Alumni, Central Washington University, Creative Writing, Department of English, Fiction, Horror Genre, Literature, Uncategorized

What Do You Expect From a CWU Alum Born on Halloween?

By Katharine Whitcomb

T.J. Tranchell saw his first horror movie at age five.

His hero is Stephen King. His favorite King novel is “Bag of Bones.”

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Tranchell, 37, met his Blysster Press publisher at Crypticon in Seattle in 2014. He was encouraged to attend this gathering by his professors/instructors at our Department of English.

He has published two macabre books: Cry Down Dark (novella) and Asleep in the Nightmare Room (short stories), and has two more in the offing. These tales are not for the weak of heart.

Tranchell received his B.A. degree in English with a Writing Specialization from the College of Arts and Humanities’ English Department in 2013. Two years later, he earned his CWU M.A. degree in Literature.

Thumbing through Tranchell’s newly published Asleep in the Nightmare Room in which he vividly recounts his nightmares about creepy, crawly spiders; he immediately acknowledges the contributions of his teachers including: Laila Abdalla, Liahna Armstrong, Xavier Cavazos, George Drake, Lisa Norris, myself, and others.

Tranchell recalled his first meeting with me, and how the English Department was a great place to ‘do your own thing.’ He also bonded with Professor Armstrong over all things, Alfred Hitchcock. Tranchell told LaunchPad that he would not have reached his level of literary accomplishment without his teachers.

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After a budding career in journalism came to an end, when his wife was selected for a job in Yakima, Tranchell decided the time had come to earn his degree in English with an emphasis on writing fiction.

Tranchell recognizes that journalism and creative writing both require story telling skills, but said that fiction is far more satisfying.

When asked if he worked on horror writing following a full-work week as a reporter covering stories, he demonstrated his love for metaphors: “The last thing a dish washer wants to do is go home and wash his own dishes.” Point made.

Tranchell said his professors and instructors at Central gave him the “freedom” to pursue his love of horror writing, but still made sure he was making “progress” toward his undergraduate degree in English, and later his graduate degree in Literature. He said his teachers made him better as a writer.

“I enjoy hearing people scream.” – T.J. Tranchell

He contends that horror books are scarier than movies of the same genre. Tranchell said that humans crave an emotional reaction in confronting their own worst fears in a safe environment. He questions why some will happily board the scariest roller coaster, but will cringe and cower at the thought of watching a Vincent Price or Jack Nicholson movie based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King respectively.

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Tranchell said his CWU professors and instructors encouraged him to capitalize on his vivid imagination and pursue his fascination of horror. He said the collective philosophy of his teachers was: “Whatever the genre, good writing is good writing.”

Does Tranchell ever have to overcome the dreaded and scary, “writer’s block?” He replied that when he is “actively writing” that he is in a zone. His biggest impediments to writing are the demands of daily life.

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Most recently he directed student media at the University of Idaho for two years, a position that ended on the last day of June. Today, he is a full-time “stay-at-home dad” and a novelist focusing on all things scary.

And instead of being the second-coming of Stephen King, he wants to the first iteration of T.J. Tranchell. Congratulations to T.J. and his readers.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Alumni, Award Winner, CAH, Central Washington University, College of Arts and Humanities, Department of Theatre Arts, Successful Alumni, Uncategorized

From CWU Theatre Arts to the Tony Awards Stage

“I love teenagers. I love everything they’re going through. The drama that they experience. The roller-coaster ride. They come in as basically kids, and they leave as adults.” – Tony Award winning teacher, CWU alum Rachel Harry

We couldn’t be more proud of our alumnus, Rachel Harry.

Her students still affectionately call her “Krum,” a reflection of her former married surname, Krummel.

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We call her the winning Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon recipient for Teachers with the Excellence in Theatre Education Award. Rachel received her award at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, a June 11 event broadcast nationally on CBS.

Rachel also brought back a check for $10,000 from the Big Apple, benefitting the theatre department at Hood River Valley High School in Oregon. And it was her high school theatre students, who nominated Rachel for the Tony Award for excellence in teaching.

Rachel is more than an outstanding teacher of theatre arts. She is a role model. She overcame an emotional divorce and a stunning breast cancer diagnosis both in 2006, and yet she did not miss a day teaching her students or mentoring her children.

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Rachel, who graduated from the University of Utah with a major in English and a minor in Theatre Arts, was first introduced to CWU at a 10-day summer theatre program. She was “blown away” by how much instruction could be packed into 12-14 hour instructional days, including sessions on movement, lighting design and methodology.

She later made the decision to make Ellensburg her summer home as she pursued her advanced degree from our Department of Theatre Arts.

“I Will Not Get a Degree, Just to Have a Degree” – Rachel Harry

Rachel’s tenacity was exhibited during the course of four consecutive summers between 2000– 2003, earning her master’s degree in theatre production. She didn’t strive for a master’s degree just to have an advanced degree on her wall. She sought our degree because it would enrich her ability to teach theatre, change the structure of her classes and refine/build the theatre curriculum at Hood River Valley High School.

Rachel is clear that she does not just focus on those who are the leading and supporting actors and actresses, but also on what she calls “theatre tech”, including lighting, sound, sets, direction and production.

She mixes a focus on professionalism for those who may pursue a career in theatre, either in front of the audience or behind the scenes in technology areas as well as choreographing and staging a Broadway show. She also takes a maternal approach to their students, caring for each and every one of them to help them succeed in life.

Rachel totally disagrees with the perception that a degree in Theatre Arts is a one-way ticket to back to mom and dad’s house. She points to a wide variety of job opportunities that come from an emphasis on theatre, particularly the logistics associated with staging at first-rate performance. Our graduates continue to prove her point year after year. We see graduates pursuing a broad range of industries: Entertainment, high-tech, education, and management..

As prior LaunchPad posts have emphasized, an undergraduate or graduate degree in liberal arts – including theatre – is in great demand because our students learn how to learn. Lifelong learning is not just in vogue, it is in great demand in our always-on, data-driven, digital world.

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Our degrees produce successful alums. They also generate well-compensated professionals, who give back their communities. And in Rachel Harry’s case, they lead to the highest award in her industry, The Tony Award in Theatre Arts.

Well done “Krum,” well done.

By Scott Robinson

Alumni, Alumni Engagement, Central Washington University, College of Arts and Humanities, CWU, CWU Alumni, Liberal Arts, Lifelong Learning, Personal Branding, Uncategorized

The Proven Flexibility of Liberal Arts Degrees

What can you do with a Liberal Arts degree?

How about transforming a bachelor’s degree in History into becoming a successful systems planner for Boeing?

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How about a successful career as a principal software engineering manager for Microsoft after earning a degree in Music?

Turning an English degree into a lucrative career as a marketing manager of music textbooks?

Or a Philosophy major vaults into the role of a licensed mental health counselor?

Closer to our campus, an Art degree is utilized for a fulfilling career as a professional rodeo photographer?

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Maybe a World Languages degree results in exciting assignments overseas, serving as an interpreter/translator in Japan?

And can a Theatre Arts degree allow a promising and talented student to overcome her fear of public speaking and finally realize her dream of performing as an actress in Seattle?

Liberal arts degrees are clearly in demand. Just ask our eight successful College of Arts and Humanities honorees, who gathered earlier this month to share their experiences and wisdom with our students, faculty, and staff.

These outstanding graduates and career overachievers took quality time out of their busy lives to return to Ellensburg and spend a day with us. They also agreed to mentor fortunate students from each of our eight departments, establishing what will hopefully be a meaningful lifelong friendship.

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Top (left to right): Gretchen Beyer, Molly Morrow, Micaiah Davis, Alex Worland, Alan Page, Dane Madsen, Nuno Fernandes, Trevor Penland, Caroleigh Lawrence
Bottom (left to right): Amy Danneker, Karli Reinbold, Tristan Gorringe, Derek Forsell, Lori Bohn, Garrett Swatzina, Donny Anderson, Stephan Simes

The lineup for our April 11 Wellington Events Center panel:

  • Molly Morrow, Department of Art, Class of 1974, Professional Cowboys Association PhotographerPic4
  • Tristan Gorringe, Department of Communication, Class of 2009, Microsoft Audience Marketing Manager and Events Lead
  • Trevor Penland, Department of English, Class of 2011, W.W. Norton Marketing Manager for Music Textbooks
  • Lori Bohn, Department of History, Class of 1988, Boeing Systems Planner
  • Alan Page, Department of Music, Class of 1988, Microsoft Principal Software Manager
  • Nuno Fernandes, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Class of 2007, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • Amy Danneker, Department of Theatre Arts, Class of 2005, Seattle Market Professional Actress
  • Donald Anderson, Jr., Department of World Languages and Cultures, Class of 2008, Japanese Language Translator and Interpreter and Instructor for English Language Acquisition (ELA)Pic5

If you carefully review the occupations of this list of alums, each hailing respectively from our eight dynamic departments, only two are directly engaged in their field of study.

The gratifying message is that a liberal arts degree from our college leads to fulfilling careers and flexible, marketable skills.

As several panel members emphatically stated: Our College of Arts and Humanities is “not a vocational school.” Instead, our college embraces, celebrates, and champions lifelong learning and produces creative, smart, and skilled problem-solvers.

Trevor Penland asserted that questions such as, “What are you going to do with an English degree?” need to be promptly vanquished. The reality is that Liberal Arts majors have the talent and the ability to quickly glean vital information and to effectively speak, write, and problem solve.

Tristan Gorringe encouraged students to nurture an authentic personal story, be proactive and intentional in their networking efforts, and most of all, project and promote a unique personal brand.

CWU History alum and now Boeing Systems Planner Lori Bohn advised students to keep changing, learning, and moving – characteristics that are nurtured by their liberal arts backgrounds.

As we head toward our June 10th commencement, seniors are wondering about their next step and how to secure a meaningful job.

Nuno Fernandes counseled students to first and foremost avoid panic, and to stay grounded. Amy Danneker championed “Networking 101” and staying in touch with college colleagues as sometimes it takes only that one special lead to reach full employment.

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Perhaps most important, all of our panelists used their personal success stories to highlight the real power of a liberal arts degree in securing a meaningful career and life. Each projected energy and optimism based upon their proven success and their lifelong commitment to learning how to learn.

Inspiring, generous, and thoughtful, these honorees gave our students superb advice as they embark on their own personal career journeys.

By Stacey Robertson

Alumni, Central Washington University, College of Arts and Humanities, Department of History, Lifelong Learning

Celebrating CWU College of Arts and Humanities Alumni

By Stacey Robertson 

Among the first actions that I took as the new dean of the College of Arts and Humanities was to appoint adjunct professor for Choral Studies Scott Peterson as the faculty alumni outreach liaison.

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The reason was simple: A college is much more than its current students, faculty and staff. Our alumni are an integral part of who we are and who we want to be. They are the best and most poignant evidence of our success

In the weeks leading up to our Alumni Day on April 21, we have frequently contemplated what our alums mean to our college – past, present and future.

Just as important, we have pondered how we can team up with our alums to enhance our present programs and increase opportunities for our students to experience success in life and in the global marketplace. Our alums are a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience.

Are we doing enough to collaborate with them, and to listen to their advice? They want to help. They appreciate how CWU contributed to their respective careers.

We believe our alumni can enrich and improve us in multiple ways. Yes, we will always appreciate those who assist us financially in providing the best education possible to the thousands of students we educate in our robust eight departments — Art, Communication, English, History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Theatre Arts, World Languages — and related interdisciplinary programs.

Our alums are more – much more — to the College of Arts and Humanities. They are our legacy. They know what CWU means in terms of their respective careers and the well-being of their families. More importantly, they can be vital mentors for our present students and our graduates.

We recognize and value the wisdom, sage counsel, networking opportunities, and friendship our alumni provide to our current students. It’s a challenge in today’s competitive marketplace to

find meaningful careers. We believe that having well-placed alums is vital. These alums hold prominent positions in key industries, located in desirable venues and in growing fields, which are critical to students building their careers.

We are dedicated to helping our students graduate and succeed. In turn as they experience fulfillment in life and work, we hope that they, as CWU alumni, will offer guidance, mentorship and assistance to the next wave of graduates, and thus continue this affirmative cycle for the benefit of all.

Two Generations of Wildcats

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Jack and Crystal Widman (both of the CWU Class of 2000) and their daughter, Jacki. Jacki will be entering Central this fall as a junior, having already earned both her associate’s degree. She hopes to be a member of the CWU graduating class of 2018 or 2019.

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Her father, Jack, is the principal of Glacier View Junior High in Puyallup. Crystal is a junior high teacher at Stahl Junior High School also in Puyallup.

Jack received his B.A. degree in Social Studies and History (taking African American and Russian Studies) and a minor in Elementary Education. He also earned his teaching certificate from Central. Crystal earned her B.A. in Elementary Education with a minor in Science.

Jacki intends to follow in her parents’ footsteps and pursue a CWU College of Arts and Sciences degree in Social Studies/History with an eye toward becoming a teacher.

Jack and Crystal’s son, Bryan, is a ninth grader at Stahl Junior High School. Will he become the sixth member of the Widman family to attend and graduate from Central Washington University? We hope so.

One thing is certain: The Widmans are teaching important skills to the next generation of students. They embody the mission of the College of Arts and Humanities – ethically minded leadership, creativity, and intelligence. They are using the skills they developed and honed during their days at Central to educate and inspire their students.

College Arts and Humanities Alumni Day

We will be celebrating an alumni honoree from each of our eight departments on Alumni Day, April 21.

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I am looking forward to welcoming our alums back to Ellensburg and learning about their experiences at Central and in the years that followed. We will also be inaugurating our first Alumni Mentorship Program. This program will partner each of our alumni honorees with a lucky student in every department.

The highlight of the day will be our afternoon Alumni Panel discussion at the Milo Smith Tower Theatre during which our alums will share their wisdom and life lessons with students, faculty and staff.

We are confident that our Alumni Day will be successful and productive, but we hope to do so much more. Let me assure you the College of Arts and Humanities will always prioritize our alumni as valued friends and respected collaborators in the future of our beloved university.