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from Washington State Magazine

Stories from Washington State Magazine—connecting you to Washington State University, the state, and the world. We’ll take you into the lives, research, and experiences of the WSU community, where Cougs from all over talk with us about everything from new ideas and fascinating memories to books and food.

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Season 2
September 15, 2023
Tongues of Fire: Poetry and piano
Episode 24

Eric McElroy is an American pianist and composer who released his debut album, Tongues of Fire, in March 2023 on Somm Recordings. He wrote the songs to accompany poems from modern poets W.S. Merwin, Gregory Leadbetter, Grevel Lindop, Alice Oswald, and Robert Graves. The poems are sung by acclaimed English tenor James Gilchrist and McElroy performs on piano.

McElroy graduated from Washington State University and then continued his postgraduate education in Vienna and Oxford University.

In this episode, Washington State Magazine editor Larry Clark talks with McElroy about the new album, his creative process, poetry, walking, and his influences at WSU and beyond.

July 27, 2023
More than a kick
Episode 23

Dean Janikowski is the kicker for Washington State University’s football team, a 2022 graduate and currently an MBA student at WSU. He also has a great time on Instagram and other social media with photos and videos playing football for the Cougs, riding dirt bikes, and kicking spicy Chicken McNuggets.

In this episode, Dean talks with Washington State Magazine writer Becky Kramer about raising money for the Heather Janikowski Foundation, a charity named for his mom, who died of cancer.

Dean also talks about how he started his sports career in soccer, NIL (name, image, and likeness), and his side gig as a social media influencer.

You can follow Dean Janikowski on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok.


July 14, 2023
Kellie Zimmerman, Brightloom, and adventures in tech
Episode 22

Kellie Zimmerman (’01 Busi.) is no stranger to the Seattle tech scene. And she’s on a new adventure in the industry.

She spent over 15 years building and leading teams in companies such as Concur and Avalara.

Zimmerman is now CEO of Bellevue-based startup Brightloom, which leverages AI and data to help restaurants such as El Pollo Loco, Ruby Tuesday, and Jamba Juice accelerate their marketing and customer engagement.

In this episode of Viewscapes, she talks about the twists and turns of the tech industry and her career after graduating in 2001 from Washington State University’s Carson College of Business, with an emphasis in Management Information Systems.

Zimmerman returned to the world of startups when she joined Brightloom in 2020.


May 30, 2023
James Donaldson’s gift of life
Episode 21

James Donaldson had a great college and professional basketball career, a physical therapy business, and many aspirations, even in retirement from sports.

But over the course of several years, illness, bankruptcy, divorce, and circumstances in life sent Donaldson into a dark mental spiral. He found his way back, writing a book about his struggles and starting a foundation to help others.

In this episode, Donaldson talks with magazine associate editor Adriana Janovich about his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, his recovery and memoir, and his desire to help other men, especially men of color, who face the same darkness.

Donaldson, a 1979 alum of Washington State University, also talks about his WSU and NBA basketball career, influential coaches George Raveling and Lenny Wilkens, and how the suicide of WSU football player Tyler Hilinski shook him to the core so much that he sought help.



Standing Tall” (Profile of Donaldson in the Spring 2022 issue of Washington State Magazine)

Celebrating Your Gift of Life: From the Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy (Donaldson’s 2021 book)

Your Gift of Life (A nonprofit foundation for mental health awareness started by Donaldson)

Video and more stories about Donaldson at Washington State Magazine

April 28, 2023
No obstacles for this global nomad
Episode 20

Tom Haig (’09 Comm.) loves adventure. From his high-flying diving days of youth to his recovery from a bicycling accident that left him paralyzed, Haig keeps on moving.

He chronicles his life, struggles, and triumphs in a new memoir from WSU Press, Global Nomad: My Travels through Diving, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Haig writes with wit and candor about the ups and downs of adventure, culminating in his new career as a documentary filmmaker.

In this episode, Haig talks with Washington State Magazine editor Larry Clark about reinventing his life, writing his book, and where he’s going next.



Read a review of Global Nomad (Washington State Magazine, Summer 2023)

Wheeling new heights” (Profile of Haig in Washington State Magazine, Spring 2018)

Buy the book at WSU Press

March 30, 2023
Ethics and AI art
Episode 19

ChatGPT, DALL-E, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion—names that most of us hadn’t heard more than a couple of years ago now represent a slew of creative programs powered by artificial intelligence.

Large language model AI programs can write stories and articles, make illustrations and artwork, and converse with users using prompts. But what does it mean for human artists and writers? Will AI steal jobs and creative works? How should people approach the thorny ethical thicket around AI-generated art?

Mark Fagiano, a philosopher and instructor at Washington State University, talks with Larry Clark, editor of Washington State Magazine, about how ethics in action and pragmatism can help people examine not only AI art, but any rapidly evolving technology and issues in society.


Read more: “When will artificial intelligence really pass the test?” and “AI for wildlife conservation—from an AI”  (Spring 2023)

February 20, 2023
An American adventure: Helen Szablya in her own words
Episode 18

Helen Szablya’s recent memoir details her escape from Communism in her native Hungary, her time at Washington State University, and then her roles as an honorary consul to Hungary.

Szablya and her family fled their home country of Hungary and its Communist regime in a harrowing journey under the cover of night in 1956.

They traveled to Austria, Canada, and then to Pullman, Washington, where Helen received a degree, her husband John was an engineering professor, and they raised their family.

She tells the full story in the second volume of her memoir, From Refugee to Consul. Adriana Janovich, associate editor of Washington State Magazine, talked with her about the amazing journey and her experiences along the way.


Read about Szablya (’76 For. Lang.) and her epic journey in a review of From Refugee to Consul.

December 6, 2022
Empire of Ice and Stone: A chat with author Buddy Levy
Episode 17

The treacherous Arctic is the setting of a harrowing true story of shipwreck, disaster, and survival in the early twentieth century. Acclaimed adventure writer Buddy Levy, also a creative writing and English professor at Washington State University, talks with Washington State Magazine associate editor Adriana Janovich about his latest book, Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk.

The second of three nonfiction historical narratives by master storyteller Levy about survival and exploration in the Arctic wilderness, this book tracks the voyage of the Karluk to the Bering Sea and its destruction in the ice, leaving crew, Inuit guides, and passengers to struggle for their lives.

In this episode, Levy talks about this captivating story of endurance, his inspiration for Arctic tales, research process—and a teaser for his third Arctic adventure book in progress, which takes to the skies.



Watch for a full review of Levy’s book, Empire of Ice and Stone, in the Spring 2023 issue of Washington State Magazine.

November 11, 2022
Art experiences and happiness: a visit to the museum
Episode 16

Can experiencing art improve your wellbeing? What better way to answer that question than to visit an art museum at Washington State University.

Ryan Hardesty, executive director of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU, takes Washington State Magazine editor Larry Clark on a tour of the museum in WSU Pullman’s Crimson Cube. They have plenty to discuss about how people benefit from seeing, hearing, and experiencing art as they visit the exhibits—including Trimpin’s sound sculpture, Keiko Hara’s works of landscapes and dreams, Juventino Aranda’s powerful explorations of identity and home, and Irwin Nash’s photographs of Latino lives in migrant worker communities of the Yakima Valley.


See the exhibits and find out how to visit the museum at

Read more about art and happiness in “The joy of handiwork” in the Fall 2022 issue of the magazine.

November 4, 2022
A boatload of ideas for fungi
Episode 15

There are a million things to do with fungi, from boats to book covers to medicine for bees. Katy Ayers, a Washington State University student and avowed mycophile has done some pretty amazing things with mushrooms and fungi, including a world record canoe and homes for bees.

In this episode, we talk with the bioengineering and biochemistry major about her many ideas, the fungal revolution, and that famous MyConoe.


Read more about fungi saving the bees, helping plants, and modeling a way to make biofuel stock in “It’s fungi to the rescue,” Winter 2022 issue.

October 19, 2022
Larkin Campbell: A view from the middle
Episode 14

Larkin Campbell calls himself an unknown actor. Now the Washington State University alum takes us behind the scenes of a life in Hollywood, not as a celebrity but as someone who loves the industry even if only a few recognize him.

In this episode, Larkin talks about his WSU memories, getting into the acting business, and playing Coach Shane in the 125th episode of The Office, as husband of the girlfriend of main character Michael Scott.


Read about Larkin’s hilarious memoir, A View from the Middle: How an Unknown Actor Managed to Stay That Way, in the Summer 2022 issue.

July 11, 2022
Blanca Blanco breaks the mold
Episode 13

Actress, model, and author Blanca Blanco grew up around Chelan in north-central Washington state. Her parents from Mexico—her dad was a farmworker and her mom took care of peoples’ kids—had very little money, but Blanco had big dreams for her future.

In her recent memoir, Blanco tells her story of tenacity and determination, how she went from a tough youth to graduating from Washington State University with a psychology degree, and finally to a career in Hollywood.

In this episode, she talks with Washington State Magazine associate editor Adriana Janovich about her childhood in Chelan, time at WSU Pullman, acting career, and writing her memoir during the pandemic lockdown.

Read about Blanco and her book in the Summer 2022 issue of Washington State Magazine.



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