Heritage University receives $4.5 million grant to expand STEM studies in the Yakima Valley


Heritage University receives five-year $4.5 million grant from U.S. Dept. of Education to expand STEM studies in the Yakima Valley

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has received a five-year, $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education to expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies in the Yakima Valley. This program will employ mentors and role models for high school students interested in STEM careers and help students navigate a path for studying STEM in college, supplying the Valley with the next generation of scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians. This grant will also allow Heritage to build a 4,700 square foot STEM Education Center on its Toppenish campus, complete with laboratories, learning spaces and equipment to support STEM learning programs.

Heritage president Andrew Sund, Ph.D. is proud of the faculty who made this compelling application to the Dept. of Education, and grateful for U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s ongoing efforts to support STEM Education in Washington State. “As the chair for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, Senator Murray knows the importance STEM education will play in helping students remain on the cutting edge of innovation in Washington State,” said Dr. Sund. “Because of this award, more students will be able to achieve STEM degrees and fulfill the needs of employers for whom the demand for STEM graduates continues to soar.”

Sund is also thankful to the RGI Corporation of Sunnyside, Wash., the firm who collaborated with Heritage faculty to prepare the grant application. “RGI was masterful in distilling the unique role that Heritage will play in increasing STEM graduates in the valley,” said Sund.

Heritage University Natural Science Department Chair Jessica Black, Ph.D., who will serve as the principal investigator for the grant, is excited for the opportunity to be able to build the capacity to better serve Heritage’s STEM students and the community. “We will focus on empowering our students to overcome barriers that often limit access to higher education. Heritage STEM students will graduate as leaders,” said Dr. Black.

The grant period began October 1, 2021 and will run for five years. Construction of the new STEM Education Center will begin in late 2022. For more information, contact Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.



News Briefs – Wings Summer 2021

Heritage returns to in-person instruction this fall

A year and a half after Heritage moved to remote learning and working in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, students, faculty and staff are returning to the campus.

Faculty and staff return to working on campus starting August 2 with students arriving at the start of the semester on August 24.

Heritage University students sit outside the Kathleen Ross, snjm Center during the beginning of the fall 2020 semester

Heritage University students sit outside the Kathleen Ross, snjm Center during the beginning of the fall 2020 semester

“The biggest responsibility we have as an administration is to assure that we can provide a safe environment for everyone to work and study at Heritage,” said Sund.

He stressed that Heritage is doing every they can to meet that responsibility, maintaining all pandemic precautions, including mask-wearing inside buildings, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning protocols. Additionally, the university requires all faculty, staff and students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“This decision follows vaccination recommendations by the Yakima County Health District, the State of Washington, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” said Sund. “Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are effective and safe, and failure to require vaccinations would legally and ethically constitute a direct threat to the safety of staff, faculty, and students.”

Exceptions to the vaccination requirement will be made for people who have medical conditions, religious beliefs, or extenuating circumstances that prevent them from being vaccinated. Sund also said reasonable accommodations would be made for people who fall into those categories. The university will collect vaccination information and proceed with enforcement of the vaccination policy.

Sund stresses that the university is working closely with Yakima County Health District in its safe opening planning. Changes to the progress being made to tackle the pandemic locally and throughout the state of Washington could force the university to change its course of direction. For the most recent information on Heritage’s COVID-19 response, visit heritage.edu/COVID.


Online tool available to assist with planned giving

A screen capture of the MyGiving webpage on the Heritage University website

A screen capture of the MyGiving webpage on the Heritage University website

Individuals interested in learning more about planned giving have an informative new tool available to them 24 hours a day to help them get started. Heritage University recently launched its planned giving website, mylegacy.heritage.edu.

“Planned giving is something that people at a wide range of income levels can and should consider,” said Mary Bohmke, Heritage major gifts officer. “There are many different ways that you can attend to causes that you care about in your estate plans that don’t require you to be a multimillionaire.”

The website includes helpful information on a wide array of ways to give, as well as information on wills and personal stories from some of Heritage’s supporters. Readers can also sign up to receive a free estate planning guide or sign up for a weekly e-newsletter.


Campus mourns loss of alumna, friend, colleague and mentor

Heritage alum and staff member Laura Aguiar Garibay passed away on June 9, 2021, following a long illness. She was the Assistant Director of Financial Aid and graduated from Heritage in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. As a student, she was the definition of a student leader. She was active
in the Associated Student Body (ASB), serving two terms as the president, where she led the restructuring of the ASB into the more formal Student Government Association. She was an advocate for education, lending her voice to recruiting and fundraising efforts to raise awareness for the need for accessible higher education and scholarships. Aguiar Garibay was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and the undergraduate student speaker who voiced her classmates’ desire for equity.

Laura Aguiar Garibay

Laura Aguiar Garibay

Aguiar Garibay was passionate about helping access higher education. She understood firsthand the challenges that undocumented
students face in earning their college degrees. After graduation, she joined the Heritage University staff, working in the financial aid office to help students access higher education. She was so dedicated to students that she worked from her hospital bed until shortly before her passing. She also continued her advocacy for undocumented students, sharing her story nationally in many publications, including the New York Times.

Laura is survived by her wife Crystal, whom she met at Heritage; her mother Antonia Garibay Hernandez and father Lugerio Aguiar Hernandez; her sisters Maria Del Carmen Aguiar, Sofia Aguiar, and Evelyn Aguiar; brothers Javier Alejandro Aguiar and Raul David Aguiar; and many nieces and nephews. Her family requested contributions be made to the scholarship fund established in her memory at Heritage University in lieu of flowers.

Bountiful Generosity, Boundless Gratitude – Wings Summer 2021

A collage of those who raised a virtual paddle for the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner

As the university prepared for its 35th Annual Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner, David Wise, vice president for Advancement, knew the goal of raising $750,000 was ambitious.

“Three quarters of a million dollars is a significant amount of money to raise at a single event, even during normal times,” said Wise. “However, the challenges of this past year have hit students especially hard, making the need for scholarships even more pronounced.”

Heritage University student Maritza Alvarez receives a camera cue during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

Heritage University student Maritza Alvarez receives a camera cue during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

Adding to the challenge was the event would once again have to be held remotely.

“Even though we were seeing a great deal of progress on tackling COVID-19 on a state and national level, the restrictions around large gatherings, plus our concern for the health and welfare of our students, staff and supporters, made us realize that it was entirely too early to go back to our traditional dinner and paddle raise,” said Wise.

The team put their heads together to come up with a virtual event that captured spirit of the live event.

“One of the things that we miss most is the camaraderie of being together and hearing from all of our students,” said Dana Eliason, senior development director. “Our challenge was how do we replicate this in the virtual space?”

The answer came from the students themselves.

Heritage University students serve as phone operators during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

Heritage University students serve as phone operators during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner June 5, 2021

“This year we called upon our students to take the lead on our event. Not only did they share their stories in some of our videos, two of
them, Enedeo Garza-Ramirez and Maritza Alvarez hosted the live, real-time telecast. They did an amazing job!” The response? This year’s event broke all records; $872,500 raised to support Heritage students!

Heritage University alumni Laura Quintero pauses during taping of her student speaker segment that aired during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner on June 5, 2021

Heritage University alumni Laura Quintero pauses during taping of her student speaker segment that aired during the Bounty of the Valley Virtual Scholarship Dinner on June 5, 2021

“To say we are overwhelmed by the generosity of so many is an understatement,” said Wise.

“This university is truly blessed with many extremely gracious and generous donors, sponsors and friends,” said Eliason. “There were so many things that made this event special, starting with our wonderful students who graciously shared their stories and volunteered countless hours to make the evening successful. They and some added touches contributed by the community, such as the donated wine and chocolates that went out to those who RSVP’d and the special Bounty of the Valley meal that Provisions Restaurant offered made a memorable evening.”

The beauty of a virtual event, is that even if you missed it live on June 5, you can still watch it any time. Visit heritage.edu/sd2021.

Class Notes – Wings Summer 2021


Christine Murphy Switzer (M.A., Multicultural English Language and Literature) joined the faculty at Lewis and Clark Middle School in the Yakima School District. Prior to this, she worked at the West Valley School District in Yakima.


Ida Moses-Hyipeer (B.A., Business Administration) joined Heritage University to serve as the Program Coordinator for the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Grant. In her role, Moses-Hyipeer assists with the coordination of services for Native American students at the university.

Noemi Sanchez (B.A., History) is an Advocacy and Community Engagement Specialist for Columbia Legal Services (CLS). She joined the non-profit organization in May. CLS provides advocacy and free legal services to individuals facing poverty and oppression who, for reasons of institutionalization or immigration status, are otherwise unable to access representation.

Adam Strom (Education, B.A.Ed., M.A.Ed.) joined Haskell University as the new women’s basketball head coach. Before his appointment, Strom spent five years as the women’s basketball coach for Yakima Community College. He led the team to win 21 games and qualify for the Northwest Athletic Conference finals during his last year.


You are an important part of the university family, and we want to make sure that you are fully informed of all the great opportunities that are available to you through Alumni Connections. There are lots of great ways to stay connected:

• Like us on Facebook (facebook.com/ HeritageUniversityAlumni)

• Sign up to receive Heritage’s e-newsletter HUNow.

• Visit us online at heritage. edu/alumni

Of course, the best way to stay connected is to make sure your contact information is up to date. Please be sure to let us know if your address, e-mail or phone number changes. You can submit your changes online through heritage.edu/ alumni, e-mail us at alumni@ heritage.edu or give us a call at (509) 865-8644.

Moving to the Front of the Class – Wings Summer 2021

Heritage alumni’s careers come full circle when they join the university’s faculty and teach in the programs where they earned their undergraduate degrees.


In 2001, when Heritage University joined elite colleges like Cornell, Columbia and Duke University to provide the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, Miguel Juarez was the first student to enroll. He was a nontraditional student and social work major who had returned to school later in life with the hope of building a more lucrative and meaningful career. At the time, Juarez had no idea that his Heritage story would come full circle.

Miguel Juarez in class

Miguel Juarez in class

The Mellon Fellowship is the central program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It aims to increase diversity in the professoriate by encouraging students of color to pursue Ph.D.- level studies. Undergraduates received mentorship and funding to participate in advanced research opportunities. They attend workshops, seminars and conferences, all designed to help them prepare for graduate school. Mellon Fellows’ connection to the program doesn’t end after they earn their bachelor’s degree. The program continues to provide support and resources as they move through graduate and post-graduate studies.

Juarez graduated from Heritage in 2002 and immediately went to Eastern Washington University to earn his master’s degree in social work. He went on to build a successful career managing social programs tied to early childhood development for families of migrant and sessional workers in central Washington, Oregon and on the national level in Washington D.C. However, it is in his most recent role that he finds his greatest satisfaction. Juarez is the field director and associate professor in Heritage’s Social Work program.

To fully understand Juarez’s story, you have to go back to the beginning when he was a young man, fresh out of high school longing for adventure and the riches that he heard awaited him in the United States. Juarez grew up poor in Michoacan, Mexico. At 19, he crossed the border into America.

“When you are poor in Mexico, it means you don’t have a passport. You don’t have access to what you need to enter the United States legally. You come here undocumented. You, or someone close to you, pays coyotes (smugglers who move people over the border) to bring you to this country,” he said. “These are not good people. They are dangerous people, and your life is in their hands.”

Juarez’s trip to the United States reads like a Hollywood script. It was 1986. He had friends living in the U.S. who promised to pay the $1,500 fee to bring him into the country. The coyotes bringing him over the border were returning with human cargo after running a load of guns into Mexico. These were, as Juarez said, “bad people!” When they got to the states, and the smugglers called for their money, nobody would pay. The coyotes threatened, “We will kill him,” still nobody would pay. Eventually nobody would even answer the phone. Juarez was taken to Mt. Vernon, Washington and forced into six months of indentured servitude. He lived with the coyotes in appalling conditions and worked in the fields picking strawberries. In the winter, when there was no fieldwork, he was forced to wash cars in the freezing cold mornings. His captors would take his weekly checks to pay off the debt and the expenses they claimed for room and board, even though the only food he got was what he received from the food banks. When, at last, he was freed, he made his way to central Washington, where he spent the next seven years working in agriculture, first in the fields, then for a dairy.

The dairy work was long and hard, but ultimately in a strange way, it is what put him on his path to Heritage. Juarez and a coworker were frustrated with a directive given to them by their supervisor; the two were told to milk 2,000 cows in just six hours.

In 2016 Miguel Juarez was named the Violet Lumley Rau Alumnus of the Year. He's pictured with the graduate alumnus of the year Kevin Chase.

In 2016 Miguel Juarez was named the Violet Lumley Rau Alumnus of the Year. He’s pictured with the graduate alumnus of the year Kevin Chase.

“We were told, ‘if you don’t like it, leave.’ So we left,” he said. “We thought that meant we were fired.”

The two filed for unemployment, which was granted. However, a few months later, they were told there was a mistake, and they had to pay back the money. Convinced they were in the right, the two requested a hearing, which they lost. The judge ordered them to pay back the money unless they enrolled in a jobs program. That program paid for schooling and some living expenses as well as waived the repayment order. Juarez jumped onboard.

Education and hard work were always something that Juarez’s family encouraged. All through school, he worked odd jobs and kept up with his studies. His high school diploma wasn’t recognized by most entities in the United States because it was from Mexico. Juarez enrolled in GED classes at a local community college. He moved through the lessons quickly and with ease, graduating in just three months.

“I was not going back to the fields and not going back to the diary. I was going to be somebody. I was angry that I didn’t speak English. Angry about being exploited and hungry for an education,” he said.

He went on to earn an associate degree and was working for a labor union in the lower Yakima valley when he heard about Heritage. The then director of Admissions lived in Sunnyside and was well known in the community. He kept pushing Juarez to check out the university and consider getting a bachelor’s degree. When he finally visited Heritage, it was as if he had come home.

“The first time I came to Heritage, I saw all these people who looked like me. I was introduced to others who spoke my language. I felt welcomed like I belonged,” he said. “I thought ‘this is my place.’”

He enrolled in the social work program focused on getting his degree as quickly as possible. After graduating in 2002, he went to work as a case manager at Central Washington Comprehensive Mental Health and earned his master’s degree. A chance meeting with the university’s then chair of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Jim Falco, brought him back to Heritage to teach in the social work program for a few years. Although he loved teaching, he was ambitious and wanted to build his experience outside of academia. He left Heritage and built the career that took him from one side of the country to the other.

Miguel Juarez and a college hold up Heritage University T-shirts at Heritage's regional branch at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash.

Miguel Juarez and a college hold up Heritage University T-shirts at Heritage’s regional branch at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash.

In 2014, tired of the long hours, of traveling back and forth between his home in Sunnyside and Washington, D.C., and tired of putting his family second behind his career, Juarez decided to return home. He left his job and came back to central Washington. He started working for Heritage again as an adjunct instructor, mostly out of the Tri-Cities location. Within a year, he was once again a member of the full-time faculty as an assistant professor in the program.

“I see so many students here at Heritage who look like me when I came here the first time as a student,” he said. “I see students who need help. Who need someone they can trust. It feels good when they spend time with me talking about their dreams and their families. Now it has been many years since my first students have graduated. I see them working, some as directors and supervisors; sometimes, they oversee my current students who are completing their practicums. I even have two students now whose parents were my students all those years ago. It feels very good knowing that we are making an impact.”

Not only has Juarez’s career come full circle, so has his education. In April, the university’s first Mellon Fellow became the latest to earn his doctorate when he graduated from Northcentral University with a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership.

Juarez is not the only Heritage Mellon Fellow to go on to earn their doctoral degree. Nor is he the only one to return to Heritage as part of the faculty. This fall, Yesenia Hunter will become the latest H.U. and Mellon alum to lead the class. She graduated from Heritage with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on cultural studies and social policy in 2016. This spring, she completed the course work for her Ph.D.

Hunter immigrated to the United States from Mexico when she was just a child. She and her family were migrant farmworkers for much of her youth, traveling between the Skagit Valley to pick strawberries and cucumbers and the Yakima Valley to pick hops. They settled in Wapato, where she grew up, graduated from high school, got married and started a family. Then, in 2006 she and her husband and children moved to Seattle, so he could go to school. That move precipitated a passion that inspired Hunter to dream of a career in academics and spurred her into action.

Art and music were a big part of the couple’s lives. While in Seattle, they attended a workshop on son jarocho, folk music that originated in Veracruz, Mexico, and has Spanish and African influences. Hunter was hooked! Although Spanish was her first language, she felt somehow disconnected from the beauty and romance of the language. Through son jarocho, she found a connection.

“The language is so colloquial, and many times I would think, ‘That’s something my mom would say to me!’ The music touched on everyday conversations. It talked about falling in love and about being hurt. There was a depth to the music,” she said.

When they returned to the Yakima Valley a few years later, the pair brought son jarocho and their love of building community through the arts with them. They founded a local Fandango community, started hosting son jarocho gatherings and poetry workshops. Hunter, who was working for the Department of Social and Health Services, decided it was time to go back to school.

In 2018, Yesenia (right) visited Heritage to present a guest lecture as part of the RadLab project. She met with students like Cecilia De la Mora (left) and spoke about migration in the Yakima Valley.

In 2018, Yesenia (right) visited Heritage to present a guest lecture as part of the RadLab project. She met with students like Cecilia De la Mora (left) and spoke about migration in the Yakima Valley.

“I was in my 30s, and I knew I wanted to be a college professor, but I didn’t know how I could do that or what it really meant. I thought about myself as being a public historian or a publicly engaged academic. I was in a community of people, the other artists with whom we worked and created our art, who were academics. It shaped the way I responded to my own work. I wanted to think about these really big questions about life, about belonging, and about place, not just through music or art, but in a research-based, academic way.”

Hunter enrolled at Heritage and started her studies in the social work program. Her professor, Corey Hodge, encouraged her to explore the Mellon Mays Fellowship Program. The program became a huge influence and helped her find her path to her Ph.D.

“Dr. Winona Wynn (Heritage’s Mellon Mays Fellowship program director) is the most amazing mentor,” said Hunter. “She was someone to dream with, and she didn’t just give me advice, but resonated the things I had in my heart but was too afraid to say out loud. She really confirmed some of those big dreams.”

Visiting other college campuses and interacting with peers and graduate students at these other schools helped her envision herself succeeding in those environments. She felt emboldened by the mentoring and training she received through the workshops and seminars.

“Mentorship is so important. I came into the program with big questions and lots of interests. I didn’t know how to shape or even pick out the key ingredients to focus my research,” she said. “I was interested in women, in labor, in dancing, in art. My mentor said, ‘you should think about history.’
I didn’t know I wanted to be a historian until that moment. With the help of my mentors, I came to realize that what I really care about place. About how people make place and its role in history.”

It was Hunter’s senior year. She and her Heritage University advisors rebuilt her academic plan so that she could graduate on time and with a degree that would take her directly from earning her bachelor’s into a Ph.D. program in history. A few months after graduating from Heritage in May 2016, Hunter and her family moved to Los Angeles, where she studied at the University of Southern California (USC).

Throughout her studies at USC, Hunter kept coming back to this notion of place. She remembered being a child and riding in the car as her parents drove through the lower Yakima Valley to get to the hop fields.

“Driving through those fields, looking at the rows and rows of hops, and at Mt. Adams was important to me,” she said.

Yesenia Hunter

Yesenia Hunter

She thought about the people of the valley-of the farmworkers and the indigenous people of the Yakama Nation, of their stories and how those stories are sometimes lost in the narrative of the mainstream historical teachings.

“These last few years, I’ve been thinking about the power structures, the hierarchies that are embedded in the way we do academia,” she said. “Traditionally, academia has someone who is the knowledge bearer; they disseminate the knowledge, and then the students take the test. I’ve been thinking a lot about the community as being the knowledge bearers. There is a shared responsibility of gaining knowledge and giving it back to the groups. It is complicated and messy, but it gives us a fuller view of what happened from many people’s perspectives and voices.”

Hunter blended these two thoughts, place and community, for her Ph.D. dissertation “Entangled Histories of Land and Labor on the Yakama Reservation in the 20th Century.” She is currently writing the paper and expects to defend it in the spring.

In the meantime, she prepares for her new role, Associate Professor of History at Heritage.

“I’m most excited to work with students who are like I was when I was in their shoes, those who haven’t quite sorted out what they really want to do, who haven’t asked themselves the big questions,” she said. “I want to tell them I was where you are five years ago. You can do this, and it doesn’t take that long. You are important. Your questions are important. And your dreams are important.”

Congratulations Class of 2021 – Wings Summer 2021

Usually, the second Saturday in May would find the Yakima SunDome filled with faculty and staff, students and alumni, and families and friends gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the year’s graduating class. However, for the second year in a row, we were unable to host the time- honored tradition of Commencement.

This year’s graduating class displayed remarkable tenacity as they maintained their focus and worked diligently to complete their degrees. All of us at Heritage University are extremely proud of these men and woman and know they will move forward in their lives to accomplish even greater things.

The good news is that the national progress on halting COVID-19 means we are moving forward on our joint Class of 2020 and 2021 celebration scheduled for Saturday, October 30 at 10:00 a.m. in the SunDome. Graduates from both classes are invited to participate in Commencement. We ask that all graduates who want to participate to please register at heritage.edu/Commencement.

Elementary Education
Gricelda Guizar
Gaitan Breezie
Saraie Tevillo

Social Science
Tori Katie Wapsheli

American Indian Studies
Ida Velvet Shock

Business Administration
Anali Aguilar
Jacqueline Camacho Galvan
Jocelyn Guadalupe Galarza
Amber Renee Ganuelas
Alondra Belen Guzman
Laura Cristina Munguia
Emanuel Ochoa
Elizabeth Ramirez
Ruben Omar Sanchez-Garcia
Jose Enrique Torres

Criminal Justice
Pedro Mendoza
Susana Naranjo
Grisel Rodriguez
Monica Helen Romero Castro
Yanet Torres
Guadalupe B. Valencia
Juan Valladares

English/Language Arts (5-12)
Brayan Ricardo Torres Gutierrez

Early Childhood Studies
Jennifer Guadalupe Macias
Esther Victoria Osorio Rangel

Enedeo Garza-Ramirez III
Irwin Godinez-Cruz
Kori Haubrich
Christian E. Villegas

Shaina Marie Longee
Makenzie Rae Ribail
Noemi Yaneli Sanchez

Interdisciplinary Contract
Cassandra Saucedo

Interdisciplinary Studies
Katie Sue Harshfield

David Marc Olden

Cristina Blanco
Edgar Bravo Zavala
Patricia Adilene Chavez Torrez
Estefani Ivonne Cruz
Xavier Alexander Day
Stephanie Lynn Maybee
Juan Miguel Morales
Clarissa Irie Quiñones
Rocio Regis
Whisper Sarai Weber

Elementary Education
Deyci Belen Alejandre
Madison Leigh Contreras
Mercedes A. Diaz
Anayeli Josie Gonzalez
Noe Gonzalez Jr.
Ruby Herrera
Armando Aranda Lopez
Daisy Martinez
MaKayla Marie Mathews
Joselin A. Navarrete
Carrington Nevard
Anisha Keray Noriega
Angela Ponce
Stephanie Marie Ramirez
Beatris M. Romero
Ana Lucia Saldana-Carrillo
Jacob Issac Snell
Ryan Everett Spraker
Maria Isabel Vargas
Teresita Vega
Morgan Elizabeth White

Middle-Level Education
Jocelyn Celis Torres
Mariah Taylor Gonzalez
Kely Reyes
Gabriela Sillas Ramos

Ryan M. Akers
Matthew Conner
Eden S. C. Davis
Raquel Estrada
Kaulin Everham
Luis Abel Gomez
Mariah Hall
Bethany Nicole Herring
Carlos Daniel Iraheta
Ngoc Le
Steven Mansfield
Joel Isai Osorio
Marisol Pimentel
Abigail Rivera Cervantes
Angelita Santillan

Laura Quintero Martinez
Nathan Thompson
Yanet Torres

Biomedical Science
Danielle Renea Rodriguez

Computer Science
Daniel Francisco Venancio Cruz

Environmental Science
Paige Marie Delp
Eric Richard Phillip-Petrick
Keivan Charles Swank
Omar Torres Cassio

Medical Laboratory Science
Ruben Chino Bustamante

Adrian E. Araiza
Franchesca Lucina Bazan
Zaireth Denisa Borges Zamora
Brenda Cruz
Samuel Cuevas-Carrillo
Dulce Kirbeth Dominguez Najera
Viviana Garcia Garcia
Claudia Gonzalez
Jesus Tonatiuh Granjales-Vega
Lydia Marquez
Jared Steven McGuire
Casey Quantrille
Erika L. Scheel
Natasha M. Scott

Social Work
Ana Aparicio
Grace Danielle Bennett
Yesenia Cardenas
Diana Chavez Cerda
Maria Cristal Ciriaco
Yuliana Colin Gonzalez
Katherine Irene Di Biase
Amanda Leticia Epler-Alegria
Evelyn Garcia
Jose De Jesus Garcia
Dominic Garza
Rigoberto Garza
Yanet S. Gil
Sandra G. Gonzalez
Zoe Nicole Gonzalez
Steven Dale Greenwald
Stephanie Hernandez
Paola Herrera
Kathleen Jo-Ann Kasper
Julia Korotkov
Marna Kostelecky
Daisy Luna
Kassandra Luna
Alondra Martinez
Natalie Alexis Martinez
Luis Medina
Milca Ruiz
Valentin Mendoza
Alondra Edith Mendoza-Gomez
Diana Guadalupe Meraz
Ginger Lee Metcalf
Celine Yvonne Michael
Diana Najera
Kitzely Ortega
Joaquin Padilla
Marlene Paz
Kristina Ryadinskiy Prikhodko
Blanca Lisbeth Quiroz Marin
Alejandra Guadalupe Ramirez
Alexandra Ramirez
Fabiola Ramirez Leon
Araceli Rios Regis
Ella Ryadinskiy
Rhonda M. Ryan
Robert Drew Schreiber
Delia Serna
Misty Renee Shook
Yanna Slutskaya
Miriam Soto-Guillen
Angelica Escamilla Vela
Dulce Vela
Paola Villanueva
Sonja Dee Young

Medical Sciences
MaGuadalupe Alonzo
Israa Qadri Alshaikhli
Yasmin Bala Banga
Garry Scott Brown
Vadim Dolgov
David Albert Dommemuth
Alexander Barrett Down
Spencer Glenn Hanni
Gass Hersi
Priscilla Kim PoKeang
Kouch Yujung Lai
Jonathan Foster Lindsey
Jenesis Sofia Lopez
Roshni Mallick
Christopher Andrew Michaels
Shweta Mohan
Shelby Jo Murdock
Megan Elizabeth Nelson
Lindsey Nicole Petrelle
Dellanira Ramos
Stephanie Alejandra Rey
Jamshaid Roshnaye
Venesity Tenel Sepulveda
Tianfu Shang
Andrew Sullivan
Spencer Thomas Sutton
Kierstyn E. Tuel
Sravya Valiveti
Glafira Selene Vazquez Rocha
Andrea Lynne Velarde
Zoey Elise Wavrin

Multicultural English Literature & Language
Dung Kim Thi Huynh

Educational Administration (Principal)
Olena G. Byelashova
Yesenia Mendez

Inclusive Education
Kayli Reneé Caprice Chavez Berk
Maricela Gutierrez Licona

English/Language Arts (5-12)
Salvador Correa-Solorio

Elementary Education
Ramon Diaz
Debbie Vanessa Vasquez

Elementary Education Specialization in Bilingual Education
Antonina V. Artiomov
Zoelia Diaz
Christopher J. Howell
Justin Juarez
Daisy Mendoza
Belinda Sierra

Elementary Education Specialization in English Language Learners
Analicia Irene Alvarado
Katrina Monique Alvarez
Alyssa Buck
Mikaela Martina Chavez
Johnny Lewis Farver II
Laurel Astrid Huth
Savannah Sky Lamas
Monica Linare
Gilberto Muñoz
Guadalupe Ortiz Mendez
Yvonnee Nicole Perez
Micah Ray Pridmore
Lee Ream
Colleen Cagney Sullivan
Jessika Nicole Villanueva
Eric Stephen Whittaker

Elementary Education Specialization in Special Education
Nereyda Barajas
Brooklyn D. Brown
Joa Crowder
Gloria Janet Martinez
Jacob Michael McCoy
Shaina Mumtaz Mirza
Nathan E. Nogaki
Rachel Marie Parrish
Jasmin T. Rivera
Griselda Roman
Florencia Sanchez
Laura Mae Smith
Delia Zambrano

Physician Assistant
Bryan Blumer
Karina Borges
Hong Cai
Alexis Campbell
Kailey Anne Christison
Emily Cecilia Cunningham- Carter
Russell Disch
Evan Jacobb Dole
Ingrid Eleanor Ericksen
Philip Reed Fenn
Brian Jack Gilbert
Eric Tyler Griffin
Thomas Henline
Jashanpreet Kaur
Thomas Edward Loe
Mary Ellen Lyons
Bassanio Martinez Jr.
Jeffrey Brent McDonald
Heather R. McKnight
Vanessa Marilyn McLaughlin
Elizabeth Ann Peterson
Syvilla Reynolds
Anna K. Shoolroy
Tanner Isaak Steed
Veda Lakshim Anjalii Varada
Rhonda Warren
Elissa Kimberly Williams
Tanner Woolf
Edith Zaragoza
Michael Zeim

Instruction Coming from Around the World – Wings Summer 2021

Portrait photo of Melvin Simoyi who is standing in front of a brick wall

Melvin Simoyi, Ph.D.

Melvin Simoyi knows all about humble beginnings and the rewards of hard work and persistence.

“I was raised in a rural area in Zimbabwe – dirt roads, water from a well, no electricity, gas lamps and candles. I was an only child but had many cousins. My grandparents were farmers growing corn, carrots, tomatoes, and right in our yard were guavas, mulberries, mangoes, peaches, pomegranates. We were not rich, but we had everything we needed. I would sell avocados, then go downtown to watch a movie with the money I earned.”

Simoyi went to an all-boys school. His father, a physician, wasn’t involved in his life until he was 13. That relationship ignited an interest in entering the medical field as either a doctor or a veterinarian. After graduating from secondary school, he enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe and studied animal science. He then turned his sights to the United States for graduate studies, enrolling in West Virginia University. There he earned both a master’s degree in veterinary science and a Ph.D. in Avian Biochemistry and Physiology.

After completing his graduate studies, Simoyi’s career path started in the pharmaceutical industry, where he performed pre- clinical antipsychotic drug research. Because his then wife was in medical school and they had to move frequently for her studies, he worked in several different industries and research projects. He started out working for Sanofi-Aventis (at the time Aventis before the merger with Sanofi) Pharmaceuticals researching antipsychotic drugs. Afterward he went to the University of Pittsburg psychiatry department, where he researched nicotine addiction using a self-administration rat model. Then it was on to studying mitochondrial disease at Columbia University’s neurology department. Afterward he spent two years working as an assistant medical director for a medical education company writing promotional scientific materials for pharmaceutical clients. At the completion of her medical school, his then wife’s career brought them to Washington state, he then made the leap into academia. He started teaching a few science courses at Heritage as an adjunct instructor. A year later, he joined the faculty full- time and took on the coordination of the McNair Program.

Melvin Simoyi watches his student fill a beaker during a lab class at Heritage University

Melvin Simoyi watches his student fill a beaker during a lab class at Heritage University

The McNair Program is a federally-funded program designed to prepare low-income, first-generation and minority students to pursue graduate and Ph.D. studies. Students in the program receive paid summer research internships, mentorship and advanced research opportunities, among other benefits—Programs like McNair level the playing field for students who, like him, came from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Disadvantaging minorities and racism are woven into so many systems in the U.S. It suppresses people of color, while others have an unfair advantage. But our programs at Heritage can and do make a difference,” said Simoyi. “Education levels the playing field. However, often there is nobody in our students’ families who they can talk to about going to college, let alone graduate school.. Through the programs that I oversee, including the Title V programs that build capacity/programs at Hispanic Serving Institutions, we expose students to the world so they don’t feel like they haven’t had the life experiences other students out there have had. They find success and feel like they belong. Things like this make a huge difference.”

That’s not all, said Simoyi. Having mentors who look like you or come from similar backgrounds or have had similar experiences and have achieved the success that you desire can be a very powerful motivator.

“I share my story with my students. They know where I’ve come from and how hard I’ve worked to achieve my American dream. My story gives my students hope for their own futures. It demonstrates the power of education and what taking advantage of opportunities that come your way can do.”

Melvin Simoyi instructing students in a laboratory at Heritage University

Melvin Simoyi instructing students in a laboratory at Heritage University

Kobe, Japan, is about as far away from Toppenish, Washington as one could imagine. This bustling city of more than 1.5 million people is located on the main island of Honshu, on the north shore of Osaka Bay. It is a port city dependent upon manufacturing and exporting and home to some of Japan’s largest corporations, such as Kawasaki, Mitsubishi Motors, and Kobe Steele. And, it is the hometown of Heritage’s Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Kazuhiro Sonoda.

Portrait photo of Kazuhiro Sonoda, who is standing in front of a brick wall

Kazuhiro Sonoda, Ph.D.

“My father was a doctor, and my mother was a housewife. I grew up in an upper-middle-class home and was told I could be anything I want when I grow up. In the 1970s, Japanese schools were very competitive, and I didn’t study at all, so I had no chance of making it in the Japanese school system. My family and I decided that I should finish my high school years in the United States.”

Two of Sonoda’s aunts were “war brides” who had married American servicemen after World War II. They were living in Los Angeles and Oxnard, California. He moved in with one of them when he was 15 and stayed until he graduated from high school.

“Growing up, I was always around microscopes, and I was into fishing and birds,” said Sonoda. “Science was a natural path for me to study.”

He stayed in the United States, enrolling in San Jose State University, where he majored in marine biology with a minor in chemistry and business finance. His interest in coral reefs and the marine life that inhabits those areas took him to the University of Guam, where he earned both a Master of Science in Biology and a Master of Business Administration.

“It was the best time of my life. I loved the island style, the beach and the endless summers,” laughed Sonoda. “I had many opportunities to visit various islands in Micronesia, and I start to realize the effects of human impacts on coral reefs. My interests shifted from biology and ecology to environmental issues and human impacts on the ecosystem.”

Sonoda wanted to move into higher education and started looking for doctoral programs with an environmental science focus. It was the early 1990s, and the field was relatively new. Portland State University was one of a few universities with a doctoral program in environmental science. He enrolled and focused his research on urban hydrology, aquatic chemistry and water quality issues. After completing his Ph.D., he joined the faculty at Tokai International College in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he taught math and science. Two years later, he was the college’s Dean of Instruction.

It wasn’t long before Sonoda exchanged his metropolitan, island lifestyle for a slightly less urban, desert existence. His wife, an engineer, was offered a position at Northwest Energy in Richland, her hometown. It was 2007, and Heritage University was expanding its faculty and looking for an associate dean of Arts and Sciences. It was one of those meant to be moments where the right person and the right opportunity aligned perfectly. Sonoda was offered and accepted the position. A year later, he was promoted to dean.

A few years after that, he was the associate provost. Today, he is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

With all of his own personal accomplishments, it is the accomplishments of his students that give Sonoda some of his greatest rewards.

“When I was a professor, I got to help my science students see themselves be more than they ever imagined, to do things they never thought possible, and to take their hard work and research to the national stage and be recognized for their successes. As provost, I get to see every student who graduates go on to make real, positive changes for their family and in the world.”

He credits some common bonds that help him connect with students and build relationships with them that help them to succeed. One of which is the challenge of learning when English is not your first language.

Kazuhiro Sonoda standing at a podium during an undated Heritage University commencement ceremony

Kazuhiro Sonoda at a recent Heritage University commencement ceremony at the Yakima Valley SunDome in Yakima, Wash.

“I believe how you grew up creates your worldview, and I understand our students’ perspective. There’s never just one side or one way of seeing things,” he said. “With English being my second language, I know that for many Hispanic students, learning English and new concepts at the same time is a challenge. At Heritage, we recognize students’ backgrounds and try to meet them where they are. My background allows me to be accepting.

“I also see that Japanese Shinto beliefs and Native American beliefs are very similar. Both see nature as one. There is respect for water, air, soil and animals. We’re going back to that. Western science has studied nature by dissecting it, but now we’re trying to incorporate this more traditional sense of oneness into our curriculum. It feels good to be doing this work.”

He also credits his dual academic pursuits–business and science–in helping him prepare students for successful careers.

“The needs of businesses and the interests of science are two different sides of environmental issues. We need to keep in mind both sides of the issue when working towards solving problems. This is something that I teach my students and encourage them to be mindful of this when they enter their careers. We will all be better for it.”

Portrait photo of John Tsiligkaridis standing in front of a brick wall

John Tsiligaridis, Ph.D.

John Tsiligaridis is a humble man who would never dream of describing himself as brilliant. However, that is precisely how friends and colleagues describe him, that and being extremely dedicated to his students. He holds half a dozen degrees, including two PhDs, two master’s degrees and two bachelor’s degrees. He speaks four languages. He is internationally recognized for his work on scheduling, mobile databases, wireless networks, data mining, text mining, networking, bioinformatics, and genetic algorithms. He has more than 60 published works in his name. And, in his students’ eyes, he is a rock star!

Tsiligaridis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, a city founded in 315 B.C. He lived in the city and spent summers with extended family in a village near the mountains. There were farms and a river, and he enjoyed playing outside with his cousins.

“Education was the most significant component of my upbringing. Early on, I developed a love for math and sciences. I also appreciated art, and I liked painting and enjoyed the ancient Greek sculptures. My parents supported my desire to learn foreign languages, so I learned French, Italian, and English,” he said.

Tsiligaridis’s academic pathway began in the early 1970s with the first of his bachelor’s degrees. Over the next 30 years, he amassed six degrees at universities in three countries. His two doctorate degrees, one in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a focus on computer networks from the National Technical University of Athens in Greece, and the other in Computer Science and Engineering with a focus on networking, scheduling, and computations from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, were earned nearly a decade apart.

It was the invitation from the University at Buffalo where he earned his last degree that sent Tsiligaridis on the pathway that brought him to Heritage. The initial plan was to complete a few years of study, then return to Europe.

“My wife and our school-age children came to stay with me until I was finished, but in the end, no one wanted to go back! We were thrilled to meet people coming from many different parts of the world. It was a real multicultural environment. We also loved U.S. schools and the progress and opportunities they offer to students. We decided to stay and seek employment in academia here,” he said.

Around that same time, Heritage University was conducting a national faculty search for a professor to teach computer science.

“Initially, I was willing to relocate to Washington state because this area is very children-friendly with lots of outdoor activities and schools that can offer personalized attention,” he said. “The more I learned about Heritage, the more I wanted to teach there. I liked everything about the university! The people, the area, and especially the culture of the university – the inclusiveness, respect, support, and very nice faculty and staff all encouraged and inspired me to do the best job possible. H.U. is a unique place with a diverse student population. It made me want to be a part of this community and to do my very best to help its students achieve and excel.”

This is what he does best, and it starts at the beginning of their studies.

“Most of the students coming to our program have no prior experience or background in computer science. We have to familiarize them with the subject, show them the way of thinking in this new area for them to facilitate their learning. Depending on the student’s abilities, special support and extra help go a long way,”
he said. “Varieties of support materials, practice, hands-on programming, etc., are valuable tools that help our students understand and grow in this field of study. And, every computer science student is placed into at least one research or internship experience.”

It is through his students that Tsiligaridis finds his greatest success and best rewards.

“I feel extremely happy when former students come back to me or send a thank you email, sharing their experience on how well what they learned here at H.U. serves them in certain situations in their jobs. Sometimes they mention a particular thing I taught in class that they found very useful in their new job,” he said. “Their success gives me great satisfaction, and I am very proud of their efforts and achievements.”

A Lifetime of Service – Wings Summer 2021

Kathleen Ross, snjm stands with students outside the Kathleen Ross Center at Heritage University

Kathleen Ross, snjm stands with students outside the Kathleen Ross Center at Heritage University

On her 80th birthday, Kathleen Ross reflects on how optimism, faith and persistence make all the difference in her life.

All her life, Heritage President Emerita Dr. Kathleen Ross has chosen to grow through challenges.

When serious asthma kept her indoors as a child, she learned to play piano and found the joy of music.

When she felt afraid as a pre-teen, she turned to nature and felt God’s presence.

When she was called to deepen her expertise as an educator, she uprooted herself and heeded the call to receive more education.

And when she knew that her greatest life’s work would be to build a college that could change the trajectory of thousands of lives, she did it – with an infectious joy that made everyone in her orbit want to do their part.

All her life, through challenges large and small, Kathleen Ross has found a way. Today, as she turns 80, her faith and optimism are stronger than ever.

Reflecting on the years, she said perhaps her energy level is slightly diminished.

But when your “normal” energy level has powered you through a lifetime of serving others as a nun, earning several degrees, teaching for 60 years, founding a university, and being its president for almost three decades, “less” energy is a relative thing.

Andrew Sund quote for Kathleen Ross, snjm

She’s been published 23 times, received 50 significant awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, and has given 70 professional presentations throughout the country. She’s been awarded honorary doctorates from Dartmouth College, Notre Dame, and Gonzaga University, to name a few.

She feels she’s better able to see the “bigger picture” in life, she said.

“I do a better job envisioning ways to get around problems. I’m more diplomatic.”

She also finds more time to savor life, taking in the beauty of nature, enjoying music and friendships.

Through all of the above, her most important identity has always been found in the initials after her name: SNJM, indicating she’s a member of the Catholic order of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary – in French: “Saintes Noms de Jesus et de Marie.”

Her most significant achievements continue to be made in service of people from underserved populations, prioritizing their education so that they, their families, and their greater community may prosper.

Kathleen Ross, snjm at five months old

Kathleen Ross, snjm at five months old


It seems fitting that Kathleen Ross was born on a university campus. It was July 1, 1941, at Palo Alto Hospital at Stanford University, where her father was a graduate student. The son of a veterinarian and grandson of a physician, he was an international finance major. Her mother was one of 10 children born to a poor sharecropper family in Kansas. At 18, she left Kansas to study at the University of Oregon. A few years later, she borrowed money from a professor to take the bus from Eugene, Oregon, to Washington, D.C., where she trained at Walter Reed Hospital as a physical therapist. She then went to work for the U.S. Army at the Presidio.

That was the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, at a time when women weren’t able to achieve a lot. But Mary Wilburn Ross found a way.

“She reached for a better life through higher education.”

Kathleen Ross, snjm at one year old, 1942

Kathleen Ross, snjm at one year old, 1942


In addition to their strong faith, Ross’s parents valued intellectual development, self-discipline, and hard work – values they passed on to Ross and her younger sister Rosemary.

Like her mother, Ross had her own challenges during childhood. She was diagnosed with asthma at age two. The family moved to Seattle for its more favorable climate.

Allergies to pollens and grasses meant finding indoor activities. Ross took piano lessons and developed a love of music. When she was in fifth grade, a new teacher who played violin and cello came to her school.

“She played for us, and I fell in love with the violin,” said Ross. “I begged my dad to let me take lessons. Finally, he said, ‘Never practice at home, and I’ll pay for the lessons.’

“So we found a way. And I got a lot of joy from playing music.”

The international tensions of the 1950s Cold War affected Ross deeply. With Boeing headquartered in Seattle, the city was considered a major target for potential Soviet aggression. Sirens would regularly sound; classes would hurry to the fallout shelter, hit the floor, covering their heads with their arms.

Kathleen Ross, snjm as a second grader, 1949

Kathleen Ross, snjm as a second grader, 1949

Ross lay in bed at night, worrying: “I was afraid an atomic bomb would kill us all.”

She learned to accept realities but not be immobilized by them.

“You have to be realistic about difficulties, but you can’t let them totally absorb your focus. You have to find a way to move to a brighter side of things, to be as optimistic as you can be.”

Ross also found peace and refuge in nature; her family camped in the Cascade Mountains.

“I learned about nature’s beauty and its resilience. I truly felt God’s presence there. I have my entire life.”


Ross was nine when she first thought about becoming a nun. Her teachers, who were all sisters, often talked about how they’d realized their calling.

“The sisters’ care for others and their effective educational actions were really admirable,” Ross said.

“And, I’d been introduced to an informal, personal kind of prayer that let me listen for God’s presence and follow His input into my life situations.

“Those two things resonated with me. I thought, “Maybe I could do that, too.’”

Sister Mary Rita Rohde quote for Kathleen Ross, snjm

Kathleen Ross, snjm during Easter 1943

Kathleen Ross, snjm during Easter 1943

After graduating from high school in 1959, Ross enrolled at Gonzaga University and was placed in the honors program. A year later, she made the decision to enter the novitiate, a two-year “sister training program,” at Oregon’s Marylhurst College.

She had the quiet time she needed to make her decision. At age 21, Ross took her vows with the Sisters of the Holy Names, an order devoted to educating people’s full development, with a special concern for the poor and disadvantaged.

“That time was very good for my relationship with God.”


In the summer of 1962, Ross moved to Spokane to finish her bachelor’s degree at Fort Wright College of the Holy Names. Graduating with a history major in 1964, she spent the next six years teaching at Holy Names Academy there.

In 1970, she moved to Washington, D.C., to study for her master’s degree at Georgetown University.

She had been struck by the very Euro-centric focus on world history she found in the textbooks she’d used in teaching. She was determined to find and study what had been left out. What Ross learned at Georgetown would change her perspective on the world.

Kathleen Ross, snjm as a junior in high school, 1957

Kathleen Ross, snjm as a junior in high school, 1957

“I learned there were unique, highly accomplished cultures developed through the talents of native African, Asian, and North and South American Indigenous people that were crushed by European colonization.

“By the 20th century, millions of people throughout the world had had their ancestors’ accomplishments completely omitted from history, their own potential unmet.

“Ever since that time, I’ve looked for the hidden talents that marginalized people haven’t developed, all through lack of opportunity.”


Kathleen Ross, snjm before a piano recital, 1958 standing next to a piano wearing a white dress

Kathleen Ross, snjm before a piano recital, 1958

In 1973, Ross joined Fort Wright College as its vice president for academic affairs.

Soon, two Yakama women – Martha Yallup and Violet Lumley Rau – called on her: They operated a HeadStart program on the Yakama reservation and needed help educating teachers for it. Ross made arrangements to have Fort Wright offer classes in Toppenish.

Around that time, she’d decided to pursue her Ph.D. and moved to southern California to study at Claremont Graduate University. She traveled several times to the Yakama reservation to help Yallup, Lumley Rau and others with various educational needs.

Ross wrote her dissertation on the cultural factors involved in the success and failure of Native students in higher education. It provided clear evidence that prospective Yakama students needed a college in their midst.

“If leaving your home and your people to go to college means you find yourself so challenged that you won’t succeed, you need a college that’s close to home.

John Bassett quote for Kathleen Ross, snjm

Kathleen Ross, snjm in a white dress posing with a young man dressed in a military uniform

Kathleen Ross, snjm at Gonzaga University, 1960


In spring 1980, ongoing enrollment challenges at Fort Wright made it necessary to close the college. Ross vowed to find another college for the Yakama students.

“When I told Martha and Violet, Martha said, ‘Let’s just start our own college.’

“I said that was crazy. And Martha said, ‘Tell us one thing we can’t do.’”

Ross gave them the biggest challenge she could think of: gathering a board of directors with connections and money.

A few weeks later, the women invited Ross over for a meeting. Present were the heads of a local bank and school district and two of the three county commissioners.

“There was a piece of paper on the table signed by about a dozen people who’d agreed to be the board of a ‘new private college to be named,’” said Ross.

“Martha and Violet had done it.”

“I said, ‘Dear God, you can’t be asking me to do this.’ But He was.”

Yallup nominated Ross to be the college’s president, and her new life’s work was official.

Kathleen Ross, snjm with two Sisters at an extinguished campfire, 1968

Kathleen Ross, snjm with two Sisters at an extinguished campfire, 1968


Sisters from Fort Wright came to advise. Board members raised funds. Fort Wright’s library books became the foundation for the new college’s library. Someone got a deal on using a local elementary school for night classes – in the building that would later be known as Petrie Hall, the anchor of the new campus.

The founders surveyed the community about what degrees to offer and hired the college’s first faculty members and administrators. They transformed the former school janitor’s house into their administration building.

Every afternoon, they moved the classrooms’ kid-size chairs aside and set up for adults.

Heritage College’s first-year enrollment was about 80, its first graduating class 85 – equally Latinx, Native, and Caucasian, majority-minority from the start.


Today, Heritage University offers more than 40 graduate and undergradaute programs. It has awarded more than 10,000 degree and alumni are working throughout the Yakima Valley and beyond. Enrollment is steady at around 1,000.

Kathleen Ross, snjm greeting student participating in Heritage College commencement ceremony

Kathleen Ross, snjm at Heritage College graduation

Ross remembers hoping someday Heritage enrollment would reach 500 students.

“It’s literally twice as big as my biggest dream. And it’s recognized nationwide for its service to marginalized people.

Kathleen Ross, snjm standing at a podium delivering a few words during groundbreaking ceremony at Heritage College

Kathleen Ross, snjm standing at a podium delivering a few words during groundbreaking ceremony at Heritage College

“I never imagined such a welcoming campus, such beautiful buildings, such incredible board members. Or that we’d have programs that would allow our students to get their masters right here or go on for their doctorates.”

Ross is on the Heritage faculty as a cross- cultural communication professor and director of the Institute for Student Identity and Research. She works on archives projects, mentors students, and nurtures relationships with long-time university donors.

She’s happy that the university fulfills what we’re all meant to do: evolve and grow into our most fulfilled, engaged selves, to use our talents to full potential to have the best effect for others.

Kathleen Ross, snjm standing at a podium during her book signing event, 2016

Kathleen Ross, snjm standing at a podium during her book signing event, 2016

A little more time for herself also means renewed connection to what nourishes her spirit.

“I cook and enjoy time with my sister- housemates. I’m a lifelong birdwatcher, and I get to see so many of the birds that travel this flight path we’re on. I garden, and I’m seeing things about roses I’ve never noticed before. I can walk to Mass.”

She also plays her violin for her housemates.

Kathleen Ross, snjm standing onstage at the 36th Annual Heritage University Commencement at the Yakima Valley SunDome

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

“They ask me to play the Scottish jigs – they’re their favorites.”

She smiled and said she knows her dad, who was a proud Scot, would appreciate her playing today.

Ross’s dream for Heritage’s future is simple.

Kathleen Ross, snjm at the dedication of the Martha B. Yallup Health Sciences Building at Heritage University, holding a green folder with Martha Yallup at her left and Yallup's sister to her right.

Dedication of the Martha B. Yallup Health Sciences Building and the Violet Lumley Rau Center at Heritage University Sept. 15, 2016 in Toppenish, Wash. (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

“We have to always respond to what’s happening in the world. I know the people who’ve dedicated themselves to Heritage’s mission will continue to meet the needs and dreams of the people we serve.

“They’ll always find a way to bring more people into the development of their talents and gifts for others.”

Sandra Cisneros quote for Kathleen Ross, snjm

Heritage was planning to host several events in honor of Kathleen’s 80th birthday this fall. However, with the recent news that COVID-19 cases are on the rise, we have decided to delay these events until it is safer to gather in person. We will send out invitations to these future events once we are confident they will proceed.

Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops to celebrate graduates of CHIEF ACADEMY management training program for front-line employees


Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops to celebrate graduates of CHIEF ACADEMY management training program for front-line employees


Yakima, Wash. – Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) will celebrate the entire cohort of employees completing CHIEF ACADEMY, a management training program for YCH management team and front-line staff on Friday, August 13, 2021. YCH partnered with Heritage@Work, the university’s workforce training and development division to deliver the program that, when completed, earned full-time employees a Management Training certificate of completion. With four cohorts of employees receiving the training, a total of 73 YCH employees have now completed the courses and have the training, knowledge and tools to enhance their skills as managers and leaders within the company.

Heritage University faculty (full and part-time) and experts assigned by Heritage taught the workshops at the company’s headquarters in Yakima, Wash over the past year. Ryan Hopkins, chief executive officer at YCH, considers the curriculum developed by himself, Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Garcia and Heritage University to be high-quality training that benefits both employees and the company. “CHIEF ACADEMY is an ongoing investment into the people at YCH which will help grow the company and our community due to the increased skills of its employees,” said Hopkins. “This investment will empower our employees and create opportunities for their ongoing growth and success.”

CHIEF ACADEMY at YCH consisted of courses that covered five essential topics determined to be of high importance to the company. They included:

  1. Business Communication – a business writing and communication workshop which offered tips on improving existing skills as well as preparing participants for public speaking.
  2. Human Resources – a highly-interactive workshop covering the important basics of human resources with role-playing activities.
  3. Data Science – a workshop that helps those in company leadership roles understand the importance of data analytics by identifying, interpreting and summarizing data.
  4. Business Finance – a workshop to help employees understand financial drivers and strategic objectives and realize the connection between strategy and financial success.
  5. Leadership – a workshop where employees learn the attributes of a leader, the difference between management skills and leadership skills, and what it means to be a leader at YCH.

John Reeves, director of Heritage @ Work, says Yakima Chief Hops has been a tremendous partner in establishing the university’s workforce training and development division to benefit companies like YCH. “We are excited for all the YCH employees who have completed the courses, and what this will help them achieve in their professional careers.”

The ceremony celebrating the CHIEF ACADEMY graduates will be held August 13, 2021 in Smith Family Hall, located in the Arts and Sciences Center on the Heritage University campus beginning at 2:00 p.m.

For more information and to coordinate interviews, please contact David Wise, VP of Advancement and Marketing at Heritage University at (414) 788-0686 or wise_d@heritage.edu or Yakima Chief Hops Global Communications Manager Cait Schut at (916) 690-4379 or cait.schut@yakimachief.com.


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Congratulations Class of 2021