Provost's Report December 2018

Blessings for Advent!  Let me start this report with a Christmas greeting and story. There aren't many Christmas stories about provosts, though I am not sure what to think about this one.

In 1821, an Edinburgh wine maker and corn merchant won the catering contract for the visit of King George IV to Scotland. It was a big deal: an English monarch had not come to Scotland for nearly two centuries. The merchant—a great-nephew of the political economist Adam Smith—grew up in the family that had once stocked Captain Cook's ship Endeavor for its Pacific voyage. According to the BBC, the merchant eventually became a town councillor and served briefly as Edinburgh's interim provost. He was known in his day for his brandy, generosity, and gregariousness . . . as well as for some rather public philandering.

After he died in 1836, this "meal man" was reportedly buried in the Canongate churchyard near Edinburgh's Royal Mile, but his headstone would be lost when the cemetery was altered during a twentieth-century renovation. Today, though, the Scots are considering giving him not just a new stone but also a small monument. That's because of the local lore—buttressed recently by a minister of Parliament and an amateur historian—that Charles Dickens took a stroll through the churchyard during his 1841 visit to Edinburgh and caught sight of the original marker for Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie, city councillor and corn merchant. You can imagine the rest.  

Stroll or no stroll, Dickens did give us Scrooge two years later, and few children have been named Ebenezer ever since. Dickens's tale has also been blamed for changes in Robert Robinson's 1757 hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." Modern hymnals usually alter or drop the lyrics "Here I raise my Ebenezer;/Here by Thy great help I've come." The lines allude to the first book of Samuel, when the prophet placed a stone in the hilly terrain near Mizpah "and named it Ebenezer" (literally "stone of help") as a marker of God's protection. On many occasions, I have also found something symbolic and reassuring in granite or limestone, whether that comes from sitting prayerfully on a rocky outcropping or clutching small stones during reflection. On hikes to high ground or walks below the bluffs, I inevitably pick up stones in moments of rumination or wonder. I remember communion services when stones were placed on the table as emblems of God's presence. One Christmas, during a trying season for several friends at my institution, a colleague passed out well-worn river stones for us to clasp during prayer, something tactile and enduring at an hour of uncertainty and petition. I still have mine.

If the popular lore about that Edinburgh churchyard is indeed true, I will have to live with the possibility that one model for Scrooge was once a provost. Yet it is striking that we associate the name Ebenezer more often with the miserly Scrooge than with the redeemed one. "A Christmas Carol," like Samuel's Ebenezer stone, is actually a story of providential intervention and an awakened conscience. The spirit of Advent always calls us toward the Christmas yet to come.

So, as Dickens says, keep Christmas well, and ready your step for the coming year, whether you will be walking the slopes of the Santa Ynez or, like Wayne and Fran Iba, stepping out onto new trails (see final story below). You might want to see Scrooge renewed again in Lit Moon's "Humbug" on December 21. Or, perhaps this Advent, as you set tables, light the last candles, and await the King's arrival, you might find some granite Ebenezer to mix with the evergreen.  

Mark Sargent Signature



The faculty have recently approved a new minor in Environmental Studies, which will now be presented to the trustees. As Amanda Sparkman observed, the minor was sparked by a former Gaede Institute conference on the "Liberal Arts for a Fragile Planet," and it represents a few years of cultivation. Amanda has led the march and chaired the committee that developed the proposal; other committee members were Marianne Robins, Steve Contakes, Lisa DeBoer, and Caryn Reeder. As their proposal states, “widespread environmental problems such as biodiversity loss, resource depletion, and environmental change and degradation are among the most pressing global issues of our day. They have tremendous scientific, social, and moral dimensions that require a sophisticated, informed, and compassionate response from a range of disciplinary perspectives.”

The minor will be interdisciplinary in scope. Anchored by a new Introduction to Environmental Studies course, the program will require a total of 20 credits, and students will select electives from each of the three academic divisions (Humanities, Natural and Behavioral Sciences, and Social Sciences). Among its several goals, the minor will strive to “situate stewardship of the earth in the context of Christian theology and environmental ethics” and “foster an ability to analyze and debate complex environmental problems, and devise constructive, imaginative strategies to address them.”


Recently the faculty and trustees voted to approve a new Bachelor of Science in Engineering, with a concentration in Mechanical Engineering. The program begins in the fall of 2019, and a search for a faculty director for the program is underway. 

Engineering is one of the fastest growing fields in higher education, increasing by 37% from 2005 to 2015. In crafting the program, we have sought to promote the connections between engineering and traditional liberal arts fields; the 89-unit major requires classes in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics as well as some interdisciplinary seminars. Many leaders in the Engineering field have extolled colleagues with rich liberal arts backgrounds, and we trust that Westmont can contribute to “holistic engineering”—an approach to engineering that “captures the creativity, interdisciplinarity, complexity and adaptability required for the profession to grow and truly serve global needs” (see Holistic Engineering: Beyond Technology, Domenico Grasso, ed., 2010). As we construct the new program, one of our aspirations is to develop ways for engineering expertise to enrich our service endeavors and community engagement.




October’s report announced the publication of two books on African culture (from Carmen McCain and Cynthia Toms), and this month sees the release of Serah Shani’s African Immigrant Families in the United States: Transnational Lives and Schooling (Lexington Books, a division of Rowan & Littlefield.) In the book Serah describes how Sub-Saharan immigrants have flourished, providing a remarkable model of social mobility and advancement through education. She analyzes the socioeconomic and cultural mechanisms behind their success. Specifically, she explores the dynamics of Ghanaian communities and the complex relationship between class, beliefs, and cultural practices. 

Where so much political discourse on immigration now focuses on assimilation, Serah describes how immigrants lead transnational lives and maintain hyphenated identities, often belonging to multiple networks and contributing to the wellbeing of several communities around the globe.   



"The Society for Seventeenth-Century Music announced the publication of Grey Brothers's edition of Four Passions by the seventeenth-century Mexico City Cathedral maestro di capilla Luis Coronado in its collection of open-access scholarly works. The Passions demonstrate the responsorial style of the more hispano, or Spanish custom, which uses the Toledo Passion tone instead of the more common Roman tone for chant passages. The edition supplies all of the polyphonic music by Coronado along with the appropriate chants from the 1582 Quatuor Passiones Domini, cum benediction cerei, for ease of performance.  The Web Library of Seventeenth-Century Music presents new scholarly editions of seventeenth-century compositions that have remained unpublished or that are not available commercially.



Patti Cook, one of the best volleyball players in Westmont's history, has chosen to step down after eight seasons as the head coach. Over that time, she compiled a record of 190-65, the finest winning percentage in the history of the program. Her teams won two regular-season Golden State Athletic Conference titles and one conference tournament crown. She was twice named the conference coach of the year. During her tenure, Westmont's teams made five trips to the national championship tournament, including this year, when they cleared pool play in the first round but lost to the nation's top-ranked team in the round of 16. 

A three-time All-American during her college years, Patti played three years of professional beach volleyball after graduating, Recently, she has returned to playing indoor volleyball, leading teams in titles in the Women's Golden A Division of the USA Volleyball Open Championships. As coach, she has seen athletes win many individual awards, among them 17 GSAC Scholar-Athlete honors, a national Champions of Character Award (Libby Dahlberg), and four NAIA All-Americans (including Amy Buffham this year). "Between her time as a player, assistant coach, and head coach, nobody has poured more time, effort, and talent into the program," observed our athletic director, Dave Odell. "Patti has put an indelible mark on the history of success of Westmont volleyball." 

Tom Knecht, professor of Political Science, will be our inaugural men’s and women’s golf coach for Westmont. He will formally take on these duties in 2019-2020 in addition to his ongoing teaching responsibilities. For the past two years, Tom has served as the Vice Chair of the Faculty, and he will continue in that role throughout the remainder of the academic year, even as he undertakes recruiting and all that is involved in the start-up of a new athletic program. After that, he will exchange faculty governance for the chance to shoot around the hazards and bunkers on the course.

A former college football player during his years at Stanford, Tom has become an avid and excellent golfer in the intervening years; he is one of the few people that I know who has played the famous courses at both Augusta and Pebble Beach.

Interestingly, golf has become one of the fastest growing sports for college students, especially for women. In 1992, only 17% of small colleges had women’s golf teams, whereas today over 60% of the schools sponsor them. 

For men, golf ranks fifth among the sports offered at small colleges; in fact, it is the only sport in the top six that Westmont does not currently sponsor (the other top sports for men are basketball, soccer, track, baseball, and tennis).     


The Sullivan Goss Gallery in downtown Santa Barbara—arguably the top gallery in Santa Barbara for new artworks—is currently sponsoring an exhibit of our own faculty. The show, which will last until January 20, is entitled Mentors and Makers: The Artists of Westmont College. Each of our full-time studio artists—Scott Anderson, Nathan Huff, and Meagan Stirling—has works included, as does our Collections Manager and faculty colleague Chris Rupp. Two of our adjuncts—James Daly and Sommer Roman—are also featured. 

In its statement about the exhibit, the curators write: “Sullivan Goss is excited to host an exhibition of works by the art department faculty of Westmont College. The art department at Westmont College has always had an outsized influence on the art scene of the region, but tucked away in its bucolic Montecito campus, it can be easy to overlook how much concentrated talent is found there. Currently, Westmont’s arts faculty consists of some of the most intriguing, adventurous, and distinct artists working in and around Santa Barbara, though their work is making waves over a much larger area.”

Along with finishing his seascapes for the new show, Scott Anderson has been busy with his work in graphic arts. He contributed interior illustrations for the December editions of MAD Magazine as well as a portrait of the musician Dave Matthews for Seattle Met.


In October, Rick Pointer, Grey Brothers, and the Westmont Chamber Singers helped the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library spotlight its Mission-era music manuscript collection at a reception to support the Mission Archive. Grey led the Chamber Singers in a performance of a composition from New Spain and two compositions from the archive. Founded in 1782, the presidio was the fourth of the military outposts built in present-day California.Rick provided an historical overview of the first two Christian places of worship in Santa Barbara—the Presidio chapel and the Mission church. 

Last August, Rick and Grey also gave the faculty an introduction to the history of the Presidio and the music of missions when the Faculty Retreat held its worship service in the Presidio chapel.


The Westmont Institute for Public Dialogue and Deliberation—led by Rachel Winslow and Deborah Dunn—held another public discussion in early November, gathering community members together to discuss the many issues of immigration. The faculty had a glimpse of these efforts during a recent Faculty Forum. As Rachel says, “By facilitating these discussions, we hope to equip students and neighbors with the tools they need to cultivate healthy conversation and careful listening.”

According to the US Census Bureau and the California Employment Development Department, over 110,000 residents—or nearly 25%—of Santa Barbara County are immigrants, and more than 40,000 are undocumented. The discussion (entitled “Coming to America:  Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do?”) explored numerous challenging questions, including issues related to enforcing laws, compassion for refugees, deporting those who enter illegally, and the tensions between assimilating and preserving a migrant culture.

Deborah also recently gave a presentation in Salt Lake City at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association on “A Public Dialogue on Foster Care.” That presentation drew on the Initiative’s first public dialogues last spring and summer in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria on caring for vulnerable children.


Westmont was well represented at the 40th anniversary of the Society of Christian Philosophers. Among the many Christian academic organizations, the Society of Christian Philosophers stands out for its significant influence on the academy, as many Christian philosophers have been leaders in the guild. David Vander Laan, Jim Taylor and Mark Nelson from our Philosophy Department all served as commentators for papers at the conference: David commented on “Ideological Innocence” by Daniel Rubio (Rutgers); Jim commented on “Leibniz’s Moral Problem of Free Will” by Samuel Murray (Notre Dame); Mark commented on “Natural Theology and Revelation in Udayana’s Nyayakusumanjali” by John Kronen and Sandra Menssen (University of St. Thomas). Contributing by video conference, Sameer Yadav spoke on philosophy and race while serving as a panelist in a session on “Future Directions in Christian Philosophy.”


Enrico Manlapig from our Economics and Business Department has launched the "Decision Lab," an initiative that promises students a rich learning experience and contributes to the good of the community. The program trains students in a set of professional tools and techniques that people and organizations can use to make important decisions. This "Decision Analysis" draws on economics, finance, mathematics, and psychology to help break a complex decision into manageable parts. By partnering with local organizations, the Decision Lab can help students and community leaders understand the values, information, and alternatives facing them and identify the key drivers in a decision. 

Enrico's recent effort was a collaboration with the Santa Barbara Zoo. The Zoo is weighing possibilities for expanding its programming and services, and the Decision Lab report gave the Zoo important data and analysis about the merits, risks, limitations, and potential of various possibilities. The report helps the Zoo identify its best choices in different scenarios. Enrico indicates that other community organizations have already inquired about receiving some analysis from his Decision Lab.


At the most recent Faculty Forum, Mitchell Thomas gave a preview of his original web series ashes to ashes. Mitchell writes, produces, and stars in the series, which is now streaming online. In the series he plays Father Ben, who has his share of problems: his brother won't stop calling, his congregation is bored, and his therapist falls asleep. All eight episodes of the series are now available online at

Conceived as short creative content for the Internet, ashes to ashes was filmed in Santa Barbara with an all-local cast and crew. Professor Thomas is also the faculty advisor for the new Film Studies minor. 


In an effort to support the Student Success efforts, the Academic Senate has chosen to drop the WF and WP designations for withdrawals, and proceed with the more conventional designation of a simple W. Distinguishing between WF and WP had often been difficult when health and personal crises were involved.

Tatiana Nazarenko continues her work with WSCUC (WASC Senior College and University Commission), and has recently served as the assistant chair on the WSCUC Seeking Accreditation Visit 2 team for Weimar Institute.

We have launched a search for a new director of Westmont in San Francisco. Eileen McMahon McQuade has carried that duty for the past couple years on top of her other responsibilities, but she is now leading the search to find a full-time director, who should also be able to teach, preferably in the Economics and Business curriculum. While maintaining its wide-ranging interests in studying the "city" and culture, the program is hoping to strengthen its internship opportunities. Nominations can be sent to Eileen.

In their efforts to study our networks of churches for the Trailhead and Frontiers program, the Gaede Institute staff compiled a list of churches that have sent students to Westmont in the past three years. Five churches have sent 10 or more students: Santa Barbara Community, Reality Carpinteria, North Coast Calvary Chapel, Saddleback Church, and Rock Harbor Church. Twenty-one churches have sent five or more students. Notably, there were three Catholic congregations in this group: St. Raphael, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.


The Provost's Office welcomes a new part-time assistant, who will fill in for the hours that Jaron Burdick is now giving to his pastoral role with Montecito Covenant Church. A native of Germany, Manuela Long has lived in the United States for a couple decades, and has worked most recently in the film industry. She was part of a team at Zoic Studios that composed special effects for television, and she worked with lighting, technical effects, and CGI for Sony Pictures Imageworks. Manuela was educated at Stattliche Berufabildende Schule in Germany and at the Gnomen School of Special Effects in Hollywood. She began on December 11.


After fifteen years as a professor in our Computer Science program, Wayne Iba is concluding his teaching at Westmont at the end of the semester. He and his wife Fran—a former administrative assistant in a few departments—will be settling on their farm in Oregon, just outside of Ashland. In a farewell address to the Westmont community, Wayne described his aspirations to live a sustainable life on their land and to undertake new challenges, such as following the Rule of St. Benedict. As we anticipated saying goodbye to Wayne, I asked several faculty to offer me a sentence or two of appreciation. “If we refuse,” one colleague asked, “can we keep Wayne here?”

“Wayne is a gentle giant, not only physically,” David Hunter observes. “He thinks deeply and creatively, he does not shirk from challenging students and colleagues, and at the same time he is humble and empathetic.” According to Russ Howell, the “phrase gentle giant applies to Wayne on many levels: gentle in relationships, yet with a giant impact on those he touches; gentle in disposition, yet with a giant and firm set of values; and gentle in his departure, yet leaving us with a giant hole to fill—not only for a replacement, but also in our hearts.”

During his time at Westmont, Wayne has ventured into many endeavors that reveal his breadth of interests and his interdisciplinary mind. An expert in machine learning, he has explored artificial intelligence, made quantitative studies of the influence of individuals on communities, examined differences between traditional and computational philosophy, studied evolutionary algorithms, and pondered the growing ethical questions about the Internet. He sees beauty in the natural world, in human relationships, and in mathematics and coding. “Wayne is one of the very few people in the world with whom I can share an understanding of what beautiful code looks like,” Don Patterson observes. “Our time as colleagues has been much shorter than I would have liked but not everything can grow at O(N^2)." Many students could say that their time with Wayne has indeed been “an exponential-growth function.”

“I’ve been slow to write this tribute to Wayne,” Chris Hoeckley admits, “stumped by the request to write just two sentences about someone with whom I have ridden side by side for miles and miles talking of swarms, or souls, or pacifism, or paternalism, about someone who makes the shallow pool of my ideas feel like a deep well, about someone with whom I did my last tree job, about someone who sought me out after I fled the room in anger, and listened in the moment of crisis, about the gentlest but still strongest voice on campus for the liberal arts, about someone who always puts learning over achieving, about the hours sitting in silence, intending to consent to the presence and action of God within. How can I write just two sentences? I can’t.”

Deborah Dunn’s words of farewell capture the feeling of many colleagues: “Wayne is one of the most conscientious and sincere people I know. Whether he is organizing a discussion among colleagues from multiple disciplines, admonishing friends for speaking ill of others, or insisting that we consider a course of action that feels risky and non-intuitive, Wayne reminds us that all of our actions, large and small, matter. I also appreciate his sense of fun, his love of a good discussion, and his reminder that failure is something to learn from. I will miss him terribly.”

Provost's Report Archives