Heritage University announces 2019 Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholarship recipients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University announces 2019 Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholarship Recipients

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is proud to announce the 2019-20 academic year recipients of the Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholarship. This year’s cohort and their high schools or programs are as follows:

Elian Coria Brito – Granger High School
Heidy Lemus – Sunnyside High School
Arely Padilla – West Valley High School
Paola Villanueva – Sunnyside High School
Alejandra Morales – GED Program at Heritage University

The Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholarship, first awarded in 2018, is Heritage University’s most competitive scholarship.  It provides for the full cost of attendance, including tuition, books, and room and board for up to four years of study to earn a bachelor’s degree in any of the university’s more than 40-degree programs. The scholarship is awarded annually to five incoming students.  This year’s cohort will join last year’s inaugural cohort. In two years, and in perpetuity, there will be a cohort of 20 Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholars on campus in any given year.

Many of the recipients, including Heidy Lemus of Sunnyside High School, learned she received the scholarship during a surprise visit to her school by Heritage admissions counselors accompanied by several of her family members. “I was so happy to learn I received the Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholarship! I worked so hard to earn this opportunity,” said Lemus.

The Moccasin Lake Foundation is a private not-for-profit organization which seeks to enrich Northwest communities through its charitable contributions. Lisa P. Anderson, President of the Moccasin Lake Foundation, says the endowment created at Heritage by the foundation will provide scholarship funding for deserving students for generations.  “I’m excited to watch these students grow, learn, and graduate,” said Anderson. “It will be very rewarding to then see the amazing things they accomplish in their careers and their lives for the good of their communities.”

Dr. Andrew Sund, President of Heritage University, says he is enthusiastic about the opportunity this scholarship presents to students.  “This gift makes college possible for these five deserving students, and for that, we are truly thankful. It is the generosity of our entire family of supporters that allows us to make higher education accessible to so many promising individuals in our valley. We are grateful for each and every gift- together we are transforming the lives of students, their families and the communities in which they live.”

For more information, contact David Mance, Media Relations Coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@heritage.edu.

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Coming Full Circle

 

Freshman Connie Batin was scrolling through her Facebook news feed when an announcement caught her eye and changed her life. It was a post about Heritage’s new Full Circle Scholarship, a guaranteed award for enrolled Yakama tribal members who have not previously attended Heritage that covers the cost of tuition at the university.

It had been 20 years since Batin had been in school. In that time she raised seven children, built a career working for the Yakama Nation, and served on the Washington State Health Advisory Council. She had long wanted to go to college, but something always seemed to get in her way— most often it was the expense. When she saw the message, she knew that it was time to get moving.

“Every excuse I had ever had that stopped me from going to college to get my degree was gone,” she said. “I was inspired.”

Connie Batin started her first semester of college with three classes: English, math and a drawing elective.

Batin is one of a dozen new Yakama college students who started at Heritage in January because of the Full Circle Scholarship. Most are nontraditional students who, like Batin, had long dreamed of earning their degree, but were unable to afford the gap left between traditional financial aid – federal and state grants – tribal scholarships and the cost of tuition. These students are exactly why the scholarship was formed, said David Wise, vice president for Advancement.

“Heritage sits on the Yakama’s ancestral lands. We were formed by the vision and tenacity of two Yakama women. Our history and our future are tied to the people and the prosperity of the Yakama Nation,” he said. “Heritage is honoring our relationship with the Yakama Nation the best way we can, by providing educational opportunities for its citizens. The Full Circle Scholarship removes what is one of the biggest barriers that keep tribal members from going to college, the expense.”

The establishment of the Full Circle Scholarship was driven, in large part, by Heritage’s President’s Liaison for Native American Affairs, Maxine Janis.

“Maxine is one of the biggest advocates for our Native American students and was steadfast in her efforts to get this scholarship established,” he said.

The university works closely with the Yakama Nation’s Department of Higher Education to ensure that the application and selection process runs smoothly. The scholarship is open to enrolled Yakama tribal members who have to also apply for scholarships from the Yakama Nation and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Elese Washines (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

“Heritage University is the first choice for Yakama students pursuing Higher Education,” said Elise Washines, program manager at Yakama Nation Higher Education Programs. “the university’s commitment to putting students first, to helping them achieve academically is demonstrated year after year with the number of Yakama students graduating from Heritage exceeding any other 2-year or 4-year college. With the Full Circle Scholarship in place, our students will be able to obtain their educations with full tuition support of both the University and Yakama Nation Higher Education.”

Initially, Heritage administration planned on launching the scholarship for fall semester 2019. But when word got out, the response was so overwhelming that they went into high gear and opened it up for a spring start. Given the timing of some of the requirements, applicants have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as well as apply for the two Yakama Nation scholarships, the window to apply was only a few short weeks. Still, Batin and her fellow cohorts of incoming students jumped at the opportunity.

“I called the university the next day and started my application,” she said. “The whole process was great. Everyone, the admission counselors, my financial aid officer, were so helpful and made sure that I was getting everything done that I needed to do to start college.

Now, two decades after opening a textbook, Batin is fulfilling a dream and a promise made.

“I’m doing this to honor my mother. She would always say ‘You need to go to school. When are you going to go to school? I would tell her ‘I’ll do it someday.’ I’m so glad someday is here. I know she’d be proud of me.”

Student for a Day – Trading Briefcases for Backpacks

Washington State Senator Curtis King

There was a different kind of student roaming Heritage’s campus and classrooms last fall. This one had already earned his degree and had built a lengthy and impressive career of service. It was Washington State Senator Curtis King, and it was his time to dust off the old book bag and don the college colors as he was a Student for a Day at Heritage University.

Student for a Day is a new program at Heritage that gives university supporters a first-hand account of the day in the life of HU students. Participants spend several hours with students, attending classes, having lunch in the café, or participating in any one of the on- campus activities. The goal, said David Wise, vice president for Advancement, is to give some of the university’s greatest supporters a deeper understanding of the academic experience that students undertake here at Heritage.

“Our supporters are committed to Heritage because of the students we serve,” said Wise. “They are truly interested in them, their goals, and their experiences at this institution. There is no better way for them to connect with our students than by spending time with them here on campus and in the classroom.”

The Student for a Day experience includes one-on-one time spent with students.

King’s visit was the first in what Wise hopes will become a regular occurrence at Heritage.

During his visit, the senator sat in on a fisheries course with a few environmental studies and sciences majors. After class, he sat with them for lunch and got to learn a bit more about their lives and hopes for the future.

“It was a great experience getting to see what happens inside the classroom, getting insights into the professor and how he reaches the students,” said King. “And mostly, it was great to be able to connect with the students, to hear about what inspires them, how they see life and where they want to go after college.”

King’s visit included just one classroom visit, but, he said, next time he’d like to expand that and visit two or three. With the flexibility of the program, King could do just that. Wise points out that his goal is to connect supporters in ways that are most meaningful. Classes can be chosen based on interest area, as can the duration of time spent on campus.

 

Senator King got to know more about salmonids, fish such as salmon and trout, during Dr. Alexander Alexiades’ Intro to Fisheries class.

“We are striving to build an authentic experience with Student for a Day,” Wise said. “Each participant’s experience will be unique. What you will experience in the classroom will depend upon the scheduled activity of that day, whether it is a lecture on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien or a science lab looking at simple-celled organisms.”

To learn how you can participate in the Student for a Day program, call (509) 865-0700.

Quizfolio: Innovation Through Introspection

Dr. Robert Kao teaches biology Jan. 22, 2019 at Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

Dr. Robert Kao leads his Biology 111 class through their lab exercise. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

Weekend homework in Dr. Robert Kao’s biology class looks a little different than other science classes. There are chapter readings and typical quiz questions about scientific terminology and functions. But using an innovative tool he developed called “quizfolio,” students are also asked to broaden their thinking by reflecting on and then writing about challenges, reactions and questions the material generates inside themselves.

Dr. Kao was inspired to create quizfolio through his own experiences as a student a few years earlier studying for a certification in Native American education. As part of his coursework, he was encouraged to journal and spend time thinking about his own thought processes, a term called metacognition. It’s a discipline he still uses every day, to grow in self- awareness about the personalized needs and experiences of those within his classroom and how he’s addressing them.

“I wanted to listen to our students about how they think and find ways to connect with individual learners.”

QUIZFOLIO QUESTIONS ENCOURAGE INTROSPECTION AND CLASSROOM DISCUSSION

Quizfolio is aptly named because it’s both a quiz and a mini-portfolio of open-ended questions based on the homework. Assigned every Friday, quizfolios are completed over the weekend and turned in on Monday before class, influencing class discussion. Students are asked to reflect on what they are learning and to recognize it’s okay to feel vulnerable when you don’t know all of the answers. He regularly reminds his classes that all scientists have vulnerable moments when they don’t know the answers and are unsure how to find them.

“Many times, when reading a text or analyzing data, something doesn’t quite make sense,” explained Dr. Kao. “It’s hard to admit we don’t know something. Some students might have a particular term that doesn’t make sense to them. Others have another. The quizfolio helps me realign and re-adjust so I can clarify the chapter readings and create more meaning for individual students.”

Vanessa Tahkeal (left) and Maria Soto review their biology lab work. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

He’s quick to point out that he doesn’t regurgitate what he’s already taught, however. He presents new information to make the material clear and relevant to them, whether it’s relating it to lived experiences in the communities of Toppenish or the Yakama Nation or in the wider world. If a student wonders how doctors develop chemotherapy, Dr. Kao might bring in a real-world example to explain the concept. Or create a quiz question on the spot, based on the class discussion. This tool provides the doctor with real-time insights into student comprehension and confidence that allows him to reshape that learning experience as he goes to meet their needs and build resiliency.

One week, students may be asked to watch a video on a first- generation scientist and write a reflection on it. Another week, they are assigned reading and writing prompts about the challenge of managing acute kidney malfunction, and then they go into the lab to study planaria, an organism that regenerates its own tissue.

“In that example, we used the quizfolio as an entry point to delve into the molecular and cellular machinery of how different organisms regenerate upon injury,” continued Dr. Kao.

QUIZFOLIO RESHAPES CLASSROOM CONVERSATION, LAB EXPERIMENTS

Considered a community of scholars, with Dr. Kao himself a member of that dynamic community, students regularly work together in teams, building relationships of trust with one another while learning to use their voices to speak up and to, conversely, take notice of the unique voices of other students.

The quizfolio often serves as a stepping-stone for the classroom teams to design their own experiments to rule-in or rule-out different possibilities. Dr. Kao knows not every student will become a scientific scholar, but he points out that critical thinking skills apply far beyond biology… into areas like test taking and later, into the students’ careers.

Dr. Kao uses quizfolio in about half of his classes and is gratified to see the level of sophistication it has developed in his upper-level students as they formulate research proposals and plot their career path.

“The quizfolio fosters student curiosity and teaches them it’s ok to ask questions,” said Dr. Kao. “The questions they are asking are questions even scientists might ask! It’s pretty neat to see that. It’s part of a journey, not the destination.”

15 Years of Heritage + CBC

Adjunct professor Alex Nelson with his Human Behavior in the Social Environment class

Senior and education major Christy Jo Taylor dreamed of becoming a teacher since she was a little girl. She’s committed to that goal.

Every day, she drives an hour each way from her home in rural Othello, Washington to attend her Heritage classes on the Columbia Basin College (CBC) campus in Pasco. Four years ago, when she first started her academic journey, she had no idea how she was going to complete her studies after she earned her associate degree. The nearest university was more than 200 miles away, which meant she would either have to move or spend four hours a day on the road. Still, she took that first step and enrolled at CBC. It was there that Taylor learned about a partnership between the community college and Heritage that meant that Adjunct professor Alex Nelson with his Human Behavior in the Social Environment class she could continue her education right there, on the campus she knew so well.

“I saw a sign for Heritage, and I went over to the office to see what degrees they offered,” said Taylor. “I was surprised to see they had an education program, and I was thankful I didn’t have to travel to WSU, which is so far.”

Heritage University and CBC are celebrating 15 years of working together to provide access to higher education to students in central Washington. It’s a partnership that has led to hundreds of students like Taylor following their dreams and building careers in social work, teaching, criminal justice, psychology and accounting. At Heritage University on the Tri-Cities campus, students can earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees in their desired fields. In short, this successful partnership between CBC and Heritage has strengthened both schools – by bringing more degree options to students in the Tri-Cities.

PARTNERSHIP FORGED THROUGH THE DEDICATION OF SISTERS AT FORT WRIGHT COLLEGE

Heritage’s commitment to providing access to bachelor’s and master’s degrees to communities far from its Toppenish campus goes back to before the university was formed. It started with its predecessor institution, Fort Wright College, which was operated by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

The university’s founding president, Sr. Kathleen Ross, was then the provost of Fort Wright. She and her fellow sisters discovered that students from Omak, Washington, a rural community nearly three hours away, were driving to Spokane to study to become teachers. The need for teachers was high in the community, but there were no local options for higher education. The college opened up a small, regional degree program where students could earn their education degree in their hometown. They operated a similar program in Toppenish. When Fort Wright closed, Heritage was formed. Ross took on the presidency of the new institution. Heritage started in Toppenish and kept the satellite campus in Omak. It was the start of a core commitment that ultimately led to the Heritage and CBC partnership.

PARTNER WITH THE SAME GOAL – BRING EDUCATION TO THE UNDERSERVED

Over the years, as the university grew and deepened its roots in the Yakima Valley, then president of CBC, Rich Cummins, noticed that much of what the university was accomplishing— providing access to higher education to underserved communities—was precisely what CBC was doing. However, he noticed that many of his CBC graduates didn’t continue into bachelor’s degree programs, even though they were well prepared and had all of the prerequisites.

Dr. Matt Kincaid helps a student during his Business Ethics course taught on the CBC campus.

“When you are a community college, you see there are just some in your population who won’t transfer because they are place-bound. So we tried to figure out different options for degree completion,” he said.

Cummins and the Vice President of Administration at the time, Bill Saraceno, approached Heritage with an innovative offer: CBC would provide space to Heritage to establish a satellite location on their campus and in

exchange, Heritage would grant scholarships to CBC employees to those who wanted to enroll at the university. This trade-off was made necessary because CBC was a public college and couldn’t offer taxpayer resources free of charge. And Heritage, as a private college, simply couldn’t afford to open a new location. This creative plan benefited both institutions and was given the green light by the state.

“Whenever you start a business endeavor like expanding into a new community, you need entrepreneurial capital,” explained Cummins. “CBC was able to solve that. Heritage didn’t have to build or rent a building, and the staff ROI was instant because there was immediate enrollment. For our part, as a public institution, our buildings largely go unused in the evenings, so we had an interest in making sure they were well-used and filled with students who could become successful with our help. It’s a pretty darn good model!”

STUDENTS SUPPORTED IN TRANSITION TO HU CLASSES

Today, the relationship between CBC and Heritage has flourished and grown with 152 students enrolled on the Heritage Tri-Cities campus. Social work and education majors have usually been the most popular, with more than 50 students enrolled in each program this year. As workforce needs evolve and students express a desire for other majors, however, other degrees have gained traction, like criminal justice, which welcomed its largest cohort of 10 students last fall, and accounting which currently has 20 students.

“Heritage provides programs and classes that are in high demand for students at CBC,” said Dr. Marisol Rodríguez-Price, the regional director of Heritage University at the Tri-Cities campus. “We complement their programs. Our vision is to have a strong presence here so students can transition to Heritage seamlessly. We respect each other as institutions, collaborating, but also operating as independent partners.”

With offices right in CBC’s Thornton Center, students can walk over anytime and find a Heritage staff member. Heritage staff does not wait for the students to find them, however. They go to their classrooms every night, and for the first hour of class, they answer questions, give advice and offer support. That is how Nichole Ramirez, a senior in elementary education, discovered Heritage.

“Someone from Heritage came and talked to our class while I was a CBC student,” she remembered. “I had no idea that Heritage had a campus there. I set up a meeting with them, and they made the transition super easy.”

Before that, Ramirez thought she would have to transfer to a larger school, which was difficult since she worked full time and already drove 45 minutes to CBC, or take online classes.

“I don’t think I would have done very well with online classes,” she admitted. “I like the fact that we are together in-person. I have been in a cohort of 16 students, the same ones the whole time, and we have helped each other. I also know that if I have questions, I can ask my professor and get an answer right away, which doesn’t happen in online class.”

Accounting professor David Hale leading a lecture in his Federal Income Tax course.

SHARED MISSION STRENGTHENS BOTH INSTITUTIONS

Vice president of student administration at CBC, Tyrone Brooks, explains that there is synergy between the two institutions because they share the same goals and understand the unique needs of their students.

“Our missions are similar, so the way we serve students is similar too,” said Brooks. “The main niche we occupy is serving first-generation and historically underserved students. We both understand the added level of support they need to transition to a four-year program and to complete it successfully.”

Taylor vouches for that: “The faculty is warm and welcoming and very approachable. They give great advice and were very understanding if I was unsure about anything.”

This like-minded purpose allows both institutions to identify needs in the community and adapt the programs they deliver to students. A recent example is CBC’s introduction of a bachelor’s degree in Pre-K – 3 elementary education. So many new families are moving into the area that there is a lack of teachers for the younger grades.

“It stacks up perfectly with what we already offer in early childhood education,” Brooks confirmed. “And it helps our student graduates who want higher level credentials but are place-bound.”

Dr. Rodríguez-Price agreed, noting that when the two schools sit side-by-side at career fairs, they offer a wide variety of degrees. “We say to students, ‘Start with CBC and finish with us. It’s all here!’”

Conferencing In

CONFERENCING IN

Heritage students shine on the national level

Eliseo Alcala was hired by Noel Communications just before he graduated in December 2018. A computer science major, Alcala had participated
in the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/ Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) 2018 conference in San Antonio, TX. There he presented a research paper on “Broadcasting Technologies and Data Mining Techniques” – a hot topic in computer science. Representatives from Noel said they were impressed by the opportunities given Heritage students on cutting-edge technology research.

Likewise, computer science major Cesar Flores was hired by the second largest company in Yakima, Alliant Communications two years ago, even before graduation. Flores got a jump – make that two jumps – on the competition, not only through his participation in the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Tampa in 2016, but also at the International Conference on Ambient Systems, Network and Technologies Conference 2016, in Madrid, Spain.

Conferences give students the opportunity to meet with top-level scientists such as Dr. Mario Capecchi, co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Psychology or Medicine (center). Here he is pictured with (left to right) students Juan Cabrera and Rosario Ramirez, Heritage professor Dr. Robert Kao, and student Alondra Zaragoza-Mendoza.

Creating meaningful opportunities for all students is one of Heritage University’s fundamental promises. For STEM students like Flores and Alcala, that promise includes meaningful research presentation opportunities at national and international academic conferences. These research internships and academic conferences are game changers – and often life changers – for Heritage students.

Seniors Katie Wentz (above) and Alexis Oxley (below right) were invited to present at the Murdock Science Conference last fall. Wentz took first place in the poster competition.

For STEM majors – whether computer science, biology, environmental science, biomedical sciences or a host of other majors – academic conferences provide a rare and meaningful way to set oneself apart, both academically and experientially.

The chance to spend two or three days at a conference, on another campus, in another city, steeped in STEM, presenting your own research to other academics, and networking with decision makers at graduate schools as well as leaders in STEM industries is a rare opportunity for undergraduate students anywhere.

For Heritage’s students, it’s part of the educational experience, and all STEM students are encouraged to participate.

 

 

When they do – many who may never have set foot on an airplane, travel cross-country, and those for whom public speaking has been a life- long fear, present their research before hundreds of people – they are opening the door to an array of academic and career possibilities.

“Students go to a conference not quite sure how they measure up, and they learn other students from bigger schools, are their peers,” says Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda, Heritage provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “They learn they are not alone in their efforts and struggles, or their achievements. The whole experience is eye-opening and inspirational.”

“These conferences are comprised of a very high-performing, intelligent, accomplished groups of academics,” says Richard Swearingen, chair of Heritage’s Department of Math and Computer Science. “All these companies are there to meet our students and university graduate programs are there to recruit them.

“One of the ways we position students to be able to compete is that we give them something extra. Research-based internships and the experience of presenting at conferences are that something extra.”

INTERNSHIPS TEACH RESEARCH PRINCIPLES

The Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics
& Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Conference. Mellon Mays Western Regional Conference (MMWRC). The Murdock Science Conference (MSC).

Lots of long names and acronyms, but each conference represents one thing for Heritage’s STEM students: academic and personal growth.

The prerequisite for students’ conference experience is simple: Conduct meaningful research and communicate your results. How? Internships.

Students’ participation in conferences starts with their internship and research experiences. Robyn Raya, environmental studies, has conducted several projects, including an air quality study conducted with support from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Heritage faculty help students find research opportunities, either on campus, within industry or business or at another educational institution. About a quarter of STEM students doing internships do their first internship on campus.

“When they intern on campus, they learn the basics of research here with one of their professors,” says Jessica Black, Ph.D., director of the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment and chair of Heritage’s Science Department.

“It’s a good place to learn the principles and make mistakes. Things don’t always come out perfectly, and that’s ok. They’re learning. They’re enthusiastic.”

Computer science professor John Tsiligaridis, Ph.D., helped his students Alcala and Flores find their research internships. Working closely with each of his students, Tsiligaridis knows their strengths and interests. He regularly connects with his many contacts on and off campus to identify or craft internships.

“John is particularly adept at anticipating changes in computer science and seeing what’s going to be cutting edge,” says Swearingen. “He’s very good at getting research and internship placements.”

The Yakima Valley’s agribusiness focus means lots of STEM internship possibilities off-campus, including the following internships, many of which are funded by grants through the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment (CIHCE):

• Michael Buck, an environmental studies major, interned with Yakama Nation Fisheries.

• Katie Wentz, a biology major, interned at the United States Department of Agriculture ARS Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research in Wapato.

• Yanet Torres, a biology major, and biomedical science major Autumn Teegarden worked at Washington State University-Prosser in its agricultural research facility.

• Paige Delp, Alex Martinez, Xavier Martinez and Jose Figueroa, all studying environmental sciences, worked on biochar projects in a Yakima Valley orchard, examining biochar’s role in water retention.

Black and several colleagues have even led a number of environmental science/studies majors to Costa Rica to do an assessment of tropical stream habitats and a survey of species of birds that frequent certain types of vegetation.

“Whatever students’ research experience, they own that experience. Then they develop their academic interests and their work based on their own background and skill sets,” she said.

CONFERENCES CHALLENGE AND REWARD

Once the internship and research has been done, a student will look at conference options with his or her advisor.

Conferences typically include a keynote speaker – often a renowned scientist – luncheons with speakers, opportunities for socialization and even field trips.

For their presentations, some students prepare a poster that features information about their research process and results. Others give oral presentations.

Some Heritage students receive special recognition for their presentations – students like Juan Cabrera who went to SACNAS twice, attended other conferences, and won awards for his presentations. Brothers Abraham and Andrew Calderon, who graduated in 2016, presented at numerous conferences, won awards and have both gone on to graduate school on the East Coast.

Samuel Small, a 2013 HU computer sciences graduate who’s now the director of the information technology department at Centralia College, says the first conference he attended was the beginning of many meaningful professional and personal relationships.

Now finishing his master’s with Georgia Tech, he’s done presentations at other conferences, has been invited to speak at conferences, and has produced white papers in his areas of expertise.

TRANSFORMATIONAL AND PROFOUND

Faculty like Tsiligiradis and Black almost always accompany their students to conferences. What they see there and afterward is transformational and profound.

“Every time we take students to conferences they come back with a renewed drive,” said Black. “We see over and over why having an academic dream and keeping that alive is so important. We’ve seen them come back with ideas not only about new career options and avenues for grad school, but ideas about research they want to pursue,
and for our Native students, things they want to communicate with their tribe about.”

“It’s an amazing resume builder, and it’s something students may not have had the opportunity to do if they were at a larger school,” said Swearingen. “It can make the difference between getting into grad school or not, when they ask them what their research interests are, our students can answer that.” page11image50103312

Geeking Out Over Tech

Samuel Small (B.S., Computer Science, 2013) is the Director of Information Technology and a computer science instructor at Centralia College. He is completing his master’s degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and is looking into Ph.D. programs.

Heritage’s computer science program is challenging, rigorous – and tailored for the success of each student.

Small but mighty— That’s how people who know it like to describe Heritage’s Computer Science program.

Though a relatively small number of students graduate from the program each year, they leave Heritage well educated in their subject matter, confident in their abilities, and often having studied highly specialized curriculum developed specifically in response to what’s needed by employers.

Having earned their Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science or Bachelor of Arts in Information Technology, most of Heritage’s computer science majors go right to work – as computer programmers, security specialists, systems analysts, database administrators, web administrators, software engineers and network administrators.

Some 15 to 20 percent go on to pursue graduate studies. HU computer science grads have gone on to some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the United States, including Loyola University, the University of Chicago and the University of Washington.

How does this small department achieve such big results?

A rigorous curriculum taught by outstanding faculty, a low teacher-to-student ratio, and a commitment to making real- world experience a part of each student’s education make all the difference.

STUDENT-TO-PROFESSOR RATIO

A student majoring in Computer Science at Heritage must be ready for an academic challenge. Required courses for the degree include Algorithms and Data Structures, Computational Complexity, Design and Construction of Large Software Systems and Computer Architecture. Non-computer science requirements include a full calculus sequence, math, algebra, statistics, physics and English.

It was precisely that kind of challenging curriculum that 2013 HU graduate Samuel Small sought.

Small started working on computers as a teen. He knew them inside and out, but he also knew he needed a formal education to have a career in computer science.

Small looked at a number of schools that offered the Bachelor of Science degree he needed, including Heritage. “Heritage’s program was similar to the major state schools – same requirements for your degree, same basic class structure,” said Small. “I wanted local – that was really important to me. And when I talked with Richard (Swearingen), I understood that if I went there, I wouldn’t be missing out on anything just because it was a small school.”

Dr. John Tsiligaridis leads a lecture on the design and analysis of algorithms in one of his upper-level courses.

PERSONALIZED ATTENTION

He not only didn’t miss out in terms of classes, he gained from close relationships with his professors, especially John Tsiligaridis, Ph.D., who teaches computer science, and Swearingen, who teaches math and chairs the Department of Math and Computer Science.

“Our cohort was four students, and I had five professors in all my time at Heritage. I really liked that,” said Small.

A constant for Small throughout his studies at Heritage was Tsiligaridis, who taught all of his computer science courses.

Tsiligaridis’s most recent Ph.D. is in Computer Science Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He also holds a Ph.D. in Computer Networks from National Technical University in Athens, Greece., as well as a Master of Science in OR and Informatics, a Master of Philosophy in Data Mining and two bachelor’s degrees.

Tsiligaridis – “John” to his students – is known for the personal and caring relationships he builds with each of them. Tsiligaridis worked with Small where he needed it, knowing he had more computer knowledge than his fellow students.

“Because I knew a lot of the content already, the time John and I spent together was focused on him mentoring me on the more challenging work,” he said. “John really cares about all his students. It was a huge plus of the Heritage experience.”

STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE

When your department is small, it can be nimble, said Swearingen, and that’s much to the benefit of the Heritage computer science major.

“The computer science realm evolves rapidly, and so staying ahead of the curve is important. Our size allows us to be responsive to change in the world of computer science and adjust our curriculum to make sure our students get to work on what is most relevant.”

Tsiligaridis maintains close working relationships with people in business in the Yakima Valley and beyond, so he’s continually aware of what’s needed today that may not have been a thing yesterday.

“John is particularly adept at anticipating changes in computer science and what’s going to be cutting edge. He’s very aggressive about identifying what we need to do to. If he catches wind that there’s a skill set a business might want from our graduates, he’ll develop a special course that targets that skill and gets students working in those classes,” said Swearingen.

INVALUABLE INTERNSHIPS

Heritage University computer science graduate Eliseo Alcala works at Noel Communications Jan. 18, 2019 in Yakima, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

Besides in-class time, a significant portion of Small’s education at Heritage was outside the classroom in an internship designed just for him.

Small worked with Heritage founder Dr. Kathleen Ross for two years researching a process for archiving documents for the Institute for Student Identity and Success.

Internships offer Heritage students meaningful opportunities to apply what they’ve learned in class, explore their particular interests, and develop new strengths and understanding of real-world environments (see “Conferencing In” on page 8).

Tsiligaridis happily cited a few of the students he’s helped into internships.

“Jesus Mendez, who graduated last year, did work at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland. Ermenejildo Rodriguez interned at Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction, then got a computer programming job at Costco headquarters in Seattle. Jeremiah Schmidt did an internship at IGERT Ecosystem Informatics and is now doing meaningful work in his community at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic.”

Like Mendez, Rodriguez and Schmidt, every computer science major at Heritage will have had at least one internship before he or she graduates.

“I am very happy to see that our program is known and well respected in the Yakima Valley area,” said Tsiligaridis. “We see our students continuing to thrive.”

Heritage University graduates Meadow Rodriguez and Gerardo Ruelas photographed where they work at the Costco corporate headquarters in Issaquah, Wash. Sept. 19, 2018. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

MAKING MEANINGFUL CHANGE

Now director of the Information Technology Department at Centralia College where he also teaches computer science courses, Small said his Heritage education was solid – and that his degree was not the only thing he took with him when he graduated.

“My students are almost all low income. Because of my experience at Heritage, I see my job as empowering them.”

Small focuses on personally connecting with students to help them like his mentors at Heritage helped him.

“I see myself in the future working at the state level to support technology, using technology to drive change from within,” said Small, who’s about to earn his master’s degree from Georgia Tech with plans for pursuing his Ph.D. after that.

“The further up I can get in the hierarchy, the more I can drive the decision-making.

“My professors, and really everyone who makes Heritage what it is, showed me that, given the right curriculum and the right support, we can all succeed.”

The Computer Science program at Heritage University focuses on the theory and techniques by which information is encoded, stored, communicated, transformed and analyzed. The program concentrates on the theory of algorithms – which, simply put, are procedures that tell your computer what steps to take to solve a problem or reach a goal – the structure of languages for expression of algorithms, and the design of efficient algorithms for the solution of practical problems. Extra emphasis is placed on the study of everyday computer systems hardware and programs. page11image50103312

Heritage University to hold 37th annual Commencement at Yakima Valley SunDome

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University to Hold 37th Annual Commencement at
Yakima Valley SunDome

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University will celebrate the Class of 2019 during the 37th Commencement Exercise Saturday, May 4 at 10:00 a.m. at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Undergraduate and graduate students from the Yakima Valley and the Tri-Cities will participate in the ceremony.  Overall, 363 students will earn their degrees at Heritage this year.

Justice Steven Gonzalez will be the commencement speaker. Mr. Gonzalez was appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court on January 1, 2012, and has been elected to six-year terms in 2013 and 2019. Before joining the Supreme Court, Justice Gonzalez served for ten years as a trial judge on the King County Superior Court hearing criminal, civil juvenile, and family law cases. Justice Gonzalez has also served as Assistant United States Attorney in the Western District of Washington, a domestic violence prosecutor for the city of Seattle, and in private practice at a Seattle law firm.

Justice Gonzalez earned his B.A. with Honors in East Asian Studies from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. and his J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law. He’s received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2011 and the University of Puget Sound in 2015. Gonzalez has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the “Golden Scarf” from the Seattle Sounders FC, and “Judge of the Year” awards from the Washington State Bar Association, the Washington Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and the Asian Bar Association of Washington in 2011.

Heritage University will present the 2019 Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumnus Award to Maria Villalobos-Bevins. Maria is one of Heritage University’s earliest students. She graduated with a Master of Education in Professional Development in 1986. Through her lifetime, Maria has had a significant impact on the people of the Yakima Valley through her professional and volunteer work. As an educator, she nurtured children’s natural curiosity and helped hundreds become life-long learners throughout her 26-year teaching career. Through her volunteer work, she has helped heal bodies and souls both as a translator working with physicians at the Union Gospel Mission and as a visiting preacher working with women incarcerated at the Yakima County jail. Maria is also part owner of Hispanavision and leads a weekly television program that airs on several of the station’s channels.

Heritage will announce the recipients of the Board of Directors’ Academic Excellence Award and the President’s Council Student Award of Distinction during the ceremony.

The Yakima Valley SunDome is located at 1301 South Fair Ave. in Yakima. Parking is free. Additional information is available online at  http://www.heritage.edu/Community/2018-Commencement.

For more information, contact David Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

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The 36th annual Heritage University commencement held May 5, 2018 at the SunDome in Yakima, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

Renowned author Sandra Cisneros to visit Heritage University

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Renowned author Sandra Cisneros to visit Heritage University

Toppenish, Wash. – Renowned author Sandra Cisneros will be a guest of Heritage University as she visits the Yakima Valley on April 16, 2019, and meets with students from Heritage and area high schools. Cisneros will give a reading and books signing from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Smith Family Hall located in the Arts and Sciences Center. Cisneros will also give a presentation at the Yakima Valley Museum from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. All events mentioned are open to the public.

Cisneros is a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, performer, and artist whose work explores the lives of the working-class. Her classic, coming-of-age novel, The House on Mango Street, has sold over six million copies and has been translated into over twenty languages. Her numerous awards include NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship, several honorary doctorates and national and international book awards, including Chicago’s Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award, the Fairfax Prize, and the National Medal of the Arts awarded to her by President Obama in 2016. Most recently, she received the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship, was recognized among The Frederick Douglass 200, and won the PEN/Nabokov Award for international literature.

This won’t be Sandra Cisneros’s first appearance at Heritage; in 2009 she accepted an invitation by then-President Dr. Kathleen Ross snjm to visit the campus and speak to students. Both Cisneros and Sister Kathleen are MacArthur Foundation Fellows and began a friendship in the 90s which continues today.

For more information contact Melissa Hill, interim vice president for Student Affairs at (509) 865-8500 ext. 5807 or hill_m@heritage.edu.

 

Heritage University hosts Career and Education Job Fair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Heritage University hosts Career and Education Job Fair 2019

 

Toppenish, Wash. – An upcoming event at Heritage University will connect Yakima Valley job seekers with more than 30 employers. The Career and Education Job Fair 2019 is free and open to the public and will also allow companies to explore internship and job shadowing opportunities for Heritage University students and academic programs.

 

Confirmed participants to this year represent a wide range of industries, including education, healthcare, agriculture, and others. They include Astria Health, Comprehensive Health Care, EPIC, Legends Casino Hotel, Virginia Mason Memorial, Yakama Forest Products, Yakima Chief Hops, several area school districts, and many more.

 

The Career and Education Job Fair 2019 is a collaboration between WorkSource Yakima and Heritage University and will be held on Thursday, April 11, 2019, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Smith Family Hall located in the Arts and Science Center on Heritage University’s main campus in Toppenish.

 

Employers interested in participating in the event should contact Heather Collins, Business Solutions Specialist for WorkSource Yakima County at (509) 574-0182 or hcollins@esd.wa.gov. For more information, contact Melissa Hill, interim vice president for Student Affairs, at (509) 865-0411 or hill_m@heritage.edu.​

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