I have had to hustle to finish this report before the end of February, but I have been fortunate to witness some impressive speed recently from Westmont students. Last weekend at the Orchestra's Concerto Concert, Aaron Wilk closed a fine series of student performances with the blistering octaves of Franz Liszt's "Piano Concerto #1 in E-flat Major." At the tri-meet against UCSB and Pepperdine, Elysia Mitchell set a stadium record in the 400 meters and then returned to anchor the 4x400 relay with a furious finish, as the team (Jessica Erickson, Taryn Phipps, Kaylin Koopmans and Elysia) set a stadium and a school record, running the second-fastest time in the NAIA this year.

Berryman still lifeThis month we have started another way of celebrating undergraduates' work by displaying a selection of student art in the Provost's Office for several months. Our first exhibit will be a still life by senior Demi Berryman (left). I've also enjoyed spending time with Erin Levoir, Sophia Meulenberg, Matt Browne, and Jarrett Catlin as they have prepared to be the panelists asking questions of Doris Kearns Goodwin during the President's Breakfast Convocation on March 6.

Hope you are surviving the pace of things as we near the baton pass into the final quarter of the academic year.

Mark Sargent

Updates

Sameer Yadav

SAMEER YADAV TO JOIN RELIGIOUS STUDIES DEPARTMENT

Next fall the Religious Studies Department will welcome Sameer Yadav to its faculty. Sameer completed his undergraduate degree at Boise State University, and then finished master’s degrees from the Master’s Seminary and Yale Divinity School. He earned his doctorate from Duke, focusing on systematic and philosophical theology, with secondary concentrations in the Hebrew Bible and moral theology. His book The Problem of Perception and the Perception of God addresses some philosophical issues in how we ground Christian belief and practice. His work often explores how theologians understand "God's availability to us in experience since the Scientific Revolution." Currently he is serving as a postdoctoral fellow in the John Wesley Honors College of Indiana Wesleyan University and is working on a new book about Gregory of Nyssa as well as a project on "apopathic theology," a theological approach that begins by considering what can not be said about God.

PAtterson

NEW COMPUTER SCIENCE COLLEAGUE:
DONALD PATTERSON

Donald Patterson, who is currently on the faculty of the University of California, Irvine, will be joining the Department of Computer Science this August. After completing an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Cornell University, Don served for four years as an operations officer for the Navy, living in Japan and Sardinia. He then finished his doctorate at the University of Washington. He has won “best paper” awards for articles on collapse informatics and abstract object usage, and has been the recipient of multiple grants. Among his many scholarly interests are ubiquitous computing, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence. "It is difficult," he writes, "to explain to people who are not familiar with building computational systems the extent of beauty and aesthetics that can be present in well-written software. There is an abstract elegance in the algorithmic foundation of software, and there is also a technical beauty in the grounding of an algorithm in code that is designed to be run in the real world. Both of these aspects of computational thinking reflect the work of people who are using their God-given talents to produce an artifact."

Rachel Urbano

REMBRANDT’S NEIGHBORS

The new "Rembrandt and the Jews" exhibit in the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art features an attractive catalog of the prints, edited by Judy Larson, with an introductory essay by Lisa DeBoer. Lisa takes us into Rembrandt's Amsterdam, where he lived among and sketched both Sephardic Jews (immigrants of Iberian descent, often former Christians) and Askenazic Jews (the poorer Central and Eastern European immigrants). The artist's proximity to so many Jewish neighbors has sparked many Romanticized views of Rembrandt's Jewish sympathies, as well as the predictable rebuttals. Lisa makes the case for a middle view—a Rembrandt fascinated with the Old Testament because of his convenental theology. In a strongly Calvinist region of Holland, Rembrandt saw conversion as "the fundamental dynamic of spiritual life," not simply as transition to the Christian faith but also as personal transformation within the Hebrews' covenant with God.

The book also provided an opportunity for Rachel Urbano (photo), the Museum’s education and outreach coordinator, to contribute four of the short narratives about individual etchings. Like Lisa, Rachel explores covenental themes, calling attention to the uneasy “balance” in Rembrandt’s 1637 depiction of “Abraham Casting Out Hagar and Ishmael.” She describes the . . . [continue reading]

Anapamu, 26

CENTER FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Westmont’s new downtown semester program—the Center for Social Entrepreneurship—has an official location. The program will reside in the third floor of 26 W. Anapamu Street, between State Street and Chapala. This is in the upper downtown area, near local businesses, government, coffee shops, public transportation, the Museum of Art and the Granada Theatre. It is also only a few blocks from the Westside. Rachel Winslow, who will direct the program, reports that there has been robust interest, and enrollment appears to be on target with our first-year goals. The program features eight credits of internship, along with a core seminar and a choice of electives. The curriculum will strive to highlight global realities while providing opportunities for students to apply their new knowledge in a local context. We hope that this setting will also provide space for other events where Westmont students, faculty and staff can engage the Santa Barbara community.

Oak tree

LIBERAL ARTS, SOCIAL GOOD, AND THE STATS

The Gaede Institute's annual "Conversation" will close the month of February. It is framed by a keynote address by Georgia Nugent, former president of Kenyon College, on February 26 and a closing keynote address by Marilyn McEntyre, former English professor at Westmont, on February 28. Nugent currently leads the Council of Independent Colleges' public relations campaign—"Securing America's Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education." As the conference begins, I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight some key features of that appeal.

Traditionally, the rationale for the liberal arts often relies heavily on intrinsic claims—on the belief that wide-ranging liberal arts inquiry nurtures wisdom, integrity, and good citizenship. It is a case that usually aligns well with Christian values and aspirations. For all the merits of that argument, though, it has become increasingly less persuasive among those who now see the liberal arts as antiquated, ill-adapted to the global economy, and available almost exclusively for the elite. So, as such perceptions spread among legislators, parents and columnists, the CIC has decided to strike back with numbers. The first plank of the argument addressses fears about "affordability." Citing studies by the National Center for Education Statistics, the CIC points out that the average debt of a private college graduate is only $4,375 more than the average for public institutions (and $6,900 less than for-profit students). The reason that the differential remains relatively . . . [continue reading]

Juliana Carson

VIRTUAL WATER AND STATE SOVEREIGNTY

Senior political science major Julianna Carlson is participating in the University of Notre Dame's Human Development Conference at the end of this month. Her poster is based on a paper written for Tom Knecht's American Foreign Policy class. The paper is entitled "Virtual Water and State Sovereignty: How the U.S.'s Relationship with China and Mexico Shows a Need for Change." It compares trade policies of China and Mexico, concluding that China's commitment to self-reliance has made it less open than Mexico to dealing with water scarcity through imports.

Julianna spent the fall semester on Westmont's San Francisco program, completing an internship at Humanity United, an international development organization, which helped inform the beginning research for this paper. She also did research last summer for Dr. Dan Magraw from Johns Hopkins University/SAIS, working on issues of water access and international law. This research was used at the United Nations Environment Programme conference on water earlier this fall. Cynthia Toms, who has served on the board of the Notre Dame conference in past years, assisted Julianna with her application.

SYRIA

WESTMONT FORUM ON THE ISLAMIC STATE

On Monday, March 2, we will host our fourth Westmont Forum. Marianne Robins will moderate a discussion about ISIS, the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria." The recent reports of abductions, beheadings and terrorist networks associated with ISIS have prompted outrage, fear, and calls for action, although the analysis on mainstream and social media is often launched without a nuanced understanding of the historical and religious context. This Forum will endeavor to cast a more discerning light on the current crises. Heather Keaney, Telford Work, Charlie Farhadian, and Yama Niazi, the imam and religious director of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, will reflect upon the question, "What's so Islamic about the Islamic State?"

The Westmont Forum began last year as a joint project of the Provost's Office and Student Life, and it seeks to engage the Westmont community in conversations about important, controversial issues in ways that model civility and charity in the pursuit of understanding. The Forum will be held at 6:30 in Founders.