CWU News

CWU Celebrates the Best of 2017

The celebration of Central Washington University’s 125th anniversary has drawn to a close, and the successes of 2017 are already preparing the foundation for the next Quasquicentennial.

Throughout the past 12 months, 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 are vigorously committed to social justice, and encourage forums, demonstrations, and presentations to inspire and motivate our campus community. In addition, we’ve increased our outreach by providing programming to public television, opening a new center in Sammamish, and inaugurating an ambitious business-to-community program to enhance our town-gown relationship in Ellensburg.

Below is just a small sampling of the high points of a remarkable year.

Winter January—March
A CWU-Cascade Public Media partnership brought Northwest geology to public television. Nick on the Rocks, hosted by Nick Zentner, a geological sciences lecturer at CWU, will air weekly on KYVE/KCTS Public Television.

CWU social services students created special duffle bags, called Sweet Cases, for local foster children. When children are removed from their home, their few belongings are packed hastily in, most often, a trash bag. Students hope that the new, individually-designed duffle bags can help ease the pain and anxiety that accompanies a child’s upheaval. Up to 40 children each year are placed in foster homes in Kittitas County.

In February, a year-long series of moves, dubbed “Movezilla,” began on the Ellensburg campus as a result of CWU’s progress on record state construction funding. "Movezilla" involved newly renovated Bouillon and Lind Halls. Additional moves to and from Barge, Mitchell, and Hebeler Halls created space needed in Bouillon Hall for a one-stop student services center.

CWU received a $2.19 million grant to develop and implement an innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teacher preparation program.

The student radio station, KCWU-FM, earned three national honors at the 77th Annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting System International Conference in New York City.

Central became the first university in Washington state with a student chapter of YouthMappers, a global network of universities working on humanitarian mapping projects. The CWU Geography Club joined the effort in March.

Mathematics professor Aaron Montgomery received the Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics Award. The honor is conferred by the Pacific Northwest section of the Mathematical Association of America.

Spring April—June
Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman paid a visit to CWU. The Compton, California native and Stanford graduate came to speak with college students from across Washington state, as part of the Students of Color Summit.

The most powerful computing capability anywhere in central Washington is operational at CWU. The $380,000 system, called Turing, is used for research, including student research, providing specialized, collaborative computing capabilities primarily for the university’s College of The Sciences.’s-most-powerful-supercomputing-cluster-now-operational-cwu

Gavin Schag, a McNair Scholar, received an honorable mention at the 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Student Poster Competition held in Boston for his poster, “UAV Photogrammetry: Structure from Motion Data Evaluation for DEM Applications.”

Sathyanarayanan (Sathy) Rajendran, professor of engineering technologies, safety, and construction, received the American Society of Safety Engineers Dr. William E. Tarrants Outstanding Safety Educator Award. The national honor recognizes exemplary achievements in occupational safety and health education. r’s-top-safety-educato

CWU alumna Rachel Harry received the 2017 Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award. Presented in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, the award recognizes a K-12 theatre educator in the US who has made an impact on their students. Harry received a master's degree in theatre production from CWU.

The Seventh Annual Raza Graduation Celebration honored 350 Latino/a/x graduates, the largest number in the university’s history.

More than 3,100 Wildcats graduated at the June 10 and 11 commencement ceremonies, capping a year of 125th anniversary commemorations. From the first class of only 51 graduates in 1892, CWU has grown from a small "Normal" school (the common name for teaching colleges) to one of the top-ranked universities in the region.

Summer July—September
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) honored CWU’s Robert Holtfreter, College of Business distinguished professor of accounting and research, with its 2017 Hubbard Award for best feature article in the association’s journal, Fraud.

Astrophysicist and students participated in a crowd-sourced NASA eclipse experiment. CWU students launched a high-altitude balloon to capture and livestream video of the solar eclipse. Central’s physics professor Darci Snowden led the student team that collected other data from the balloon, which carried an array of scientific instruments.

Andrea Eklund, professor of apparel, textiles, and merchandising, won Best in Show for her original design at the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) conference. The competition was a double-blind, peer-reviewed competition with more than 30 design submissions.

Barto Hall, CWU's newest residence hall, received a coveted LEED Platinum certification—the highest level awarded by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for green building certification programs worldwide. Barto is one of only four LEED Platinum-certified buildings on college campuses in Washington State.

In September, President James L. Gaudino joined the presidents of Washington’s five other public universities in protesting President Donald Trump’s decision to repeal the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months.

For the third time in four years, CWU received the prestigious Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The university is the only four-year institution in the state of Washington to earn the award, which recognizes higher education institutions that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.


Fall October—December
CWU reported a 12 percent increase in its freshmen class—the third straight year the school has seen double-digit enrollment increases in its freshman students. Central has 2,131 freshmen taking classes full- or part-time in Ellensburg, at a University Center, or online. That number topped last year’s mark of 1,908 and followed 15 and 21 percent increases of the previous two entering classes.

Colonel Jon Tussing, the commander of the US Army Cadet Command’s 8th Brigade, administered the Oath of Enlistment to 15 United States Army Reserve Officers Training Corps students. The dramatic sunrise ceremony occurred atop Manastash Ridge, after a predawn hike by the enlistees. The rigorous two-mile hike, according to cadet Justin Lester, is “really just an embodiment of our battalion’s spirit—it’s part of our identity.”

In October, CWU and the City of Sammamish launched CWU-Sammamish, the first learning facility to offer higher education opportunities in the Sammamish region. CWU-Sammamish offers Running Start and other general education programming as well as continuing education and lifelong learning classes, professional development programs, and English as a Second Language.

CWU’s magnificent marching band is 220 players strong this year—a historical high for the ensemble. A Wildcat tradition for more than 90 years, the ensemble performs at every home game.

The student-run media outlets, PULSE magazine and the Observer newspaper, returned from the National College Media Convention with three second-place national awards.

A new and powerful coalition that includes the Ellensburg Downtown Association, CWU, the City of Ellensburg, and the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce was founded to reward and promote customer service. The Business to Community Stars Program (B2C Stars), which encourages residents to shop locally, is based on best practices identified by the National Customer Service Association.

The Wildcats won the 2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Football Championship, defeating Humboldt State 42-28. It’s the school's first gridiron championship since 2012.

CWU Board of Trustees approved plans for a new 400-bed residence hall to be located at the corner of Wildcat Way and Dean Nicholson Boulevard. The $45 million project would feature laundry facilities, community space, and an engagement office as well as additional parking. CWU Trustees also approved a $8 million upgrade of Tomlinson Stadium and creating a new track and field venue.

CWU Aviation received a Federal Aviation Administration Part 141 certification for training pilots. For the first time in its history, CWU Aviation can run its own flight school, under its own license. In December, the department took possession of five new Piper Archers to begin building its own fleet.

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