Provost's Report May 2020

May 2020

I went to church the other day . . . in Massachusetts, in the small seaside community where we worshipped with our family before coming to Westmont. I attended with my oldest son, who is sheltering in his home near Fresno. The opening hymn, "Come Thou Fount," was a familiar American tune, while the final chorus was a soulful recording from Australia. A large banner with photos of the parishioners had been raised in one section of the empty eighteenth-century pews. Alone in the sanctuary, the pastor took care to fill the service with lots of names. Virtual living separates us and brings us closer.

The last seven weeks have been times of shelter, but they have often brought me closer to things of value. I've been invited to social events with friends in other states. At various worship services, I have listened to a speaker in Thailand, heard anthems from England, seen paintings from Africa, and watched drone footage over Santa Barbara and the Middle East. All that has also made me think more about how asynchronous elements might make one's classes—remote or otherwise—a wider panorama of visuals and voices. But just when I can get intrigued about increasing production values for a mediated course, I remember the losses—the spontaneity, discourse, and discovery that can come more easily when we are together around a seminar or conference table. As we prepare for a fall with many uncertainties, I am sure we will all be considering what can be recovered but also renewed.

This report focuses on some of the work we didn't get to celebrate on campus together during the past couple months, including several highlights about current colleagues and an introduction to some new ones. I have tried to fill the report with lots of names.

Mark Sargent Signature




It's been a quiet campus this May, without the usual year-end events to honor students' accomplishments, but we have endeavored to celebrate many of our students online. As always, each department has selected an "Outstanding Senior." There are fine tributes to them written by their departmental mentors that have been posted on the college website. The top student for religious studies, Nathan Tudor, is also Westmont’s “First Senior,” the honor reserved for the graduate with the highest GPA. In praise of Nathan, the department faculty wrote that he "is a unique intellect and a self-deferential soul. . . . Beyond his obvious intellectual and academic capabilities, his ecclesical commitment and care for those on the margins of society demonstrate his deep personal and embodied faith."

Fifteen students produced posters or abstracts for the annual Spring Research Symposium, and the Athletic Department taped speeches from coaches and athletes that would have normally been given at the annual Golden Eagle Banquet in honor of the top student-athlete from each sport. One of those Golden Eagles—Jack Dickinson—was named Westmont’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year. An English major who works in the Writers’ Corner, Jack threw the hammer, javelin, shot, and discus on the track and field team and was, in the opinion of Coach Russell Smelley, the most complete thrower in the history of the school. Four of our students—Kayla Peterson, Alexa Spandrio, Elizabeth Scalise, and Charlotte Combrink—completed Major Honors projects, and were able to deliver the presentations via Zoom. One of the blessings in this new format: friends and family from as far away as South Africa were able to attend.

Congratulations as well to Emily Mata, who has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in Mexico for next year. Four other students—Christian D'Emilia, Grace Hana, Gabby Rodriguez, and Caroline Thomas—made it to the semi-final round in what turned out to be a very competitive year nationally for the awards.



For several years Westmont has offered an ethnic studies minor, though it has recently enrolled few students. Earlier in the year, a faculty group began reviewing the former curriculum and developing a new portfolio of elective courses, drawing on many of the enrichments to the curriculum introduced by some of our newest faculty. At the center of the minor will be an interdisciplinary seminar exploring key principles, theories, and research about ethnic studies. The Academic Senate recently approved the minor for a Fall 2020 launch.

The goal of the minor is to “equip students to engage and lead faithfully in our diverse world.” It explores issues of race, equity and ethnicity within the context of Christian understandings of human flourishing. The curriculum draws on classes in anthropology, education, English, history, psychology, religious studies, sociology, and theatre. Other courses—such as ones in political science and biology—could soon be added to the elective options.  

Thanks to Dinora Cardoso, Meredith Whitnah, and the faculty who helped shape the new minor. I believe that the minor will appeal to many students who are interested in probing questions of race, history, culture, and justice. 



After twenty-seven years at the helm of the men’s basketball program, John Moore is concluding his coaching career as the winningest coach in the history of the program. With a record of 558-278, he averaged over 20 wins a year, and brought his teams to the national tournament fourteen times. This year’s team surprised most forecasts by claiming the GSAC regular-season championship, and helped earn John the NAIA National Coach of the Year honor. 

As a collegiate athlete, John spent his first two years at Cypress Community College and then became one of the most accomplished basketball players in Westmont's history. “Coach was one of the toughest players ever to take the court at Westmont and his best teams were the ones that took on that character and battled in the way he played,” Dave Odell observes. John's former coach, Chet Kammerer, who left Westmont to join the Lakers, recently remarked that it "was an honor to coach him and it was a pleasure to observe him as a coach. As a player and coach, his basketball IQ, character, leadership and tenacity were on display. . . John Moore is a remarkable, humble and selfless man.” I’ve known John for over forty years now, so I have been able to see how briskly he distributed the ball as a playmaker and how quickly he spreads praise to others as a colleague. He has been as dedicated to the classroom as he has been to the Princeton offense he adapted for his teams. He will continue as an associate professor of kinesiology and associate athletic director. 


One of this year’s assistants, Landon Boucher, will step into the head coaching duties (more on Landon in my next report). And another highlight for the men's team is that guard Abram Carrasco was just named the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Basketball Player of the Year. "Bram" had already been named the GSAC Player of the Year.



This semester Rick Pointer completed his distinguished service as a Westmont professor and scholar, and we look forward to an occasion in the autumn when we can convene to applaud Rick's career. That occasion may also give us an opportunity to celebrate the release of Rick's new book, Pacifist Prophet: Papunhank and the Quest for Peace in Early America (University of Nebraska Press). Papunhank was a Munsee Indian and a convert to Christianity who spent much of his life searching for a peaceful homeland in the Middle Colonies during the period between the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and the Revolution. Rick's narrative stresses how Papunhank drew on indigenous and Christian principles to promote a way of peace that was a striking contrast to the violence and racial animosity of the time. The book sets Papunhank in the context of other Native traditions and peoples advocating for peace.

The book will be released in the fall, but advance praise has already begun to appear. James Merrell of Vassar College writes, “Pacifist Prophet ushers onto the American stage a forgotten Native leader who went not on the warpath but on the peace path. The book has much to teach us about early America—and perhaps, too, about our own turbulent times.” And Greg Dowd of the University of Michigan notes, “With engaging prose, scrupulous research, and great sensitivity, Pointer treats the life of a single Native American man seeking peace, stability, family, and place in a world of migration, famine, pestilence, and war.”

In March Rick offered the Phi Kappa Phi lecture, entitled “Peace-Loving Indians? Recovering a Missing Piece of American History.” The talk focused on his efforts to discover and narrate the life of Papunhank from the primary source materials.



Last February InterVarsity Press released Sandra Richter's new book, Stewards of Eden: What the Scripture Has to Say About the Environment and Why it Matters. Tremper Longman commends the book for "skillfully and clearly" interpreting "relevant biblical passages," and Amanda Sparkman praises the study for its "acute sensitivity" to the resonances of the Old Testament and ancient Near Eastern cultures "in contemporary environmental crises." As the publisher observes, Sandy "walks readers through passages familiar and not-so familiar, showing how significant environmental theology is to the Bible's witness . . . Each chapter draws out a biblical mandate about humanity's responsibility to care for the land, domestic and wild creatures, and people on the margins." 

In a recent interview, Sandy remarked, "'Steward' is the ideal word to express what it is that God has called us to do as regards the Garden he entrusted to us. In Eden, God offered his people a perfectly balanced, breathtakingly beautiful planet animated by majestic flora and fauna that filled the skies and seas and forests. His command? 'Cultivate' and 'protect,' 'rule' in the spirit and character of your Creator. The thesis of the book is that this command remains."

During the spring, Sandy also served as the annual Laing Lecturer at the London School of Theology in the UK. She addressed their community in chapel, offered a lecture at their graduate research seminar, and gave the evening Laing Lecture to the larger South England academic community. She also offered several lectures at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, including their doctoral colloquia and SEBTS's annual "Evangelical Voices in the Academy" lecture. 



This summer the Physics Department will welcome Robert Haring-Kaye as their new colleague. Bob has just completed his tenure as a professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio Wesleyan University, and he taught previously at Purdue University Calumet. All of his degrees—his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in nuclear physics—are from Florida State University. Bob’s primary research interests are in the structure of atomic nuclei at the limits of spin and binding deduced from gamma-ray spectroscopy. 

Bob has been a principal investigator or co-PI on four National Science Foundation grants, the last two focused on cultivating research experiences for undergraduates. More than a dozen of his many publications have been co-authored with students, and he has supervised over forty student publications or presentations in scholarly journals or conferences. In addition to covering many of the standard general physics courses and labs, Bob teaches astronomy, optics, and analog electronics.



At this time seven years ago we were celebrating Daniel Gee as our “First Senior,” or valedictorian. Now we are welcoming him back to join the Music Department as an assistant professor who will focus primarily on the choir and choral groups. The recipient of a prestigious Lilly Graduate Fellows grant, Daniel is completing his doctorate in music arts at the University of Southern California.

Along with his interest in choral music, Daniel has been studying orchestral conducting, composition, and music theory. During his time at USC, he has been the associate director of the men’s chorus and the women’s choir, and has written several commissions, including new settings of “To God Be the Glory” and “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” for Westmont groups. He is also the assistant conductor of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. 



The Art Department has developed a new graphic arts concentration within its studio arts major. The new concentration will allow students to pursue courses in digital photography and printmaking, typography, illustration, advertising, and web design, among other more technologically oriented topics. Yet the concentration is still grounded in important studio arts skills such as design and drawing as well as art theory and history. The new program was approved by the Academic Senate during the spring.

Other Senate business included the approval of a policy on accepting credit for A-Level Exams, an international equivalent to the AP exam originating in the UK. There was also substantial discussion on how our certification criteria for the general education program might be revised to ensure sufficient attention to issues of race, justice, diversity, and equity. Those conversations will continue in the summer and fall.



After several years of teaching as an adjunct faculty member, Katherine Bryant has assumed a tenure-track role in the Political Science Department, where she will specialize in international relations. Her research focuses on the efficacy of foreign aid programs; she considers how political factors influence the behavior of aid organizations, especially multilateral agencies. She has recently launched a study of the effectiveness of Christian aid organizations.

Kate had led our students last year in their preparation for the Model United Nations in New York City, where several of the students won awards. She has a keen interest in improving data literacy among students, and has also taught environmental politics. She looks forward to contributing to both the environmental studies minor and the global studies minor. After completing her undergraduate work at USC, Kate finished her doctorate at Texas A&M University, with an emphasis on international relations and a minor in political methodology.



This summer the Sociology Department will welcome Blake Victor Kent as an assistant professor. In addition to teaching in the department, Blake will devote one-third of his role to assisting with the college’s institutional research endeavors. He brings expertise in quantitative methods, and has been working over the past year as a research associate with the Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. 

After completing his undergraduate work at Wheaton College, Blake finished an M.A. in theological studies at Regent College in British Columbia and then earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology at Baylor University. He is currently a co-investigator on a major Templeton grant for the "National Spirituality and Health Consortium." As a scholar who specializes in population health, medicine, and religion, Blake will no doubt bring some valuable perspectives on the sociology of the current pandemic.



The Student Records Office will soon be joined by Tara Sturges, currently on staff at Simpson University in Northern California, as the new assistant registrar. Due to multiple transitions at Simpson over the past five years, she has covered virtually every role in the Registrar's Office, and claims her favorite job duties are related to evaluating transfer coursework, posting academic credit, ensuring graduation requirements are met, and confirming degrees.

Tara will be replacing Amy Roemelen, who moved to Idaho in 2019 but has been assisting Westmont remotely for several months. Prior to coming to Simpson, Tara completed her undergraduate degree in psychology and spent fifteen years in ministry. She will join us midsummer.



Along with the new tenure-track appointees, several faculty will be joining the college in short-term roles. In the Economics and Business Department, Senyo Adjibolosoo (photo) will serve as a full-time faculty member in the fall. Recently retired after a long career at Point Loma Nazarene University, Senyo is an economist who did his undergraduate work in his native Ghana and completed his doctorate at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He writes frequently about the "human factor" in economic development.

Laura Drake Schultheis, a graduate of Westmont, will return to her alma mater in a one-year post in the Biology Department. She has special interests in marine biology and ecology, and is completing her doctorate at UCSB, where she has also taught. Previously, she was the head of sciences at Providence Hall. Laura has also managed field work and data for a project sponsored by the California Energy Council and been given the Vernon Cheadle Award for research on biodiversity and ecology.

Matthew Roy, also a Westmont graduate with a UCSB doctorate, joins the Music Department in a one-year role, covering for Grey Brothers while he is on leave for a year doing ministry work in Mexico. Matthew has been the music director at El Montecito Presbyterian Church and Providence Hall, and has taught previously at Westmont, UCSB, and Eastern Washington University.

Chris Peterson, a principal design engineer at Northrup Grumman, an aerospace innovation company, has agreed to be an adjunct professor of engineering for Westmont. He completed his doctorate at UCSB in mechanical engineering and has expertise in the mechanics of materials, electromagnetics, and engineering graphics. 

During the fall semester, David Janzen, a professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, will teach in the Computer Science Department for us. He has expertise in empirical software engineering and "agile methods," and is the founder of Steadfast Innovation, LLC.



Meagan Stirling’s solo exhibition “Digging a Hole” at the Bryan Oliver Gallery at Whitworth University was on view from February through March. In February she gave a lecture about the artwork in the the exhibition, which featured large-scale monoprints and the documentation of a performance piece in which she explored ritual, motherhood, and crossing boundaries. Meagan also has a piece in the exhibition“Matter and Spirit," which is sponsored by the CCCU, the Lilly Network of Church-Related Colleges, and the Nagel Institute at Calvin College. The exhibition grows out of the Nagel Institute's Seminar on Contemporary Chinese Art and Society. Lastly, Meagan and local artist Claudia Borfiga organized an exhibition of prints created by Santa Barbara printmakers and displayed at the Architecture Foundation of Santa Barbara. The prints convey the unifying theme of “Haven.” 

Nathan Huff was awarded a Resident Fellow position with the Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France. During the several month residency he created artwork inspired by the landscape of Aix-en-Provence. Nathan's large-scale painting "Phantom Limbs" is featured in the Wildling Museum's exhibition "Starry Nights: Visions of the Night Sky" in Solvang, California. He was also awarded an artist's residency and grant at the Vermont Studio Center, a site for creative investigation and research.

Randy VanderMey has a dozen of his iPhone photographs displayed in the offices of Raymond James Financial Advisors in downtown Santa Barbara, along with a limited edition book of his photographs and poems that he has created for the show. In a nearby room are paintings by his fifteen-year old granddaughter, Jasmine Clark, and assemblages by former Westmont administrator Lori Call. One of VanderMey's photos has been accepted into a nationally traveling show based on seasons in the liturgical year, a curated show sponsored by CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts).

Randy has a photograph in the current exhibition at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art.  The museum is hosting its annual tri-county juried exhibition, drawing on artists from Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties. Entitled "Time & Memory," the exhibit is currently onlineChristopher Miles, professor of art at Long Beach State, served as juror.

Finally, congratulations to Scott Anderson, whose cover illustration on migrant children for the Miami New Times has been selected for the Society of Illustration's annual American illustration book and exhibition. About 400 pieces are selected out of 7000 entries. The release of the book is a notable affair in New York City.



Promotions. Three faculty colleagues were recently awarded promotion by the Board of Trustees. Felicia Song has been promoted to professor of sociology. Meagan Stirling was promoted to associate professor of art, while Tim Van Haitsma became an associate professor of kinesiology. Congratulations to all three on their advancement.

Faculty Council.  Along with promotion, Felicia Song has been re-elected to serve as the vice chair of the faculty. She will be joined on the Faculty Council by Deborah Dunn, who has been elected to fill the open seat on the Council. Other members of the Council who are continuing are Holly Beers, Don Patterson, and Ron See.

Mayterm. No sooner did the spring semester end than about twenty faculty launched into their Mayterm courses. Since the decision was made to move instruction to remote learning, enrollments in the program have rapidly increased. At the beginning of the term, 287 students were enrolled, more than 100 higher than last year. Realizing that many high school seniors had extra time, we decided to offer a couple remote sessions to incoming students—a Philosophical Perspectives course taught by Jim Taylor and a Political Theories course taught by Jesse Covington. Both courses drew good numbers of students.

Sheri Noble. Congratulations to Sheri Noble, director of disability services, who was recently appointed to the Citizens Oversight Committee of Solvang School District. The committee reviews performance and financial audits related to bond expenditures to assure that projects conform to ballot initiatives approved by the voters.

Bruce Wydick. Congratulations as well to Bruce Wydick, director of the Westmont in San Francisco program. His book Shrewd Samaritan: Faith, Economics, and the Road to Loving our Global Neighbor was named as one of five finalists for the Association of Christian Publishers' Christian Book of the Year. 

Lisa DeBoer. Another colleague winning recent honors is Lisa DeBoer, whose article "The Accidental Ecumenist," which appeared in The Cresset in 2019, won the Award of Excellence for a "Theological or Scholarly Article" from the Associated Church Press in their annual "Best of Church Press" awards.

National Data from Last Semester. Here's a glimpse at some interesting data from a Cengage/Babson national survey on the shift to remote learning last term. About 80% of faculty turned to synchronous video (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.), and 65% made use of asynchronous video recordings (some faculty obviously did both). Just over half (51%) drew in videos from other sources, notably YouTube. Just under half (48%) claimed to have lowered workloads for students, and 32% lowered standards of evaluation. Almost half of colleges or universities allowed the pass/no credit option. Overall, faculty expressed more concerns for students who struggled in the online environment than they did about their own training to handle the pivot.

Provost's Report Archives