President's Briefing January 2021

Gayle D. Beebe, Ph.D.

Gayle D. Beebe became Westmont’s eighth president in 2007 after serving as president of Spring Arbor University in Michigan for seven years. His inauguration in 2008 featured speeches by Steve Forbes, chief executive officer of Forbes, and Steve Sample, former president of the University of Southern California. Read more about the President.

We’re Safely Open for Spring

Our campus is full, and our faculty, staff and students are demonstrating resilience! What a joy to see new and continuing students begin the spring semester committed to safely learn and live in community. We’re under strict protocols to reestablish a safe and COVID-19 free environment on campus, and everyone is complying to ensure a good semester. KEYT News, the Santa Barbara ABC affiliate, shared our story . A surprise snow day delighted our students, and everyone who relished the rare experience will always remember it. Watch the fun!

Taking The Next Step in Understanding Race, Justice and Equality

We’re learning together and going deeper in discussing several aspects of race, justice and equality in our society, including the college culture at Westmont. Intercultural Programs sponsored its 9th annual The Next Step workshop January 18-22. This virtual event focused on racial justice and reconciliation and featured speakers in chapel, special lectures and discussion groups, including the sessions listed below. (use the visual from Next Step used to promote the internal events). During these dynamic and heartfelt learning opportunities, we’ve listened to personal stories and reflections that challenge and change lives. They have poised us well to enter into Black History Month.

Race, Theology and The Need for Gospel Haymanot
DR. VINCE BANTU, assistant professor of church history and Black church studies at Fuller Seminary and author of “A Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity” and “Gospel Haymanot: A Constructive Theology and Critical Reflection on African and Diasporic Christianity.” Additionally, he has years of pastoral experience in African American, Asian American, and Hispanic churches.

Race, Faith and Politics
DR. MICHAEL O. EMERSON, professor of sociology at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and co-author of “Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America” and “Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions.”

Faithful and Just: Reclaiming an Authentic Christianity
LISA FIELDS, apologist, speaker and founder of Jude 3 Project.

The Second Phase and the Ongoing Work of Civil Rights
DR. MARCUS “GOODIE” GOODLOE, author of “King Maker: Applying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Leadership Lessons in Working with Athletes and Entertainers.” Read his excellent reflection of The Honorable John Robert Lewis, as published in Westmont magazine.

Making An Anti-Racist America
JOEL GOZA, speaker, community advocate and author of “America’s Unholy Ghosts.” He participated in a panel with Dr. Goodloe.

Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity
DR. SOONG-CHAN RAH, Robert Munger professor of evangelism at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of “Prophetic Lament and the Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.”

Westmont’s community, including our trustees, participated virtually and reflected together about how we can collectively and individually make the most significant contributions with each other and with our students. I’m grateful for the leadership of Edee Schulze, vice president for student life, and Blake Thomas, director of Intercultural Programs, for the work they’ve coordinated at Westmont with David Bailey, executive director of Arrabon . As I’ve said often, there is no finish line to our work to increase diversity in our community and to expand our efforts supporting and learning from our communities of color.

New Theater Program Goes Global

Our Theater Arts Department will expand its focus on diversity, justice, global engagement and intercultural competency with a new initiative beginning in fall 2021. John Blondell , award-winning director and professor of theater arts, will become the new global ambassador in the performing arts, and the department will create a new position: an artist/scholar-in-residence for diversity, equity and inclusion in theater arts. Read the Noozhawk story about the new initiative or learn more on our website.

Westmont Launches a New Nursing Program in 2022

At a time when the nation desperately needs more nurses, we plan to launch a new, accelerated program for a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) at our downtown Santa Barbara campus. We’ll root the program in our liberal arts curriculum and work closely with Cottage Health. The college recently purchased the building at 26 West Anapamu Street, the site of our Westmont Downtown semester, and we’ll dedicate the first two floors to the nursing program. We hope to enroll the first students for the spring 2022 semester. Read the story in Noozhawk, a local news provider.  

Preparing Our Latest Strategic Plan

Every five years, we update our strategic plan and focus on completing specific initiatives in critical areas that will help us advance our mission and strengthen the college. At present, we must navigate competing priorities related to responding to the pandemic. The plan will address issues such as enrollment, new academic and athletic programs, and our residential model. We provide opportunities for trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni representatives and parents council members to share their ideas as we seek to identify the most important needs to meet and the strengths we can build on.

Faculty News and Notes

Congratulations to Sarah Jirek, associate professor of sociology and chair of the sociology and anthropology department, on receiving tenure from the board of trustees in January. They praised her commitment to research and volunteer work. “I believe that God has placed a calling on my life and that this calling is reflected in my teaching, my research, and my past (and hopefully future) volunteer activities. I want to help students recognize social injustice, foster their commitment to act, and teach them how to take concrete steps to counter inequality and oppression,” Sarah says. Please read the latest faculty news and program updates. We’ve launched a national search for a new provost and thank Mark Sargent for his nine years of service at Westmont. He retired at the end of January. I’m grateful that Rick Ifland, director of the Eaton Program for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Westmont, associate professor of economics and business, and chair of the department, will serve as the college’s interim provost. We ask you to pray for this critical role at the college.

Great Outcomes for the class of 2020

We're thankful that 92 percent of Westmont graduates from the class of 2020 have found a job or are attending graduate school (or planning to attend) despite a national economy sickened by the coronavirus. Our graduates are displaying great resilience, initiative and tenacity as they face a challenging job market. Their success affirms the value of a Westmont education. Learn more about our COVE (Career Opportunities and Vocational Exploration) Career Center and how the staff members help students prepare for the future — and how they’ve adapted during the pandemic.

Westmont Leads

The fall magazine highlights how we lead in serving our communities locally, regionally and internationally. Three student leaders, depicted on the cover, share their individual stories in “What Does Leadership Mean to You?” You can read their thoughts here. If you did not  receive the magazine and would like a copy, please request one by emailing Or read the magazine on our website.

Learn about Principled Leadership at the President’s Breakfast

Hear Nancy Koehn, a bestselling author and Harvard historian, discuss courageous and principled leadership at the 16th annual Westmont President’s Breakfast Friday, March 5, at 8 a.m. PST. Tickets for this virtual event, which cost $35, go on sale February 12 at

Her bestselling book, “Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times,” focuses on President Abraham Lincoln, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and environmental crusader Rachel Carson. As she tells their stories, Koehn identifies enduring leadership principles that businesses and organizations can apply today.

Now that students have returned to campus and classes have begun, we deeply appreciate the hard work of our faculty and staff and the extra effort they make to keep everyone safe. We’re proud of our community and the way everyone has responded to the challenge of providing the best possible education for our students. We also value the many people in our extended community who support the college with prayer and gifts and keep us strong. May God bless you all.

Happy New Year!