First-Year Team

Karen Weathermon

Karen Weathermon, director of First-Year Programs.

First-Year Programs

About Karen

“What is your major going to be?” It’s a question first-year students are asked all the time. Finding the area of study that speaks to your passions and abilities will certainly be a central part of your university experience. But WSU also offers an amazing breadth of opportunities that will surround, broaden, and deepen the major you choose. Making connections—to people, to resources, to experiences, and to a wide array of perspectives—is my passion and also my goal for WSU students. Your first year at WSU is when you begin exploring all the connections that will make you a person who can act with creativity and ingenuity in our complex world. We in First-Year Programs welcome you on this journey of rich connections and exciting possibilities!

Weathermon is passionate about, and long experienced in, the field of education. With a background that includes secondary and university teaching, she has developed and/or directed a number of WSU programs over a quarter-century that serve all undergraduates, regardless of major or grade. The foundation for her work has been her conviction that learning is about building connections.

Education is sort of a family tradition for Weathermon. Both her parents were teachers; her father was superintendent of schools in Pullman, and in the Philippines at the International School Manila, where she graduated.

The International Baccalaureate courses at ISM inspired her. They brought topics to life by focusing on complex issues from multiple disciplinary perspectives that proved to be “fascinating, exhilarating, and challenging,” she says. For example, Sophocles’s tragedy “Oedipus Rex” was illuminated by simultaneous lessons on ancient Greek history and architecture as well as modern archaeology and dramatics.

“It took many years for me to fully understand the impact that groundwork has had on my teaching and administrative philosophy. Simply stated, I believe that learning is a connective act, and that the art of teaching and administrating is fostering a multitude of connections.” She believes more than ever in this purposeful teaching strategy: integrated learning.

Weathermon cultivated her appreciation of integrated learning throughout her own higher education. As an undergraduate at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., she completed her general education requirements through an integrated studies program in addition to earning her B.A. in English. She pursued graduate education at WSU, earning her M.A. and Ph.D. in English with emphases in composition, rhetoric, and American literature.

Her continuing interests in integrated learning are evidenced throughout her career with the nationally ranked WSU Writing Program and general education/university common requirements programs, and most recently with First-Year Programs.

Since 2006, she has led the WSU First-Year Focus living-learning community program while also co-directing the university’s inaugural Common Reading Program. Both focus on learning experiences for freshmen within and beyond classrooms, incorporating collaborative roles for professors, librarians, and residence hall staff. This multitude of connections create the structure for freshmen to have a more holistic and integrated entry into college, while also affording professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. Both programs are also key parts of the WSU First-Year Experience.

Her pioneering and successful efforts at WSU have drawn national attention. She was invited to a seat on the new Washington Learning Communities Consortium (of which she is now a co-chair), membership on the editorial board of the Learning Communities Research and Practice peer-reviewed e-journal, and membership on the Common Readings advisory board for Penguin Random House Academics.

In 2012, she received a national award as Outstanding First-Year Advocate from the National Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

In addition to her passion for her work at WSU, Weathermon also enjoys being an active citizen of the university, attending—often with her 14-year-old son—a wide variety of university events, lectures, and performances. “A university like WSU presents a whole universe of ideas,” she says, “and it is exciting to continue to learn, enjoy, and be changed by so many opportunities!”

Cynthia Williams

Cynthia Williams, associate director of First-Year Programs.

Associate Director, First-Year Programs
Program Director, First-Year Success Seminar

About Cynthia

Cynthia currently manages the UNIV 104: First-Year Success Seminar courses and teaches general and specialty sections. She serves on the Common Reading Selection committee and WSU’s Creative Corridor team, which co-hosts with Adobe, the 104 Adobe Creative Jam semester competitions.

For over thirty-years, Cynthia has served in various roles within college administration, student affairs, and academic affairs at Washington State University. Her research agenda and professional practice focus on career and technical teaching and learning in higher education, college student transitions, positive psychology, and organizational change.

Williams earned her Ph.D. in Education and certificate in Human Resource Development from the University of Idaho, an Ed.M. in Higher Education Administration from Washington State University, and a dual BA in Management Information Systems and Decision Sciences from Washington State University.

Favorite inspirational quote: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending” — C.S. Lewis