CWU News

Backlund, Bohrson, Coe, and Roditeleva-Wibe Honored as CWU's 2015 Distinguished Professors

The designation of Distinguished Professor is the highest award attainable at Central Washington University and represents the highest level of performance. Each year, nominations are sought in four categories—teaching, service, and research/creative expression for tenured professors, and a non-tenure track distinguished faculty award for teaching.

This year’s honors go to Phil Backlund, communication, for teaching; Wendy Bohrson, geological sciences, research; Cynthia Coe, philosophy and religious studies, service; and Maria Roditeleva-Wibe, music, teaching, non-tenure track faculty.

Backlund, who has taught at CWU for 35 years, is considered a legend among communication students. As an advisor to the CWU chapter of Lambda Pi Eta, the Communication Honor Society, he guides a RotarAct Community service student organization, and consistently encourages students to submit to regional and national conferences for presentation. He is not only a strong record of teaching in the classroom, but also a teaching force within the department, offering encouragement and support to his colleagues. In addition, he has expanded his classroom to include students involved in CWU’s Asia University America Program (AUAP) and has created and taught courses for international graduate students from China.  He has also taught students in Macau and Hong Kong, China, and in Pakistan and South Sudan. According to his colleagues, “His passion for communication and instruction is not bound by language, country, or culture.

Bohrson, professor and former chair of geological sciences, came to CWU in 1999, with a strong record of research. Since arriving at CWU, Bohrson has secured a total of $2, 384,000 in National Science Foundation grants. She has authored more than 115 publications and has a written more than 140 research grants. She was elected as a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, one of the highest honors bestowed by the GSA, for her distinguished contributions to the geosciences. At CWU, Bohrson has been the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research (2000-2003), and the interim director of University Research (2002-2003) and is currently the director of the CWU Science Talent Expansion Program. Department chair Carey Gazis notes that Bohrson is “everything anyone could want in a colleague: she is intelligent, wise, giving, competent and hard-working . . . and a top-notch researcher, internationally known for her research in volcanology.

Coe was honored for “her outstanding contribution of expertise, time, an commitment to the welfare of individuals and groups in the CWU community and beyond.” She has served on numerous committees both within her department and throughout the university. During her seven years as director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, she has tripled the number of students through recruiting, marketing, and outreach efforts. She has organized numerous events to celebrate Women’s History Month, and has nurtured collaborations with academics and activists from other universities and organizations, faculty and student panels, and faculty and student exhibits.  She has formed partnerships with the Wellness Center, the Center for Diversity and Social Justice, and the Ellensburg School District. She has served on the General Education Committee for eight years and was advisor for Phi Sigma Tau, the philosophy honors society for seven years. According to her colleagues “her commitment of time to the CWU and Ellensburg community stands as a model for others.”

Roditeleva-Wibe, is currently a senior lecturer in the Music Department at CWU, specializing in music history, music theory, and world music. “Since coming to Central she has distinguished herself as a brilliant, knowledgeable, versatile, and innovative teacher,” noted her colleagues. She brings an immense store of knowledge to the classroom and brings it alive for her students in a variety of courses. Her teaching approach is inclusive and interdisciplinary, and designs music courses that incorporate historic context and cultural insights, and delve into diverse disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and religious studies. Using a variety of teaching methods, Roditeleva-Wibe creates a classroom environment in which students from diverse backgrounds and with different learning skills can all increase their knowledge. A noted pianist, she commemorated the opening of the new McIntyre Music building in 2004 by playing Franz Liszt’s Transcendental Etude in F minor No. 10, the first public performance held in CWU’s new Concert Hall.

There will be a recognition ceremony and reception to honor these and outstanding members of the CWU academic community at 5:30 p.m. on May 20, in the SURC Ballroom. Distinguished professors will also be recognized at the Honors Convocation on June 12.

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

May 18, 2015