Westmont Magazine Next Generation of Scholars
Ph.D.: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
A bioinorganic chemist, Contakes focuses on biological metal. “When you look at the chemistry involved in activities such as thinking and moving, metals play a key role in the ways our bodies function,” he says. His research, which replicates these metals in non-natural systems, may help reduce carbon dioxide emissions or prevent unwanted side effects in drugs. More than a dozen scientific journals have published his work.
Contakes taught at Azusa Pacific University and conducted research as a visitor at the California Institute of Technology before coming to Westmont.
“My passion is to see students’ lives change and grow in terms of their ability to think, their personal maturity, their Christian walk and their professional development,” he says. “I’m committed to the college’s general approach to Christian education.”
M.A.: Westminster Theological Seminary
Ph.D., M.A.: University of Notre Dame
With expertise in political theory and constitutional law, Covington focuses his research on religious liberty in the political theory of John Locke. He also takes particular interest in the Supreme Court.
“I hope to help students sense the importance of ideas in politics and the excitement of political thinking,” he says. “I enjoy sharing my love of the political world and communicating the need for Christians to carefully and intentionally explore how their faith interacts with politics. I want to use the great texts of the Western and non-Western traditions to get students to think thoroughly about politics in relation to their faith.”
“This is a very interesting time for the Supreme Court,” he says. “Upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortions reflects the changing timbre of the Supreme Court and Justice Kennedy’s new position as the swing vote.”
M.A.: Wheaton College
M.A., Ph.D.: University of Cambridge
In her doctoral dissertation, “The Enemy Within: Biblical and Intertestamental Traditions of Family Violence,” Reeder examines domestic violence in ancient cultures. Since some contemporary family violence stems from religious reasoning, she hopes her work will increase under-standing of the modern roots of religious violence.
She has turned her attention to Aemilia Lanyer, a 17th century poet who wrote “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women,” blaming Adam for original sin. Engaging her classes in ongoing, dynamic discussions also interests her, as that kind of dialogue energized her as a student.
After living in Jerusalem for two years and in England for four, she embraces cross-cultural experiences. “I’ve benefited so much from being in other cultures and seeing myself and America from outside,” she says. “I love living in new cultures.”
Ph.D., M.A.: UC Los Angeles
Stelmach is committed to the liberal arts curriculum and says teaching at Westmont is her dream job. “The liberal arts expose students to all aspects of what it means to be human, not just in a narrow vocational sense, but through a wide-ranging introduction to the humanities, sciences and social sciences,” she says. “Along the way, we hope our students will become better critical readers, writers and thinkers.”
Her maternal grandparents, who both taught high school English, inspired Stelmach. “Growing up, I would sit in my grandfather’s chair and read his dog-eared poetry. I fell in love with it,” she says. At an early age, she became a voracious reader and tackled challenging texts.
Stelmach’s scholarly work explores the transatlantic and diasporic intersections among the writings of Irish, African, Caribbean and Southern U.S. authors. She won the Chancellor’s Dissertation Fellowship and the Teaching Excellence Award at UCLA.
Ph.D., M.A.: University of Arizona
After 13 years on the faculty of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Stern felt called to teach at Westmont. “I loved my job and was happy at SIUE,” she says. “But I had never been to a small Christian college like Westmont.” After two trips to campus and meetings with faculty and students, she knew it was the place for her.
In particular, Stern wants to work more closely with students, involving them in her research and mentoring them. She also welcomes the opportunity to share her faith in Christ more openly. Her research interests include conflict between spouses and friends, rhetorical figures in advertising, and assessment in higher education. She directed the assessment program at SIUE.
A scholarly study of student use of Facebook, a popular social networking Web site, proved to be a revealing experience for her. While she enjoyed the project, she found that college students provided a surprising amount of personal information.
Sociology and Anthropology
Ph.D.: University of Minnesota
M.A.: Nankai University
A native of China, Zhang graduated from Harbin Normal University and earned a master’s degree in sociology before coming to the United States in 1997 to study at the University of Minnesota. After two years as an adjunct professor at Westmont, he has accepted a tenure-track position.
“I feel deeply at home at Westmont spiritually, culturally and intellectually,” Zhang says. “I am excited to continue teaching, researching and serving in this loving community. Most importantly, I care deeply about Westmont students and will continue to help them explore the social world from a Christian perspective.”
Zhang’s interest areas include race and ethnicity, immigration, sociology of religion and China studies. His doctoral dissertation explores the Chinese immigrant church in America with a focus on how Chinese immigrants construct their tripartite identity: Chinese, American and Christian.