CWU News

CWU Board of Trustees Recognizes Five Distinguished Faculty Award Recipients

CWU History Professor Jason Knirck

CWU History Professor Jason Knirck received the 2022 Board of Trustees Distinguished Faculty Award.

Central Washington University’s Board of Trustees honored five members of the university faculty on Friday as the 2022 Distinguished Faculty. 

The ceremony for the annual awards started in 1977 to recognize faculty who have excelled in teaching, research/artistic accomplishment, and public service. The honorees’ names will appear on a continuing plaque on campus, and each will receive a monetary award.

History professor Jason Knirck received the University Board of Trustees Distinguished Faculty Award, earningcommendation from his peers for his continued excellence over the past 17 years. He will receive a $5,000 award and a release from teaching for one quarter next year. 

“Dr. Knirck’s work has made him a standout member of the faculty, and his student-centered approach to teaching represents what is so special about this university,” Board of Trustees Chair Robert Nellams said. “We are pleased to present him with this prestigious recognition.”

The Distinguished Faculty Screening Committee selected four other CWU faculty members for recognition; each of them will receive an award of $2,500:  

  • Blaise Dondji, Biological Sciences — Distinguished Faculty for Teaching 
  • Lisa Ely, Geological Sciences — Distinguished Faculty for Research/Artistic Accomplishment
  • Teresa Francis Divine, Law and Justice — Distinguished Faculty for Service
  • Karisa Terry, Anthropology — Distinguished Non-Tenure-Track Teaching 

“Each of these Distinguished Faculty demonstrates a passion for teaching, research, or service that reflects the high standards our students have come to expect at Central Washington University,” President Jim Wohlpart said. “We are proud to recognize this genuine commitment to their students and the dedication it requires.”

More information about this year’s Distinguished Faculty Award recipients is below.

Distinguished Professor of the University Board of Trustees

 Jason Knirck, History — Professor Knirck’s activities and accomplishments over the past 17 years at CWU have demonstrated a balance of excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service that befit this honor. He has taught 24 classes in the Department of History at all levels since 2005, covering a broad range of subjects. He also has mentored numerous students in graduate and undergraduate projects and theses while creating a variety of courses to enhance the department’s curricular offerings. Along the way, Prof. Knirck has become one of the most popular teachers in the department for his expertise, enthusiasm, rigor, ability to connect with students, his methodologies, and his sense of humor. 

Distinguished Faculty for Teaching

• Blaise Dondji, Biological Sciences — Professor Dondji is a recognized expert in the fields of parasitology, immunology, and infectious diseases. He leads a research group committed to finding more effective treatments for leishmaniasis and hookworm disease, long-standing afflictions in tropical countries in the developing world. During his 14 years at CWU, Prof. Dondji has taught 14 different undergraduate biology courses, plus a graduate course with a combined enrollment of more than 2,000. He has mentored the undergraduate research of 39 students and eight graduate students, in addition to serving as the academic advisor for 965 students, including biology majors and students pursuing careers in medicine and dentistry. Prof. Dondji inspires students to view the world with compassion and to work hard to advance the science needed to improve the health and quality of life of others. 

Distinguished Faculty for Research/Artistic Accomplishment

• Lisa Ely, Geological Sciences — Professor Ely has worked in the Department of Geological Sciences since 1994 and has conducted research that integrates an excellent research record with outstanding mentorship of student researchers. Her record is notable for the wide range of research topics to which she has contributed, including investigating the links between climate change and large floods in the western U.S. and investigating how large wood restoration impacts groundwater recharge and storage in the Yakima River Basin. Prof. Ely has helped provide research opportunities to students, taking them on expeditions to Mexico, Chile, India, Hungary, and the western U.S. In addition, she has mentored 31 graduate students and a number of undergraduates, many of whom have been named as co-authors on her 25 peer-reviewed journal articles.  

Distinguished Faculty for Service

• Teresa Francis Divine, Law and Justice — Professor Divine has devoted her professional life in service to her students, department, university, and community over the past 16 years, seeking equity and social justice for vulnerable individuals and marginalized communities. She has served on nearly every Department of Law and Justice committee, chaired multiple search committees, and represented the department as the Faculty Senator. Prof. Divine has mentored more than 20 student presentations for the LAJ Supreme Court panel at SOURCE, as well as accompanying students to regional and national disciplinary conferences. Prof. Divine also has served on the College of the Sciences Diversity Committee and was instrumental in developing and implementing the interdisciplinary Africana & Black Studies program.

Distinguished Non-Tenure Track Teaching

• Karisa Terry, Anthropology — Since joining the Department of Anthropology in 2009, Professor Terry has taught more than a dozen individual courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She has been particularly active in general education, and her efforts have helped retain CWU students during their challenging early years. Students report that Prof. Terry’s courses are engaging and convey difficult course material in ways that utilize innovative and active pedagogical techniques. She teaches and conducts research across the country, as well as in Japan and Russia. Prof. Terry believes in a hands-on approach to education, coordinating and leading an intensive field experience in archeology every summer. Her thoughtful course design and creative assignments encourage students to apply course material and consider its relevance in their own lives.

Media Contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs,, 509-963-1518