Alum Promotes Creation Care on Campus

By Scott Craig   |   February 7, 2019
The sun bakes one of Westmont’s gardens below the tennis courts
Crops from the Westmont farm below the track are served in the Dining Commons

Westmont alumnus Kenny Chism ’17, who oversees a variety of on-campus environmental projects, has become the first, fulltime sustainability coordinator at Westmont. In this pilot role, Chism will manage Westmont’s organic gardens and oversee Dining Commons-related sustainability projects (food waste, composting, local purchasing, etc.) through a partnership with Sodexo, which is contracted by Westmont’s dining services. He will also direct a variety of on-campus sustainability projects (recycling, awareness/action campaigns, energy management, etc.).

“The new position reflects a passion for Christians taking responsibility for caring for creation,” Chism says. “During my time at Westmont, I realized the important relationship we have with the rest of creation that weaves together a deep care for all life, a perspective of mindful stewardship, and a yearning for the reconciliation of all things through the power of our God.”

Westmont strives to reduce its carbon footprint, building new facilities to LEED certifications and installing solar panels on 40 faculty homes, which became the first fully solar community in Santa Barbara County in 2010.

Chism discovered his passion for the environment when he studied at Westmont and began working in the Westmont garden. He changed his major to ecology and studied creation care in New Zealand. “Following the Gaede Institute’s Liberal Arts for a Fragile Planet, I decided to stay in Santa Barbara to make this campus as environmentally friendly as possible,” he says.

Environmental Studies Presses into Global Issues

Westmont has created a new minor in environmental studies, adding programs that help students explore some of the most pressing global issues. Professors have spent several years cultivating and developing the new innovative program that began this spring. 

“The goal was to situate stewardship of the earth in the context of Christian theology and environmental ethics,” says Amanda Sparkman, associate professor of biology and chair of the committee that developed the proposal.

The new minor will foster an ability to analyze and debate complex environmental problems and devise constructive, imaginative strategies to address them. “We will examine widespread environmental problems such as biodiversity loss, resource depletion, and environmental change and degradation,” Sparkman says. “Students have tremendous scientific, social, and moral dimensions that require a sophisticated, informed, and compassionate response from a range of disciplinary perspectives.” 

A new course, Introduction to Environmental Studies, anchors the interdisciplinary minor, which requires a total of 20 credits. Students may select electives from each of the three academic divisions (humanities, natural and behavioral sciences, and social sciences).

A former Gaede Institute conference, “Liberal Arts for a Fragile Planet,” led Sparkman to create the new minor. Other committee members include Marianne Robins (history), Steve Contakes (chemistry), Lisa DeBoer (art history), and Caryn Reeder (religious studies).

Westmont has added several new majors and minors recently and continues to respond to students’ interests and new career trends by offering more choices that fit with the liberal arts and prepare graduates for a variety of vocational opportunities. In the past year, the college has created a Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Data Analytics, Bachelor of Science in Engineering and minors in film studies, writing, computer science, and environmental studies.

Teens Compete in Mathematics Super Bowl

A record 12 California high schools will compete in the 31st annual High School Mathematics Contest at Westmont on Saturday, February 9. The competition begins at 1 pm with the College Bowl Prelims, Chalk Talk Prelims, and Team Exam. The Chalk Talk Final and College Bowl Finals for grades 9-10 and grades 11-12 are from 4 to 5:15 pm at the Darling Foundation Lecture Hall in Winter Hall, room 210. An awards banquet featuring KEYT-TV meteorologist Alan Rose, who will discuss computer models in weather forecasting, begins at 5:30 pm in Founders Room near the Dining Commons.

“Many of the challenges facing our global community will require solutions from people with mathematical talent,” says Russ Howell, Westmont professor of mathematics and event organizer. “It’s vital that, whenever possible, those who are exploring the mathematical enterprise get encouragement to continue.”

This year’s competing schools include Cate, Crescenta Valley, Dos Pueblos, La Cañada, Mark Keppel, Oaks Christian, Pacific Bay Christian, Providence, San Marcos, Santa Barbara, Synergy Quantum Academy, and Thacher.

A contest itinerary, map, sample questions, and photos from past events can be found at


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