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In This Issue

Reunite in Real Life at Back2Bellingham!

WWU grad featured on Bravo’s Kandi Factory

Western honors Dr. Marc Richards on May 4th

Ben Gibbard performs for sold-out crowd at WWU

Leading solar manufacturer looks to Western for workforce

Western launches RN-BSN program

Andrew Kositsky donation creates $50K endowment

Special things happen at WWU Alumni Events


Reunite in Real Life at Back2Bellingham!

Go offline and live up to your Facebook fame with fellow alumni, students, faculty, friends and family at Back2Bellingham, May 17-19!

Back2Bellingham is Western’s all-ages alumni and family reunion, accompanied by Spring into Western and parents’ weekend. All seven colleges, 17 departments and 21 clubs come together to put on more than 100 events for all ages happening across campus. The best part? Registration is only $12 and includes even more parties with food, beverages, carnival attractions, your entry into the Downtown Bash at Boundary Bay and a number of other discounts and privileges. Everyone will be there!

[ Register Now ]


WWU Grad featured on Bravo’s Kandi Factory

Watch Bravo’s Kandi Factory on April, 28 at 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT to see WWU alumna Lizzy VanPatten (’12 Math and Political Science and Social Studies) perform for Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Kandi Burruss.

Kandi Factory is a reality competition that pits two contestants against one another for a chance to film a music video and have the single released on iTunes. Burruss writes a song based on the contestant’s life and they perform it for Burruss and a panel of judges.

“I had the opportunity to work with an award winning Grammy artist, I’m not going to say no to that,” VanPatten said. “I wanted to do this because it was an opportunity for me to be heard on a large scale. I’ve always felt that if someone could hear me sing I could go somewhere. It would be my dream to perform and so having that chance is why I chose to do this.”

VanPatten said she earned her degree from WWU because she understood the difficulty of breaking into the music industry, but decided to pursue her dreams before choosing to settle down.

VanPatten’s song is titled “It Hurts to Walk Away” and deals with the issue of her relationship with her estranged mother. During the filming of the show, VanPatten called and talked with her mother for the first time in two years. She also began the process of reintegrating her mother back into her life.

VanPatten became involved with the show after receiving an email about auditioning by uploading a YouTube video. She felt there was no risk as uploading a YouTube video is free.

“It’s on Bravo so of course there will be a lot of drama, but there is also a lot of musical talent,” VanPatten said. “You really learn a lot about me and my struggles. I think the show gives you a chance to see what inspires people to sing. The music will entertain you, the drama makes you want to watch and the stories make you love us.”

To find out more about the Kandi Factory and Lizzy’s appearance on April 28, click here.


Western honors Dr. Marc Richards on May 4th

A public tribute to Dr. Marc Richards, beloved WWU history professor, will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 4th in Viking Union 565 to remember and honor his life.

Marc Richards passed away April 9th after a heroic and short battle with cancer. Marc maintained his sense of humanity, love of nature and humor to the end. He was a devoted friend to many, with numerous close bonds spanning decades. Marc will be remembered for his great heart, his uncanny insight into other's feelings, his devotion as a friend, his intellectual curiosity, his adventurous spirit, wacky sense of humor that so reliably lifted spirits, his love of teaching and his loyalty to the Red Sox. He was an inspiration for lives lived with intention and with meaning.

In his 15 year WWU career, Dr. Richards taught more than 8,000 WWU students, primarily in History 103 and 104. Aside from being regarded as one of Western’s most popular professors, Marc’s teaching was also honored in the Center for Instructional Innovation’s Teaching Showcase in 2002.

Students and alumni had this to say about Dr. Richards:

“Dr. Richards is an amazingly cool guy. If you really want an awesome conversation, just go chat with him during his office hours.”

“Richards is hands down THE BEST professor I have had at Western. His style of teaching is different than any other history teacher I’ve ever had. He made me enjoy history and I always hated it before.”

“By far my favorite professor. He has a great sense of humor, great pace and is approachable. It is evident that he really cares about the students and the topic. My class was at 9 a.m. and I never missed a day!”

“I had the opportunity to take Mr. Richards History class and I can by far say it was the best class I took at Western. He made History come alive and every day I could picture the stories. Such a great guy.”

“Dr. Richards was one of the most passionate, caring and kind professors I've had the privilege of getting to know at Western.”

“This man is an inspiration.”

If you have a story or memory to share, please do so here and it will be entered into a book to be displayed at his tribute.


Ben Gibbard performs for sold-out crowd at WWU

WWU alumnus Ben Gibbard (’98) gave a special performance to a sold-out crowd at the PAC Concert Hall on March 3rd. The Bellingham show was added to his tour promoting his solo album, Former Lives. Gibbard is the frontman for the Grammy-nominated group Death Cab for Cutie (the band he started while attending Western), and The Postal Service.

Photo by WWU alumnus Paul Isreal ('09).


Leading solar company looks to Western for workforce

As machines hummed and whirled in the large warehouse and employees busied about at their workstations, it’s hard to imagine itek Energy – the leading solar manufacturer in the state of Washington – as a small business.

But with only 20 employees, it’s not surprising most are between the ages of 20 to 25 and hail from Western Washington University as graduates or current students – including several members of Western’s 2013 National Association of Intercollegiate Hockey Championship team.

Karl Untershuetz, business development, said because solar is a young industry in Washington, itek would like to hire more flexible problem solvers who can adapt to changing technology and production capabilities. The company looks to Western to find those people.

Company history
Founder John Flanagan started itek Energy in 2009 looking for ways to maximize solar panel efficiency in the Pacific Northwest. He spent the first three years researching ways to make solar energy a viable option in Washington. Working with local Whatcom engineers and designers, itek managed to manufacture panels that could withstand record setting snows of the North Cascades, strong persistent winds and diffused light. In its first year of production, itek built 7,000 solar panels.

In 2012, the company sold about 500 to 1,000 solar panels per month and expects the amount to double as the ideal seasons for solar is yet to begin during spring and summer.

The company expanded beyond the solar panels, partnering with Exeltech to manufacture inverters. Inverters convert the direct current (DC) of a photovoltaic solar panel to alternating current (AC) that can be fed to an electrical grid to enable the use of appliances.

According to Untershuetz, the partnership with Exeltech works to the benefit of their Washington customers by earning more state incentives. Power customers can earn up to $5,000 annually in incentives and sales tax exemptions when purchasing solar equipment made in Washington. Washington-produced panels and inverters earn customers 54 cents per kilowatt hour.

For more information, visit the itek website.


Western launches RN-BSN program

It’s been more than 20 years since Western offered a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, but starting fall 2013, the program will be in full swing with its first cohort group. 

Assistant Professor Jill Mount said the RN-BSN program will initially accept approximately 30 to 40 students who have already completed their pre-licensure RN (Registered Nurse) studies and passed the state board examination.

Through the cohort model, all the students will be admitted together and progress in all their classes together.

“The cohort model will really work well considering how difficult these classes are,” Mount said. “It creates a learning community, people you know and can talk to.”

Unlike other classes offered at Western, nursing students will meet one day a week – on Wednesday – for eight hours to cater to nurses who have full-time jobs and families. The program is five quarters long for full-time students and nine quarters for part-time students, all beginning in fall quarter.

While creating the curriculum for the nursing program, Interim Program Director Mary Baroni reached out to both the Western faculty members and the community. She collaborated with the directors of nursing at Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College and Skagit Valley. In addition, she also sought out a clinical nurse specialist at Peace Health St. Joseph’s, biology professor Janice Lapsansky and anthropology professor M.J. Mosher (also a nurse).

“We are trying to make it a rigorous and relevant program,” Mount said. “They figured out a curriculum that would fit this (Whatcom) community.”

Currently, Baroni and Mount are the only nursing faculty members. Mount said they are looking to hire a permanent director for the program since Baroni is a visiting professor from University of Washington Bothell.

For many students tuition is an influencing factor. Mount said the program is currently a self-sustaining program and does not receive state funding. She encourages prospective students to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and supplement by applying to as many scholarships as they can find.

Looking to the future
Mount said because the colleges in the area have good nursing programs in place, Western will not be working to create a generic four-year degree program for nursing. The alternative paths the program could evolve to include the “one plus two plus one program” where students could earn a dual admission to Western and a community college. Attend a year at Western, two years at community college to work on clinical class and complete the final year at Western.

Although she does not know when the one plus two plus one program would be introduced, she hopes in five years, Western will have a Master of Science in Nursing. Less than one percent of nurses continue to pursue a master’s degree.


Andrew Kositsky donation creates $50K endowment

Andrew Kositsky (pictured) did not graduate from Western, but he credits this University with changing the course of his life. When he was a freshman at Ferndale High School, he felt that he was not being challenged enough academically and his intellectual capacity was not being stimulated. He was fascinated with science and mathematics, and quickly exhausted the opportunities available to him at the high school level.

In the summer following the ninth grade, he took a few classes at Whatcom Community College. Then during his sophomore year, his high school guidance counselor suggested that he reach out to Western to see if there was any opportunity for him there. In April 2002, as a high school junior, Kositsky began taking a few classes at Western, including pre-Calculus and Spanish. In his words, he had finally found his “community of learners.”

Kositsky went into his senior year of high school taking the year-long 100-level honors Chemistry sequence at Western. After graduation from high school, he went on to study at Caltech, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Planetary Science.

“I was looking for a faster pace of learning, an increased academic rigor and a general higher pace, not specific subjects,” Kositsky said.

Kositsky, now 27, lives in the Houston area and works in the oil industry as a geophysical processor. He looks at seismic data of the subsurface structure of the earth to help his company find hydrocarbons underground.

While Andrew was not a graduate of Western, he says, “I very fondly remember Western. My most critical intellectual development happened there.”

Andrew recently made a multi-year pledge to provide $50,000 to establish a scholarship. The first priority for the scholarship will be for high school students, who like him, wanted to attend college while in high school but need financial aid in order to do so. If there aren’t any students who fit those criteria in a given year, his scholarship will be awarded to low-income students interested in studying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. “I want to help others alleviate their financial burdens, because Western was such a formative place for me.”

“For a variety of reasons, it’s uncommon for us to receive such significant pledges from donors under the age of 30,” said Angela Vandenhaak, a development director at Western who worked with Kositsky to appropriately target his gift. “In addition, Andy did not graduate from Western. These two factors contribute to the growing understanding that so many people find tremendous value in the education provided at Western, and they want to make it accessible to others. We are moved and very grateful to Andy for this creative and generous gift.”


Special things happen at WWU Alumni Events

Cory Ragan got a little help from WWU alumnus Chris Waldron to pop the question to his girlfriend, Alexandra Evans, at our Zoolights event.


Luke Carpenter chose WWU Night at the Portland Trail Blazers as his platform to ask Amanda Dunbar (’11) a very important question.


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