college preparations. (1 unit)
- IS-032H— Honors Seminar: The Global, Local Church: inquires into the past, present, and/or future of the Christian Church, exploring dimensions of both its universal and local nature, and its unity and diversity (relative emphasis will vary). (1 unit)
- IS-033H— Honors Seminar: Interpersonal Relationships: explores facets of human relationship in interdisciplinary Christian perspective. Emphases may include friendship, marriage, children, professional, etc., explored from theological, psychological, historical, philosophical, literary, and/or sociological perspectives, etc. (1 unit)
- IS-034H— Honors Seminar: Stewardship: explores the human calling to steward finite resources of the created order, including natural resources, time, and money (targeting NBS majors, but accessible broadly). (1 unit)
- IS-035H—Honors Seminar: Encountering Creation: explores ways of seeing, understanding, and enjoying the created order from an interdisciplinary perspective. (1 unit)
- IS-036H—Honors Seminar: Topics: advanced inquiry in a subject area proposed by the instructor (1 unit)
- Senior ASP Honors Seminar (2 units)
Jesse Covington serves as director of the Augustinian Scholars Program and professor of political science at Westmont. He teaches and writes in the fields of political theory, constitutional law, and Westmont’s Augustinian seminars. He earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Notre Dame, a Master of Arts in religion at Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Pepperdine University. A Westmont professor since 2007, he has also held appointments at Princeton University and Wheaton College. He received the Outstanding Teacher in the Social Sciences Award in 2010 and 2018 and has co-led Westmont’s Europe Semester with his wife, Holly. His research interests and publications include Saint Augustine, John Locke, natural law, the First Amendment, and Christian liberal arts education. The Covingtons have four children.
Aurelius Augustine, who lived from 354-430 A.D. in Northern Africa, served as bishop of Hippo and published numerous works about the Christian faith that continue to inspire believers today. Recognized as the most significant Christian thinker of his time, Augustine created an influential and compelling theological system
In 410 AD, Alaric and the Goths stormed the citadel of Rome and burned the city gates, symbolic of conquest in the ancient world. The act traumatized the citizens of Rome and set off a wave of panic across the entire empire. Eventually, the Romans repelled the barbarian hordes, and the political leaders regrouped. But like all corrupt politicians, they needed someone or something to blame to divert attention from their own gross incompetence. As historians have carefully documented, the Romans accused the Christians of causing their demise and began to mount a case against the new religion.
When Augustine heard of the attack and the response accusing Christians, he grew alarmed that Roman leaders might succeed in discrediting the church. He began to write The City of God. From 413 to 426 A.D., he excavated the history of the Roman Empire, pointing out in case after case that, contrary to popular belief, the Christians had not contributed to the demise of Rome. Instead, he identified them as the moral thread holding the empire together.
This was the last book Augustine wrote. He died four years later after making the finest defense ever for the enduring presence of thoughtful Christians in every society.