CWU News

2016 a Banner Year for CWU

In so many ways, 2016 was a landmark year for Central Washington University. Throughout the past 12 months, we’ve completed major construction projects—and started new ones. We’ve been named as a top institution by numerous agencies, and our programs, faculty, students, and staff have been recognized as the best in the nation. We have ramped up our commitment to social justice, and encouraged forums, demonstrations, and presentations to encourage and motivate our campus community.

And, as we celebrate our 125th anniversary year, we are mindful that the accomplishments of the past are the foundation of our successes today. We hope these achievements will inspire the university’s next 125 years.

Below is just a small sampling of the high points of a remarkable journey around the sun.

Highlights of 2016


CWU, Microsoft, Real Madrid Foundation Create Youth Leadership Program
The world-renowned Real Madrid Foundation, Microsoft, and CWU kicked-off a new partnership and youth leadership program called GAME ON! The program—the first of its kind on the West Coast—combines computer training with soccer workshops to promote youth leadership and computer coding skills.

SHAPE America Names CWU Alumna National High School Teacher of the Year
Sara Russell was named National High School Teacher of the Year by SHAPE America (the Society of Health and Physical Educators) at its national convention in Minneapolis. Russell teaches physical education at Tahoma Junior High School in Maple Valley. She earned her master’s degree in health and physical education in 2009.

Renovation/Construction Transforms Samuelson Union Building
In May, Lydig Construction began renovation and construction work on the Samuelson Union Building, one of CWU’s oldest and most iconic buildings. The state-funded project will renovate the Depression-era SUB into an integrated computer science technology center.

CWU Appoints New Leadership
CWU appointed Katherine Frank, former dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Norther Kentucky University, as the new provost/vice president for academic and student life.  In addition, Sharon O’Hare was named vice president of enrollment management. O’Hare was formerly the associate vice president for enrollment management and student success at the University of Montana. They both began their tenures in July


Chemistry Major Receives $50K EPA Fellowship
Undergraduate Justin Rodriguez received a $50,000 EPA fellowship for his research in environmental chemistry. Rodriguez was the only person in Washington State, and one of only two in the Pacific Northwest to receive this prestigious fellowship.

Craft Brewing Program Ranked Number 1
CWU's craft brewing program was ranked No. 1 in the United States in “Training America’s Next Brewers: The Top Brew Schools in the US,” published by America Unraveled.

DeShields Earns International Award for LGBTQ Leadership
Richard DeShields, associate dean for student living, is the recipient of the 2016 Judy Spain Award. The accolade recognizes contributions to the LGBT community through activities that promote positive growth, development, and education. The Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I) presented DeShields with the award during its annual conference in Seattle.

CWU Earns A1 Bond Rating
Moody’s Investors Service has reaffirmed CWU’s A-1 bond rating, which is effectively the highest rating a comprehensive university such as Central can achieve.

CWU Sociology Professor Laura Appleton Creates Lasting Legacy
Described affectionately as a “cross between Earth mother and Genghis Khan,” longtime sociology professor Laura Appleton died in August. Her family and friends donated $400,000 to establish the Laura L. Appleton Endowment for Graduate Study in Sociology to help a CWU sociology major attend the graduate program of their choice.

CWU Officers Win National Award for Rape Defense Education
CWU’s finest have received nationwide recognition for their involvement with the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Systems of Self Defense. At the organization’s recent 19th annual conference, Captain Jason Berthon-Koch and Officer Todd Ames were honored for their longtime service as RAD instructors.

Forbes Top 600 Universities
CWU was ranked as one of Forbes Magazine’s top 600 universities in the United States.


CWU Wins Opportunity to Serve Students at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
CWU is now one of only four Washington higher education institutions allowed to provide instruction directly at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which is the largest military installation on the West Coast.

CWU Claims Another Award for its Commitment to Diversity
Central is one of just two schools in the state—and only 14 nationally—to be recognized as a “national role model” for its commitment to diversity by Minority Access, Inc., a national organization that honors diversity in academic access and achievement.

CWU Dedicates State-of-the-Art Science II Facility
The new $64 million Science II hosted a grand opening ceremony in October. Science II boasts a planetarium, observatory tower, scanning electron microscope, and specialty labs, including a chamber that completely absorbs all sound. In December, the building was chosen as a winner of the Inland Northwest AGC Build Northwest Awards.

CWU Sets First-year Enrollment Record Fall 2016
Central reported a 15 percent increase in first-year fall enrollment, setting a new record. This comes on the heels of a record 21 percent increase in first-year students for 2015-16 fall quarter. This year, 1,908 first-year students are enrolled, up from 1,654 last fall.  Overall, a total of 10,559 undergraduates enrolled in CWU classes during the 2016-17 academic year.

$3 Million Consortium Grant to Improve STEM Education
The university is co-leading a $3 million National Sciences Foundation grant designed to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher preparation programs across Washington State. Jennifer Dechaine, biological sciences, and Anne Egger, geological sciences, will receive $298,289 for their work over the next four years on the project, “Collaborative Research: The Next Generation of STEM Teacher Preparation in Washington State.”

Alumna Named Washington State Teacher of the Year
Once again, one of Central’s alumni have been named the Washington State Teacher of the Year. Camille Jones, from Pioneer Elementary School in Quincy, received the 2017 award—becoming the fifth CWU graduate to receive that honor since 2005.

CWU Community Participates in Peace March
The campus community participated in a peace march organized by Not In Our Kittitas County in November. The Not In Our Kittitas County campaign is aimed at stopping hate and building a safe and inclusive environment. It comes in response to activity by the Ku Klux Klan in Ellensburg earlier this fall.

University Police Honored as Department of the Year

The Western Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (WACLEA) recently named CWU’s Police and Parking Services as the 2016 Department of the Year.

Best Online University in Washington
According to Best Value Schools (, a national online college rating website, CWU is the Best Value Online School in Washington for 2016.

Record-setting Year for Women's Soccer

A program record 13 regular season wins, the first-ever NCAA postseason berth, and the program's first NCAA postseason win.  The 2016 campaign was a storybook season for the CWU's women's soccer team, both on and off the pitch.

Alumnus James Mattis Named Secretary of Defense

Retired Marine General James N. Mattis, a CWU alumnus has been nominated to serve as the new US Secretary of Defense. The former commander of US Central Command grew up in the Tri-Cities area and graduated from CWU in 1971. Mattis was Central’s commencement speaker in 2011.


Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,

edited 1/4/7 to add "Record-setting Year for Women's Soccer"