President's Briefing Spring 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.

What a blessing to be completing our second semester with students on campus! The Westmont community has worked together beautifully to continue providing a rigorous and safe academic program in the midst of the pandemic. Faculty have produced impressive scholarly work and publications. Our athletic teams have played as regularly as possible given cases of COVID-19—mostly on opposing teams. They’ve excelled as usual, and we’re celebrating another national championship. We’ve continued many student activities virtually. The past year, we’ve held many important conversations on campus about diversity and racial justice.


You can read more about these achievements in the briefing, which keeps you updated about news at Westmont. We greatly appreciate your interest in the college, your prayers and your generous gifts. You help us stay strong!

Celebrating Black History Month in Chapel

In February, our chapel programs focused on Christ in and through the Black church. Campus Pastor Scott Lisea, the only non-Black speaker during the month, worked with Blake Thomas, director of Intercultural Programs, to schedule a variety of people who shared their faith, experiences and perspectives. You can watch videos of these speakers on our Westmont Chapel Vimeo.

February 3: Sheila Wise Rowe, executive director of Rehoboth House, an international healing and reconciliation ministry in Nahant, Massachusetts, is a Christian counselor, spiritual director, educator, writer and speaker.
February 8, 10: Darryl Williamson, lead pastor of Living Faith Bible Fellowship in Tampa, Florida, serves on the Leadership Council of the Gospel Coalition and has contributed to two books.
February 12: Blake Thomas, director of Intercultural Programs at Westmont, previously directed Bridge-Builders, a service-learning ministry of Forge for Families in Houston, Texas.
February 19: John Perkins, is the lead pastor of Common Ground Covenant Church, a multiethnic missional church in Jackson, Mississippi, and former president and CEO of the Spencer Perkins Center and John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, a Christian non-profit focused on youth and community development.
February 22: Vince Bantu, assistant professor of church history and Black church studies at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Houston campus, also serves as a liaison to the William E. Pannell Center for African American Church Studies and directs the Meachum School of Haymanot, which provides theological education for urban pastors and leaders.
February 24: Michael D. Reynolds is the director of Ministerial Development for the Division of Education at the Church of God International Offices, project director of the Lilly Initiative, and a former professor and pastor.
March 1: Tedashii Lavoy Anderson, known simply as Tedashii, is an American Christian hip hop artist with five solo albums and a member of the hip-hop troupe 116 Clique who hosted the NGEN Radio show “Serium.”

Task Force on Race, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

To broaden the discussion on racial justice and explore how we can best address this issue at Westmont, we’ve formed the President’s Task Force on Race, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I chair this initiative with Chandra Mallampalli, Fletcher Jones professor of social sciences and professor of history, Mary Docter, professor of Spanish, Jeff Schloss, T.B. Walker professor of natural and behavioral sciences and distinguished professor of biology, Russell Smelley, professor of kinesiology and head coach of the cross country and track and field teams, Carmel Saad, associate professor of psychology, and Helen Rhee, professor of Christian history. 

Westmont Trustees Devote Their Meeting to Diversity

A series of speakers shared important insights, experiences and perspectives about diversity and racial justice during the Westmont Board of Trustees meetings in January. They included Vince Bantu, assistant professor of church history and Black church studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, Carol Houston, Westmont trustee and senior pastor of Bethel Unspeakable Joy Church, Carmel Saad, associate professor of psychology at Westmont, Tremper Longman, distinguished scholar of biblical studies at Westmont, and George Yancey, professor of sociology at Baylor University.

Becoming a Reconciling Community (BaRC) Leadership Team

The BaRC Leadership Team, which includes faculty, staff, and administrators, works closely with David Bailey and his Arrabon team to develop a vision of and leadership for becoming more of a reconciling community. BaRC members, who participated in a two-day workshop, include: Gayle D. Beebe, president; Edee Schulze, vice president for student life; Blake Thomas, director of Intercultural Programs; Scott Lisea, campus pastor; Ogechi Nwaokelemeh, assistant professor of kinesiology; Dinora Cardoso, professor of Spanish; Enrico Manlapig, associate professor of economics and business; and David Bailey, executive director of Arrabon.

The Virtual President’s Breakfast Sets a Record for Attendance

 More than 2,000 participants enjoyed the 16th annual Westmont President’s Breakfast with Nancy Koehn, a Harvard historian and bestselling author of “Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times.” She spoke passionately about what we can learn from the five people featured in her book: Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Fredrick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rachel Carson. We wish we could have gathered together for breakfast as usual, but the virtual presentation helped us nearly triple participation and engage a global audience. Residents along the Central Coast watched a March 21 rebroadcast on KEYT-TV. 

Westmont Hosts the Advancing Women in Leadership Conference

To celebrate National Women’s History Month in March, Westmont hosted the sixth annual Advancing Women in Leadership (AWiL) virtual conference in partnership with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Participants watched Nancy Koehn’s March 5 talk for Westmont’s President’s Breakfast and engaged in discussions about her inspiring book. On March 26, CCCU’s Kimberly Battle-Walters Denu moderated an insightful panel of chief diversity officers from member colleges who explored inclusive leadership in action. Westmont Women’s Leadership Council sponsored the virtual conference for professionals in higher education and college students, and 1,100 women registered for the event. On March 30, the college invited women in high school and college to hear from Christina DiMari, author of the book “Cultivating Pearls,” to learn how God can transform every area of their lives. 

Our Women’s Basketball Team Captures Their Second National Championship

The day after the Lady Warriors earned the No. 1 seed in the 2020 NAIA National Tournament, the pandemic forced the cancellation of this event. Undeterred, the women’s basketball team came back strong this year and won the GSAC West Championship and a berth at the national tournament.

On March 23, they defeated top-ranked Thomas More of Kentucky 72-61 in the finals at a confetti-filled Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Junior guard Stefanie Berberabe won honors as the Tournament MVP, and Iyree Jarrett joined her on the All-Tournament First Team. Lauren Tsuneishi earned Second Team honors. Berberabe and Jarrett each scored 23 points for the Warriors with Tsuneishi adding another 14 in the championship game.



Head Coach Kirsten Moore was named NAIA Coach of the Year. The team set the nets ablaze in the opening round on March 13 when they broke the NAIA Tournament record by draining 21 3-point shots and beating Montana Western in Lewiston, Idaho, 97-62. A campus-wide parade celebrated their victory on March 30!

Recognizing Our Outstanding Professors

Congratulations to two faculty members who’ve earned research grants. Anna Aboud (mathematics) received the prestigious Structured Quartet Research Ensembles (SQuaREs) research grant from the American Institute of Mathematics. She’ll collaborate with four mathematicians for three years on Fractional Laplacians on Fractal Domains. Blake Victor Kent (sociology) co-authored an article about stress, spirituality and health in the journal Religions. 

The center producing this work—Blake serves as affiliated researcher and co-investigator—received a $3 million grant from the Templeton Foundation for Investigating the Impact of Multiple Dimensions of Religion and Spirituality on Risk of Cardiovascular Disease across Diverse Racial/Ethnic Communities.

Kristi Lazar Cantrell (chemistry) and her collaborators published an article, “Catalytic Cross Talk between Key Peptide Fragments That Couple Alzheimer’s Disease with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,” in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Written in collaboration with research groups at UCSB, the article includes the work of current Westmont students Grace Schonfeld and Ellen Trapp.
Michelle C. Hughes (education) contributed two teaching stories, “Phantom Joy” and “A String of Ah-Ha Moments,” to Generating Tact and Flow for Effective Teaching and Learning published with Routledge (Steeg Thornhill & Badley, 2021, p. 63 & 112).
Carmen McCain (English) gave an invited presentation, “God has exposed you: censorship, citizenship and cosmopolitanism unity in Muslim and Christian responses to repression in Northern Nigeria” at the online workshop Remapping the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures in Nigeria held at the University of Florida in January.
Rebecca McNamara (English) and colleague Sara Torres drew from their experiences of teaching sexual assault in medieval literature for their article “Female Consent and Affective Resistance in Romance: Medieval Pedagogy and #MeToo,” published in a special issue on #MeToo of New Chaucer Studies: Pedagogy and Profession in March.

Carolyn Mitten (mathematics) and her colleagues published an article, “Online Resources for Mathematics: Exploring the Relationship between Teacher Use and Student Performance” in Investigations in Mathematical Learning in April. She also shared the results of a recent study in her presentation “Comparing Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions of Math and Literacy Methods,” at the annual meeting of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators in February.
Caryn Reeder (religious studies) contributed a chapter, “Insiders and Outsiders: Community Violence in Deuteronomy,” to Cambridge Companion to the Hebrew Bible and Ethics (ed. Carly Crouch; Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Amanda Sparkman (biology) published a research article, “Current and time-lagged effects of climate on innate immunity in two sympatric snake species” in the journal Ecology and Evolution, with former major honors student Lucia Combrink ’19 as first author. She also published “Embryonic heart rate correlates with maternal temperature and developmental stage in viviparous snakes” in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology with research technician Kelly Evans ’19 as first author. She co-authored a study, “Microevolutionary change in mimicry? Potential erosion of rattling behavior among nonvenomous snakes on islands lacking rattlesnakes” in the journal Ethology, Ecology and Evolution with collaborators from UNC Chapel Hill.
Paul Willis (English) published a short essay about bighorn sheep in the Sierra, “An Art of Conducting Oneself,” on the website of Wilderness Watch.

Sameer Yadav (religious studies) was featured on the Crux Sola blog as a “Theologian to Read and Follow," and he appeared in two podcasts: one as an interviewee for Talking politics and religion without killing each other and on Yale Center for Faith and Culture’s For the Life of the World to discuss the life and thought of Howard Thurman. He also published an article on Willie Jennings in the T&T Clark Companion to Analytic Theology and wrote a popular article on abolitionist vs. slaveholder biblical interpretation for the online publication Pax.
At Westmont, undergraduates work directly with professors on research projects, and we showcase their work each year at the Spring Student Research Symposium. They’ll gather April 22 in person—practicing safety protocols such as wearing masks and social distancing— and will explain the research they conducted during the past year to a small number of invited guests. Eileen McMahon McQuade, associate dean of the faculty, has organized the event to be held outside on upper campus and prospective students have been invited to attend.

We’ll Celebrate Commencement for the Class of 2021 on Campus

We’ve received permission from Santa Barbara County to hold Commencement services for the class of 2021 in person on Saturday, May 8, at 9 a.m. on Thorrington Field. We expect the county to allow each graduate to invite two guests to the outdoor ceremony. As usual, we’ll provide a high-quality livestream of the graduation online for family and friends to watch. We’ll require masks, practice social distancing and follow any other required protocols. We’re creating a detailed plan with seating appropriately spaced to keep everyone safe. We’ll provide more information as we consult with county officials and finalize our plans.
With more than 85 percent of our faculty and staff fully vaccinated, we’re feeling optimistic about the future and our ability to resume a normal academic year next fall. I’m so proud of how our entire community—students, faculty and staff—have weathered the challenges and uncertainties of the past year. We’ve emerged stronger than ever and our students are better prepared to deal with difficulty in life. We grieve for all the people lost in the past year and pray for those who have suffered personal or economic hardship during the pandemic. We pray that God will comfort and bless you as we slowly return to normal life once again.

With deep gratitude as we near the finish line of this academic year,