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. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to publicly announce and honor them during the Academic Awards Convocation, which is typically held prior to Commencement. Here are the Outstanding Graduates of 2020.
Jordan Marshall’s work reflects her character as an artist and thinker: thorough, patient, meticulous, and uncompromising. A gifted painter, Jordan conjures windows into realistic worlds with her brush, with an eye towards representational fidelity. A gifted writer, her written work is equally attentive to the texts and ideas she’s engaging. A common theme among our Outstanding Senior award recipients is that they are the ones who show up prepared and ready to work, and Jordan is no exception: her exceptional work is partly the result of her commitment to excellence and partly the result of consistent, disciplined hours logged in the studio. Jordan has stated her intention to pursue art as a vocation, and we look forward to seeing the paintings that are still yet to come.
Madeleine (“Maddi”) Berthoud has distinguished herself academically by performing at the top of the class across her major and non-major classes. But three things stand out as going deeper than the numbers. First she pursues and consistently attains excellence, but seems driven not by anxious ambition but by sheer love of the task whether in the classroom or on the soccer field. Second, she is simultaneously eager to ask probing questions across the disciplines, while also being free to share her own convictions and listen attentively to others. Third, Maddi is a weaver, entangling the threads of her experience – in the classroom, on the soccer field, in ministry – into a fabric of faith-informed service to others. Maddi has demonstrated you don’t have to do just one thing well and has been an inspiring model of the scholar / athlete.
Marissa Condie’s motivation and initiative shined in the major honors research that she undertook this year. Very ingeniously Marissa entirely on her own initiative, devised an analytical procedure to quantify the relative number of molecules that was undergoing different avenues of relaxation from the excited states. Then she showed her leadership skills by coming up with weekly research goals, communicating these with each member of the research group and mentoring the newer students in the laboratory procedure. Marissa always downplays her accomplishments and that makes her a natural leader. In January 2019, she attended the Pacific Conference on Spectroscopy and Dynamics and defended her research before professors, post-docs and graduate students from leading research universities.
Kaylee Hicks, senior of the year in communication studies, is a pursuer of truth, a rigorous discerner in class discussions, and a most dependable student. She does not shy away from raising questions and challenging prevailing flows of thought, yet also challenges and dissents in welcoming ways and with a humble spirit. Her ability to mentor younger students and create hospitable spaces in and beyond the classroom make her a truly ethical communicator and scholar. Kaylee has certainly made her mark on Westmont! She participated in Potter’s Clay all four years, growing in her leadership each year, serving on the core team, leading ministries, and serving as publicity manager. Her love of the Spanish language and Mexican culture led her to study abroad in Querétaro, Mexico, where she found it “a joy and a privilege to become more fluent and able to communicate competently with my host family, professors, and even Uber drivers!” In addition to her ministry and study abroad, Kaylee sang with the college choir and WOW (Women of Westmont, an a cappella vocal group). She’s also worked with the Conversation Café and served as an Orientation team leader and teaching assistant in communication research methods. Professor Lesa Stern says that Kaylee is particularly gifted in helping students clarify and pursue their research ideas while also encouraging them along the way. Kaylee says that her involvement in various ministries and discussion activities were especially valuable, as she cherished helping people feel seen, heard and known. She says that “this is, in large part, what prompted me to pursue a graduate degree in speech language pathology, where I can help to give the gift of communication to others so they are able to express themselves better and find a sense of belonging.”
Tanner Leslie is an intellectual explorer and has approached his Westmont education from that unique perspective. As a high-performing student, his peers know that he can build a web search engine and can analyze the mathematical efficiency of data structures. His faculty are confident that he can think and write well about the social impacts of the digital world and the technical underpinnings that enforce those relationships. But he also has a heart for his friends, as a tutor, RA, and as an encouraging presence. He dabbles in art and archery, speaks German and occasionally dances hip-hop. He has blazed a path that made the most of the talents with which God has graced him.
Chena Underhill is the complete package: scholar, athlete, artist, professional. In the classroom, she’s whip-smart, meticulous, and thoughtful. She finds delight in beautiful ideas and impactful applications. She is a leader amongst her peers. Chena is never domineering, but a gentle, unrelenting force for careful thinking and organization. Her presentations are playful, energized, and consistently insightful. Chena is always open to a challenge, whether that’s mastering a new technology or vaulting to new heights on the track. And she does it all with the poise and precision of a ballerina. Don’t be intimidated because she carries her own keyboard (she’ll tell you she needs a new computer). Be intimidated by what she’ll do with it.
Economics and Business
Jacob Ibrahim respectfully appreciates and deeply understands the foundational basics of each subject he studies. His willingness to grind out quality work, to never jump to irrational conclusions, and to embrace challenging assignments is a testament to his step by step approach which purposefully drives him forward. His natural leadership qualities and easy-going temperament round out his stellar work ethic. Jacob can be counted on to bring stability, wisdom, and vision to situations either easy or difficult. We thank you for your diligence, we congratulate you on your acceptance into so many law schools and we wish you all the best as you pursue a law degree at either UC Berkeley Boalt or UCLA in the fall.
Paul Wuest is completing a double major in English and Music Composition with a grand total of 172 credit hours. Indeed, composition has been a theme for Paul in both of his majors. In addition to composing music, he has enthusiastically guided the collaborative, creative efforts of the Student Writers Guild and currently serves as co-editor of the Phoenix. Paul is well known for his jubilant faith, his welcoming presence, and his terrible puns.
Cassidy Rea’s skills as a scholar and her contribution in the classroom in many ways mirror those she displays as an athlete on the court: She is equally committed to performing at her best as bringing out the best in others. Cassidy delivers consistently high-quality written work and adds value to any class discussion as she effortlessly integrates material from different readings, discussions, and courses. I think we have all been encouraged in our own work by an affirming word from Cassidy as well as by the quiet, diligent way she tackles her own tasks. Cassidy synthesizes the fierce determination of a champion athlete and leader with the gentleness of a dear friend. We are very thankful for all she has contributed to the History department, her other “team,” during her time at Westmont. Two thumbs up for Cassidy.
Ella Urquhart was on her way to learning most world languages -or so it seemed. But she got caught in the nets of history, and she found a home there. A home where she could ask her many questions, be skeptical about answers, do more research, and emerge with beautifully crafted work that furthers her readers’ knowledge and imagination. She has excelled in all the skills historians prize, not only because she has an impeccable work ethic and a razor-sharp mind, but also because her curiosity seems insatiable. She is eager to go back to another one of her homes (besides history), on the continent of Africa. Once she settles, there is no doubt she will put her talents to good use, and pick up a few languages along the way.
The Kinesiology Department salutes Sten Kajitani as the 2020 Peg Lovik Award recipient. Sten is thoughtful, hard-working and possesses attributes that will make a fine physician. He is caring and friendly; and in the classroom has a knack for helping other students achieve their best, making the class enjoyable for both the professor and other students. Perhaps Sten’s multiple positive attributes were best on display as a summer research assistant where he was described by his faculty supervisor as “the glue that made the research come together where he combined his love for science and people.
Kate Chase is a bright senior full of humility and honesty; she continually demonstrates an openness and willingness to new ideas and perspectives. Kate is a dedicated student who takes initiative, reflects, and embraces deep, constructive thinking and dialogue. Dr. Andrew Mullen, education professor, recently shared, “I would love to have an elementary teacher like Kate for my daughters. The students she will work with in San Antonio next year through Teach for America will be blessed.” Kate models being a lifelong learner, she will make a difference with children, and will be a change agent for good.
Katie Judson is a resilient fighter — she looks adversity in the eye, faces it down, and keeps going. She is organized, sets goals, and takes thoughtful initiative to grow and learn well. Katie stretches herself and takes risks; she isn’t afraid to pose and wrestle with difficult questions in class or one-on-one with a professor or peer. Katie’s education professors are thrilled she has chosen to pursue an Elementary Teaching Credential in the fall at Westmont. She will bring resilience, fresh ideas, and passion to her elementary classroom and students.
Hannah Fisk is one of those students whose presence makes class interactions more pleasant and enjoyable for all-professors included! She brings thoughtfulness, creativity, energy and a positive attitude to discussions, and she is blessed with a bubbly personality, an excellent sense of humor and a joyful manner. Hannah has also been an exemplary model of servant leadership: she has been a very capable and dependable teaching assistant for Calculus and Fundamentals of Mathematics classes; she is serving in student government as a Global Leadership Center Senator, and she is president of the Catholic and Friends Newman Club. As a major in both mathematics and philosophy she models a true lover of learning, and does excellent work in both subjects.
Emily Mata lives a life of passion and compassion. A double major in Art and Hispanic Studies, Emily’s excellence and influence extend far beyond the walls of the classroom or studio. Whether leading the Latinx Student Union or editing the Phoenix; co-founding the poetry club or researching Latinx artists; working in prestigious museums or in low-income classrooms; Emily’s creative spirit, compassionate heart, and drive for justice are evident to all. Through her words, art, and activism, Emily challenges us all to open our eyes to see both the beauty and the injustice around us; and to not just see, but to act to make our communities better for all. A Fulbright recipient, Emily will return to Mexico next year as an artist and educator, where she will create and teach in ways that encourage cross-cultural communication while honoring local histories.
Hannah Nelson is a stellar student both in her Spanish major and her Religious Studies and Global Studies minors. Her academic work is impeccable: she is meticulous and disciplined. Her close readings have served not only as literary analysis but also as cultural artifacts to spur her curiosity. In the classroom Hannah has a gracious and cooperative spirit that inspires her classmates to grow and learn. As a member of Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish Honor Society, she was elected Co-President of our Chapter. Hannah studied in Westmont in Mexico and has continued to serve the Modern Language Department as a Spanish tutor. Her work with the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission led to her being offered a fulltime position after graduation.
The music department is delighted to award Music Composition major, Paul Wuest, as the senior of the year in music. He has entertained us these four years with wonderful original compositions in a variety of styles. He has worked as a collaborator writing music for theater, he sings in the college chamber singers as well as the college choir, and regularly accompanies vocal students on piano. He is a brilliant young man and we are happy to celebrate the fine work he has done, not only in the music department, but as a double major in English and one of the first group of Augustinian scholars. We are excited to see the next stage of the journey, congratulations, Paul!
Austin Nachbur knew early on that he wanted to double major in philosophy and religious studies. And he has employed both disciplines well to develop a general Christian perspective on the world. Austin tackles intellectual challenges boldly. He is always ready to dive into the deepest ideas he can find. And his cheerful willingness to explore, experiment, and learn has paid off. Austin has deep insight as well as a great ability to think creatively and rigorously. He pursues ideas with persistence. He can sometimes be persuaded to change his mind, but only after he has thoroughly exhausted his argumentative options. Austin does all this with kindness and generosity toward others. He has also served his major departments as a tutor and honor society officer.
Luke Myers came to Westmont as an Augustinian Scholar. He will graduate in physics after just three years. Besides excelling in all out classes, he’s done research at Las Cumbres Observatory doing instrumental analysis. His supervisor raved about his work. He is well rounded, having worked with foster kids at Royal Family Kids Camp, worked with Academic computing, gone on Potter’s Clay and played on the Ultimate Frisbee and water polo club teams. He is outwardly focused with a caring heart. He is the student that a decade from now you brag about having taught him.
Chena Underhill exemplifies a cheerful love of learning, bringing real enthusiasm to each and every topic she pursues. And her interests are broad! As a true “liberal artist,” Chena is fully at home in a range of subjects—not just in her double majors in political science and data analytics—but across the curriculum and especially in her developing interest in the field of education. But her eagerness is far from uncritical: she brings incisive questions to bear—pushing back on conventional wisdom in her characteristically happy curiosity. Outside of the classroom, Chena brings her joyful intensity to bear as a pole vaulter on the track and field team, her service as Political Science teaching and research assistant, and volunteering in her church. Chena is a scholar, an athlete, a servant, a leader—and we will miss her.
Still waters run deep, and so too with Maddie Weicht. Maddie demonstrates serious intellectual firepower, but is never combative or condescending. Maddie has that rare ability to be curious, thoughtful, and cognitively flexible, while remaining rooted in her convictions and without blowing in the wind of every new idea that comes along. She possesses a knack for asking insightful questions that facilitate deep discussions and bear fruit in her excellent writing. Maddie exemplifies grace and wisdom beyond her years. When Maddie speaks, people listen. Both in and beyond the classroom, her peers have recognized her as a natural leader. Maddie’s intellectual capacity, kindness, wisdom, and generosity of spirit make us proud to call her a Westmont student and political science major.
Margaret (Maggie) Zielinski is a shining star in the psychology program at Westmont and a joy to all in our department. In her courses, she has consistently shown enthusiastic engagement with the material, whether it be class discussion, laboratory sections, or class assignments. Maggie is well known for her fully involved approach to her studies, her research, and an amazing variety of extracurricular activities. This has included serving as president of the Psi Chi Honors Society, working with Potter’s Clay, serving as a research assistant in neuropsychology, and presenting at the International Neuropsychology Association. As a student, clinician, and researcher, Maggie has shown a great degree of determination, independence, and professionalism in her dedication to clinical neuropsychology as a scientist and practitioner. She has perceptive insight, a thoughtful capacity to empathize with others, and an open mind to the complexity of life. Maggie looks forward to pursuing a PhD in neuropsychology after finishing at Westmont.
It has been exciting to watch Beth Scalise develop her abilities and skills while at Westmont. In her work, she is untiring, thorough, curious, and creative, four necessary qualities for a good researcher. She consistently goes beyond the basic requirements of assignments: She is witty and creative, synthesizing complex concepts in unique ways. Over her four years at Westmont, her personal integrity and commitment to others are apparent in her excellent work in various support positions in the psychology department and in her applied research interests. She is someone whose performance, academic and otherwise; service in the department; and quality of research have made a significant contribution to the Westmont community.
Kind, respectful, humble … Nathan Tudor is always a joy to have in class. What sets Nathan apart is the profound depth to which his inquiries reach. When Nathan engages, it is obvious that he has already plumbed the depths of whatever topic is at hand. His exegetical method is careful and precise and his theological judgment is acute and perceptive with thoughtful historical sensitivity. He deploys his best on every topic. When Nathan speaks, people listen. He thinks and performs like an outstanding graduate student. Nathan is a unique intellect and a self-deferential soul. He raises the bar in every context. Beyond his obvious intellectual and academic capabilities, his ecclesical commitment and care for those on the margins of society demonstrate his deep personal and embodied faith. We will miss him dearly.
Sociology and Anthropology
In the classroom, Kennedy Dalager has excelled in her scholarly explorations of identity formation, most recently through her research project on purity culture and femininity. Outside the classroom, she has led the Potter’s Clay’s team, tutored locally through Urban Initiative, studied abroad in Mexico and traveling to Peru through Emmaus Road. Having interned at the Teen Court in Santa Barbara and Because Justice Matters, an organization that creates pathways for women and girls living in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, Kennedy intends to pursue a joint MSW and JD to combine her passion for social justice with legal work in such areas as sex trafficking, prison reform, immigration, and/or violence and domestic abuse against women and children.
Abigail Pryor has been highly involved in the theater and dance program over the last four years. In that time, she has worked as an actress, dancer, scholar, producer, director, and creator – she has done it all! Abigail has served as a leader in our department as an artist and model student, living out a Christ-like generosity and embodying a contagious quality of joy. She is currently co-artistic director of the annual Fringe Festival, in addition to directing a senior capstone original musical theater project that she wrote, Our Season to Bloom. Abigail is highly respected by other students for her artistic ability but also her personal character and demeanor. Abigail is fun to be around. She is genuinely kind, caring, and has a great sense of humor. She leaves behind a legacy of strong performances and contribution to our department as an artist, collaborator, and leader – and we will miss her.
Kayla Petersen’s intellectual curiosity and moral imagination contribute to her deep commitment to press into difficult topics with grace, conviction, and courage. Kayla’s Major Honors project on faith-based engagement with abortion has not only involved establishing her own community contacts with a range of stakeholders, but also continuing to revisit those stakeholders as she prepares to hand her work back to them for external evaluation through her issue guide and deliberation. In this project as in her classwork, Kayla models receptivity to critique and challenge as she seeks to be wholly present. In her time at Westmont, she has deepened her ability to apply a keen analytic and compassionate lens on pressing social issues, and she inspires her community to do likewise. In the immediate, Kalya plans to stay locally in Santa Barbara, engaging in deliberative work and community organizing through the Westmont Initiative for Public Dialogue and Deliberation. She hopes to eventually attend grad school for law, deliberation, or in the field of sociology with the goal of working for equity and reconciliation.