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 the Academic Awards Convocation prior to Commencement. This year, the ceremony was pre-recorded and is available for viewing here: https://youtu.be/Rb-kaApMhec.
The following are the Outstanding Graduates of 2021
Sharon Ko brings a deep sense of empathy to her art practice, creating space for others to share their stories and see those stories aesthetically filtered through her creations in a way that honors the participant. Her work embodies care, sensitivity, and empowerment which in turn is a natural reflection of who Sharon is as a person and friend. In the classroom, she is an incisive reader and persuasive writer. Even better, Sharon is the kind of person who can move a conversation forward, because listening well is the foundation for speaking well. She brings her whole self, full of integrity and strength, to whatever she does, in the classroom, the studio, and beyond.
Kendra Dayton is a formidable student, doggedly taking down barriers to understanding at every juncture—always asking just the right questions at just the right times, and quick to understand the full import of any given study, theory, or knotty theological problem. She raises the level of discourse of every discussion she takes part in, and her love for and genuine delight in biology is evident to all. Furthermore, her fine observational skills, attention to detail, and expansive scientific imagination demonstrate her high-level capacities as a biological researcher. She has shown herself more than equal to graduate-level work in her Major Honors project, and is clearly poised for success in the next phase of her career as a biologist.
Many words could be written about Winston Gee’s intelligence and character. He brings an unassuming wisdom to everything he does. He is a top-notch thinker, never settling for face value. He always pushes to find deeper meaning. As a student, he asks the best questions and has achieved an impeccable record. As a chemist, he has an endless curiosity and a high level of determination and initiative. His research project has been shaped into something better under his careful questioning and inventiveness. As a citizen, he’s shown a reconciliatory heart and a refreshing ability to listen and engage in dialogue. He has all around shown the ability to perform at a graduate-level and is unquestionably ready for the next phase of his career in graduate school.
Lauren Petersen is not only a professor’s delight, she is a student’s delight. Professors love her assertive yet receptive mind, and her compassionate, well-reasoned voice, especially for racial justice. She has also developed a talent for seeing systems nested within other systems. She is adaptable in her thinking, creative, and warm, and she is someone we can always count on. Because Lauren has been a tutor and occasional substitute teacher, students love her too. She comes alongside her peers in sensitive and innovative ways, even improving professors’ assignments!
Kyle Mayl is a careful listener, deep thinker, and gifted writer. He not only has the academic gravitas to impress professors, but also a heart of gold. As a teaching and research assistant, he has demonstrated PhD-level work, acting truly as a colleague in these positions rather than as a student. Kyle is committed to seeing the image of God in the people around him. He asks good questions and engages others thoughtfully, whether in the classroom with professors and peers, in the community facilitating deliberations and dialogues, or at Immigrant Hope where he interned.
Those who have grown up around rivers understand the saying “Still waters run deep.” The river rapids are shallow and noisy, but like Trevor Kirkby, the deep bends are quiet. He is a bright, thoughtful and well-rounded student, yet his dominant posture is one of pondering truths. It is disarming when he then writes insightful commentary and powerful software because in those moments he loses his inhibitions and the urgency of clarity and analysis takes over. These exchanges are energizing to his collaborators and reflect a sharp mind. Ironically, in addition to his academic pursuits, he is an excellent singer, an area in which being quiet tends to be disadvantageous.
Nathan Young is a high performing student who is personable, friendly, and has a good sense of humor. He bravely undertakes new adventures, whether working as a Resident Assistant, participating in a software engineering internship in the CATLab, or developing Convolutional Neural Networks. His research in the latter has resulted in new techniques for using 3D cameras to analyze babies in a Newborn Intensive Care Unit. His superpower is to be easy-going, which when paired with diligence and attention to detail has helped him navigate the challenges that he has pursued. In addition to majoring in Data Analytics, he is completing minors in Mathematics and Computer Science.
Economics and Business
Jared Huff is lauded by the Economics and Business faculty for his stellar performance in the major. In fact, Jared has been superb in every course he’s taken, having a 4.0 GPA. Faculty members admire his reliably valuable contributions to class discussion, intellectual curiosity and acumen in analytical thinking, precise communication skills, and winsome and helpful manner as a teaching assistant. Jared’s talents stretch outside of economics and business, for he is a budding thespian, having participated in the Magic Flute production. He also represents a legacy, as some twenty-three Huffs have been enrolled at Westmont. Jared will be attending Georgetown University Law Center. We congratulate Jared for his excellent work as our outstanding 2021 graduate.
Karis Cho is a brilliant woman. Her curiosity, commitment to critical inquiry, and copious intellectual gifts drive and fuel scholarly work that is as elegant and insightful as it is prescient. In her major honors project, Karis weaves together autoethnography, literary theory, and literary and cultural analysis with style and grace; in doing so, she reveals for her audience the tension and beauty of Korean and Korean American life, memory, and history. In her work, Karis successfully pushes the boundaries of literary theory, literary analysis, and creative non-fiction in ways that open up new possibilities in disciplines like contemporary U.S. literature, U.S. cultural studies, Asian American studies, and creative writing. Indeed, in her reading, writing, and thinking, Karis imagines an otherwise and an elsewhere—a future in which narratives written and read by Americans of color tell us not only where we have been and where we are now, but also where we could be. Karis’s intellectual gifts are rivaled only by her kindness, and her fierce love of God and neighbor, a love which is both tethered to and anchors her visionary intellectual labor. We, in the English Department, praise God for Karis’s life, as well as her past, present, and future success.
Laura Joy Phillips is an Augustinian Scholar majoring in English with minors in both Writing and Religious Studies. On England Semester during her sophomore year she deepened her love of liturgy. Her passion for diversity and inclusiveness has carried over into her scholarship and contributions to social justice causes. Laura is admired by professors and peers for dedication to research, depth of preparation, flawlessness of expression in writing, command of voice, integrity, and deep sense of moral purpose. She shares those gifts as a veteran peer tutor in the Writers’ Corner, who plans to pursue a teaching career in English after completing graduate studies in Composition and Rhetoric. She is a finalist in the Lilly Graduate Fellowship program, which equips future teacher-scholars in Christian colleges and universities. For her senior Capstone project, Laura is revising her own young-adult fantasy novel (Birdsong), which explores themes of friendship, illness, and environmental consequences.
As Anastasia Heaton approaches the finish line of her Westmont degree, she does so with a 4.0 GPA. This is just one marker, however, of how exceptional Anastasia is as a student. Anastasia produces consistently excellent work, the fruit of hours of study and careful writing. She has a particular interest in Russian history, and has spent two summers studying the language on State Department Critical Language Scholarships. She is completing major honors in history, examining child diplomacy during the Cold War. The history department is grateful for all Anastasia’s outstanding work, and looks forward to watching her path in the coming years.
Taylor Jennings is a James Bond student; he has been able to sustain the demands of two majors and his athletic commitments with apparent ease and grace. Taylor is quiet but mighty. His fellow students soon realize that when Taylor opens his mouth, it’s worth listening. His insights into history are measured and mature. He does not accept the easy answers and instead approaches complex issues and challenging assignments deliberately and thoughtfully. For his history senior research seminar, Taylor mined primary and secondary literature to make an intriguing case that the use of horses became a catalyst for the development of other technologies used to pacify the Comanche. The paper demonstrated Taylor’s gifts as a writer and analyzer of texts. One senses with Taylor that truth is paramount and that he is willing to go the extra mile to discover it and then align his life to it. Taylor combines intellectual intensity with an attractive levity. His many talents and diverse interests will serve him well in our rapidly changing world.
Jesse Quarum has demonstrated incredible passion, commitment to learning, and service oriented priorities. In the classroom, his strong academic performance and excitement is contagious. He embraces the opportunity to engage in new challenging subjects, including co-authoring a manuscript for a professional journal. Outside the classroom, Jesse has prioritized serving in rehabilitation setting, especially in the area of pediatric physical therapy. We wish Jesse God’s best on his next step of enrolling in a doctorate of physical therapy program in Oregon!
The Kinesiology Department is delighted to recognize Janet Shea for her exemplary efforts and achievements inside the classroom as well as within the community-at-large. She has a remarkable thirst for growth and wisdom that is beautifully paired with an authentic concern for the welfare of people. During her time at Westmont she has courageously moved past her comfort zone and has blossomed into an effective and compassionate servant leader. This journey has not only allowed her to powerfully impact fellow students on campus via her tutoring and Resident Assistant positions but also many underserved communities in her volunteer and internship compacities. Her sincere desire to be an agent of change and care within the healthcare industry will be great assets as she endeavors to pursue the Physician Assistant profession.
Amanda Keelin is a person with deep convictions; she is someone who’s not afraid to defend an unpopular opinion. A thinker and a feeler, she’s also good with her hands––whether working with clay on the potter’s wheel or baking delectable sourdough bread. Education Faculty describe Amanda as a conscientious student who takes on leadership roles confidently, while at the same time acknowledges and respects the voices of her peers. She is articulate and thoughtful and loves working with young children. In her preprofessional placement, her cooperating teacher notes, “Amanda has been a fantastic addition to our classroom team. She has a kind and easy manner that the students are immediately drawn to, and my students quickly bonded with her. Amanda stepped into the classroom setting with confidence, easily assisting students one-on-one and in small groups. She is able to problem solve and has the flexibility needed to succeed in the elementary education setting.” Amanda’s enthusiasm for learning and her inquisitive spirit will take her far in the future!
Rock-solid reliable and gifted with a beautiful smile, Linda Ngo consistently brightens the classroom or the Zoom-session screen. She is a super-planner, always thinking ahead and eager to finish assignments. Education Faculty describe Linda as a thoughtful student who cares deeply for others and desires to promote equity as a future teacher. She is always engaged in classroom conversations, asks great questions, and is a leader when working with her peers. Linda also has the inside scoop on every aspect of Trader Joe’s, where she’s been a committed crew member since high school. Whether she is at work, serving at an elementary school, or engaged in Westmont classes, she takes each role seriously. Linda’s cooperating teacher from her preprofessional placement praises Linda for her creativity: “She is so observant and is already a natural at creating an enthusiastic learning environment…even via Zoom! I am impressed with her attention to detail and her incredible cultural sensitivity.” Linda plans to pursue a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential with Westmont’s Credential Program in 2021-22.
Winston Gee is an uplifting presence in the Mathematics department. He works with care and precision, and has a sharp eye for fine details as well as discerning connections between different mathematical concepts. These are gifts that help Winston excel in his mathematics classes. But Winston has also been blessed with other gifts: he is thoughtful and mature; he has a generous and collaborative spirit; he builds community around him by gently drawing classmates into class discussions; and he understands how to lead through humility. He has a living faith and a remarkable ability to recognize how God reveals Himself through mathematics. What a blessing it has been to share in his gifts.
Kyle Mayl is a committed, enthusiastic learner and teacher. A double major in Communication Studies and Spanish, Kyle studies in Westmont in Mexico and returned to campus to lead the cultural immersion program for Potter’s Clay. As a result of his work through Emmaus Road, he became a Communications and Cross-Cultural Coordinator for the Edge Project in Altea, Spain. His work as a tutor for the Spanish Department is often lauded by his student-peers, and he is currently campus President for Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish Honor Society as well as a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Lambda Pi Eta. As an Augustinian Scholar he has challenged himself to explore new fields of study and often reads literature from an interdisciplinary perspective. As the recipient of the David Winter Servant Leader Award, his commitment to serve both the local and global community is exceptional. Kyle is a remarkable example of Christian commitment with a promising future.
Christina Dubell has been an exemplary student, musician and leader. She has served as concertmaster of the Westmont Orchestra and first violinist of our top string quartet for numerous concerts and venues. She has often gone out of her way to help other students and even reached out to her professors during the summer break for extra learning and experience. She has achieved the highest level in performance, leadership and accomplishments maintaining a double major in Engineering Physics. Not only do we celebrate her God given talents on the violin and viola but also her innately kind and sincere character as well as her diligence and perseverance. It has been a great joy having her in our department and we will miss her dearly.
Logan Hodgson has been a fantastic cellist and leader. He has served as principal cellist of the Westmont Orchestra on numerous occasions and a very active chamber musician in the top string quartet. He has enjoyed playing frequently for student composers and their concerts and has won our prestigious concerto competition. It is not an easy task to become a fine musician but he did so while maintaining a triple major in Engineering Physics and Math. He has tremendous passion for music, often challenging himself with major solo repertoire including Bach, Beethoven and Barber. Logan’s genuine but quiet character as well as his musical talent certainly spread lots of joy and warmth to our department and students. We congratulate his accomplishments in all three majors.
Though Brennan Confer was a latecomer to philosophy after concentrating initially on his biology major, he quickly distinguished himself in his new area of study. Both his professors and his classmates are the beneficiaries of his careful thinking, enthusiasm for learning, and inquisitive nature. According to one of his professors, Brennan reasons both well and for the good. His thinking is precise in ways that help foster real dialogue, and his contributions to class conversation are just and kind. Another professor says course discussions are made better by Brennan’s participation—partly because he has thoughtful things to say, and partly because he encourages his classmates to share their ideas too, but never in a domineering way. Brennan also brings his scientific expertise into philosophical dialogue in helpful ways. And he will no doubt approach his future studies in medical science with wisdom and a concern for human flourishing.
Physics and Engineering
Christina Dubell came to Westmont as an Augustinian Scholar and she has contributed to Westmont is many ways. She is a triple major in Engineering/Physics as well as two music majors (both the BS and performance). From the moment she entered she was driven to accomplish every goal for mastering both the intuition and mathematical complexities of physics and the creative but also technical work of understanding and producing beautiful music. She is the model of the Christian liberal arts. She is completing a major honors project “Measuring Protein Adsorption with EW-CRDS” in Physical Chemistry with Michael Everest.
Logan Hodgson came to Westmont as an Augustinian Scholar and will leave as a triple major in Engineering/Physics, Music and Math (easy majors all). A brilliant student in his classes, he has been an outstanding TA in several classes that students have come to depend on. He combines an intuitive understanding of physics with the mathematical chops to handle the hardest of calculations. He did research at Las Cumbres Observatory analyzing thermal noise in CCD arrays as well as developing software for tracking asteroid orbits. He’s a talented cellist who is loved by all who know him.
Olivia Reichwald exemplifies the best qualities of a Westmont student. She is constant in her faith, driven in her scholarship, and committed to service and leadership. Olivia’s contemplative nature and her intense work ethic of cultivating her gifts leads her to insights that are compelling to her classmates and professors alike. Academically, she has been described as engaged, diligent, analytical, and attentive. Olivia is not afraid to ask hard questions, to explore unfamiliar topics, or to thoughtfully draw together her thinking about faith and politics. Olivia never dominates the classroom conversation, but when she speaks, people listen. Personally, Olivia is welcoming, warm, cheerful, friendly, and kind—a natural, though unassuming, leader. We will miss her!
Chloe Liebengood is an outstanding student in the psychology department, graduating with a focus in behavioral neuroscience. Chloe clearly stands out, excelling in both her coursework and as a leader on campus. Inside and outside the classroom, she engages in the deeper levels of seeking knowledge and understanding, whether that focuses on the intricate workings of the human brain, or the complexities of cross cultural communication. Chloe is an accomplished researcher in behavioral neuroscience, completing projects focused on cortisol regulation under different exercise regimens as well as the impact of classical music vs. Lo-fi beats on relaxation and cardiac function. Following Westmont, Chloe plans to pursue a graduate degree in social work. She has an abiding compassion for serving others in the name of Christ and will clearly do so as she follows His path.
The Religious Studies department is proud to have Annelise Daley as our outstanding senior. Professors can count on Annelise for her thoughtful, careful, and excellent work on any subject–whether it is theology, biblical studies, church history, or missiology. As Annelise considers entering Christian ministry, her love for the church as Christ’s body and her concern for the church’s engagement with the larger society is anchored in her sound biblical interpretation, keen theological acumen, and active ecclesial engagement. Annelise’s genuine Christian faith, bright mind, kind heart, and lightheartedness make her an excellent student in our department.
Shae Caragher demonstrates passion and thoughtfulness in all of her work. Her commitment to authenticity and strong critical thinking has been evidenced in a range of venues, including a project through Westmont Downtown to raise awareness about mental health, research to center the experiences of people living without homes in Santa Barbara, and editorial work for the Horizon to represent varying perspectives and facilitate dialogue. She plans to pursue a career that involves investing in the lives of young people, and is sure to bring an intellectual curiosity and passion to make the world a better place wherever she goes.
Sociology and Anthropology
Sarah Garland advocates for social change in support of marginalized groups. Sarah’s intelligence and compassion are evident in such endeavors as her Emmaus Road service trip working with Burmese refugee children, her internship with Immigrant Hope Santa Barbara, her creation of a new scholarship program for first generation Westmont students, and her facilitation of a community deliberation on the local homelessness crisis. Sarah’s senior research project examines how police departments influence officers’ attitudes and beliefs regarding racial groups and the Black Lives Matter movement. Before pursuing a career related to educational advocacy and equity, Sarah plans to complete a one-year internship with the International Justice Mission in Ghana to enhance awareness of child labor trafficking.
Sam Stroming has been an exemplary student in the theatre arts program over the last four years. Her keen mind, excellent work ethic, creative imagination, and kind spirit have contributed to classrooms, productions, and a thriving theatre culture at Westmont. As a theatre student, Sam has been a force: acted in multiple productions, directed multiple shows, and served as artistic director for the Fringe. Sam’s capstone senior project, a production of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” embodied her artistic spirit: soulful, intelligent, funny, and theatrically sophisticated. She exemplifies what we hope for our graduates: a theatre maker with a generous and compassionate heart, an intelligent and discerning mind, and a deep love of God.