Deeper Thinking, Wider Impact at the CATLab
The CATLab seeks not only to solve Westmont’s most pressing problems, but to solve them in a way that distinctly embodies Westmont’s values. As a program, the CATLab is a microcosm of the Westmont community, built on the same foundation—Christian, liberal arts, undergraduate, residential, and global.
At 8:00am every morning, we begin our workday with liturgy. As we start each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, “Our lives are so small, O Lord, / Our vision so limited,” we regain perspective and place ourselves back in God’s presence. Our liturgies, though they take only a few minutes to read together, remind us to call on God for help in using our gifts to do work that brings him glory. These group confessions also draw us together and remind us that to be Christian is to live in community. The words “Open my lips, O Lord, / And my mouth shall proclaim your praise,” which mark the start of our Tuesdays and Thursdays, connect us to Christian communities around the world, many of which open with this very prayer.
Similarly, our guest lectures and faculty-led discussions help us think about themes like creativity, ethics, vocation, etc. from a Christian point of view. Again and again, we see how our frameworks for thinking affect the choices we make. At the CATLab, topics like the patterns of creation and the dignity of human beings are consistent themes in our conversations. As we find solutions and design software, we think carefully about who our work might affect or exclude, and try to create products that honor the dignity of as many people as possible.
We are a team of English majors, Business majors, Computer Science majors and Data Analytics majors. We are artists, programmers, and entrepreneurs. We embrace the diversity of our team, and yet, we’re able to work well together. Westmont’s focus on the liberal arts has challenged us to value different perspectives, to learn from others, and to carefully and critically craft our own views. One of the ways we applied the liberal arts to our work was taking a half-day retreat to Knapp’s Castle to develop a team statement. Not only was this trip an opportunity to pursue deeper meaning, but it allowed us to articulate our individual hopes and goals and to see how our different visions could come together. The afternoon allowed us to grow closer as co-workers, as thinkers, and as friends.
The CATLab honors Westmont’s commitment to undergraduate education by hiring students rather than established professionals. Westmont College has placed a huge amount of trust in its students, empowering us to make a real difference in the way the school uses technology. Not only do we learn things in the workplace we would never encounter in the classroom, like how to interact with clients, we also see how what we have learned in the classroom applies to the corporate world—both in terms of specific knowledge and having a teachable attitude. Although we have the guidance of Westmont faculty, such as Zak, Nancy, Kim, Dominique, and the Admissions staff, our technical lead, Dante, is a student and peer. (For more about why the CATLab is committed to working with students and how we find the right ones, read this article).
Although the members of the CATLab don’t all live together—some are on campus, some in Ocean View, some in places of their own throughout the city—we’re all still based in Santa Barbara. Since our office is right in the heart of Downtown, we get plenty of opportunities to explore our beautiful surroundings. On top of its great location, our office building itself is far more than the place where we happen to work: During the school year, Westmont Downtown hosts an off-campus program focused on local businesses and social entrepreneurship and helps connect students with the greater Santa Barbara community. Additionally, this building was Westmont’s headquarters when the main campus was evacuated for the Thomas Fire—it’s part of Westmont history. When the admissions department first came to visit, Zak noted that a number of students at the CATLab today were probably admitted when the counsellors had worked in that very room.
Living in proximity also builds our community: It’s not hard for us to get together at the beach on weekends or hang out in one another’s apartments after work. Dante sets a great example of intentional community-building. Every week, he hosts “Taco Thursdays” at his apartment in OV. And Taco Thursdays aren’t exclusive to the CATLab—anyone is welcome to drop by and enjoy a time of sitting, talking, eating tacos, and maybe even meeting new friends.
Westmont cares about the whole world—the whole of creation—and CATLab does, too. While we love our local community, we hope to accomplish things that spread beyond our corner of the continent. This summer, we’re building software using Salesforce, a massive company whose influence spans the globe, with offices everywhere from Argentina to Switzerland. The CATLab plans to take a trip to visit their headquarters later this month, and we’re thrilled to be part of the Salesforce Ohana.
We’re also privileged to have many team members who have studied abroad and can contribute fresh perspectives. Beyond taking advantage of Westmont’s off-campus programs, several of members of the CATLab are passionate about other cultures and countries: Emily has studied Japanese for many years and Kaylee is already pursuing a global career as she interns with a tech company in Taiwan. And of course, as we complete our work with excellence, we pave the way for others to do likewise, wherever they are in the world.
Simply put, the deep thought we put into our work for the CATLab naturally overflows into sharing what we’ve gained with others. Specifically, the CATLab is excited to host two events at the end of this summer: Be a Multiplier, a day-long event geared toward helping junior high and high schoolers engage with coding and Salesforce as a platform; and Enabling Impact, a tech conference with speakers such as Phil Komarny, VP of Innovation for Salesforce. If you’re interested in registering, check out the links below. We would love to see you there!
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