Each year, the Westmont community celebrates the many ways that God has gifted our students academically by announcing and honoring the Outstanding Graduate Awards in each department during are announced and honored during the Academic Awards Convocation prior to Commencement. The following are the Outstanding Graduates of 2019.
Madeleine Kilpatrick was introduced to printmaking her first year at Westmont by professor Meagan Stirling. “From there it was full steam ahead!” Kilpatrick says. “I love that printmaking is all about layers, and about creating graphic imagery.”
She describes her printmaking style as non-traditional, working in the moment and unregistered instead of focusing on perfection.
“Madeleine embodies this discipline with a joyful sense of purpose and ambition,” says Lisa DeBoer, chair of the art department. “She understands that artists go to the studio not when we are inspired, but in order to become inspired. She is engaged, driven, and hungry to learn more, to continually add to her repertoire of techniques.”
Kilpatrick, who graduates with bachelor’s degrees in art and communication studies, will spend a month abroad on Westmont’s Borders, Boundaries, and Brexits: Jerusalem to Belfast mayterm course. She hopes to spend a few years working in a studio and building her portfolio in Nashville, Tennessee, pursuing an MFA in Printmaking.
“I hope to teach, as well as maintain a robust studio practice and continue sharing my art with my community,” she says.
At Westmont, Lucia Combrink has co-authored several research projects, ran for the women’s cross country team and served as a resident assistant in Clark Halls. She and professor Amanda Sparkman worked with researchers from Iowa State and Penn State Universities to co-author a paper, “Current and Time-Lagged Effects of Climate on Innate Immunity in Two Sympatric Snake Species.” Their work used two species of garter snakes from four populations in Northern California to examine how they adapted to changing environmental conditions, such as drought.
She also co-authored a paper, “Convergence in reduced body size, head size, and blood glucose in three island reptiles,” with Sparkman. “In the field, if there is an elusive animal everyone else has overlooked, she is the one to find it,” Sparkman says.
Combrink, an international student from Malaysia, graduates with bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology. She conducted research, “Examining the Effect of Implicit Religious Priming on Pro-Environmental Behavior,” with Brenda Smith, professor of psychology.
“In everything she does, she is cheerful, engaged, generous and faithful,” says Beth Horvath chair of the biology department. “She has shown herself more than equal to graduate-level work in her Major Honors project, and is clearly poised for graduate school as the next phase in her career.”
Nick Taylor and Ana Bulger won the Outstanding Graduate Award in Chemistry. Ana Bulger, who finished her Westmont program with a 4.0 GPA, will attend UCLA to pursue a doctorate in chemistry with focus in organic synthetic chemistry. “She has transitioned from student to teacher, from receiver to discoverer of knowledge,” says professor Michael Everest, chair of the chemistry department. “She has been a conscientious and dependable teacher’s assistant for two years of organic chemistry and an impressively creative designer of syntheses in class. But she can most often be found in the lab, where she is the go-to person for both technique and experimental design questions.”
She presented her major honors work on the borylation of aryl sulfamates at last April’s National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, Florida.
“The most significant part of my experience at Westmont has been growing my relationships with the faculty and my peers over the past four years,” she says. “Westmont has given me the unique opportunity of mentorship from my professors. This kind of interaction is often difficult for undergraduates at larger schools. It was through learning from these amazing faculty that I was able to thrive by asking questions and that I was inspired to become a chemist myself.”
Nick Taylor, a double major in chemistry and philosophy, served as president of the pre-health club and volunteered to teach science to elementary school children. He hopes to attend medical school to pursue a career as a pediatric oncologist. “He is a brilliant chemist and a deeply thoughtful philosopher who combines these into a cheerful and humble servant-leader,” says Michael Everest, chair of the chemistry department.
He completed a major honors project, “Meta-Arylation of Aryl Carbamates,” which he presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society with professor Amanda Silberstein. “Around the lab, he is known for his unfailing good nature and as the indispensable solver of practical problems,” Silberstein says.
“Not only have I learned a lot, but I have met some amazing people in the process,” he says. “
Through Westmont Downtown, Rebekah Beeghly served as the social media and communications intern at Youth Interactive, an afterschool entrepreneurial arts academy.
“She is curious, energetic, intellectually engaged, a superb question-asker, and flat-out funny,” says professor Elizabeth Gardner, assistant professor of communication studies. “While she can be mischievous and often has a gleam in her eye, she also demonstrates incredible sensitivity toward others and is committed to pursuing mutual understanding, especially those involving high-stakes identity and justice.”
She was a member of Intercultural Programs, lead the Multi-Ethnic Student Association and wrote for the Features section of the Horizon. She studied abroad with Westmont in Jerusalem, served as president of Lambda Pi Eta, the Communication Studies National Honors Society, and directed Spring Sing skits in 2016 and 2018.
“While studying abroad, I found a love for Israel/Palestine and was able to learn a lot about myself, justice and conflict, and created some of my strongest and deepest friendships,” she says.
She hopes to publish a series of children’s books about race in the U.S. called “The United Shapes of America.”
Kyle Hansen, who will attend UC Santa Barbara this fall to earn a doctorate in mathematics, is a double major in mathematics and computer science.
“He approaches computer science in a uniquely Westmont way,” says Don Patterson, professor of computer science. “He knows the technical details of manipulating bits on the processor, he can uncover the abstract efficiency of different data structures from a mathematical perspective, and he writes well about the social impacts of the digital world. But he also has a heart for his friends, whether he is organizing Spring Sing, encouraging his dorm, or writing an app for organizing potlucks in the Global Leadership Center.”
Hansen presented research in the field of complex analysis last January at the Joint Mathematics Meetings conference in Baltimore.
“His brilliance is matched only by his modesty, as he will downplay the tremendous help he has been to our department (as a grader, and helping with our mathematics contest) and Westmont (as a choir member, and Emmaus Road participant),” says Russ Howell, professor of mathematics.
Kaylee Yoon, one of Westmont’s first data analytics majors, is described by professors as an exceptional student, researcher and trailblazer. She worked with professor Don Patterson’s research that uses machine learning techniques to detect cerebral palsy in premature babies. “I am also doing research with the Westmont Office of College Advancement for my senior capstone project,” she says. “I am building an artificial neural network that predicts how much a donor will give to Westmont in the next year.” As a double major with economics and business she spent a semester abroad with Westmont in Asia. “It was so much fun experiencing a new culture with other Westmont students,” she says. “We interned at Development Bank of Singapore, ate tons of new food, explored almost all of the cafes in Singapore and took trips to Hong Kong, Cambodia and Vietnam.”
After graduation, she hopes to travel Taiwan for four months, conducting machine learning research as an intern. Eventually she plans on returning to the U.S. to work in the tech industry doing data analytics.
“Yet, for all of her success, she remains a kind and approachable person averse to taking the limelight,” Patterson says.
Economics and Business
Whitney Tice has been an aerial dancer for seven years. “Ever since I was little I enjoyed climbing things and being up high,” she says. “Aerial allows me to maintain a sense of childlike playfulness and simultaneously work hard. I think I get most excited about the challenge of trying and mastering new skills and sequences, which I find incredibly fun and exhilarating.”
Her professors say she is industrious, inquisitive and always present in the moment. “Actively listening, gently probing, persistently processing, diligently growing and quietly contributing, Whitney is also an outstanding person who lives her faith daily and who is sincere in reaching out to others, in offering prayers and in being concerned for all,” says Rick Ifland, chair of the economics and business department.
Tice studied on Westmont in Asia during Mayterm and lived in Uganda for a month as part of Emmaus Road. “This was one of the most valuable experiences in my life,” she says of her time at Faith Children’s Home and God’s House of Miracles in Lugazi, Uganda.
“The education I have received at Westmont has prepared me to engage in gracious and meaningful conversations about faith with people from a variety of backgrounds.”
Oxford English Dictionary Award winner Olivia Stowell integrated her work in English and theater to create a powerful stage adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” with six actors. “Her theater arts senior project paired Eliot with Anne Sexton to stage fractured experiences in two towering American poets,” says Sarah Skripsky, chair of the English department.
Stowell says a highlight of her time at Westmont has been the mentorship and friendship she received from faculty and staff. “They have taught me so much, encouraged me on my journey, written me letters of recommendation, let me cry in office hours, prayed for me, supported me and challenged me,” she said. “I wouldn’t be who I am without their influence.”
Stowell’s English major honors project explored the intersectional othering of the evil body in animation, Skripsky explains, the way animators encode evil as “other” in terms of race, gender, sexuality or attractiveness. Meanwhile, she organized campus-wide Fringe Festivals and offering her resonant voice to justice issues on campus.
“Intercultural Programs is probably the space on campus where I have learned and grown the most,” she says. “The community and family there is such a picture of Christ-like love, inclusion and justice. I’m going to miss it more than I can say.”
She will present a paper on “Frankenstein” at the International Gothic Association Conference and another essay will be published in Liberated Arts. She begins graduate school next fall to study English literature at Villanova University. “I’m excited to take the next step in pursuing my goal to get my doctorate and hopefully someday become a professor,” she says.
History and Modern Languages
Gabriel Grabowski, a double major in history and Spanish, won the Outstanding Senior Awards for both history and modern languages. “Whether learning from Ensenada pastors with Potter’s Clay, listening to his host family on Westmont in Mexico, engaging local issues at the Westmont Downtown program, or evaluating competing historical interpretations in a senior research seminar, Gabe has been the same person: humble, kind, teachable, gracious, thoughtful, wise and courageous,” says Rick Pointer, chair of the history department. “He is willing to ask the hard questions and to wrestle ably with the theological and moral ambiguities that history and life present.”
Grabowski completed research projects on the memory of Danish resistance during the Holocaust and the history of Westmont’s Potter’s Clay in the context of 20th-century American evangelicalism. “Although he clearly loves research and writing, Gabe is passionate about cross-cultural service, and especially serving the marginalized,” says Mary Docter, chair of the modern languages department.
After studying in Querétaro, Mexico, Gabriel mentored students cross-culturally during summers in Spain, and has worked with immigrants and refugees as a resettlement and placement intern at World Relief and as a local volunteer at Immigrant Hope. He has served as a student representative of the Homelessness Collaborative for the Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation.
“I’ve been deeply inspired and supported by the Westmont community: Sodexo workers, professors, friends, staff, therapists, gardeners, campus pastors, and nameless students writing prayers in notebooks in the prayer chapel,” he says.
A 2019-20 Fulbright recipient, Gabriel will travel to Argentina this spring to work with college students and examine issues of globalization and transnationalism. “Ultimately, I’m just going to pursue the best thing in front of me in each season and seek Jesus, love my neighbors,” he says. “I hope someday that means being able to teach, write, and spend lots of time outdoors.”
Madison Cherry earned the Peg Lovik Nicholas Senior Award for the outstanding graduate in the Kinesiology department for her superior academic work and volunteer efforts on and off campus. “Madison demonstrates great perseverance and her work ethic complements her intellect,” says Gregg Afman, chair of the kinesiology department. “She is a delightful young woman who cares deeply for others. Without exception, she sets a very high standard of excellence in everything she does. She has blessed many with her efforts and servant heart.”
Her influence has also extended outside the United States, providing health care services during a semester in Uganda. “The best part of my four years at Westmont was the people I met on campus and abroad,” she says. “The professors encouraged me and cared about me. They believed not only in my ability to excel in courses but also take what I learned in courses into the real world.”
Cherry, who hopes to become an occupational therapist, will study this fall at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa, Arizona. “I want to be a part of this growing field that increases the independence, and thus self-efficacy and social inclusion, of individuals in vulnerable populations,” she says. “I hope that pursing a doctorate that focuses on public health will enable me to eventually take my profession beyond the clinic and into communities so that I can gain a more holistic picture through the social contexts of the individuals I work with. Westmont introduced me to this field and I’m so grateful that I can combine my love of the human body and passion for social justice that the kinesiology department instilled in me since freshman year.”
Lauren Hayward, who graduated in three years, exudes energy and determination in every class and activity, according to her professors. She was features section editor for the Horizon, Westmont’s student newspaper, directed Clark Women’s Spring Sing skit before serving as Logistic’s Coordinator of Spring Sing. She also served an internship with the Westmont admission’s department. “I am the third generation in my family to attend Westmont, so it has been my dream to come here since I was in kindergarten,” she says. “My favorite part of being at Westmont is having the balance of being able to participate in fun events, such as Spring Sing, but also growing deeper in my faith and my education.”
Hayward will attend Vanderbilt University to earn a master’s degree in education and an elementary teaching credential. “I plan on teaching 4th or 5th grade, and then working in educational policy because my life-long goal is to change the public education system in America,” she says.
Three students won the Outstanding Graduate Award in mathematics, all earning 4.0 GPAs during their college program. Matthew Coffman, Natelli Cripe and Kyle Hansen, who also won the award in computer science, were individually brilliant and collaborated well, according to their professors.
Coffman, who loves abstract thinking and problem solving, will stay in Santa Barbara and become a software engineer. “Matthew’s work is meticulously accurate,” says Russell Howell, chair of the mathematics department. “He has a natural eye for the subtleties of mathematical arguments, and has a knack for asking a question that provides the perfect segue into the next point that a teacher wants to make.”
Cripe celebrated her 21st birthday while on Westmont in Jerusalem hiking the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum. “Not only did that trip challenge and deepen my faith and bring the Bible to life, but it also instilled in me a love for adventure and new experiences,” she says.
Her professors say she combines a quiet, unassuming smile with a sharp mind. “The combination of insight and intellectual honesty that she displays is uncommon,” Howell says. “She will own the gaps in her proofs rather than hoping they will go unnoticed.”
Her integrity blends perfectly with her passion for service, such as working for the Food Bank, or helping with various campus events.
Two of her grandparents and her father graduated from Westmont. “It’s special to be able to follow in their footsteps,” she says. “I’m really thankful for the long-lasting friendships I’ve made here, and I’m looking forward to a life of learning and other adventures.”
She continues to work as finance coordinator at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, where she has served the last two years, while pursuing other finance positions along the Central Coast.
Noel Hilst and Gabriel Grabowski, who also won for history, are the John Raede Award winners in modern languages. Hilst approaches all he does with joy and passion, according to his professors. “Whether it be playing in the orchestra or singing a capella with Ahh-Men; serving the elderly during an internship in Spain or working with exchange students here in the United States; translating on Potter’s Clay or serving as a resident assistant or Spanish tutor at Westmont, Noel does it with a joyful heart, infectious enthusiasm, and an enormous smile,” Docter says. “A double major excelling in both Spanish and psychology, Noel is a gifted scholar who writes with elegance and clarity.”
He is currently completing his major honors project on biculturalism and bias and is a Fulbright finalist, hoping to serve again in northern Spain, where he will work with plurilingual schools and serve in various community projects.
Violinist Sierra Farrar, a double major in music and biolody, served as concert master of the Westmont Orchestra on a tour to England, Ireland and Wales, as well as regular season concerts. “She has taken on the responsibility of leading the orchestral ensembles for multiple operas produced by the music and theatre departments, has been a leader in the chamber music program and has offered her talents in many and various ways to the college to make major events more beautiful with her violin playing,” says Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship.
She has thoroughly enjoyed traveling with the music department to northern and Southern California as well as the East Coast and eight European countries. “It has been such a rewarding journey to slowly shed old parts of myself and learn who I want to be,” she says. “I cannot wait to see how my personality explodes after graduating.”
Farrar also sang in the choir, served as orchestra librarian, served musically in her church and excelled in the classroom. “Sierra has been an exemplary model of servant leadership, academic achievement, peer mentoring and musical inspiration to all in the music department,” Shasberger says.
She hopes her future involves music as well as conservation biology either in Santa Barbara or on the East Coast.
Jordan Strandness, a double major in philosophy and English, earned the Outstanding Graduate Award in philosophy as well as the annual Robert N. Wennberg Philosophy Scholarship. “He engages in the life of the mind with a winsome combination of seriousness and playfulness,” says Jim Taylor, chair of the philosophy department. “One minute he’ll be deep in thought about a perplexing philosophical problem, and the next minute he’ll be laughing heartily about a classmate’s clever remark.”
For his Capstone Project for English, he researched and wrote a creative story about the life and thought of French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, who tried to understand the nature of science and poetry and the way the two could interact.
Stradness, a standout tennis player and member of the Citadel staff, can philosophize both creatively and critically. “He approaches both of his majors with the skills of a careful reader, artful writer, sensitive listener, and articulate speaker,” Taylor says.
He is considering graduate school to become an English or philosophy professor or earning an MFA in creative writing.
Louise Naumann, an Augustinian Scholar, came to Westmont after graduating high school with 86 college units while serving as a teacher’s assistant in calculus, statistics and AP Physics. She also did a year of research in the Amgen Biotechnology Experience at UC Santa Barbara. Her first semester at Westmont, she took senior quantum mechanics, earning the top grade in the class on the final. She completed her physics major in three semesters and was a pole vaulter on Westmont’s track and field team. In the summer of 2018, she conducted research at Harvard Medical School, designing and fabricating a radiation sensor array using a 3D printer to provide quality assurance for radiation treatment of metastatic brain tumors. “In fact, metastatic brain tumors are among the most expensive kind of cancer to treat,” she says. “Prototyping these sensor arrays helps us research alternative methods of quality assurance, lowering the cost of this type of treatment. The most powerful part of my time in Boston was being in the hospital testing our sensors in the same room where patients were receiving treatments all day long. We would come in the evenings, after the treatments had been administered for the day, and conduct research in hope of improving that treatment for future patients.
“When I wasn’t conducting research, I enjoyed being in the culturally diverse and historically rich city of Boston.” She’s been accepted to the PhD medical physics program at UCLA and hopes to continue working in the field of cancer research.
Hana Iskandar, who led a youth group at Montecito Covenant, built homes with Habitat for Humanity and worked with at-risk kids in Egypt, is filled with a passion for life, learning and people, according to her professors. “Her energy and enthusiasm abound, whether it be in the classroom—where she is known for her candor and humor in addition to her intellectual acumen—or in one of her many activities where she joyfully serves her communities,” says Jesse Covington, chair of the political science department.
Iskandar, who wants to pursue a career in law, says she has always had a passion for people and justice.
“The best part of my three years at Westmont was how teachers managed to connect the material of each lecture back to Jesus Christ in ways that I could have never expected,” she says. “My faith has grown in incredible ways just by being surrounded by Christ-centered teachers, staff and friends. Despite being challenged in many of my classes, I can’t think of any class I did not enjoy.”
She says living so close to the beach was also a blessing. “Westmont really felt like home in every possible way and that is probably what I love and will miss the most,” she says.
Connor Gibbs, winner of the Willard F. Harley Award, is enrolled in UC Santa Barbara’s social psychology doctoral program. “He is bright and organized, goal-directed, and he works steadily on achieving his goals,” says Ronald See, chair of the psychology department. “Connor approaches research in a manner that allows him to generate novel ideas and carry them out, as seen by his successful presentations at national conferences.”
During summer 2018, he conducted research with Carmel Saad, professor of psychology, about “Combining Bias Interventions: The Effect of Bias Prediction & Self-Affirmation on Reducing Prejudice.”
“The best part of my Westmont experience has been having the opportunity to gain real world, hands on experience as a researcher,” Gibbs says. “I had the opportunity to participate in both in-lab psychology research here on campus and out at UCSB as well as research conducted within the Santa Barbara community.”
Saad says he is resourceful in a highly independent manner. “Given that a great research career requires not only sharpness of mind but organization and persistence, Connor has a bright future ahead,” she says. “Connor has remarkable integrity in all that he does. He is considerate of others and is ready and willing to lend a helping hand. His respectful and loving nature is a reflection of his deep faith in Christ. Connor reflects all of the best attributes of a Westmont student and the department is proud of his achievements.”
Lucas Vieira, whose coursework has primarily focused on Christian mission, world religions and global Christianity, graduates with a double major in religious studies and philosophy. Outside the classroom, he served with Intercultural Programs, Emmaus Road, chapel band and his local church.
“The best part of my four years at Westmont has been the opportunity to grow in my passion for ministry alongside people who love the Lord,” he says. My study abroad experiences in both India and Jerusalem were definitely highlights for me, as I was able to see the Kingdom of God at work in different contexts.”
His religious studies professors praise his intellectual acumen, deep faith, social engagement, and love for the church. “Lucas is an excellent student. He is biblically engaged and theologically thoughtful – and he cares about the significance of classroom conversations for the life of the church in the United States and around the world,” says Caryn Reeder, chair of the religious studies department. “Lucas is deeply, personally invested in learning how to faithfully inhabit a Christian identity.”
Vieira will pursue a career in ministry. “I hope to be a pastor or perhaps a church planter one day,” he says. “I’m very passionate about preaching, urban ministry and communicating the Gospel through both word and action.”
Michelle Vera, 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.
Sociology and Anthropology
Emily Stoppler, whose senior project explored the sociological factors that influence attitudes about interracial dating relationships, hopes to attend graduate school for sport psychology to become a counselor to student-athletes. “Bringing awareness to mental health in the realm of college athletics is something I am very passionate about and would love to pursue in the future,” she says.
She interned at World Vision and ShelterBox USA, a leading disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization.
“Emily brings a high level of intellectual curiosity and intensity when interrogating texts and conducting research,” says Felicia Song, chair of the sociology department. “She models how being thoughtful about sociological and theological realities can be meaningfully expressed by helping these organizations tell their stories locally and globally through developing and managing video shoots, press releases and archived footage.”
“The best part of my time at Westmont has been the people around me,” Stoppler says. “Both my friends and faculty push me and challenged me in my academics and my faith. I am forever grateful for the faculty who have poured into me here and have taken the time to invest in me as a student and person as well as the friends I have made here that have encouraged me and loved me with the love of Christ.”
Over four years, Hunter Stilwell has done it all as a theater student: acted in multiple productions, built with his own hands the sets for most of those shows, directed multiple shows, and designed the lighting for many others. “Has been an exemplary student,” says Mitchell Thomas, chair of the theater arts department. “His keen mind, excellent work ethic, creative imagination, and wonderful humor have contributed to classrooms, productions, and a thriving theater culture at Westmont.”
Stilwell says his Westmont education has given him opportunities to grow as a student and as a person. “In my major specific classes, I had the ability to study and pursue many different elements of theater as well as form meaningful relationships with both my professors and peers,” he says. “Through classes outside of my major, I have learned how to connect the knowledge I have gained from various disciplines. Within the community at Westmont, I have learned how to work and to live with others in a way that encourages meaningful growth.”
Hunter directed Jean-Paul Sartre’s challenging play “No Exit” for his capstone senior project. “This embodied his artistic spirit: collaborative, searching, funny, and theatrically sophisticated,” Thomas says. “He exemplifies what we hope for our graduates – a theater maker with a generous and compassionate heart, an intelligent and discerning mind, and a deep love for God.”
As a graduate, Stilwell hope to refine his skills as a director, while finding other ways to create impactful art within his community.