On April 11, 2008, we will celebrate my inauguration as the eighth president of Westmont. This ceremony offers the college a valuable opportunity to present itself to the broader community. As we look ahead to the event, I want to spend some time reflecting on the great vision of our college.
The Westmont mission statement identifies five core principles that guide every aspect of our work: liberal arts, Christian, residential, undergraduate, and global.
Recently, a leading national magazine reported that 45 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs had attended small liberal arts colleges or universities. The article described how much these individuals benefited from the sort of education that occurs in the context of small classes with great minds wrestling with profound thoughts. There really is no other educational experience like it. This approach to learning has been and will continue to be the core focus of the education we provide.
But equipping great minds is not enough; we must also cultivate character. At the heart of our mission as an educational institution lies an unwavering commitment to our Christian faith. What our world needs is not a shrill recitation of narrow ideas, but a robust expression of our deepest convictions engaged in the sort of conversations that really matter. We have the wonderful privilege of entering into all that our prevailing culture presents to us and caring enough about our world to improve it. There is something so attractive about discovering that we can be good and great at the same time.
We then have to consider our residential campus. Through the years, we have expended some of our greatest efforts in making sure that faculty can live close to campus. It’s important that interaction between professors and students beyond the classroom occurs easily and consistently. We also recognize that living in community allows us to experience more deeply our liberal arts curriculum and our Christian commitment. Integrating the way we live and the beliefs we hold with our intellectual endeavors represents an important part of the Westmont experience.
Our commitment to undergraduate education means that every ounce of who we are focuses on this wonderful period of life when we make so many of the decisions that shape our ongoing journey. There really is no other time like the college years, and we want to be fully attentive to all that our students are experiencing and learning. While more and more schools are adding graduate programs or continuing education classes, we retain our specialized emphasis on undergraduates and believe that we can offer a more effective and engaging program as a result.
Finally, the rising tide of our global economy is making it imperative that we develop a worldview that can move easily within and between the various cultures and societies that make up our world community. In the years that lie ahead, we anticipate the various expressions of Westmont around the world to take on an even greater importance. Westmont in Europe, Westmont in England, Westmont in Mexico, and Westmont in China will become only a small part of what we hope to do on a much larger scale as more and more of our graduates leave with a heightened awareness and understanding of the world in which we live.
Over the next five issues I would like us to consider each plank of our mission statement individually, beginning with the core of our mission: our liberal arts education. It’s exciting to consider that we are part of a philosophy of education that dates back nearly 2,500 years. It is also challenging to realize that we must express this philosophy of education in a way that’s meaningful in the 21st century. As we honor the past and prepare for the future we are deeply grateful for all of you who carry such a love for and interest in Westmont.