Provost and Dean of the Faculty 

Kimberly Battle-Walters Denu, PhD


As Westmont's chief academic officer, I am honored to work with Westmont's outstanding faculty, staff, and students.

One of the nation's foremost Christian colleges, Westmont has long been grounded in the evangelical tradition and is strongly committed to the liberal arts. Faculty value academic rigor and energetic scholarship, and they enjoy the wide exploration of ideas across many fields of study. They are also eager to help build connections between a life of faith and spiritual devotion and a life of inquiry and analysis. In the classroom and beyond it, students will have opportunities to learn and grow together, not only at our Montecito campus but throughout the world. With small class sizes, students have many chances to get to know their professors as teachers, mentors and scholars. Our desire is to help students prepare to serve God with faith, compassion, imagination and wisdom.

Westmont Names an Accomplished, Engaging and Inspiring Leader as Provost

“Statistically speaking, my path shouldn’t have led me to this moment...”

Remaining Faithful to the Call: Academic Excellence with Christ Holding Preeminence

Although new to the Westmont family, I marvel at God’s FAITHFULNESS to the college, allowing it to survive and to thrive “through many dangers, toils and snares...”

Nathan Huff (Art) presented his third solo exhibition at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara. “Forest for the Trees” explored the beauty and wonder of the natural world through 15 surrealistic paintings, several sculptural works, and a floor to ceiling hanging installation featuring painted slivers of native trees and handmade ladders created from tree trunks.

Scott Anderson (Art) illustrated the cover for the December 2023 issue of MAD Magazine; his second cover for the publication.  Additionally, his portrait of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, originally painted for Mother Jones Magazine, was chosen for the 66th annual exhibition of the New York Society of Illustrators, and will be displayed at the Society's Museum of American Illustration in NYC later this spring. It was also selected for the 62nd annual juried exhibition of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

Laura Drake Schultheis (Biology), along with Westmont Garden Manager and Sustainability Coordinator Janell Balmaceda, secured funding from the Regional Wildfire Mitigation Program to begin an oak restoration project in collaboration with the Spatial Informatics Group–Natural Assets Laboratory and the Montecito Fire Department. The funding supported the planting of approximately 40 native coast live oaks between the west side of campus and the Las Barrancas housing community, with the combined goals of reducing fire risk, increasing native plant cover, and improving ecosystem health and resiliency. Multiple agencies as well as Westmont student volunteers were involved in planting the young trees, and the project lays groundwork for future student volunteer and research opportunities for years to come.

Steve Julio (Biology) and two collaborators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were awarded a two-year NIH grant for $240,000 to study the mechanism by which Bordetella, the bacteria that causes whooping cough, persists in the respiratory tract in order to cause disease.

Kristi Lazar Cantrell (Chemistry) and her collaborators have published an article “Computationally Designed Molecules Modulate ALS-Related Amyloidogenic TDP-43(307–319) Aggregation” in ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Written in collaboration with a research group at UCSB, the article includes the work of Westmont students Ethan Walker and Joshua Jang.

Guang Song (Computer Science) and a co-author published an article in the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation titled “Coarse-Graining Waters: Unveiling The Effective Hydrophilicity/Hydrophobicity of Individual Protein Atoms and The Roles of Waters’ Hydrogens”.

Carolyn Mitten (Education) spoke at the 2023 Meredith Fellows Implementation Conference on “Supporting Teacher Candidates Knowledge and Implementation of Rubrics.”  She was also invited to deliver a professional development session at Coastline Christian Academy in August on implementing number talks in K–12 classrooms. Finally, her research article “Comparing PSTs' Perceptions of Math and Literacy Methods” was featured in the newsletter of the California Council on Teacher Education's Winter 2023 issue.

Dan Jensen (Engineering) and his students Elijah Cicileo, Jonah Swanson, Josh Wozniak and Tasha Loh presented their research to scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Lab, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, OH in September 2023. The title of the research presentation was “A Weighted Design Matrix Approach for Informing Digital vs. Physical Prototyping Options.“

Doug Fontes (Engineering) presented a conference paper entitled “Sustainable Electromagnetic Energy Harvesting for Electronic Worn at the Knee” at the 2023 International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition in New Orleans, LA.


Steve Porter (Martin Institute) presented “When God Doesn’t Heal: Receiving God’s Formative Grace Through Bodily Pain,” Holy Spirit Symposium (Biola University); “Knowing Christ Today: The Shape of Christian Spiritual Formation,” Evangelical Theological Society; and “Internalizing the Love of God: A Theological Psychology of Receiving and Resisting Love,” Evangelical Theological Society.

Maryke van der Walt (Mathematics) presented her research on blood glucose prediction at the Southern California-Nevada section meeting of the Mathematical Association of America in October 2023, as well as at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in January 2024.

David Etterbeek’s (Music) most recent performance highlights include concerts with Andrea Bocelli at the Hollywood Bowl in May, and performances as principal trumpet with the New West Symphony in November. He recently finished recording a new four movement work for solo trumpet by Ojai composer John Biggs. Etterbeek gave the new work, Four Miniatures for Trumpet Alone, its premiere at Westmont’s faculty recital last fall.

In collaboration with colleagues in the music department, Ruth Lin (Music) led the Westmont Orchestra and Choir as part of the Westmont Christmas Festival. With two performances at the historic Granada Theatre, the premiere performance space in Santa Barbara, the performance of music and readings embodying the theme of “Fullness of joy” was presented to over 2200 in attendance.

Zig Reichwald (Music) published a new book, Mendelssohn and the Genesis of the Protestant A Cappella Movement, with Cambridge University Press.

Edward Song (Philosophy) presented his paper, “Is There an Independent Principle of Fairness,” at the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana in November 2023.

Bob Haring-Kaye (Physics) and two students from his research group, Natalie Fogg '24 and Reese Toepfer '26, presented their research at the Joint Meeting of the American and Japanese Nuclear Physics Societies in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii, in November 2023. Both students received funding from the highly-competitive Conference Experience for Undergraduates program of the National Science Foundation in support of their participation.

Caryn Reeder (Religious Studies) has published “Women's Emotion, Community, and Politics: Interpreting Tears in Luke 23.27–31” in the journal New Testament Studies (November 2023).  She also presented a paper, “Slavery, Gender, and Meals in the Gospel of Luke,” at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in November 2023.

Helen Rhee (Religious Studies) published two book chapters: “Pain in Ancient Medicine and Literature, and Early Christianity: The Paradox of Inshareability and Agency,” in Disability, Medicine, and Healing Discourse in Early Christianity: New Conversations for Health Humanities (eds. S. R. Holman, C. L. de Wet, and J. L. Zechaer; London & New York: Routledge, 2023), 47–64 and “Wealth, Poverty, and Almsgiving,” in Cambridge History of Early Christianity (Cambridge University Press, 2023), 613–32.  She also served as a panelist for two panels at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio, TX: “Patristic Research, Patristic Wisdom: Challenges and Possibilities,” for Contextualizing North African Christianity (program unit) and a Book Review Session, Begging for Their Daily Bread: Beggar-Centric Interpretations of Matthew 6, by Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez, for Jesus Traditions, Gospels, and Negotiating the Roman Imperial World (program unit).

Holly Beers (Religious Studies) was invited to be a consulting reviewer for the revision of the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible in the area of Synoptic Gospels and Acts.  She also presented two papers at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in November 2023. As an invited panelist in the “Christian Theology and the Bible” program unit she offered “A Biblical Studies Scholar Listens and Responds to a Systematic Theologian: A Review of ‘Hearing and Doing: The Speeches in Acts and the Essence of Christianity.’” In the “Homiletics and Biblical Studies” program unit she gave a paper entitled “Filling up the Sufferings of Christ: Preaching Colossians 1:24 With and Among Diverse Voices.”

Sameer Yadav (Religious Studies) spoke on a panel on “Non-Contrastive Transcendence and the Creative Agency of God” at the 2023 annual American Academy of Religion meeting, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of Modern Theology. He also offered a plenary lecture (“The Liberative Norm in Christian Theological Knowledge-Seeking”) for the Religious Epistemology and Psychology Workshop at Seattle Pacific University. He gave invited lectures at Union Theological Seminary (“Joban Theology and Christian Pessimism”) and Loyola University Maryland (“Pessimism and the Problem of Evil”).

Sandra Richter (Religious Studies) published a book chapter, in The State of Old Testament Studies by Baker Academic titled “Environmental Approaches in Old Testament Studies,” an article in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, “Economics and Urdeuteronomium: A Response to Kåre Berge, Diana Edelman, Philippe Guillaume, and Benedetta Rossi,” and a book review in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly of Philippe Guillaume's The Economy of Deuteronomy's Core. She served as Asbury Theological Seminary's guest lecturer for the “Scholars Who Preach” annual event, filmed her newest curriculum on “Deborah & the Book of Judges” with Harper Collins, and served as the plenary speaker for The Mission Society's presidential retreat at the Billy Graham retreat center in North Carolina.

Felicia Song (Sociology) was interviewed for the Holy Post podcast in their series on teens and digital technologies.

Jonathan Hicks (Theater Arts) was the Associate Lighting Designer for the Santa Barbara Festival Ballet's 48th presentation of The Nutcracker at the Arlington Theatre.


Office of the Provost