Outstanding Graduates Social Science
Kayla Petersen's ('20) intellectual curiosity and moral imagination contribute to her deep commitment to press into difficult topics with grace, conviction, and courage. Kayla’s Major Honors project on faith-based engagement with abortion has not only involved establishing her own community contacts with a range of stakeholders, but also continuing to revisit those stakeholders as she prepares to hand her work back to them for external evaluation through her issue guide and deliberation. In this project as in her classwork, Kayla models receptivity to critique and challenge as she seeks to be wholly present. In her time at Westmont, she has deepened her ability to apply a keen analytic and compassionate lens on pressing social issues, and she inspires her community to do likewise.
Michelle Vera '19, striving to integrate her faith, academics and practice, is deeply committed to pursuing justice and applying her sociological understanding of institutional systems and inequalities. She has assisted in case management at the Santa Barbara Probation Department, worked with clients at the Domestic Violence Victim Services Unit of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and provided crisis counseling at Standing Against Sexual Assault (formerly Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center).
Experiences outside the major fed her passion for theater and music. “I have been a member of the college choir for three years, performed as lead roles for the two operas we’ve done (‘Die Fledermaus’ and ‘Magic Flute’) and have been heavily involved in the Fringe Festival,” she says. “Westmont has helped me not only explore my values and talents in the classroom but also on the stage.”
At one point in April, she was interning with the Santa Barbara Police Department, completing her certification for crisis counseling, and was featured on “The Magic Flute” posters for her role as the Queen of the Night. “I was doing EVERYTHING and loved every second of it,” she says.
She has her sights set on law school to eventually work in the criminal justice system serving in criminal prosecution or law enforcement.
Kameron Vogt '18 used to see the world in black and white, as clear-cut. “After my time here, I am more comfortable with being uncomfortable and am able to enter into discussions that I would have written off as dumb a few years ago,” he says. “Westmont provided an opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussions regarding difficult topics in an environment conducive to growth.” Kameron and his wife, Willow, plan to move to Texas. “Whatever I end up doing, I hope it involves being outside, interacting with people that I care about and leaving plenty of time to give to my family.”
Elizabeth Beebe '17 is a thoughtful, engaged, compassionate student who makes connections across topics and asks penetrating questions. Lizzy embodies a spirit of intellectual curiosity and seeks fully to understand with both mind and heart the issues being discussed. She engages her colleagues and faculty with generosity, interest, and humility. She also seeks to translate knowledge into action. That impulse took her to India last summer to study social justice issues and this semester to the Westmont Downtown program where she has integrated her broad training in social science with her commitment to community impact. As an intern at Old Skool Cafe, a San Francisco supper club staffed by at-risk youth, Lizzy has worked to assess the feasibility of opening a location in Santa Barbara. Through this demanding work, she has demonstrated both keen leadership and cultural sensitivity.
Sarah Lankford '16 has been a delightful presence in our classes—her sense of humor, her attentiveness to others and commitment to learning have been exemplary. Her adventurous spirit and passion for other cultures has led her off-campus—most recently to the Middle East where she completed her degree in the Spring of 2016. We will miss her whimsical mind, her intelligence, and her graciousness.