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?


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?


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.


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.


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

Arts and Humanities, CAH, Central Washington University, College of Arts and Humanities, CWU, Dan Herman, Department of History, Gary Weidenaar, Higher Education, History, Jason Dormady, LaunchPad, Liberal Arts, Lifelong Learning, Marji Morgan, Out of the Box Thinking, Poetry, Speaker Series, Stacey Robertson, Third Thursday Thinks, Uncategorized, Wicked Smaht, Xavier Cavazos

Bringing Arts and Humanities into the Community with Porters, Stouts and Amber Ales

By Stacey Robertson

When my predecessor, Dr. Marji Morgan, issued a summons for greater interaction between the College of Arts and Humanities and the Ellensburg community, Associate Professor Jason Dormady of the our Department of History was one of the first to reply.

His response led to the creation of the “Wicked Smaht; Third Thursday Thinks” speaker series.


As described by Dr. Dormady, the Wicked Smaht talks are a partnership between the College of Arts and Humanities and Iron Horse Brewery, and serve as a conduit between the university and the City of Ellensburg.

Held in the back room of the craft brewery on Main Street, the talks are informal and most have participatory elements, and a little IPA, too.

“Getting off campus and going out into the community is something that’s beneficial for both the university and the Ellensburg community,” Dormady said.

According to Dr. Dormady, the name of the series, ‘Wicked Smaht’ was inspired by a line of dialogue from the film, Good Will Hunting.

In the film, the main character participates in an intellectual discussion in a bar, and is described by one of his friends as ‘wicked smaht.’

“This idea of people from the community and from the university (e.g. Town and Gown) getting together and having an intellectual exchange in a local craft brewery was our response,” Dormady said.


Free and open to everyone 21 or older, the talks have covered a wide range of subjects including subversive knitting, Irish World War I veterans, and music advocacy.

Last June as part of the series, I presented on the historic roots about the global phenomenon of modern-day slavery, a global crisis affecting 30 million people today.

The only requirement for speakers is they hail from the College of Arts and Humanities. Beyond that, faculty members may choose their topics.

“There is really no single theme… and I think that’s what the fun part of this is,” Dormady said. “The faculty speakers can talk about anything they want.

“For example, Xavier Cavazos from our Department of English led a fantastic participatory performance poetry. We had 20 people up, dancing around, while chanting poems.”


Each talk is an hour long with presenting faculty members usually taking the first half hour for a topic overview, leaving second half for Q&A. If it’s a workshop, then the hands-on portion takes the full hour with the faculty member moving throughout the room.

“We really discourage the use of Power Point … this program is not designed for lectures,” Dormady said. “It’s intended as ‘here are some ideas, now let’s talk about them.’ We generally say people have to rely on their own wit and wisdom to make things happen.”

The series is unique on campus, primarily because of its informal nature and its craft-brew and bar-food setting.

“I think the informality really sets it apart from formal classroom lecture,” Dormady said.

This month, Dr. Marji Morgan will lead a discussion about wine and champagne. Next January, the series will host Dr. Gary Weidenaar, our director of Choral Studies, as he leads a ‘beer choir.’


CAH faculty who are interested in presenting at Wicked Smaht are encouraged to contact Dr. Dormady at

Arts and Humanities, Central Washington University, College of Arts and Humanities, Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies, Faculty, Faculty Mentoring, Higher Education, Liberal Arts, Lifelong Learning, Out of the Box Thinking, Philosophy, Public Hospitals, Religious Studies, Uncategorized, Undergraduates

How A Philosophy Degree Leads to Career Success and Personal Fulfillment

By Stacey Robertson

There are three primary reasons to major in philosophy or religious studies: Earn more, score higher, love what you do.

The CWU College of Arts and Humanities Philosophy and Religious Studies Department believes students who want to succeed should choose one of its majors. The contention may raise an eyebrow or two, particularly as politicians have used Philosophy as a preferred example of a “useless” degree

“We need more welders and less philosophers,” said Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

With all due respect to welders, the evidence of demand for philosophers runs directly counter to Senator Rubio’s contention.

According to the 2015-2016 College Salary Report, a biochemistry major earns an annual salary of $43,400 in early career and $84,500 in mid-career. In comparison, a philosophy major starts at an average of $42,200 and reaches $85,000 by mid-career.

Pic 1

Philosophy majors are paid well because employers want talented people who can think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems. Moreover, for students who want to pursue a postgraduate degree, these skills also lead to excellent scores on professional and graduate exams. Philosophy students score second highest among all majors on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), fourth highest on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and top of the list among Humanities majors in the Graduate Record Examination test (GRE).

Part of the CWU Family for 13 Years …and Counting

Dr. Matthew Altman, who earned a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 2001, has served as our department chair for three years. Asked why students may opt for philosophy, Altman quickly replies that students love all aspects of the major. They develop the courage to question their own closely held beliefs. They learn how to defend their assertions. They position themselves for success in life and career.

pic 2

Before assuming his present position as department chair, Altman was the director of the William O. Douglas Honors College for six years. He now oversees the activities of 10 faculty members, who teach hundreds of students every quarter in both general education and advanced courses.

The department’s 130 majors and minors take courses in a wide variety of subjects including: Philosophy and Science Fiction; Philosophy of Law (e.g., same-sex marriage, juvenile executions, Nuremberg trials, Edward Snowden); Philosophy of Race (e.g., Black Lives Matter); Medical Ethics (physician-assisted suicide, health care, Terri Schiavo).

Similar to many of the disciplines offered by the CWU College of Arts and Humanities, philosophy is grounded in ancient history (e.g., Aristotle and Plato), advancing through hundreds of years (e.g., Descartes, Hegel, Kant), and arrives in the present day (e.g., Rawls, Nussbaum, Nagel). Courses cover many topics of modern relevance, including contemporary ethics, politics, and social theory.

According to Altman, great philosophers will always have important lessons for students. Aristotle taught us that philosophy begins in wonder. René Descartes said that in order to have well-founded beliefs, we need to build on a certain foundation: cogito, ergo sum, “I think therefore I am.” Immanuel Kant espoused that when it comes to ethics, we cannot make an exception of ourselves and that all people have inherent value.

pic 3

Equally relevant to today’s complex world is the field of religious studies. Issues related to religious history, meaning, and culture appear in the headlines nearly every day. Altman made it clear that his department does not teach religious theology, but provides a broad background for students to understand the interplay and relationship among the world religions.

Dr. Altman embraces the philosophy of serving one’s community. He was a member of the Ethics Committee at a local hospital from 2008-2015, and in fall 2015 he was elected to the Board of Commissioners for Kittitas County Public Hospital District No. 1 for a six-year term.

Clearly, it is misguided to say that philosophy and religious studies are useless, or that professors live in an ivory tower. The fields are alive and well: philosophy and religious studies graduates are employable, and the field is crucial to understanding and engaging with our ever-changing world.

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.


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.


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.


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.



21st Century Life, Arts and Humanities, College of Arts and Humanities, Higher Education, History, Liberal Arts, Lifelong Learning, Mentorship, Music, Out of the Box Thinking

The Power of a Brand

By Stacey Robertson

Central Washington University Music students are already benefitting from the expertise of one of our newest assistant professors, Dr. Mark Samples.

A musicologist, Dr. Samples examines how branding and promotion influenced the careers of some of the most familiar names in music history.

“Every composer or performer, who has gained wide attention and recognition, has either been a great self-promoter or had a champion,” Dr. Samples said. “Musicians have long been successful as entrepreneurs in a field that has historically been suspicious or even outright hostile to commercialism. In my scholarship, I provide a fuller account of how musicians have navigated this minefield both in the past and today.”

Jenny Lind was a Swedish vocalist, who captivated American audiences during her 1850 tour, thanks to the machinations of legendary promoter P.T. Barnum. Although the “Swedish Nightingale” was already an European star, she was relatively unknown in America, prior to her first tour. Thanks to Barnum’s public relations expertise, her first concert alone brought in $10,000 (1850-era valued dollars).


“Barnum’s pre-promotional campaign prepared the American public for Lind’s arrival by creating a clearly defined brand persona based upon three qualities: celebrity, artistry and charity,” said Dr. Samples.

Lind’s success involved more than Barnum and his hype machine. It certainly did not hurt that she was a talented singer, and many European musicians including renowned composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin were also in her corner.


Showman and businessman Barnum was not the first to become very successful in the entertainment business (e.g., “The Greatest Show on Earth) and certainly was not the last. Samples’ points to Richard Wagner and Igor Stravinsky as not only great composers, but reputable self-promoters in their own right.

What is a Musicologist?

Dr. Samples considers himself a cultural historian of music. The linkage to Communication and History is obvious, but keep in mind that he is also an accomplished musician in his own right. Though his main performance venue today is the classroom, he is adept at both the piano and the saxophone, and has played both instruments in school, jazz, pop and folk-rock bands as he grew up.

He received his undergraduate degree in Music Theory and Composition from Pt. Loma Nazarene University and his Ph.D in Musicology from the University of Oregon in 2011. He joined our faculty here at Central Washington University in 2015.

blog3Photo by Erin Zysett

Can a musician succeed on marketing alone?

Dr. Samples acknowledges that plenty of “shallow music,” succeeded because of excellent promotion. Conversely, there were undoubtedly many talented musicians who failed to develop a following because they did not have champions.

Dr. Samples hopes to provide our skilled musicians at Central with expertise in branding and promotion.

Teaching Today’s Musicians To Be Their Own Advocates

Technological breakthroughs from Gutenberg’s printing press to the digital world of the Internet have repeatedly transformed our world. All of these “disruptive technologies” made it infinitely easier to communicate, but also harder to break through the competing “noise.”

Dr. Samples is concerned that young musicians enter the job market with high levels of musical skill and experience, but a lack a complete set of complementary professional skills.

“Talent is essential, but talent alone is not enough to make a career in music,” said Dr. Samples. “It also takes diligent practice, great networking, the ability to know yourself as an artist and to tell your story effectively. These qualities are not only true for performers, but for music teachers as well.”

That’s why Dr. Samples uses his research to create workshops for student and professional musicians called, “Branding for Musicians.” The workshop teaches musicians how to discover their core artistic values, and has been presented at music schools across the country including SMU’s Meadows School for the Arts and most recently at the School of Music and Dance at the University of Oregon.

The workshop is also drawing interdisciplinary attention, demonstrating how the CWU College of Arts and Humanities mission can resonate outwards. At the University of Oregon, Dr. Samples’ workshop attracted a diverse audience.

“In addition to musicians, I had people from the School of Business, the Journalism school, two music festival administrators, and even one from the Department of Interior Architecture, all gathered in one place discussing music,” said Dr. Samples. “It was exhilarating.

“The real goal in my mind is not teaching musicians how to become famous. Instead I want to teach them smarter ways to organize their careers so they can get back to doing what they love, making music.”

With Dr. Samples’ expertise, CWU music students will be better equipped to advocate for their artistry, tell their own stories, and ultimately bring tremendous value to their audiences, students and communities.

To learn more about Dr. Samples’ work, please visit



21st Century Life, Arts and Humanities, College of Arts and Humanities, Higher Education, Liberal Arts, Lifelong Learning, Mentorship, Out of the Box Thinking

LaunchPad to Your Future

By Dean Stacey Robertson

Welcome to LaunchPad: The Official Blog of the Central Washington University College of Arts and Humanities.

We are excited about our future. We are even more energized about the prospects of our students, who we are empowering to lead enriched, rewarding and meaningful lives.

Upon assuming the position as the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, I was struck by the symbolism of the modernistic design of our Music Building, literally pointing upwards to the right, as if launching into space.


Some may not equate Arts and Humanities with innovation and propulsion. But the truth is that our college nurtures individual creativity and inspires intellectual achievement in an environment devoted to lifelong learning. This is the perfect atmosphere for groundbreaking momentum.

Consider our recent Distinguished Alum Bob Dohrmann. The imaginative boldness, intellectual depth, and strong sense of self he developed earning his BA in Art and MFA in Painting and Drawing at CWU helped lead him to a successful professorship at the University of Oklahoma and celebrated exhibitions of his art all over the world. Bob is joined by thousands of other proud College of Arts and Humanities graduates — teachers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, authors, journalists, politicians, lawyers, doctors, diplomats, and social activists — who rely on their education every single day.


To flourish in our ever-changing, always-on, fragmented, morally challenged, digital world, our students must be skilled in the ability to quickly calibrate difficult concepts, access multiple perspectives, communicate effectively, think creatively, and make ethical decisions.

Some may see Ellensburg as a sleepy college town lying in a beautiful valley immediately east of the Cascades. We envision Ellensburg as a learning center strategically positioned on the edge of the dynamic Pacific Rim. We empower our graduates to contribute to vibrant artistic and cultural communities, to participate in meaningful civic engagement, and to compete in this fast-moving marketplace of products and ideas.


Our Mission; Our Vision

Please take a moment to consider our vision statement:

The College of Arts and Humanities empowers ethically minded students to reach their creative, intellectual, and leadership potential.”

Now contemplate how our mission correlates with our overall objective of assisting students in reaching their full potential.

“Recognized for our unwavering commitment to high quality teaching and learning, the College of Arts and Humanities is at the heart of the success of Central Washington University. Our innovative and dynamic departments and programs challenge our students to build enduring skills for lifelong achievement through an emphasis on creative, analytical, and ethical thinking and communication.

We provide personalized mentorship; an inclusive, diverse, and cross-disciplinary curriculum; opportunities for research, creative activities, and service outside the classroom; and participation in a lively and stimulating community.

As our alumni can affirm, this rich educational environment provides the foundation for a rewarding personal life, a productive career, and a commitment to globally informed civic values.”

We believe our vision and mission promise a bold future for our students, our faculty, and our alums, who are much more than our legacy.

We are advancing. We are preparing and mentoring our students for lifelong learning. We are pioneer teachers, scholars, and artists. We value our pivotal position on the Pacific Rim and our unique point in time.

We are the Launchpad to Your Future.