Provost's Report October 2018

By this time in the semester we already have plenty of reasons to celebrate, so this report has more highlights than an eighteen-inning ballgame. Here's a panorama of some recent hires, new academic programs, fresh scholarship, and innovative artistry—as well as a glimpse at our major grant from the Lilly Endowment.

Earlier this month I spent some time with friends from the Lilly Network of Church-Related Colleges and Universities during their meetings in Holland, Michigan. Westmont was well represented there as Lisa DeBoer gave a keynote, Mitchell Thomas presented the artistic award, and Patti Hunter joined the administrative forums. For those few days, we enjoyed the Midwestern fall: the early colors, the cold rain, the dry cornstalks decorating the main street. Sidewalk vendors displayed carved pumpkins, some of them engraved to look like Harry Potter characters.

Despite some magical moments so far in this term, at this stage I can also feel a bit mugglish, as the to-do lists seem to outpace the momentum of the early semester. So I appreciated the reflective interlude of a vespers service in Hope College’s gothic church. During the short homily, the minister dwelt on the story of the woman in Bethany who brought and broke a jar of alabaster to honor Christ (Mark 14). We were encouraged to see this extravagant gift as a reminder of the daily generosities and dedication of many around us. I imagine that the first-century jar was a fragile one—slightly glazed, fissures in the clay, a narrow aperture hiding its rich freight. At least I will think of it that way when the day soon arrives for us to remember All Saints.

Mark Sargent Signature



I am pleased that Holly Beers has been selected to fill the open tenure-track position in the Religious Studies Department. For the past seven years, Holly has served in a variety of faculty roles at Westmont, covering for colleagues on sabbaticals, speaking in chapel, and working in our Westmont Downtown program. She has led the Catalyst honors program, served on Student Life projects, given the Baccalaureate address, and received the Outstanding Teaching Award for the Humanities.

Holly graduated from North Central College, earned her master’s degree from Bethel University, and then completed her doctorate at the London School of Theology. She is especially interested in Luke-Acts and the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, and has written about the influence of Isaiah on Luke, notably in her monograph The Followers of Jesus as the Servant: Luke’s Model from Isaiah for the Disciples in Luke-Acts.  Holly is deeply committed to teaching and to ministry, and I am delighted that her work at Westmont will continue in this tenure-track post.



The faculty and the trustees have approved a new Bachelor of Music degree, which will supplement the current Bachelor of Arts in Music. The latest degree builds upon six years of significant revisions in the music curriculum. Previous innovations have included programs in music education and in worship leadership. The degree is crafted to draw students interested primarily in performance careers. A number of our major competitors and national liberal arts colleges have the Bachelor of Music option. The students in the Bachelor of Music program will be performance leaders, and their presence will enhance the choir, the orchestra, and other ensembles that are often asked to represent the college in public spheres.

We are poised to offer the new degree with a strong commitment to the liberal arts. The requirements for the major are substantial (80 credits), but these include several units from departments other than Music. In general, our music programs incorporate courses from several departments (including Modern Languages, Theatre, Kinesiology, Physics, and Mathematics) that contribute to the development of the musician. Such interdisciplinarity is a hallmark of our music curriculum.. The approval of the degree is well timed to coincide with our regular accreditation review this spring from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

The faculty and trustees have also voted to launch a new Film Studies minor. I can envision some students completing the minor and pursuing work in the film industry; I can just as readily see students pursuing the minor because filmmaking skills and visual literacy are assets in many careers. And I hope some pursue the minor because of their genuine love of cinema as art. Film has long been among the most influential and globally recognized languages, and it provides a mirror and a lens that let us see ourselves, one another, the world, and God.

The new minor will blend theoretical learning with film practice and production; it will also offer experience in film criticism, theory, and perspectives from many disciplines. It combines some new courses in film production with existing coursework from the departments of Art, Communication Studies, English, Theatre Arts, and Religious Studies. In the early years, the minor will be hosted by the Department of Theatre Arts, and will be overseen by an advisory group from many fields.


Built in 1968—and then remodeled in 2010—the Roger John Voskuyl Library is holding a “Thanksgiving Celebration” on November 30 for its fiftieth anniversary.

Prior to settling into its current building, Westmont’s library had been in Kerrwood Hall. In the spring of 1968 the college cancelled classes for one day so that students could help move all the books to the new location. Organized by the head librarian Vernon Ritter, the moving day began with a surprise announcement. Originally, the college had planned to name the library after the Armingtons, who were generous donors. But on the moving day—which happened to be the birthday of President VoskuylEverett Armington declared that the library would be named in honor of the college president. Mr. Armington had no idea that Roger Voskuyl had planned to announce his retirement the very next day after eighteen years in the presidency. 

That day of the move closed with the doxology. There will be many stories about praise and blessings and lots of fun details shared when director Mary Logue organizes a display of “50 Facts” about the library for the celebration. Representatives from the Voskuyl and Armington families will be invited to participate.


Supported by a million-dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment, our new Frontiers program has taken cues from the current Trailhead program but will cut its own pathsWhereas Trailhead focuses on spiritual discernment for high school students, Frontiers will nourish and equip pastors in early and later stages of their careers. This provides opportunities for ministers to find fresh ideas and reinvigoration through interaction with our liberal arts community. It will also allow pastors to help us understand the character and challenges of the contemporary church.

The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts will work with young pastors during the first years of their professional lives; this strand of the program seeks to widen their vision and strengthen their commitment to the calling of ministry. In the second strand of the program, the Martin Institute will focus on mid-career pastors who are seeking renewal and wisdom as they consider new goals and new possibilities for service. In both strands, Frontiers will offer companionship and counsel to help pastors thrive.

Both halves of the program begin with retreats that offer sanctuaries from the immediate pressures of the job, yet the overarching purpose of Frontiers is to provide inspiration and resources that will sustain ministers in the “long obedience” of their profession.


As part of our "global plank" we have been striving to expand our understanding of African history, culture, and Christianity, so it is exciting to see these two new books by Westmont colleagues. One takes us to East Africa, the other to Nigeria in the West.  

Cynthia Toms

Cynthia Toms, along with co-author Paul Kollman of Notre Dame, has just published Understanding World Christianity: East Africa. The work is part of a series on World Christianity from Fortress Press. Mark Noll commends the volume for its “breadth, depth, and insight.” “The history that it discloses is rich beyond imagination” Noll states, “its standpoint bracingly ecumenical (Catholics, Anglicans, other missionary-founded churches, Pentecostals, African Independent Churches), its critiques boldly realistic.  Most of all is the heartfelt empathy for all that the book describes.” Prior to her work at Notre Dame and Westmont, Cynthia served as the associate director of the CCCU’s Uganda Studies Program. 

Carmen McCain and co-author Brandon Kendhammer of Ohio University, have just published Boko Haram, part of the Ohio Short Histories of Africa Series. The volume tells the story of Boko Haram’s fierce, decade-long war in Nigeria, discussing the group’s 2014 abduction of 276 girls in Chibok and the international outrage about it. A social history, the book explores its topic through journalism, literature, film, and the music made by people close to the events. Prior to coming to Westmont, Carmen taught at the University of Jos in Nigeria and served as a journalist for a Nigerian newspaper.


Tamara Vaughan

After a year coordinating visits in the Admissions Office, Tamara Vaughan assumes a new post as the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art.

Following her graduation from Wheaton College, Tamara completed a master’s degree in Museology and Museum Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has done work for numerous museums, among them the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, the North Carolina Museum of History, the Asheville Art Institute, and the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro/Winston-Salem.

During the past year at Westmont Tamara taught an art history course as an adjunct professor. In her role as the Outreach Coordinator, she will develop educational programming in the museum, and help build connections between museum exhibits and the academic and co-curricular programs of the college.


We are very pleased that that we have selected a coach to lead the new women’s swimming team, which will begin competition in the next academic year.

Jill Jones Lin was a standout swimmer at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She served as the captain of the swimming and diving team during her junior and senior years, helped set school records as part of the 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle relay teams, and ranks in the school’s all-time top five in the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter freestyle events. Recently, she has served as the assistant swimming coach at Orinda Aquatics in Moraga, California, and has been the Director of Community Outreach for the San Luis Obispo YMCA.


Last year Westmont’s athletic program had its highest-ever finish in the Director’s Cup, as the college finished sixth in the nation. The Warriors also won their sixth-straight All-Sports Award for the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC). Ten of our twelve teams were named Scholar-Athlete teams as their players’ average GPA exceeded 3.0.

One of the highlights of the fall has been a strong showing by our men's cross country team, now ranked tenth in the NAIA. Michael Oldbach was recently named the NAIA National Runner of the Week. He was recognized for winning the William Jessup Warrior Invitational in Rocklin, California, when he completed the 8,000-meter course in 24:32. Michael is the first Westmont cross country runner to earn the National Runner of the Week honors.  

Each fall the NAIA gives out six national awards in its Champions of Character program; quite remarkably, three of the six recipients this year are from Westmont. Libby Dahlberg (left photo), a chemistry major and an All-American middle blocker on our volleyball team, received the Leroy Walker Award (named for the former U.S. Olympic president); the award is given to only one athlete in the nation from any sport, and honors character, service, academic success, and athletic excellence. Cassidy Rea (right), also a volleyball player, was one of two juniors in the nation to receive the A.O.  Duer Scholarship, which recognizes academics, character, and citizenship. Kirsten Moore (center), women’s basketball coach, was also named the 2018-2019 NAIA Coach of Character. Despite the disruptions of smoke and mudslides last year, Kirsten guided her team to the national championship game. This award can be added to several others that Kirsten has received, including the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award in 2014 and the NAIA National Coach of the Year in 2013.


One of the highlights of the fall term is the annual Celebration of Summer Research, which once again drew a good turnout in Winter Hall. Twenty-four students showcased the research they had done with faculty over the summer. Our prize this year (given both for excellent scholarship and a creative title) went to Mathematics student Kyle Hansen for his work with Russ Howell, which he called “Much Ado About Nothing, or All for Naught? Investigating the Zeros of Complex-Valued Functions.”

After a few years of declining interest, the number of Major Honors projects this year has jumped to twelve (highest in the last eight years).  Since 2010, the departments with the most Major Honors students include Chemistry (18), Biology (9), English (7), Psychology (7), and Philosophy (6). Eileen McMahon McQuade is developing further incentives to encourage even more honors projects.


Under the direction of Mitchell Thomas, the fall play—“Pride and Prejudice”—opened with a sold-out weekend. On stage, Kate Hamil’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel amplifies its social satire and lets in some contemporary echoes. I was impressed by the comic talents of so many young performers who were essentially new to a college stage. They deftly managed the blend of slapstick with many of Austen's iconic lines.

The slightly modernized version of the 1813 novel fits with the Theatre Department’s penchant for recasting classic texts in present-day milieus and innovative frames. As Mitchell observes, “I very much wanted to do a contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen by a woman. With a dearth of roles for women and woman-centered narratives in the classical canon, I am always very much aware of the shows that are being produced and the types of acting opportunities for students. Going into this year, I knew that I wanted to direct a play that would fit into our 2018-2019 season, ‘Let There Be Light,’ meaning full of love and laughter and possibility."


During the same weekend the Westmont Orchestra joined with the Santa Barbara Anti-Defamation League and Immigrant Hope to put on a concert about “The Dream of America”—or, as Michael Shasberger put it, “the best aspirations” of the nation. The music looked back to the European immigration of the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. In the first half of the show, the orchestra played Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” composed in 1893 just as the stream of immigrants was rising. 

The second half was devoted to Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America,” written just after the assaults of 2001 tightened the border for several years. John Blondell worked with seven actors who recited scripts during the performance from the Ellis Island Oral History Project. The stories came from those who had sailed from Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, several of them refugees of World War II. “We are all strangers here,” one Irishman states, “it’s only a matter of time about who came here first.” As Michael Shasberger notes, his own Dutch and German ancestors had once undertaken “an arduous passage and forged new lives in a new language much like those whose stories are told tonight and those whose stories are still being told by new arrivals who take similar risks, and dream the same dream."

The concert was held in the historic theatre of La Cumbre Junior High School, built nearly one hundred years ago and still the third largest theatre in Santa Barbara. The setting was apropos. Many of the students in the school, which is over 85% Hispanic/Latino, are the children of immigrants.


SB Downtown


Paul Bradford has just completed a study of internships at Westmont over the past decade.  During that time, 1771 internships were completed for academic credit or to meet the Serving Society requirement. The top three departments were Economics and Business (205), Kinesiology (177), and Biology (158). After that Political Science (76), Psychology (68), and Sociology (64) represent the highest users of internships. Nearly half (47%) of the students who do internships for credit complete them through an interdisciplinary seminar rather than a course in the major. Based on this study, Paul is beginning to work directly with some departments to expand their internship options.

Each year the college evaluates one or more of its seven “Institutional Learning Outcomes” (ILOs), a requirement for accreditation. For this year, we are blending two ILOs into a common assessment: CUPA (Christian Understanding, Practices and Affections) and Writing.  Lisa DeBoer and Sarah Skripsky are the lead assessment specialists, with help from Sandy Richter and Tatiana Nazarenko. First-year students are taking biblical literacy quizzes, and data are also being collected about participation in spiritual development activities. We are especially interested in understanding how well our students can adapt their writing for different audiences (known as “rhetorical mobility”).


Askew abstract

In early September, a record crowd turned out for the opening of Professor Emeritus Tony Askew’s new show in the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. The exhibit—Looking Forward/Going Back—is a retrospective of Tony’s long career, which includes some prolific work since his retirement from Westmont in 2007. If you have not seen the show, try to make your way over there before its November 17 closing. Chris Rupp has cleverly filled the main hallway of the museum with several of Tony's paintings on slanted mounts. The catalog, edited by Judy Larson and designed by Scott Anderson, recounts Tony's trajectory as an artist and offers a vibrant display of color plates, including several monotypes inspired by his summers in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

The exhibit includes an array of abstract painting and collage; many of the collages are made of what Tony calls “roadisia,” or the eclectic objects that he finds in the street. In an appreciative essay on the exhibit, local artist Siu Zimmerman writes that Tony, regardless of the medium, “likes to employ three elements: the childlike quality and freedom of a five-year-old, whose approach is totally positive and totally uninhibited; an Asian awareness of the tradition and ceremony of the art of painting itself; and the sense of shifting away from the subject and realism toward the process of doing.”  


From Douglas Grove

Congratulations to two recent faculty retirees—Chris Milner and Niva Tro—who have been granted emeritus status by the trustees.

About 90% of faculty used the new Early Alert system to report on the progress of their students. Most faculty are eager to see students take better advantage of their office hours, while there are also hopes for connecting some students to tutoring services.  

Several classes hosted Sodexo’s “Global Chef” Julián Lamprea of Colombia, including some of the Spanish classes taught by Dinora Cardoso and Mary Docter. I joined Cynthia Toms and students in the Global Leadership Center as Chef Júlian taught us some easy ways to make Colombian desserts.  

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCO) and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) have launched a statewide effort to encourage private colleges and universities to improve opportunities for community college students to finish a four-year degree. Led by Michelle Hardley, we will be considering how we might help students with an Associate Degree to Transfer (ADT) graduate from Westmont in only two more years.

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities has reaffirmed its partnership with Westmont on the Global Health Semester in Uganda. For fall of 2019, Westmont will embed a modular course in the Uganda Studies semester that is oriented for our Global Health students in attendance there.

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