Augustinian Program enters second year
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Two years and 88 students into the program — twenty eight more than what was originally projected by this stage — the Augustinian Scholars Program (ASP) further develops the goals of the Monroe Scholars Program and establishes a four year foundation focus of spiritual and intellectual formation. The Monroe Scholars Program selected thirty admitted first year students to compete for four open spots for full-ride scholarships, while ASP accepted thirty from those invited of qualifying 2016 first years for 85-100% of tuition. According to the Westmont Magazine, each student is awarded upwards of $35,000 a year and at least $140,000 in total throughout their time at Westmont. This year, the ASP was given a donation and was able to double their acceptance rate.
In a recent interview with the Horizon, Dr. Jesse Covington, Director of the Augustinian Program, explained the genesis of the program itself and the connections to the Monroe Scholars: “My understanding is that the donors were interested in helping the college attract and support more of the 30 Monroe candidates, rather than just four. So the question became, how might we build on the foundation of the Monroe and Catalyst programs? The vision for this has always been to do this in ways that are integral to and participatory in the whole life of the community--all the things that Westmont already does so well.” Additionally, Dr. Covington noted, “Ideally what a program like this does, is it helps make a Westmont Education more accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it but are highly qualified.”
Dr. Covington explained the requirements and focuses for Augustinian students. The first year of the program a two-semester sequence of a 8 unit seminar. The first seminar, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” introduces students to the process of learning through the Christian intellectual tradition through significant voices like C.S. Lewis, Julian of Norwich, and the program’s namesake: St. Augustine. The second course, Pilgrim Citizens, focus’s what students can learn from the Christian tradition about living in relationship with one another and society as a whole. After the first year, ASP also requires students to participate in seminars, additional one-unit courses, off-campus study, and other spiritual formation and service opportunities.
In a recent interview, sophomore and Augustinian scholar, Alyssa Beccue reflected the selection process competition was truly focused on understanding her and others’ characters through interviews, attending classes, timed essays, and a game night. For Alyssa, ASP provided a “tight community” as well as an opportunity to mentor younger Augustinians. Alyssa described that, “Having a group of students who are still motivated and we can still study together well, encourage each other, and have that common background. I just felt a lot more confident and encouraged to be involved more around campus. [My roommate] and I are leading a Bible study with the freshman Augustinians. That’s really cool because we knew as freshmen, we would’ve wanted this. As sophomores now we have that connection with the freshmen class and we can offer just about, we have a little more college experience than them.”
For an first year Augustinian who asked to remain anonymous, community outside of ASP has been a struggle: “Admittedly, integrating with the community hasn’t been the easiest, given that many students seem to view us almost as a separate group of ‘smart kids’ if you will… [in reality]we’re not different from our fellow students in any big ways. We’ve had to be more intentional in the ways we integrate to not unintentionally come off as overly privileged.”
In a remarked on response to this year’s expansion of the program, “This year has been a great adventure for the program as it’s doubled the size of its incoming class and increased the number of faculty involved.” With a team of growing faculty including Dr. Sarah Skripsky, Dr. Telford Work, Dr. Jim Taylor, and Dr. Andrea Gurney, and students able to access Westmont, the campus community and ASP students will continue to enrich and evolve as a whole.