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Department of Sociology
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Phone: 509-963-1305
Fax: 509-963-1308

CWU Professor Leaves Behind Lasting Legacy

Central Washington University professor of Sociology, Laura L. Appleton wanted to make sure students like her were provided opportunities for continued education. With her recent passing, the “Laura L. Appleton Endowment for Graduate Study in Sociology” has been established with a gift of $400,000 – to help a CWU sociology major attend the graduate program of their choice.

The Laura L. Appleton Endowed Scholarship will be awarded annually to a CWU junior, who demonstrates exceptional promise to make contributions to the field of sociology.

Jay Osborn, Appleton’s former teaching assistant at Central and close friend, feels that the scholarship will be an instrumental tool for first-generation and second-generation college students to move forward in their careers.

“Her scholarship is intended to provide the bridge between undergrad and grad school.. The act of applying, researching, interviewing and just getting there can be challenging.  She wants to ensure that brilliant minds could go as far as they can.  She also relied on scholarship money to get her education.  Here impact at Central over the last 46 years will carry on into the future.”

Throughout her career, Dr. Appleton enjoyed teaching and mentoring bright, curious, and hard-working students who approached their studies seriously. To be eligible for this award, a student must:

• Be enrolled full time as a CWU undergraduate major in sociology;
• Have a grade point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in his/her most recent academic program; and
• Demonstrate a commitment to their education in order to contribute to the greater social good.
The entire Sociology Department faculty will participate in identifying potential scholarship recipients and in making the award. The scholarship will be awarded in May of each year with disbursement during the following year. Application materials will include completed cover letter, academic resume, and a 500-word essay detailing life experience leading to graduate school, as well as academic and career goals including plans for sociological contributions.

“The transition between undergraduate and graduate school can be very challenging, especially for first-generation students,” said Staci Sleigh-Layman, Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University and collegue of Appleton’s. “Faculty will then support the students in the transition, both morally and financially (with the help from the Laura L. Appleton Endowment).”
Appleton began teaching at Central in 1970 and was a proud professor until she passed away on August 11th, 2016. She was the first female faculty member hired in the CWU Department of Sociology which, at the time, consisted of 15 men. Appleton developed and taught many new classes including Sociology 356, Gender Roles.

“Laura not only had an impact on my life but the impact was life changing,” Valerie Jenness, a professor at UC Irvine said.

Appleton had a knack for challenging students to perform, leaving an impression on everyone she taught. “Laura had the ability to recognize students who were not working up to their full potential.,” Osborn said, “Perhaps no one had ever challenged them or they were able to skate by without using their full intellect.  Laura would call that out and make sure the student understood she knew they could do better.”

Appleton is survived by her sister, Sue Ellen Ellis; her friends Joan Sondregger, Jay Osborne, Dean Duby, Staci Sleigh-Layman, Kandee Cleary, Kitty Stoffle; her colleagues in the CWU Sociology Department; and the hundreds of students whose lives she has influenced.

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