Outstanding Graduates History
Cassidy Rea and Ella Urquart
Cassidy Rea’s ('20) skills as a scholar and her contribution in the classroom in many ways mirror those she displays as an athlete on the court: She is equally committed to performing at her best as bringing out the best in others. Cassidy delivers consistently high-quality written work and adds value to any class discussion as she effortlessly integrates material from different readings, discussions, and courses. I think we have all been encouraged in our own work by an affirming word from Cassidy as well as by the quiet, diligent way she tackles her own tasks. Cassidy synthesizes the fierce determination of a champion athlete and leader with the gentleness of a dear friend. We are very thankful for all she has contributed to the History department, her other “team,” during her time at Westmont. Two thumbs up for Cassidy.
Ella Urquhart '20 was on her way to learning most world languages -or so it seemed. But she got caught in the nets of history, and she found a home there. A home where she could ask her many questions, be skeptical about answers, do more research, and emerge with beautifully crafted work that furthers her readers’ knowledge and imagination. She has excelled in all the skills historians prize, not only because she has an impeccable work ethic and a razor-sharp mind, but also because her curiosity seems insatiable. She is eager to go back to another one of her homes (besides history), on the continent of Africa. Once she settles, there is no doubt she will put her talents to good use, and pick up a few languages along the way.
Gabriel Grabowski '19, a double major in history and Spanish, won the Outstanding Senior Awards for both history and modern languages. “Whether learning from Ensenada pastors with Potter’s Clay, listening to his host family on Westmont in Mexico, engaging local issues at the Westmont Downtown program, or evaluating competing historical interpretations in a senior research seminar, Gabe has been the same person: humble, kind, teachable, gracious, thoughtful, wise and courageous,” says Rick Pointer, chair of the history department. “He is willing to ask the hard questions and to wrestle ably with the theological and moral ambiguities that history and life present.”
Grabowski completed research projects on the memory of Danish resistance during the Holocaust and the history of Westmont’s Potter’s Clay in the context of 20th-century American evangelicalism. “Although he clearly loves research and writing, Gabe is passionate about cross-cultural service, and especially serving the marginalized,” says Mary Docter, chair of the modern languages department.
After studying in Querétaro, Mexico, Gabriel mentored students cross-culturally during summers in Spain, and has worked with immigrants and refugees as a resettlement and placement intern at World Relief and as a local volunteer at Immigrant Hope. He has served as a student representative of the Homelessness Collaborative for the Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation.
“I’ve been deeply inspired and supported by the Westmont community: Sodexo workers, professors, friends, staff, therapists, gardeners, campus pastors, and nameless students writing prayers in notebooks in the prayer chapel,” he says.
A 2019-20 Fulbright recipient, Gabriel will travel to Argentina this spring to work with college students and examine issues of globalization and transnationalism. “Ultimately, I’m just going to pursue the best thing in front of me in each season and seek Jesus, love my neighbors,” he says. “I hope someday that means being able to teach, write, and spend lots of time outdoors.”
For his senior history thesis, Jordan Baldridge '18 used the UCLA Archives and other sources to study the papers of former mayor Tom Bradley to determine what forces shaped the public policy response to the 1992 Los Angeles uprising and riots. Participating in Westmont in Istanbul made a significant impact on him, and two years later he served as the program’s assistant director. “The four years I spent learning from Heather Keaney and her husband, Jim Wright (who co-direct the Istanbul and Cairo programs), have shaped much of my post-college outlook in transformative ways,” he says. Baldridge also studied with Westmont Downtown where Rachel Winslow became a valuable mentor. Next year he’ll work with her at Westmont Downtown to pursue a community project. He is considering different graduate programs in history, public administration and public policy and hopes to pursue a career in community development or local government.
John Detrich’s ('17) keen mind and personable manner have been on display inside and outside the classroom since the first day he arrived at Westmont. Whether conducting campus tours for the admissions office, serving in student government, providing youth ministry leadership at Christ Presbyterian Church, or working as a research assistant for history faculty, he has blessed others through his wit, wisdom, and winsomeness. John has fused his strong interests and capabilities in theology and philosophy with his historical studies and brought penetrating questions to his courses and his own historical research. His excellent thinking, writing, and organizational skills are already bearing fruit in the workplace, as he interns this spring with both ON Design Architecture and Planning firm and the Real Property Division of the County of Santa Barbara.
It has been a joy for her professors to travel with Madeleine Tappy '16 through her Westmont career. Madeleine quickly stood out during her first semester and she continued to gain their high opinion throughout her time at Westmont, again emphasized by her time on the Westmont in Istanbul program and finally by her outstanding senior thesis. Madeleine is a strikingly rounded person. In her photography she captures the essence of a place, such as Istanbul’s Aya Sophie framed by crumbly apartment blocks. She is highly empathetic, bringing the same high level of conscientiousness to the pastoral care of her residents as to her academic 8 studies. Madeleine is very much her own person. She will come up with her own vision for success. Whatever that vision is, we are deeply confident that she will achieve it.
Bethany Day '15 is an outstanding student, a history major with an emphasis on the Middle East, as well as two minors in Religious Studies and Anthropology. She has been an RA – twice – and in the year in between participated in the Westmont in Istanbul study abroad semester. She is returning to Turkey in the Fall to work for a year and plan her next move, most likely graduate school. Bethany is able to make the ambitious seem effortless. Her work, whether a major research paper or a small reading response paragraph, is always of the highest quality. She negotiates new cultures and assignments with the same smile of determination and anticipation. It has been a joy to walk alongside her in the classroom and on Istiklal Street.