Heritage University faculty member co-authors book examining impact of industries on Ecuadorian Amazon Basin

Heritage University faculty member co-authors book examining impact of oil and agriculture industries on the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin

Toppenish, Wash. – A book focusing on the impacts of the oil and agriculture industries on the Amazon river basin in Ecuador co-written by Heritage University assistant professor Alexander Alexiades, Ph.D. has just been published. Nuestro Vivir en la Amazonía Ecuatoriana: Entre la Finca y el Petróleo, includes two chapters researched and written by Alexiades and his colleagues in Ecuador and discusses how oil and gas exploration and agricultural development will impact the ecology and the local indigenous and mestizo communities of the Amazon region of Ecuador.Alex alexiades

Dr. Alexiades said there are parallels between the Ecuadorian region of the Amazon and the Yakima Valley. “The research into the impact of agricultural development in Ecuador is extremely relevant to our situation here in the valley,” said Alexiades. “The primary difference is that our valley is better studied, with millions of dollars of research invested into impacts to our streams rivers and long-term data going back several decades, while there is very little information available about the hydrology and ecology of the Ecuadorian Amazon.”

Nuestro Vivir en la Amazonía Ecuatoriana: Entre la Finca y el Petróleo is published by French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in Spanish and French, and will be available for purchase on October 15 through their website.

Dr. Alexiades joined Heritage University as Assistant Professor of Environmental Science in 2015. He earned his Ph.D. in natural resources from Cornell University in 2016. He has an M.S. in biology from the University of Nevada in Reno, and a B.S. in biology from Montana State University. Since arriving at Heritage, Alexiades has published several peer-reviewed scientific articles and serves as principal investigator for the NSF i-NATURE and First Nations MESA programs to increase STEM opportunities for Native American students.

For more information please contact Alex Alexiades at (509) 865-0732 or Alexiades_A@Heritage.edu.

Heritage University names new provost


Heritage University names new provost

Toppenish, Wash. – After an extensive national search for a new provost, today Heritage University President Dr. Andrew Sund formally named interim provost Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda as the permanent provost and VP of Academic Affairs at Heritage University. Dr. Sonoda began serving as interim provost in February of this year while continuing in his role as the dean of the College of Arts and Science at Heritage.

“We searched the entire country for the best candidate to fill the provost position at Heritage, and we realized the best person for the task was already in our midst, said Dr. Sund. “During his years here, Dr. Sonoda has proven himself to be a crusader for the Heritage mission and a strong advocate for its programs and students. I am excited to promote Dr. Sonoda to provost.”

Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda began at Heritage University in 2007 as the associate dean of Arts and Sciences. In 2008 he was named the chair of the science department, a position he held until 2012. Also in 2008, Dr. Sonoda became the dean of Arts and Sciences, a role he continued to serve until chosen as provost.

“I am humbled and honored to be chosen to serve the students, faculty, and staff of Heritage University as their provost,” said Sonoda. “I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Sund to shape academic policies that best serve our students and community, and providing the faculty and staff the means to carry out those strategies.”

Dr. Sonoda earned his Ph.D. in environmental sciences from Portland State University. He obtained his M.B.A. and M.S. in biology from the University of Guam. He also earned a B.S. in biological science, with a minor in biochemistry and business finance from San Jose State University.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Sonoda, contact David Mance at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

Heritage University to host Mexican cultural festival in honor of Mexican Independence Day


Heritage University to host a Mexican cultural festival in honor of Mexican Independence Day

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University will host a Mexican cultural festival in honor of Mexican Independence Day.  El Grito de Independencia, will take place on the Heritage campus, Saturday, September 15, 2018 beginning at 5:30 p.m.  El Grito de Independencia commemorates the “Cry of Dolores,” a historical event in Mexico that set off the Mexican War of Independence from Spain.

The festival will feature fun for the entire family. From 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., there will be games for kids, jumpers, food and beverages, folklorico dancers and piñata smashing for all ages. Then at 8:00 p.m., a family movie will be played with free popcorn and sodas served and a “Banda Street Dance” with music performed by Banda Perla Azteca.  Earlier in the evening the CWU Mariachi Club will also perform as a part of the festivities. There will be free door prizes for the first 100 people to arrive at the event.

For more information, contact Melissa Hill at (509) 865-0411 or Hill_M@Heritage.edu.

Major gift allows Heritage University to create $1.5 mil scholarship endowment for Native American students


$650,000 donation completes Heritage University effort to create a $1.5 million scholarship endowment for Native American students

Toppenish, Wash. – A major gift to Heritage University has allowed it to reach its goal of creating a $1.5 million endowment for Native American student scholarships. The university has received a $650,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; it will be combined with matching funds from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF) and other private donors to create the endowment which supports scholarships for Indigenous students studying business or entrepreneurship.

Alden Andy, Heritage University graduate (business administration, 2017) and Johnson Scholarship Foundation scholarship recipient (GORDON KING/Gordon King Photography)

In 2016, Heritage and JSF set the endowment fundraising effort in motion when Heritage committed to raising $1 million over three years and JSF pledging matching funds of $500,000.

“This generous gift means so much to us at Heritage University,” said Dr. Andrew Sund, president of Heritage. “This new scholarship program will change the lives and narratives of so many deserving Native students for years to come.”

“I am so grateful for this wonderful show of support,” said Dr. Maxine Janis, president’s liaison for Native American Affairs at Heritage University. “This support, coupled with the contributions from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, as well as gifts from many, many donors in the community will help us provide a pathway for our Native American students to achieve their educational and career goals.”

Kip Ramsey, Yakama Nation tribal member, entrepreneur and Heritage University board member, says Native Americans are underrepresented in nearly every sector of the American economy, and JSF scholarships will increase the numbers of Native Americans in the business world. “Education is the great equalizer and this scholarship endowment will allow more Native American students to earn their business degrees and thrive.”

The strategic intent of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation is to provide scholarship funding to Native Americans studying business and/or entrepreneurship under the theory that those men and women will then draw from their education to start business enterprises that will in turn impact their communities for future generations.

“We are so thrilled to have the Gates Foundation join us in this endeavor to support the education of Native Americans at Heritage University,” said Malcolm Macleod, president of JSF. ”This endowed scholarship will help hundreds of students earn their college degrees and enhance the lives of many thousands of people whom these students will touch over the arc of their lives and careers.”


About the Johnson Scholarship Foundation

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation was founded by Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson to serve disadvantaged people by assisting them to obtain education and employment. For more than 25 years, JSF has awarded close to $125 million in education-related grants. JSF gives to economically disadvantaged students, people with disabilities, and Indigenous Peoples. For more information, please visit jsf.bz.

About Heritage University

Heritage University empowers a multi-cultural and inclusive student body to overcome the social, cultural, economic and geographic barriers that limit access to higher education. Rooted in the homeland of the Yakama Nation, we embrace transformational student-centered education that cultivates leadership and a commitment to the promotion of a more just society.

To find out more about this scholarship endowment, please call David Wise, Vice President of University Advancement at (509) 865-0717 or Wise_D@Heritage.edu.

For more information, contact David Mance at (509) 865-0731 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu, or Lady Hereford at (561) 659-2005 ext. 6 or Hereford@jsf.bz.

Heritage University to graduate 12 new medical laboratory scientists

Heritage University to graduate 12 new medical laboratory scientists to fulfill professional needs of medical community

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s Medical Laboratory Science Program will graduate 12 individuals who are primed to help meet the demand for high-skilled medical laboratory scientists in our community and nationwide.

While enrolled in the Heritage MLS program, the students trained four days a week in clinical laboratories of regional partners including Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital, Astria Regional Medical Center, Lourdes Medical Center, Kadlec Regional Medical Center, TriCities Laboratories and Trios Southridge. The students ran tests on patient samples, with results being used by physicians and nurses to diagnose illness and monitor treatments. They also performed culture and sensitivity testing on microorganisms, tested samples for hormones, glucose, cholesterol and electrolytes, and monitored medication levels in blood.

Terese Abreu, director of the MLS program at Heritage says as graduates, they are now skilled in the main sections of laboratory medicine: chemistry, hematology, microbiology and transfusion services. “They’re ready for successful careers in the medical field where they’ll work in local hospital laboratories, doctors’ offices and pain management clinics, to name just a few of the opportunities,” said Abreu.

“The need for medical professionals in the lab is so vast, we are pleased to be partners with Heritage University in helping to fulfill this need in our community,” said Diane Patterson, chief of operations at Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital.

The graduates are preparing to take the national certificate exam to earn their medical laboratory scientists credentials. Abreu says Heritage graduates have a 98% pass rate on the national exam, and the scores they earn are often above the national average.

Heritage University will celebrate the graduates’ accomplishments with a ceremony on August 17, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.in Smith Family Hall located in the Arts & Sciences Center at its main campus in Toppenish. As part of the ceremony, the dozen students that make up the MLS program’s class of 2018 will demonstrate the medical laboratory science skills they’ve acquired. “This exercise is meant to build confidence in their abilities,” said Abreu. “The graduates will remember fondly where they were when they started at day one, and then they’ll see how far they’ve come in their professional program year.”

For more information, contact Terese Abreu at (509) 865-8642 or Abreu_T@Heritage.edu.

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Pacific Power Foundation Gives $2,000 Grant to Heritage University for Scholarships

Heritage University’s David Wise accepts a $2,000 check from Pacific Power Foundations’ Lori Froehlich. The grant will be used for student scholarships.

Date: July 20, 2018

Contact: David Mance, Media Relations Coordinator, (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.


Pacific Power Foundation gives $2,000 grant to Heritage University for student scholarships

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is pleased to announce it has once again been awarded a $2,000 grant from the Pacific Power Foundation. This is the third year in a row Heritage has received the grant, which will be used for student scholarships.

David Wise, VP of Advancement and Marketing for Heritage, was presented with the grant check by Lori Froehlich, regional business manager for Pacific Power on July 13. “We at Heritage are thrilled for the Pacific Power Foundation’s continued support of  educational opportunities for deserving students in our community,” said Wise. “This generous grant will help students who have all the drive but not all the funds necessary to pursue a college degree at Heritage.”

Froehlich says Heritage University’s mission of providing education to underserved communities mirrors the Pacific Power Foundation mission of supporting the growth and vitality of communities through charitable investments. “We are glad to support Heritage and its work to help students earn a four-year degree. Heritage University’s work puts students in a position to improve their lives, the lives of their families and to give back to their communities.”

For more information, contact David Wise at (509) 865-0717 or wise_d@heritage.edu.

About the Pacific Power Foundation

The Pacific Power Foundation is part of the PacifiCorp Foundation, one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created in 1988 by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 1.9 million customers in six Western states as Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington and California) and Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/foundation


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Heritage University, PNWU entice students to science

Toppenish, Wash. –Heritage University and Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences have come together with the Mt. Adams School District and the Yakama Nation Tribal School to create a unique science-focused program for young people living on the homelands of the Yakama Nation.

The five-week long Summer Program for Yakama Students (SPYS) encourages and rewards young people in the Valley to enroll and succeed in science classes. Dr. Maxine Janis, president’s liaison for Native American affairs at Heritage University, and Dr. Mirna Ramos-Diaz, assistant professor of family medicine at PNWU, and Dr. Naomi Lee from Northern Arizona University created SPYS. Dr. Janis and Dr. Ramos-Diaz co-wrote a proposal to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and received notice of funding days before the program began in the Yakima Valley.

Summer Program for Yakama Students

First week of classes in the Summer Program for Yakama Students project at Heritage University

“I just want to emphasize that our collaboration is the only way this program is possible,” said Dr. Ramos-Diaz, SPYS co-director. “What makes my heart sing is the work from everybody so we could build this pathway program for our underrepresented youth.”

The intent of the program is simple – build and strengthen the scientific knowledge and motivation of students to enter the health sciences and do well in their science curriculum. Upon successful completion of the program, the high school students may be able to participate in a two-month internship at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Janis and Dr. Ramos-Diaz have worked closely for years on both the summer internship program and the Roots To Wings program that involves both schools. “I am thrilled to be working with partners who feel as passionately as I do in developing programs that will benefit the Native peoples of our Valley.”

SPYS is a comprehensive science-based education program which integrates traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as part of the curriculum. The program will also offer instruction on how to apply for college, seek scholarships and financial aid, and learn successful study habits. Local culture is also woven into the curriculum, such as incorporating the knowledge of various foods into the study of chemistry, and integrating Native traditions and values into science. “We know that combining culture with science makes the course of study more accepted by students, who in turn will do better in these types of programs,” said Ramos-Diaz.

The SPYS program is designed to provide opportunities for underrepresented youth to seek health professions pathways. Native Americans and Mexican-Americans under the age of 18 living on the Yakama Nation are participating in SPYS. Once they complete the program, these students will be in the position when they turn 18 to complete a competitive application for a summer internship at the NIH in Bethesda.

Summer Program for Yakama Students

First week of classes in the Summer Program for Yakama Students project at Heritage University

Guest lecturers from across the nation will join Heritage and PNWU faculty for SPYS. Dr. Rita Devine, program coordinator for NINDS and Dr. David Wilson, director of the Tribal Health Research Office at NIH will visit the students and observe their progress. Dr. Wilson’s office coordinates NIH research related to the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) at NIH institutes and centers. “Dr. Wilson’s presence at SPYS will bring a great deal of prestige to the program,” said Ramos-Diaz.

“The NIH always seeks to support pilot programs such as SPYS to demonstrate how underrepresented students in health sciences disciplines can conduct research that will impact health, disease and health care outcomes,” said Dr. Janis. “Support for the SPYS preparatory education program offers opportunities for our Native youth to become active participants as scholars in the health sciences.”

Heritage University in Toppenish will host the first week of SPYS beginning July 9, 2018. PNWU in Yakima, Wash. will host the second and third week, with the program returning to Heritage for the final two weeks.

For more information, contact:

Maxine Janis at (509) 865-0737 or Janis_M@Heritage.edu

Mirna Ramos-Diaz at (509) 249-7796 or MRamosDiaz@pnwu.edu

Sowing the Seeds of Next Generation Rural Innovation

CONTACT: Aurora Martin –  206.650.0440  – aurora@popupjustice.org
David Mance – 509.969.6084 – mance_d@heritage.edu

Sowing the Seeds of Next Generation Rural Innovation
Two Rural Colleges in the Small Towns of WA, Have Big Ideas for the Future

Toppenish and Walla Walla, WA June 22, 2018 – The digital revolution is not just for the hipsters and startup cities of Seattle and San Francisco. Across the country, young people are buzzing with creativity, developing diverse digital solutions and beta-testing the next big thing. The Rural American Digital Lab (RADLab) has launched as a pilot project right here in rural Washington, and it has high hopes for inspiring innovation, and bridging divides between urban and rural America. What’s more, RADLab is not only an effort to serve as a platform for digital innovation, it is also an experiment in community building across geographic distance.

“There’s not much talk about rural innovation in the country,” says Noah Leavitt who is part of the RADLab project team and Director of Student Engagement at Whitman College. “Part of the challenge for bridging the urban-rural divide, is that there is limited digital access and opportunity in a majority of rural America. Just as tech labs are popping up in urban based higher educational institutions, RADLab can serve as a model of how to sow the seeds of next generation rural innovation.”

This month, RADLab launched as a collaborative learning venture between 22 students from Whitman College and Heritage University, and PopUpJustice, a social justice startup focused on community building and social innovation. RADLab set out to understand how a diverse set of people can learn, invent, and form a sense of community in a virtual world. Together, two very different groups of students learned across campuses two hours away, formed a learning community, and started sowing the seeds of innovation. They share a mission of disrupting the public narrative about people in rural America. Students learned through a combination of in-person trainings on design thinking and digital tools, and a series of 10 virtual lectures about various issues impacting rural communities. Given limited funds, the first series of projects during its pilot phase is focused on digital storytelling, using multimedia tools of film, photography, and podcasts. On June 28th at

Whitman College 4pm – 6pm, the public is invited to the RADLab production of the untold stories of rural America. Already, the stories are inspiring ideas for innovation, including development of mobile apps for American Indian language preservation and promotion, multilingual health and safety notifications, and community digital archiving solutions.

Although the big vision of RADLab is to become an active and interdisciplinary learning lab for STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art, math — the most efficient and affordable kickoff to the lab led the design team to start with digital storytelling, taking on the challenge of a different angle on the underestimation of rural America in mainstream media. Tackling a number of themes, students are diving into hard issues such as suicide on the Yakama Nation Reservation, to a day in the lives of farm workers and rural Latinx identity, to issues of incarceration and reentry given the local prison, to gaps in rural healthcare for women and homelessness in Walla Walla. “RADLab is opening my mind to different possibilities,” says Heritage student Chris Villegas. The issues students chose are deep, complex, and many of them the students relate to or have lived, but in doing so represent the grit and grace of nextgen rural innovation. “I wanted the chance to use digital tools as a way to amplify different stories of communities in rural America, like the small town I grew up in,” says Whitman student Kylin Brown. The digital stories of the inaugural cohort of RADLab students will be archived into a growing digital quilt, and featured at the 2018 Social Justice Film Festival’s “Hope & Democracy” reception in Seattle October 5-14 (which attracts submissions from around the world).

Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson, who is also part of the RADLab team and Chair of Social Sciences at Heritage University, sees the lab as offering “much needed opportunities for learning, potential problem solving of uniquely local issues, and in the process more diversified job prospects for my students, many of whom are from under-represented communities, first-generation and nontraditional college students.”


Annual Heritage University event raises $678,250 for student scholarships

3240 Fort Road • Toppenish, WA 98948

(509) 865-8500


June 3, 2018



David Mance, Media Relations Coordinator
(509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.


Annual Heritage University event raises $678,250 for student scholarships

Toppenish, Wash. – The Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner, the premier annual event in the Yakima Valley dedicated to raising scholarship funds for Heritage University students, brought in $678,250 this past weekend.

This year marked the 32nd anniversary of the event that celebrates the many talented men and women who are transforming their lives and our communities enabled by the gifts of the generous individuals who make it possible for them to earn their college degrees.

Heritage University students served as hosts for the 250 guests of the event, welcoming them as they arrived on campus, sharing their Heritage experiences and expressing their gratitude for their ongoing investment in the university. Heritage mathematics major Brandon Berk, who served as the student speaker during the event, was honored to represent the many students like him who have excelled because of the scholarships they have received. “I had thought of going to college but didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to attend because of money,” said Brandon during his speech. “I was very close to joining the military like others in my family, but then I received the Act Six scholarship, which has led to numerous opportunities including being published in a peer reviewed journal as an undergraduate; receiving internships at prestigious universities, including the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago; and working with mentors who are guiding him to his goal of earning a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Without Heritage and the Act Six scholarship, attending college would have been almost impossible,” he said.

Virginia S. Hislop, an organizer of the very first Bounty of the Valley event 32 years ago and who has attended every year since, was overjoyed by the turnout and generosity of longtime donors, new supporters and guests. “The scholarship monies raised at this event level the playing field for our students who are every bit as capable and talented as any student in the country, but who often do not have the same financial resources, “said Hislop. “By giving to our scholarship fund, our donors are making an investment in their community because our students go on to become the doctors, nurses, teachers and business leaders who will work here, in the Yakima Valley,” she said.

Since its inception 32 years ago, more than $5.7 million has been raised at the event, with every dollar going directly to student scholarships. Senior Director of Donor Development and organizer of the Bounty of the Valley, Dana Eliason, said it’s an amazing experience to watch our donor community and our students get together at this event year after year. “Our donors often experience a strong emotional response when they meet the students and hear their stories of accomplishments made possible by their generosity. It’s magical!” she said.

For more information or to make a donation to student scholarships, contact Dana Eliason at (509) 865-0441 or eliason_d@heritage.edu.

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Collaboration on Digital Story-Telling RADLab Project

3240 Fort Road • Toppenish, WA 98948

(509) 865-8500


May 30, 2018



David Mance, Media Relations Coordinator

(509) 969-6084 or mance_d@heritage.edu.


Heritage University, Whitman College Students to Collaborate on Digital Story-Telling RADLab Project

Toppenish, Wash. – In partnership with Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., Heritage University students will participate in a unique month-long digital story-telling initiative in June 2018 called the Rural American Digital (RAD) Lab. With guidance from Seattle-based tech start-up PopUpJustice, the students will bring to light often-ignored or forgotten stories of the non-urban part of Washington state.

RADLab will run from June 2-29. The initiative is open to ten Heritage and ten Whitman students. A social justice history road trip and overnight stays at Heritage and Whitman are scheduled, with the first gathering taking place at Heritage University on Saturday, June 2. Members of each cohort will enjoy broad exposure to faculty from both institutions and will work together to create stories. During the second and third weeks, the students will communicate from their home campuses with the rest of the cohort through video-conferencing software.

PopUpJustice seeks creative projects across the private, governmental and nonprofit sectors at the intersection of technology, social justice, the arts and pop culture. PopUpJustice provides a number of services, including consultation and project management on assignments relating to technology, equity and cultural competency audits, strategic planning, organizational and community development, trainings and workshops. The founder of PopUpJustice, Aurora Martin, worked in the legal system for 20 years as a public interest lawyer, who grew up from intern to executive director at Columbia Legal Services.

For more information, contact Blake Slonecker at Slonecker_B@Heritage.edu or (509) 865-0416, or Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson at Bellamy-Thompson_K@Heritage.edu or (509) 856-0748.

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