Westmont Magazine Home Away from Home
The first church family camp Sam and Carolyn Chetti attended with their daughter took place at Westmont. They didn’t know it at the time, but they would soon return to drop Darshana off for her first year of college.
As one of 34 executive ministers with the American Baptist Churches of the USA, Sam oversees the convention in Los Angeles, which includes more than 140 churches.
Reflecting the multicultural character of the region, members of these congregations come from 108 countries and hold worship services in 27 different languages. There is no dominant culture in these churches, and Sam advises pastors on leadership in culturally diverse communities. During his early years as a university chaplain at USC and UCLA, he taught classes on cross-cultural communication at USC. In 1984, he was asked to be a chaplain for the USC Olympic Village.
A registered nurse who works in labor and delivery and educates parents about childbirth, Carolyn has also noted the changing face of the region. “Traditions surrounding birth are culturally based,” she notes. “You have to consider how to teach each couple.”
The Chettis belong to the diverse congregation at Evergreen Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Sam immigrated from India in 1969, and Darshana is Indian by birth. They feel at home in Los Angeles among people of many cultures and value that variety.
When their daughter decided to attend Westmont, the Chettis wondered if the predominantly Caucasian campus would provide the best environment for her. They discussed their concerns with President David Winter, and his world view and background as an anthropologist impressed them. “He reassured us that Westmont was intent on embracing greater diversity among students and would prepare them for a global perspective,” Carolyn explains.
Darshana chose Westmont for its strong academic and Christian atmosphere — and because people here made her feel welcome. She received phone calls and notes from a variety of people, including Dean of Students Jane Hideko Higa, encouraging her to come.
“While Westmont is not as diverse as Southern California, it can educate students to navigate in a multicultural society,” Sam notes. “The college doesn’t need to be highly multi-ethnic to accomplish that goal.”
According to the Chettis, Darshana grew a great deal during her first year at Westmont. “We are seeing a reticent and tentative teenager blossom into an independent and gracious young woman,” says Carolyn.
They think that Westmont provides a safe place to explore possibilities because it combines “dedicated Christian faculty, visionary administrators, a strong biblical base, a relevant world perspective, and a safe and beautiful campus.”
Thrilled that Darshana described her New Testament class as “exciting,” the Chettis encourage parents to become familiar with their student’s professors and classes. “When you talk to them, you appreciate their background, and you realize what makes the college so wonderful,” Carolyn notes.
Sam particularly enjoyed the Service of Commitment during orientation. Faculty, students and parents all pledge to support each other during the school year in a liturgy that is both humorous and profound. “I would like to duplicate that experience at L.A. Baptist High School because I thought it was a meaningful way to build community,” he says.
Darshana, a member of Westmont’s Multicultural Club, tutored Chinese students learning math and language skills this summer. She looked forward to returning to campus, her home away from home. That is exactly what her parents want to hear.