Westmont Magazine Progress for Programs
While buildings are a visible result of gifts, Westmont’s capital campaign has also raised money for important programs that benefit students and faculty.
A $475,000 grant from the Irvine Foundation has funded work in two areas: reforming curricular and student life programs and expanding off-campus offerings.
“The Irvine grant has made a tremendous difference in Westmont’s programs,” President Stan D. Gaede says. “Self-studies in each department have helped strengthen courses, and we have added several off-campus opportunities.”
In 1997, Westmont faculty endorsed a proposal encouraging every student to attend an off-campus program. Participation grew from 49 percent in 1998 to 57 percent in 1999 alone. The goal is 80 percent.
“The Irvine grant made such a difference in our ability to expand,” says Heather Speirs, director of off-campus programs. “We’ve been able to do it the right way, through site visits and careful planning.”
New programs include two Mayterm trips. Communication studies professors are taking a group of students to Northern Ireland for six weeks to study communication, conflict and reconciliation. The kinesiology department is leading students interested in medicine or physical therapy to Guatemala, where they participate in internships related to their field of study.
Mary Docter, associate professor of Spanish, and Laura Montgomery, professor of anthropology, received a $33,000 grant from the Irvine funds to develop a semester-long program in Queretaro, Mexico, for non-Spanish majors. While participants will study Spanish and need some language skills, they will take general education courses in English. A Westmont professor will accompany 12-20 students for one semester each year. In May, 10 Westmont faculty went to Queretaro to examine the site.
Faculty have also visited programs sponsored by other schools to evaluate their desirability for Westmont students. Equipping staff to help students re-enter campus after studying abroad and appointing a crisis-management team are other grant-related activities.
Provost-elect Shirley Mullen oversaw the reform of curricular and student-life programs, which focused on the ability of each department to assess itself. “We want a process in place that not only ensures regular review of our curriculum and instructional strategies, but provides incentive for ongoing improvement of our programs,” she explains.
Faculty developed six student learning standards that characterize the kind of education Westmont provides as a Christian liberal arts college: Christian orientation, critical-interdisciplinary thinking, written and oral communication, diversity, societal and intellectual engagement, and research and technology.
Each academic department then evaluated its courses in light of these standards. For example, economics and business focused on making its offerings more diverse by incorporating broader gender and ethnic perspectives.
Kinesiology professors sought to develop ways to teach life-long fitness in skills classes as well as the ability to play a particular sport.
Faculty in philosophy and history developed new general education courses they believe more reflectively and intentionally address the six standards.
“This is a valuable process,” Mullen says. “We say that we teach students to communicate well, to think critically, to integrate faith and learning. It’s important to find out if we’re doing what we say we are — and to discover ways to do it more effectively. I believe in the process.”