A few years ago I had the wonderful privilege of visiting the Czech Republic in Eastern Europe. It was a glorious time, and I enjoyed the trip immensely. Traveling to Prague, Karlovy- Vary and other smaller cities gave me the opportunity to see the Czech culture in all its variety and complexity. It also allowed me to travel to the location of some of the most troubling atrocities of the 20th century.
I still feel haunted by the experience. The memories of a glorious past are punctuated by horrifying relics of occupation and oppression. I witnessed first-hand the troubled history of this beautiful nation-state struggling to make things right while trying to overcome so many experiences that went terribly wrong. To this day, I am unable to escape the dilemmas created when the highest ideals are crushed by the onset of human evil.
As I sit in the luxury of my office thinking of that dear time, I wonder how societies and cultures can simultaneously embody great ideals while slumping into the worst expressions of human evil. There is no easy answer, but there is room for an active and engaged response —provided we are willing to commit the time, energy and resources to cultivate a global perspective.
As we look to the future, one of the great hopes we have for Westmont is that our commitment to globalization will galvanize the efforts of all aspects of our college. A hallmark of our education has been the opportunity for students to travel abroad for study and cultural enrichment. It is through these experiences that so many of our graduates have learned how to exegete a culture, simultaneously discerning the intersections of social, political, economic, cultural and religious forces that shape every society.
This experience fundamentally broadens our students and provides our graduates with the sort of knowledge and experience that expands their outlook and worldview. It also gives us ample evidence of the ways cultures and civilizations can plunge into decay or can find within themselves the seeds of renewal. It is pleasing to see the interest and commitment to gaining a global perspective from our entire campus community. We hope to continue strengthening and broadening our semester- abroad programs, providing an increasing number of students with the sort of experiences that change our perspective and shape our life. These encounters can literally change our entire destiny.
But they require great faculty to guide their discovery. Thankfully, we have professors who can lead and direct our students in these areas of growth and self-discovery. You will read in these pages about some of the international trips our students take with faculty and the ways these experiences change lives. A number of the alumni profiled in this issue are pursuing careers and passions that grew out of their opportunity to study overseas while attending Westmont.
I’m encouraged by the many professors who are seeking to introduce a global emphasis in their classes and activities on campus. Our new Westmont art museum director, Judy Larson, is excited about attracting exhibits from around the world that expose students to art from a variety of cultures. She will speak next semester about her plans in one of our Westmont Downtown lectures. In this same series, Laura Montgomery, an anthropology professor, is addressing the importance of including moral education in the global imperative. She’ll draw on her experience developing and leading Westmont in Mexico.
This fall we will begin construction on two buildings in the first phase of implementing our updated Master Plan. These facilities will add to the intellectual and social space required to create a state-of-the-art learning experience here on campus. They will be our first new buildings in 24 years and will play a key role in the successful execution of our entire educational program, providing our students with the environment to be fully engaged in their various majors. When we are finished, we will combine a beautiful campus and strong curriculum in Santa Barbara with compelling off-campus experiences that strengthen, expand and enrich our students.
Although these are both exciting and challenging times, they are also periods of great opportunity for Westmont. Thank you for your continued interest in the college and for your continued support of our life-changing education.