CWU News

CWU Wins Two Emmy Awards for ‘Nick on the Rocks’ Program

Central Washington University has won two Emmy awards from the Northwest Chapter of the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences for the popular geological sciences program Nick on the Rocks.

The show won for the “Teanaway Tropics” episode in the category Environment/Science, and for the episode “Saddle Mountains Buried in Ash” in the category Informational/Instructional.

The awards went to Chris Smart, Producer/Photographer/Editor; Linda Schactler, Executive Producer; and Nick Zentner, Host/Writer. The awards recognize excellence in broadcast for programs that aired in 2020.

Nick on the Rocks highlights the geological history of the Pacific Northwest and presents it in accessible, evocative five-minute videos, hosted by Zentner. Smart provides videography and editing.

The program’s executive director, Linda Schactler, said the awards came in the fourth season of the program, now streamed and broadcast by four public television organizations to millions of people in British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

Zentner credited the success of the program to the collaboration of the small CWU production team and support from the Departments of Geology and Public Affairs, and from the Office of the President. But he said one of the most important factors in the program’s success was geology fans.

“The show is a natural result of lots of interaction with the public for more than 20 years,” said Zentner, adding that fans’ enthusiasm is contagious. “Our broadcast and online viewers really love these treasured places throughout the Pacific Northwest and send program suggestions, critique shows, and in some cases, help get us to landmarks in the field otherwise not accessible.”

Chris Smart already has two Emmy awards under his belt, for “Moments in American History,” a series of educational mini-documentaries. Smart said this year’s awards were gratifying given the respected competition from Oregon and Seattle public television and KING broadcasting. 

“We’ve worked hard to create a focused concept for each show and to bring enhanced production approaches when needed,” said Smart, who noted that working with Nick while capturing video of the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest has been an exhilarating experience.

“Nick is an excellent educator. In just the quick five-minute episodes, he transports viewers millions of years to dramatic geological events that happened right here in our backyard,” he added.

Schactler said the ability of show host and writer Nick Zentner to describe such events has earned him national and international recognition. Zentner has been teaching at CWU since 1992 and began welcoming armchair geologists from the community into his classroom soon after.

He has produced scores of short YouTube videos that showcase all aspects of Pacific Northwest geology. His vivid and funny story telling has brought the excitement of massive landslides, cataclysmic floods, and giant lava flows to live audiences throughout the West Coast.

Schactler created the series concept at a time when public television stations were searching for short-form video for broadcast as well as online content. Zentner’s extensive experience with the short form, Smart’s video expertise, and the stunning geological formations of Washington created the formula for the popular series.

“We wanted a way to reach more people about the wonder of our natural history and the rich quality of CWU’s teaching and learning,” said Schactler, adding that Zentner fields comments and questions from viewers literally all over the world.

“The pilot explored whether the concept could work; in the second season we established the production routine; in the third season we expanded the show to three more markets,” she explained. “The Emmy recognition in the fourth season is exciting validation from industry peers.”

Schactler said travel and budget restrictions associated with the pandemic have forced a hiatus of Nick on the Rocks.

“It’s not clear when or how we’ll go into production for season five,” she said. “We are retooling the production and budget scenario and will be seeking corporate sponsorship to be able to afford another season.”

The 2021 award program of the Northwest Chapter of the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences was held on June 5. More information on the awards is available at

For more information or to donate to support Nick on the Rocks, visit See all episodes of Nick on the Rocks at

Media contact: Linda Schactler, 509-607-4103,