CWU News

CWU Awarded Only NEA Big Read Grant in Washington

Central Washington University’s James E. Brooks Library received a $17,000 Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. CWU is one of 77 organizations nationwide awarded a grant—the only one in Washington state.

Managed by Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read grant supports innovative community reading programs designed around a single book. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is CWU’s book choice for 2016-2017. The novel was chosen to bring recognition and honor to our veterans--those on campus and in the community.

Understanding warfare’s effect on soldiers, veterans, and their families continues to be important. Because Tim O'Brien is himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, he speaks about the experience with authority. The Things They Carried features portraits of characters in combat. O’Brien articulates the soldier’s view—often understandably conflicted. O’Brien is recognized for his ground-breaking work, not only for marking a certain period in American history, but also for demonstrating some of the best storytelling in contemporary literature.

This project is a collaboration among many campus and community entities. The following departments are credited in securing the grant: Brooks Library, CWU English Department, Lion Rock Writers Series, the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, and the CWU Veterans Center. Further program collaborations with CWU ROTC, Kittitas County public libraries, community veterans groups, and Ellensburg High School are instrumental in reaching a larger diverse audience.

“Our Big Read programming is campus and community wide,” said Maureen Rust, student engagement and community outreach librarian. “So many wanted to be involved because of the solid author and title selection.”

CWU’s Big Read is comprised of at least six events: a kick off, book club reading, film series, panel discussion, and workshop. The finale, in late April 2017, will feature a reception, workshop, and book signing by Tim O’Brien. All events are free and open to the public.

To encourage reading and participation, 488 books will be given away free throughout Big Read events.

Program planning is currently underway. Once scheduled, events will be published on the CWU Web site and promoted throughout the community.

The Big Read logoEstablished by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. Go to to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary timeline. 

Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit

Media contact: Dawn Alford, public affairs coordinator, 509-963-1484,