Nick Andersen, 2013 graduate, talks about his challenges and blessings during his years at Westmont
Exploring the wideness of the World
When Nick Andersen visited Westmont with his mother, Carole Owens ’78, he noticed professors walking and talking to students. Seeing that engagement solidified his decision to enroll.
Nick graduated as a member of two honor societies and will attend Duke Divinity School to earn a Master of Divinity. He hopes to pursue a doctorate and serve in full-time pastoral ministry.
“My first semester at Westmont, during a class in Christian doctrine, I mentally woke up,” he says. “Since then I have been driven.”
He knew early that he wanted to major in religious studies even though he enjoyed art and excelled in two philosophy courses. “I realized that studying philosophy or having a side interest would be beneficial and fun.”
Nick got to know the local area when he worked with Spring Break in Santa Barbara. The only freshman on the core team, he planned activities with a homeless shelter, a kids club and an apartment complex. “We got involved with local organizations to help people,” he says.
At a high school Christian camp, Nick heard friends talk about religious experiences while traveling in Israel. When his adviser suggested the Mediterranean Semester, which included six weeks in Israel, he instantly wanted to go. But his experience was much different than he expected.
“I remember sitting in a convent in Jerusalem having an existential crisis, realizing the world wasn’t as black and white as I thought,” he says. “I was questioning the relationship between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the political nature of our faith, and U.S. political involvement in Israel. I wasn’t sure what to do or think. Friends had spoken of deep spiritual experiences being where Jesus walked, but at some locations there were questions about whether or not Jesus was really there. I remember being crushed by the questions, the hatred and the conflict.”
Eventually, Nick began to accept the complications of life. “I became excited about gaining knowledge of the wideness of the world, exploring world religions, my own faith and its historical roots, the political elements of being a Christian and what it means to be a Christian in the world,” he says. “It helped shape my Christian identity. By saying Jesus is Lord and He is Lord over everything, I can embrace the world without fear of engaging with it.”
Back at Westmont, Nick co-led Ignite, which provided a space for students to pray and learn about different kinds of prayer. He also helped with Global Focus Week and served as an intern for Orientation. He worked as a teacher’s assistant for Tremper Longman, Robert Gundry professor of biblical studies, and served as an intern at Montecito Covenant Church.
“I feel very prepared,” he says. “Westmont is the beginning, providing a foundation for what I’d like to do in life. The professors have been the single most formative part of my Westmont experience. I’ve spent countless hours in their offices and their homes, talking about issues their courses have raised, how to think theologically or philosophically about certain things and what it means to communicate well and be a peacemaker. They have been encouraging, challenging and accessible.”