Dean, Westover Honors College
Dr. Edward DeClair served as the Director of the Westover Honors Program from the 2002-03 academic year until summer 2018, when the Westover Honors Program became Westover Honors College. Dr. DeClair now serves as Dean. During his tenure the program has grown from 26 students to more than 160. In the 2016-17 academic year, Westover Honors welcomed the largest first-year class (affectionately known as Freshtovers) in its history. Dr. DeClair is the longest serving director and dean in the program’s history. Prior to his work in honors he served as a political science department faculty member, department chair of the international relations program, and as the assistant dean for international programs. He held simultaneous appointments in honors and international programs for many years.
Dr. DeClair graduated from the University of South Florida with majors in International Affairs and French and a political science minor. He continued his education at Florida State University where he undertook graduate work in French language and literature. He completed his MA in International Affairs and his PhD in Political Science at FSU. While in graduate school, Dr. DeClair was a recipient of a Rotary Ambassadorial Fellowship to study at the University of Paris. He has completed faculty development workshops in Ireland, Prague, Berlin, and Japan and during the summer of 2015 he traveled to Harvard University where he completed the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s seminar on leadership and management in higher education.
His published work is on the French political party system, the far-right French National Front, and learning in political science. Dr. DeClair’s book, Politics on the Fringe: The People, Policies and Organization of the French National Front — was cited in the Times Literary Supplement as the best English language study of this far-right political party. It was published by Duke University Press.
He is also known as a bit of a zealot when it comes to international education and he has traveled – with or without students – to more than 45 countries. From Norway to Morocco and from Japan to Great Britain, Dr. DeClair has introduced hundreds of LC students to the wider world. Westover Fellows routinely have the option to complete course requirements while participating in a study abroad program. This year, he plans to teach a Westover colloquium that will examine the politics and history of central Europe; students enrolled in the class will travel to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.
Dr. DeClair continues to travel and recently returned from a trip to the Dalmatian Coast. China and Iceland are on his bucket list. In addition, he enjoys cooking, spending time in Florida with family, and reading historical fiction that focuses on the early 20th century through WWII.
Having taught at the collegiate level since 1982, Dr. DeClair believes that his work in the Westover Honors is truly the highlight of his professional career. “Working with students of such high ability has continually challenged me to think more creatively. I am indeed fortunate to have worked with so many outstanding young men and women during my tenure in Westover Honors College.”
Associate Director, Westover Honors College
Dr. Cowden began her involvement with Westover Honors soon after arriving at University of Lynchburg. She served as the thesis advisor to several honors students before becoming an assistant director of the program in 2005.
As a faculty member in the Biology Department, Dr. Cowden splits her teaching time between Biology and Westover Honors. In the honors program, Dr. Cowden guides seniors in the natural sciences and health-related majors through the thesis process (HONR 451) and serves as the Westover representative on students’ thesis committees. She typically offers a colloquium one semester every other year and, while topics center on the natural sciences, colloquia draw in disciplines ranging from economics, world religions, history, and law. One of her most successful colloquia focused on poisonous and deadly plants which featured an Agatha Christie novel where a plant served as the murder weapon.
Dr. Cowden’s research interests are easily identified by her car’s license plate: “ORCHID.” She studies population evolutionary ecology and speciation in native North American orchids and makes use of a wide array of investigative tools available to biologists. One can frequently find Dr. Cowden at the College’s Claytor Nature Center as she conducts field research for her own work or when working with students on individual research projects. Dr. Cowden also serves the college as the curator of the Ramsey-Freer Herbarium which is located on the grounds of the Claytor Nature Center.
She also collaborates with chemistry faculty at University of Lynchburg in an effort to understand how fragrance variation in different flowers in the same location affects pollinators’ attentions, and she recently established a working relationship with researchers at the Smithsonian Institution’s North American Orchid Conservation Center to determine efficient and effective means of protecting some of the world’s imperiled plants.
With an undergraduate degree in Biology from Oberlin College and a MS and PhD in Botany from Miami University, Dr. Cowden comes from a liberal arts tradition that emphasizes developing the talents of individual students. The Westover Honors Program and her involvement in it allow her to help extend that tradition. Said Dr. Cowden, “For me, the Westover Honors Program represents what every student deserves: individual attention to the student’s academic needs, with a healthy dose of stretching the student’s own perception of his or her abilities, tempered with supportive faculty whose greatest rewards are seeing students grow and celebrating their successes.”
Dr. Beth Savage is currently in her second year as Assistant Director of Westover Honors College. Prior to joining Westover Honors, she taught for six years in the English Department. She has also served as the Director of the Gender Studies Program since 2009.
Dr. Savage graduated from Agnes Scott College with a major in English Literature and a minor in Philosophy; from there, she went on to earn her Ph.D. in English Literature, with major fields in gender theory and eighteenth-century drama, from the University of Illinois. In 2014 she was awarded an internationally competitive Chawton House Fellowship, which allowed her to live and study in Alton, England at the Chawton House archives; she returned to Alton to present her research in July 2015, and a portion of that research was recently published in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research. In addition to writing about pedagogy, Dr. Savage has published academic articles on eighteenth-century celebrity, representations of mothers in drama, and masculinity and cross-dressing in eighteenth-century erotica.
Her research informs her teaching, which often addresses provocative and nontraditional subject matter, such as her Fall 2016 colloquium, “Icons of Excess: Three Centuries of Celebrity Culture.” In addition to reading film theory and postmodern theories of consumer culture and identity, and talking about stars from Sarah Siddons to Beyoncé, students in the course also learned outside of the classroom: on a trip to the library’s rare book room, to explore University of Lynchburg’s broad collection of rare books and discuss literary celebrity; and further from home at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., where students attended a lecture by a prominent theater critic whose work they had read, interacted with an exhibit on Shakespeare, Austen, and celebrity, and viewed the stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Interested students will be able to further pursue their interest in Austen on a Spring 2018 study abroad trip to the author’s home and other locations that inhabit her novels.
In addition to her academic roles on campus, Dr. Savage has also been a driving force in improving University of Lynchburg’s educational programs to reduce sexual assault. She is frequently invited to lecture on sexual assault education and prevention initiatives both on campus and across the region, and was appointed by President Garren to serve on the SCHEV (State Council of Higher Education for Virginia) Advisory Committee for Preventing Sexual Violence. She has also presented at the National Sex Ed Conference with other leaders in this field.
Dr. Savage’s two children are frequent visitors to the Westover suite as well as honorary Westovers, and they love to spend time on campus for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the dining hall’s vast array of cereals and ice creams. They can often be spotted cheering on the LC soccer teams in the fall.
During her brief time in the Westover program, Dr. Savage has been inspired by the passion and energy of her students, as well as their dedication to intellectual inquiry and growth. She is grateful to be a part of this close-knit and engaged community.
Associate Professor, Westover Honors College
A faculty member at University of Lynchburg since 2005, Dr. Kicklighter joined Westover Honors College faculty in 2012. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Emory University and a PhD in Medical Humanities from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Her graduate work focused on the role of religion in public discourse and her current projects examine the interplay between disability, theology, and end of life decision-making.
Dr. Kicklighter’s forthcoming publication, “Disability and End of Life Decision-making”, which will appear in the Routledge Companion to Death and Dying, explores how traditional bioethical approaches to the end of life must change to incorporate individuals with intellectual disabilities.
In addition to teaching and advising undergraduates, Dr. Kicklighter also teaches medical ethics at the graduate level for the College’s Physician Assistant and Public Health graduate programs.
Within Westover, Dr. Kicklighter teaches applied ethics in the Sophomore Humanities course as well as numerous colloquia that explore the relationship between philosophy, theology, and everyday life. Colloquium topics include the problem of evil; uses and abuses of Christian scripture; philosophy and science fiction; and health care ethics. While many aspects of teaching in Westover are especially rewarding, Dr. Kicklighter particularly enjoys the sense of community among students and faculty. This connection helps facilitate a learning community that extends beyond the classroom and invigorates classroom discussion and activities.
Dr. Kicklighter is the coach of the University of Lynchburg Ethics Bowl debate team, which participates in 3-4 debate competitions per academic year. During the 2015-2016 academic year, she coached the LC team to the national championships, the first time that the team had qualified for such a competition. She also plays the cello in the college Wind Symphony. Off campus, Dr. Kicklighter is involved in the Centra Health ethics committee.
Outside of work, Dr. Kicklighter enjoys making her children cringe with bad puns, Star Trek, Marvel Comics, and distance running. She has completed two marathons and numerous half marathons. She recently completed her third Virginia ten-miler. Originally from Ann Arbor, she continues to hold out hope for Michigan football.
Instructor, Westover Honors College
Naomi Amos joined Westover Honors College in spring 2011, teaching seminars and colloquia in the arts. She has collaborated with a number of faculty members creating the Honors Fine Arts Seminar, “Made in America, the 1930’s.” She has also initiated several colloquia, including “The American Songbook” (a study of American popular song), and “Patriotism, Protest, and Social Change in the 20th Century”, through music and film. Her specialty is music and related arts, but her courses utilize an inter- and multi-disciplinary approach, creating historical, social, and economic context. Amos has spent her career as a professional pianist, coach and accompanist for opera, dance collaborator, and composer for a variety of contemporary theatre productions. Amos received her BA at the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music, and her Master of Music at the Eastman. Her primary piano teachers were Jose Echaniz and Lili Kraus. She has taught in the music departments of Wesleyan University and Trinity College, both in Connecticut. Her areas of expertise include European music history, American music, and piano literature. Recent activities include a series of lecture-recitals entitled, “American Piano Music: The Effects of the Melting Pot,” and lectures about George Gershwin, citing his role as a pivotal composer in the development of American culture as a world export. She has performed at Baldwin-Wallace College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, East Tennessee University, the University of Richmond, Colorado State University at Pueblo, Weber State in Nebraska, and most recently in Chapel Hill, NC. and Washington, D.C. Her collaborations include Randolph College poet, Jim Peterson, and dancers, Judy Dworin, Trinity College and Keith Lee, Lynchburg Dance Theater; she has worked with numerous theatre directors, including Arthur Feinsod, Indiana State University, and theatre director, Josh Karter, for whom she created music designs for eight theatre productions at Trinity College.
Naomi Amos and Noemi Lee have performed four-hand piano recitals throughout Central Virginia for the last four years. In addition, Amos has been accompanist for numerous productions of Opera on the James (main stage and educational outreach), and coach and accompanist for local artists including recitals with soprano, Alicia Carter, University of Lynchburg faculty. She is music director for congregation Agudath Sholom’s High Holy Days services, and teaches piano at James River Day School. In addition to her courses in the Honors Program, she also teaches in the College Senior Symposium program. Amos finds special joy in the students in Westover Honors program, saying “There is nothing so rewarding as teaching a group of curious, energetic students who love to be challenged. For so many, the arts are a great unknown. It is so invigorating to introduce sounds, concepts, and great art to these appreciative bright young people.”
In her spare time (which is minimal), she enjoys her mixed breed small dog, BoBo (named after a tuba player), reading (she is in two book groups), and playing bridge. She is committed to being an active participant in the Lynchburg community and is currently serving on three boards: Agudath Sholom Congregation, Riverviews Artspace, and Forte Chamber Music. Her two adult children live in NYC and Los Angeles, making travel an absolute necessity during vacations.
Instructor, Westover Honors College
Tracy Lee Simmons has taken a circuitous route into academia. He came to Westover Honors College full-time in 2012 after a long and varied career as a writer, journalist, editor, and college instructor—all of which trades he continues to practice—and seeks to bring the breadth of experience and insight gained from each pursuit into the college classroom. He has written and edited for a wide variety of publications over the last twenty-five years, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Post Book World, Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, National Review, Crisis, American Enterprise, The New Criterion, and The Sewanee Review, among others. He was hired as an Associate Editor at National Review by William F. Buckley Jr., the magazine’s founder, and remains an erstwhile contributor to that publication. He also served as the founding director of the Dow Program in American Journalism at Hillsdale College, where he taught courses in the history of journalism and Prose Style, an advanced seminar for those planning careers in professional writing. Mr. Simmons is the author of Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin, a popular defense of classical education, which won a Choice Award for ‘Best Academic Title’ for 2002. He takes to the road frequently on speaking engagements to promote the advantages of classical education in the modern curriculum.
He earned his Master’s degree in Classics (Greek and Roman History and Greek and Latin Language, Literature, and Philosophy) from the University of Oxford and still considers himself an avid student of the classical tradition; he continues to read classical works and is currently engaged upon a translation of and commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Books I and II.
He regularly teaches the freshman Honors Humanities sequence, which consists of two portmanteau courses in history, philosophy, literature, and art that aim to provide a survey of world history and a deep introduction to some of the main currents of thought and feeling of the past three millennia that continue to form and inform our actions and assumptions in the modern world. Students are asked in this course not only to make themselves aware of seminal events and trends of history but also to think closely and read accurately, skills that will serve them superlatively in every profession. Along with these Humanities sections, he leads one Honors Colloquium per year; topics over the last four years have included “Exploring Thomas Jefferson,” “What is Happiness?”, and “Poetry for the Poetically Challenged: T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.”
Mr. Simmons believes the Westover Honors Program to be an excellent vehicle for launching out on life’s road because he believes strongly in the fortifying and humanizing virtues of a liberal arts education when pursued with a mature, serious ardor. It can help to make us both more intelligent and more tolerant, and his experience over the last four years with students in the Westover program has continually confirmed this conviction. He also believes, as much as anything else, that a liberal arts education is a sustaining source of delight that can feed the soul for the rest of one’s life. He sees every course of every kind as an invitation to a higher and deeper life. Teaching is a calling, not a career, indeed the second most important vocation in the world—after winemaking—to which he tries to do credit on his better days. Yet learning is also a calling, one in which every Honors student is well placed to succeed. But it’s also one that can be refused, and so every day he sets himself the challenge of showing others, bit by bit, the magnificent rewards of responding to that calling.
Rachel Van Hofwegen Willis
Instructor, English and Westover Honors College
Rachel Willis is currently in her second year teaching in Westover Honors College. Before joining Westover, she taught for the English department at University of Lynchburg and also taught for several years at Liberty University. Since 2008, Willis has taught courses ranging from Composition to Introduction to Literature to Western Culture. Rachel Willis graduated from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in English. From there, she earned her Master of Education, specializing in Teaching and Learning. While completing her MEd, Willis focused her research on gifted education and non-traditional educational formats. She later earned a Master of English from University of Lynchburg, where she developed additional research interests in masculinities studies, transnational and postcolonial studies, and conflict literature. She has published academic articles on representations of fathers and sons and on masculinities and violence in American literature. Her research in gifted education informs her role in the Westover Honors Program, where she enjoys using active learning techniques to introduce students to a wide range of ideas that will broaden their understanding of the world. For example, her colloquium for the 2017-18 academic year, “Stories of Conflict and Resistance from World War I to The Hunger Games,” will analyze the literature, music, and films of war from across the globe, including contemporary and unfamiliar stories of resistance like The Cellist of Sarajevo and popular (and fictional) works like The Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games. This colloquium is also planning a trip to Washington, D.C., where students will have the opportunity to more fully engage with experiences of conflict when we visit a range of memorials and museums.
Outside of her work at University of Lynchburg, Rachel Willis also coaches beach volleyball and runs. She has placed first in numerous beach volleyball tournaments and in 2016 completed several trail half marathons as well as her first road marathon. She and her husband Johnathan have three children—Aubriana, Asher, and Ace—to keep them busy. Willis has been trying to get her two older kids, who are 8 and 6, to read a Harry Potter book, but she has been unsuccessful thus far. She will keep trying.
Although still relatively new to Westover Honors, Rachel Willis is grateful to be a part of such a smart, engaging, and passionate learning community. While she has always loved teaching, she has never enjoyed it so much as when she is with a class of interested, sharp, and hard-working Westover Fellows.
Administrative Assistant, Westover Honors College
Amy Enneking just completed her first academic year as an Administrative Assistant for Westover Honors College. Prior to working at University of Lynchburg, she owned her own business as an Executive Recruiter. She achieved success in her business for over ten years working as a full cycle recruiter and consultant, managing the entire recruitment process, initiating it by posting a job, procuring and screening candidate resumes, interviewing candidates, and extending formal offers of employment. Her love for staffing and human resources began shortly after college where she managed various staffing services in Charlotte, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Amy is a native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and graduated from Winthrop University, in Rock Hill, South Carolina with a major in Mass Communications. Upon graduation, she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where she immediately began a long career in staffing and human resources. She contributes her passion for working so well with the students in the Westover Honors family to her ability to understand their concerns and resolve issues in a friendly and supportive manner.
Amy has been married for twenty years and has two daughters. She enjoys hiking, beaching as well as watching her girls swim competitively and play water polo.