New Program Promotes Public Dialogue

By Scott Craig   |   November 1, 2018
Dr. Deborah Dunn, professor of communication studies
Dr. Rachel Winslow, director of the Westmont Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Two Westmont professors seek to encourage dialogue on difficult issues in the local community. Deborah Dunn, professor of communication studies, and Rachel Winslow, director of the Westmont Center for Social Entrepreneurship and assistant professor of history, have created the Westmont Initiative for Public Dialogue and Deliberation (WIPDD) to encourage citizens to participate in our democracy and work together to solve “wicked problems.”

WIPDD hosts a conversation about immigration, “Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do?” on Thursday, November 1, from 7 to 9 pm in Karpeles Manuscript Library. Community members may register to participate on a first-come, first-served basis by email at

Dunn and Winslow have spent a year serving as research Fellows with the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, to prepare for this work. “Our mission is to work with neighbors to speak and listen well together about challenges facing the Santa Barbara community to promote our common good and human flourishing,” Dunn says. 

“By facilitating these discussions, we hope to equip students and neighbors with the tools they need to cultivate healthy conversation and careful listening,” Winslow says.

On November 1, the group will use a framework established by the National Issues Forums Institute to raise a number of difficult questions with no easy answers:

• Should we strictly enforce the law and deport people who are here without permission, or would deporting millions of people outweigh their crime?

• Should we welcome more newcomers to build a more vibrant and diverse society, or does this pose too great a threat to national unity?

• Should we accept more of the growing numbers of refugees from war-torn regions, or should we avoid the risk of allowing in people whose backgrounds may not have been fully checked?

• Should our priority be to help immigrants assimilate into our distinctively American way of life, including learning English, or should we instead celebrate a growing mosaic of different peoples?

“The concerns that underlie this issue are not confined to party affiliation, nor are they captured by labels like conservative or liberal,” Dunn says. “We want to help people frame issues well.”

Dunn and Winslow held the first community conversation in Santa Barbara in April to examine how the region cares for its vulnerable children, focusing on the foster care system. An event in Santa Maria on July 12 addressed the same issue.

They seek broad representation from groups providing services to immigrants and with vested interest in the issue. They will meet with various stakeholders ahead of time and involve them in conversation.

College Launches New Ministry Grant

President’s Ministry Grants, a new Westmont award, benefit the children of parents or stepparents who minister full time for churches and Christian organizations. The grant represents a four-year commitment to cover any unmet need remaining after adding up academic scholarships, need-based grants, and need-based loans. Incoming first-year students who have submitted applications to Westmont can apply for this need-based grant by filling out a form and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at 

“When generous donors realized that many children of full-time Christian workers could not afford to attend Westmont, they decided to provide a remedy,” says president Gayle D. Beebe. “They’ve helped make a Westmont education affordable for people who have dedicated their lives to ministry.”

Five new members of the class of 2022 received the grant this fall and will continue to benefit from it as long as they maintain a 2.0 grade-point average. The amount varies depending on the unmet need of each student.

“This award opens a door for prospective students who seek a Christian college that will push their faith and expand their knowledge,” says Irene Neller, vice president for enrollment, marketing, and college communications. “These students will fit well at Westmont.”

For more information, please call (800) 777-9011 or email to learn more. Apply today at


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