All Four Years, All Right Here!

All Four Years, All Right Here!
Providing access to college degrees at remote locations across Washington State is nothing new for Heritage University. In fact, when the college began 40 years ago, it started with classes being offered at its campus in Toppenish, as well as in the small, eastern Washington community of Omak. In 2013, the university added the Tri-Cities to its list of locations where transfer students could take the last two years of classes needed to turn their associate degrees into bachelor’s degrees.

This academic delivery model remained relatively unchanged over the years— until now. Starting fall semester 2023, Heritage will begin accepting freshman and sophomore students who want to do all four years of study at the university’s regional site opening in Kennewick.

The move to offer instruction to first- and second-year students in the Tri-Cities is a natural extension of the Heritage mission to make college accessible to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue a degree regardless of economics, culture, or geographic location, said President Andrew Sund.

“We see this expansion in the Tri-Cities as a chance to collaborate with other institutions, which has been a long-standing tradition in higher education,” he said. “We can work together and thereby serve the people in the Tri-Cities who come from many backgrounds. More choices for students are always better in higher education. Our goal is to increase the total number of students who graduate from college, not to move students from attending CBC or WSU Tri-Cities. Working together, we can increase the total college-going student population, and benefit the entire community.”

The expansion means the university is moving from its location on the Columbia Basin College campus in Pasco into its own facility in Kennewick. Heritage is leasing space in what was once the Tri-City Herald building, located on Canal Drive. The university will occupy parts of the building’s second floor, with classrooms, offices, a reception lobby, study spaces and a break area. The site was selected for its central location with easy access from all points in the Tri-Cities and proximity to services in downtown Kennewick.

Initially, Heritage will expand its existing regional site offerings, education, social work, criminal justice, psychology and accounting, into four-year offerings. Additionally, it will add a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration to its list of degrees that can be earned from start to finish at the regional location. Moreover, Tri-Cities students will have access to all classes and the 36 degree programs offered at its Toppenish campus.

“Students will have the opportunity to transfer seamlessly between campuses, and some classes may be offered in a hybrid format where classes are delivered both in-class and online between the two campuses. The linkage between the two campuses will present a tremendous range of possibilities for students to study in their field of interest,” said Sund.

Martín Valadez, the director of Heritage University’s regional site in the Tri-Cities, said the move will make it easier for students to achieve their goals of pursuing higher education.

“Many Tri-Cities students are raising their families as they work several jobs, and we know they will benefit from having this additional opportunity to earn a four-year degree close to home,” he said. “We are excited to play a larger role in the firmament of higher education in the Tri-Cities and be a part of the revitalization of downtown Kennewick.”  page9image37120368

The Gift of Gratitude

Perla Bolanos

The Gift of Gratitude
For this issue of Wings, we reached out to students and asked them to tell us about a pivotal moment in their life that had a profound effect on their views of themselves and their world. Perla Bolanos, a senior who is getting ready to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, submitted this essay.

I remember my first day of third grade in the United States—the thrill, excitement, uneasiness, and anxiety of the unknown. I wore one of my best dresses with shoes I had painted the night before to cover the scratches. My mother was so excited for me to start school she told me, “Vas a tener muchas amigas y vas a aprender mucho mi niña. – You’re going to have a lot of friends, and you’re going to learn a lot, my little girl.”

My mother brushed my hair so hard, putting it into a high ponytail with a bow, and used jugo de limon so my hair wouldn’t fall. With one last look in the mirror, I carried the backpack I had brought with me from Mexico and headed out on my way to live the “American Dream.”

The school was big and had lots of space to run and play. It was in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Salinas, California, where my godmother lived. She was the only reason I had the opportunity to attend that school in the first place. My parents, brother, and I lived in a small studio apartment behind one of my godmother’s restaurants outside the city. A small school was located a couple of blocks from my home, but my parents insisted on enrolling me in a “better school.” Everyone wanted me to receive a quality education, meet new people, learn, and get accustomed to my new home.

When I walked through the door into my classroom, the look on my third- grade teacher’s face was something I will never forget. She stared at my face, clothes, and shoes; she stared at me and who I was. She knew I was not like the usual students that attended her class, and she was right. I was far from being like her other students. Most of them were Caucasian. They were dressed in nice clothes and shoes, and I was just the girl coming from Mexico. I also saw the look on the faces of the other kids. They looked at me like I must be lost, like I didn’t belong there. After the teacher introduced me to the rest of the class, she guided me to the back of the room to a small desk with a chair surrounded by books, far from the rest of the students. As I took in my surroundings, I wondered how I went from being the top student in my school to being the “poor Mexican girl,” as my classmates called me. While the others were learning grammar and about the solar system, I was stuck relearning the alphabet and numbers, this time in English, despite already being taught all this when I was in Mexico.

When I grew tired of staring  at the same activities, I organized the stacks of books that surrounded me. I began losing myself in the pages of these books. One was my best friend, an English dictionary. This dictionary gave me the support my teacher and classmates could not give me. I found myself scanning through the pages, trying to memorize each word, and forming sentences that later would become pages of poems and stories I wrote. Creative writing became my escape and part of my identity. It helped me overcome the language barrier I encountered throughout my journey. The written word allowed me to express my feelings in this new language when I could not express them out loud.

I have mixed emotions when I reflect on my third-grade year. While I am sad for the little
girl who had to endure such an unpleasant school experience, I am immensely grateful for the love of learning I developed as those books surrounded me.

I came to realize that I could take control of my education, that the same little girl and the woman I am today are capable and resilient, and that education is a form of wealth that can never be taken away from me.

Today, I am a senior at Heritage University. Graduation is only a few weeks away. I cannot help but think about eight-year-old me and how far I have come from that third- grade classroom. Attending Heritage University brought me new perspectives into my life. I received an education that I once thought I did not deserve, along with numerous opportunities that have helped me grow as a scholar, professional, leader, and, most importantly, as a first- generation Latina.

My mother once told me, “Education es la unica herencia que te puede dar mija” “Education is the only heritage I can give you, Mija,” and it has been the greatest gift I have received.

It took me a long time to discover who I am and find my voice to express myself, my thoughts, and my visions. To this day, I wonder, “can I reach someone with my words? Can I make a difference?” While those are questions that remain to be answered, I know that as I move forward out into the professional world, I will keep the lessons I’ve learned close to my heart and will do my best to honor my mother’s words and all those who helped me along the way.

Pursuing higher education was always a dream, and now I live it. It is a new chapter— something I have yearned for. This is my American dream coming true. page12image37381888

The Storyteller

When Winona Wynn was one year old, her father took her to Yellowstone National Park. He pulled up under a cluster of pine trees, took her out of the car, and stood her on its hood. With his arms and the natural world both extending their embrace, his daughter took her first steps.

“My dad told me that when you take your first steps in the woods, you learn to walk in the woods as part of your whole being,”

Wynn said. “He embodied the traditions of our people and passed that spirituality and love on to me. It’s part of who I am today.”

In a life that has included significant personal challenges, Winona Wynn has been sustained and shaped by her spiritual worldview – as well as by something she’s always known would give her and her children a better life: education.

Blessed by her experiences, both the positive and the challenging, it’s been her privilege, she says, to pass on lessons learned.

As a Heritage University humanities professor, Wynn lives her commitment to the value of education. She believes part of her role as an educator is to ensure students know they are seen and heard as they take their first steps in the world of higher education.

Over 14 years of teaching, she’s built a classroom atmosphere that’s both interpersonal, focusing on communication between herself and her students, and intrapersonal, where the focus is reflective and empowering for the students themselves.

“Part of students’ education at Heritage needs to be about their journey toward recognizing their unique gifts and valuing their capacity to contribute,” she says. “That takes understanding and commitment from the people who are here. We share an obligation to lead them and teach them.


An enrolled member of the Assiniboine/Sioux Tribe of Ft. Peck, Montana, Wynn was raised in several geographic locations in what she calls a “reservation home.” Her father was a 30-year Air Force veteran, and although moves were frequent, she and her siblings remained connected to their roots through storytelling and visits when possible.

Dr. Winona Wynn leads students through a writing exercise in her University 101 class.

Her home life was complicated but interwoven with inspiration. She recalls her parents’ guidance.

“When our days and nights were tough, my dad would utter his favorite three words of advice, ‘Adjust your mind,’ and my mother would echo ‘This is a learning time. Let’s be grateful.’ I passed their wisdom on to my children.”

Wynn married at 21 and had four children. But it was a difficult relationship, and after years of documented domestic abuse, late one night, she left everything, took her children, and boarded a train to California to solicit support from her parents.

Working three jobs to support herself and her family, Wynn knew: Finding a way to continue the educational path she’d left behind was the only way to a better life.

It was during that time that she signed up for some life-changing classes at the local community college: Sociology and Psychology 101, and it was in those classes that she bonded with a determined group of students.

“We were all just starting out or starting over, and we were there for each other,” she says. “But not all of us made it.”

Of that handful of friends, only Wynn and one other would ultimately finish college. One became addicted to drugs, and another died by suicide.

“There were so many times during those challenging days that I told my children what my parents said: We’ve got people around us who don’t see any light, but we do.’”


Transitioning back to Washington, with her four children and a sister in tow, a better life began when Wynn enrolled at Eastern Washington University, and a friend asked her to attend a session about the McNair Scholars Program. If she applied and was accepted, it would mean support for her academic dreams.

During the selection process, “I just told them my truth: ‘I’m a single parent with a vision for education for myself and my children,’” Wynn says. “One of them believed in me. She said my determination, goals and vision convinced her, then she advocated for me to the others.”

That person, Dr. Karen McKinney, would be a guiding light in Wynn’s educational journey – her mentor for the next 12 years, as Wynn navigated her undergraduate program, graduate studies and pursuit of her Ph.D.

“My motivation always came from difficulty,” she says. “And the fact that I knew people who had come from similar trauma but managed to achieve.”

“It was in large part due to the people in my life – my parents, my college friends, Dr. McKinney, my children, my sister, and, even now, people here at Heritage – that I’ve persevered.”

“I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, for where I am, for all the people in my life. Being thankful lifts us up, inspires hope, and moves us beyond moments of incomprehensible grief, reminding us that each experience is a gift.”


For Wynn, gratitude and care for others translate into a desire to be present for her students. Upon entering Wynn’s classroom, each new student is warmly welcomed.

“For me, it’s like, ‘I’ve never met you, but I know we have a purpose together,’” she smiles.

Each first class starts with a “BioPoem” – a sort of biographical poem that students write about themselves. “It’s how we start talking about who we are. I ask them to write about what they believe, what they’re afraid of, what they hope for, and it becomes an authentic connection for our classroom learning community.”

Wynn has a quote about the humanities that she likes to share: “The humanities are our attempt to understand and communicate the human experience through language. They help us see the wider view of our lives.”

“Understanding our lives helps us to keep taking our steps,” she says. “That’s everything I want for my students.” page9image37120368

College in the Rainforest

Time at Brazil’s Ecological Reserve of Guapiaçu offers important lessons for Heritage students and their homelands.

There’s a place in Brazil where people from all around the world come to replant the rainforest, a little at a time.

They’re scientists, researchers, students and, sometimes, simply volunteer champions of the environment.

The place is Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) – the Ecological Reserve of Guapiaçu – and for two weeks in January, it was a classroom and an adventure for Heritage University environmental sciences major Kayonnie Badonie and biology major Andrea Mendoza. The pair traveled there with their professor Alex Alexiades, associate professor of Natural Sciences.

Returning from this journey, the students brought back not souvenirs but vibrant memories – of experiences with rainforest inhabitants, scientists working on behalf of nature and the environment, and evolving personal stories about how their own work might benefit the world.

The experience was born of a sabbatical Alexiades did two years ago.

“From that trip, I knew I wanted to bring students here for tropical field and conservation experiences and, in future visits, have them conduct research,” Alexiades said.

In his seven years at Heritage, Alexiades has worked to make several indigenous and international exchange opportunities possible for students. The experiences are powerful tools for engagement, he said.

“Once students have experienced this environment and the work people do, they can think about its ramifications for the places they love and care about in their own communities.”


A 2.5-hour drive northwest of Rio de Janeiro, the Guapiaçu area is located on the border with the state of São Paulo in southeast Brazil.

It holds incredible biodiversity – the first reason Alexiades chose to work there. His second reason – the mission and the effort being made to return the area to its natural state and support its inhabitants, both human and non-human – is why he thinks it’s important to come back.

In the native Tupi language, Guapiaçu means “big spring of a river.” But the river here, like the rainforest that holds it, has been greatly altered, its banks laid bare for farming and grazing cattle, its flow in part channeled for human use, sometimes reinforced with concrete.

Surrounding land, once lush and green, has been logged, tree stumps burned, remaining vegetation removed to make room for subsistence farming and, in some areas, hydropower dams, mining and other development.

Where crops were once planted only to fail in the acidic and largely non-fertile soil, cattle graze on barren riverbanks, eating any remaining native plants, consuming grass almost as quickly as it can grow back.

Where natural forestation provided environmental balance, today’s riverbanks offer no resistance to the flooding that occurs almost daily during the months-long rainy season. Mudslides are common, and life is continually unsettled.

“What’s been allowed to happen to the rainforest disrupts everything from the ecology to the hydrology,” Alexiades said. “This is really an ongoing battle for tropical rainforests worldwide.”


The REGUA land, owned by what had been a tobacco- and banana-growing family for several generations, comprises almost an entire watershed. Through an evolving commitment to protecting the biodiversity of the valley, recent owners saw the need to ensure the future of their community through reforestation. The majority of their land has now been replanted and reforested.

Efforts now also focus on land buys to conserve additional land. Eventually, they will reconnect the watershed all the way to the river’s mouth, about 65 miles south into the city of Niterói.

REGUA’s work has meant about 60 full-time jobs – from cooking and cleaning for visiting groups to the main work of tree planting – added to the local economy. It’s a model for engaging communities in tropical rainforests worldwide.


Relative to the immensity of the rainforest, the work being done at REGUA is small scale. Yet, Mendoza and Badonie learned it’s making a difference for the people, animals and plant life in the Guapiaçu area and has implications for other deforested areas of the Amazon.

“The restoration is not only helping to repair the river, it’s also bringing back important rainforest habitat that was once destroyed, and species are returning,” said Mendoza.

“It’s inspiring to know that if we work together with people, we can see a true change in this world for the better.”

Both students felt the hope the REGUA reserve could be for other areas in the rainforest, and that its work is making people’s lives better in the immediate area and downstream.

“What is being done in the REGUA vicinity is fascinating,” said Badonie. “It’s scientists, researchers, and passionate community members coming together to combat deforestation and land disturbance.

“I believe that this is a start for the forests and streams and a healthier environment.”


There’s a community that’s formed with each set of scientists, researchers and students who come to work and study at REGUA. So when heavy January rains kept everyone from the intended data collection and tree planting, Badonie and Mendoza
got to spend invaluable time talking with and learning from the visiting ornithologists, entomologists, and mammalogists that surrounded them.

At day’s end, they’d gather, sharing photos of plant and animal life, watching trail cam videos. Beyond being awed by the color of birds, the size
of insects, and the sheer volume of rainforest sounds, the students were fascinated by the wealth of knowledge around them.

Two decades ago, working as a high-altitude mountaineering guide in the Andes, experiencing the mountains’ majesty and the regalness of the rainforest as well as its rampant destruction, the trajectory of Alexiades’s life was clarified. His immersion experiences steered him to acquire his master’s degree and his Ph.D. His goal now is to research the whole Guapiaçu watershed, comparing the quality of its water today with the improved water quality that’s certain to come.

Badonie, a Yakama tribal member with Navajo Nation roots, said her time at the reserve is already helping clarify her path.

“For me, it hits home because native lands were disturbed by agriculture, and that’s something from which we can never turn back. So if I can take something of what I’ve experienced to the tribes, that will mean a lot.”

Mendoza wants to teach science and inspire younger generations to enjoy it, pursue its study and change the world.

“I can tell them this is what I got to do in Brazil, to help people with their land and their lives,” she said. “This is what you can do in an internship.”

“I think I can inspire them, like I’ve been inspired. The world needs this work and the people who are doing it.” page5image47837584

News Briefs

Dr. Andrew Sund to serve another five years as Heritage University president

The Heritage University Board of Directors announced in July that it unanimously approved extending Dr. Andrew Sund’s contract for another five years of service.

“We appreciate Dr. Sund’s steadfast dedication to the university’s mission and campus community and his strong leadership of the institution during challenging times,” said Dr. Kathleen Hilton, chair of the Board of Directors. “We look forward to continuing to work with him in the years ahead to ensure a strong future for Heritage University.”

“The years I have spent at Heritage University have been, professionally, the most rewarding of my life,” said Sund. “I would like to thank the Board of Directors for trusting me, but I would also like to thank staff and faculty for their support. I know that together we will continue to do amazing things. I believe in our mission, and we have much work ahead of us. Finally, I would like to thank the many students that have been at Heritage these years. Their dedication to education has inspired me to serve the University. I look forward to the future of Heritage!”

Ichishkiin (Sahaptin) Language Center director earns Ph.D. from the University of Oregon

Heritage University alumnus and director of the Center for Language Revitalization and Preservation Twálatin Greg Sutterlict received his Ph.D. in Critical and Socio-Cultural Studies in Education from the University of Oregon. During the ceremony, Michelle Jacob, Ph.D., an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation and director of UO’s Sapsikw’athla, a master’s-level teacher program for Native American students, hooded Sutterlict and handed him his degree.

The ceremony occurred on Monday, June 13, 2022, at the UO Education Department graduation ceremony. It was the first time in the university’s history that a Yakama professor hooded a graduating Yakama student earning a doctoral degree.

Environmental Studies students take home awards at a national academic conference

Two Heritage University students won poster presentation awards for their research projects at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference in Palm Springs, Calif., in October.

Kayonnie Badonie, a senior majoring in environmental science, won second place for her presentation, Water Conservation Tactics Through Well Decommissioning on the Yakama Nation Reservation. Noah Sampson, a senior majoring in environmental studies, placed third for his project Brewery Byproducts Can Help Fisheries? Evaluation of Brewer’s Spent Grain as a Feed Additive for Rearing Larval Asum (Pacific Lamprey). The students collaborated with the Yakama Nation for their projects.

AISES is a national nonprofit organization focused on helping to increase the number of Indigenous and Pacific Islander’s pursing science, technology, engineering and math studies and careers.

HU student among top honorees at a national conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Heritage mathematics major Anna Diaz took home one of the top awards for students at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM Conference in October. Diaz received the Outstanding Research Presentation at the conference, which was held in Puerto Rico. Her presentation reported on her project Data Fusion Methods in Applications to Ocean Acidification, which was part of her summer research experience at Brown University.

Diaz was one of three Heritage students to attend and present at the conference. Joining her were biology majors Abby Bravo and Sol Figueroa.

SACNAS is a national professional organization that serves to advance the number of Chicanos/ Hispanics and Native Americans who earn STEM degrees, enter into professional careers, and advance into leadership positions within STEM fields.

Pioneer for Education

Martha Yallup

When Martha Yallup was a young woman, she needed to earn money for college. So every spring and fall, she went to the Upper Falls of the Klickitat River and fished for salmon.

“When they’d jump, she’d catch them in the air with a dip net, and then she’d haul them up the riverbank,” said Sydney Hill, one of Yallup’s nieces. “Each weighed 20 to 30 pounds.

“She’d sell them to non-Indian wholesalers at the Upper Falls, then take the Greyhound to Central Washington University in Ellensburg and go to class. Afterward, she’d go back to the river and, at night, she’d sleep in a pup tent with just her dog.”

This was the kind of drive that Yallup, who co-founded Heritage College, was known for. She died July 8th at age 80.

Throughout her life, Yallup earned three degrees, helped create the Yakama Nation Tribal School, established its Head Start program, and played a significant role in nurturing her many nieces and nephews, instilling the value of education in all of them.

“I think of her as a second parent,” said Hill. “She was always encouraging us to further our education. When I said I wanted to be a teacher, she asked me, ‘Why don’t you be an administrator?’ She wanted us to never limit ourselves.”


Yallup worked for the education of indigenous people with the same zeal she brought to her own life.

She believed that people from all walks of life, particularly students from low-income communities, had the right to a good education. She saw it as the way out of poverty.

Yallup earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and, later, her Ph.D. in education leadership, making her one of the first Yakama citizens with a doctorate. She wrote her dissertation on the indigenous experience of education, becoming a top expert in the field and a nationally renowned educator. She studied what had been, but she kept her focus on what could be.

During the George H.W. Bush administration, Yallup turned down a request to interview for a position that would have had national influence.

“She told them, ‘I’m here to serve my people,’” Hill said. “That was her work.”


Heritage co-founder Dr. Kathleen Ross saw Yallup’s commitment throughout a friendship that spanned more than four decades.

“Heritage University would not exist today without the determination of Martha Yallup,” Ross said.

Yallup’s work with Violet Lumley Rau on behalf of indigenous education, combined with Ross’s institutional knowledge and abilities, made it possible for the three to do what would have seemed impossible to others.

It was 1974 when Yallup and Lumley Rau went in search of a college that would bring college courses to the Yakima Valley so that their Head Start teachers could earn baccalaureate degrees. They came to see Ross, who was then the academic vice president at Fort Wright College in Spokane.

Ross convinced Fort Wright to start a remote campus in Toppenish, and the Yallup and Lumley Rau set about recruiting students.

When enrollment challenges at Fort Wright made it necessary to close the college, Ross broke the news to Yallup and Lumley Rau.

“Martha said simply, ‘Let’s just start our own college,’” said Ross. “I told her that was crazy, and she said, ‘Tell us one thing we can’t do.’”

Ross told them the biggest challenge she knew: They’d need to pull together a board of directors. Not about to let their dream die, Yallup and Lumley Rau went to work, gathering the heads of a local bank, a hospital, and a school district, and two of the three county commissioners to serve as the core of the new college’s board.

Through their determination and planning, the dream they set out to accomplish was about to become a reality. Soon, Heritage College was born.


Following Heritage’s founding, Yallup continued to serve the university in several important roles. Her involvement was integral to the relationship between the college and the Yakama Nation.

She served as director of educational programs for the tribe, as well as tribal administrator, a role that allowed her to effectively communicate and implement educational priorities and objectives due to her direct communication with the Tribal Council.

Yallup remained on the Heritage board for more than 20 years, bringing Yakama Nation input to board and committee meetings. Upon retiring from the board, she was granted Board Member Emeritus Status, which allowed her to continue to be a guiding voice.

“When we had important visitors, especially those from foundations or agencies regarding major grants or gifts, I often asked Martha to come meet them,” said Ross, who was president of the college and then the university. “She was always very articulate in expressing the importance of Heritage College to the Yakama Nation.”

Having gained a great deal from her own pursuit of higher education, Yallup often expressed her particular belief in the importance of hiring the most qualified Heritage faculty at Heritage, Ross said.

“Martha stressed the importance of hiring fully qualified faculty, as many with doctorates from reputable institutions as possible. She was always happy and supportive when we were trying to do that.”


The significance of Martha Yallup’s contributions to Heritage University lives on in the form of the Martha B. Yallup Health Sciences building and the Bill and Martha Yallup Scholarship Fund.

“It was appropriate to put Martha’s name on a building that was dedicated to academic programs since she had pursued advanced higher education and so greatly valued it,” said Ross. Today the building is used for several different programs and houses the Heritage advancement department offices.

Martha Yallup may well have found the Yallup Scholarship Fund the most meaningful tribute to her life, her work, and her ideals for the betterment of her people. Established in 2007, it awards scholarships to Yakama tribal members or Yakama descendants majoring in natural sciences or health-related majors.


If Martha Yallup ever felt doubt or frustration pursuing her goals, it wasn’t obvious to the people who knew her.

“She didn’t always agree with tribal leadership, but she knew she needed to get past any differences in order to get what the people needed,” said Hill.

“She may have experienced some frustration if something didn’t seem possible because of lack of resources or when people weren’t seeing her dream or vision,” said Ross. “But she had so much of the energy and connections to get things going and see them through. That’s why she was so effective and accomplished.

“For Martha, it was always about how we should continue working toward our vision and what we should do for others.” page13image41569536

Celebrating the Call for Freedom


In the largest public event since the pandemic, a crowd of more than 800 people turned out at Heritage University to celebrate El Grito de Independencia Cultural Fiesta on September 16.

El Grito is an important traditional celebration in Mexico that commemorates the start of the country’s war for independence. Each year on September 15 at 11:00 p.m., Mexico’s president rings a bell at the National Palace in Mexico City and shouts out a call of patriotism based on the Cry of Dolores, the call out made two centuries ago by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla that started the war for independence. This call is replicated in cities and towns throughout Mexico, with the highest-ranking government official making the call. Here at Heritage, Héctor Iván Goday Priske, Consul of Mexico in Seattle, led the crowd through the Cry of Dolores.

Heritage’s El Grito de Independencia celebration featured traditional foods and beverages, music, dancing, a resource fair, and games and hands-on activities for the entire family. Entertainment was provided by Grupo Projecto 2020, Raices de Mi Pueblo Grupo Folklorico and DJ Manny. Along with the activities hosted by Heritage University student groups, participants interacted with community service organizations from throughout the Yakima Valley who attended the resource fair.

“The vast majority of our students have roots in the Mexican culture. Many have family who still lives in Mexico,” said Martin Valadez, regional director of Heritage @CBC and chair of the event planning committee. “It was extremely rewarding to be part of an event that gives them the opportunity to celebrate their heritage and to share the richness of their culture with not only the rest of the Heritage community but with the community at large as well.”

Dr. Andrew Sund awarded the Heritage University Community Service Award to Robert Ozuna during the program. Ozuna is a Heritage University alumnus who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration in 1991. He is the president and CEO of RGI Corporation, which works with non-profit organizations to research, write and manage state and federal grants to provide the funding necessary to fulfill their organizational missions.


Honoring Our Elders

Celebrating the significant lifetime contributions of Native American elders that impacted the people living on the homelands of the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation.

Every year, for the past seven years, Heritage University recognizes Native American elders for their lifetimes of significant contributions to their communities as part of its Native American Heritage Month celebration. Please join us in celebrating these four individuals.


Strong is a full-blooded, enrolled Yakama whose life work has helped tribes throughout the United States and indigenous people worldwide strengthen their sovereignty. His lifelong command from elders was, “Fill your heart with compassion and your mind with knowledge.” In the early 1970s, he designed the first computer network linking tribes in Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. Immediately following, he led the restructuring of the Yakama Nation to a centralized administration and financial management system, allowing the tribe to take control of practices formerly run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He advocated and state and national levels while serving as the executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. President Clinton appointed Taninsh to the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, where he advocated for social equity, economic vitality, and environmental justice. He counts being Chief Judge for the Yakama Nation as the most challenging yet most rewarding experience of his career.


Pinkham is a full-blooded, enrolled Yakama with a heart for helping those struggling with mental illness, addiction and abuse. She spent 23 years advocating for patients at Indian Health Services, where she met with individuals and families to get to know them on a human level so she could help connect them with the programs and services they needed. She encouraged patients to learn the traditional practices of their culture and family to find connection and purpose in their lives. And, when Cawmit saw the generational destruction that comes from domestic violence and child abuse, she worked behind the scenes through the Native Women’s Association to support the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act.


Schuster is the matriarch of the Snake River Palouse Tribe and a Heritage University alumna. She grew up learning tribal history and culture from family matriarchs in the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She served as a judge in the Yakama Nation’s courts, as the original news director for the Yakama Nation Review, as an educator working with at-risk middle school kids and preschool children, and as a cultural ambassador connecting the Yakama people with tribal communities globally. In everything she does, she works to prepare those she serves to find their place in their community, to be rightful stewards over the land and people, and to respect the generational teachings of those who came before. She credits the patriarchs and matriarchs on the five reservations for all historical information and family teachings.


Calac is Paiute from Susanville Indian Rancheria in California. A Bronze Star decorated Vietnam War veteran, he is passionate about helping those whose voices are often unheard. He spent two years working as a case manager for Yakama Nation Behavioral Health Services before moving to Fort Simcoe Job Corp to help at-risk youth. After he retired, Gil turned his attention to advocating for veterans in hospice care. He is a member of the Yakama Warriors, where he led the effort for the Washington State Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans, and is a member of the Yakama Nation Tribal Advisory Board. Calac maintains a deep reverence for traditional values, guiding him in everything he does.


Welcome Home

Heritage University isn’t your typical college. So, it makes sense that its first Homecoming celebration was anything but typical. There were no marching bands or rowdy crowds cheering on the gridiron boys. Instead, there were tacos and Indian fry bread, lawn games and a scavenger hunt, and best of all, lots of laughter and bear hugs as old friends saw each other for the first time in years.

Homecoming brought a crowd of more than 400 alumni, faculty and staff, students, and friends to the Heritage University campus. The event was a celebration in honor of the university’s 40th anniversary. Guests were bedecked in custom-designed, limited edition 40th anniversary Heritage gear, t-shirts for alumni, and bucket hats for faculty, staff and students.

“It was an amazing evening,” said David Wise, vice president for Marketing and Advancement. “We hear it over and over again; Heritage is like a family. You could really feel that during Homecoming. That night we not only celebrated this university and all the good it’s done in its 40 years, we also celebrated all the people, our friends and colleagues, and the common bond we formed through our association with Heritage.”

Heritage even put its own spin on the traditional Homecoming court. The designation of Homecoming Royalty went to the two students who traveled the farthest to attend college. Tania Nunez is a freshman majoring in nursing who travels 140 miles each day, and Yesenia Delgado, a freshman majoring in education, travels 60 miles to and from campus daily.

“Our students have a remarkable commitment to their education. They truly understand the importance of earning their degree to help them build the life they want and deserve,” said Wise. “That commitment is clearly evident in the sacrifices they make to ensure that they get to campus to attend their classes. In some cases, like with our Homecoming royalty, the sacrifices include spending an hour or more traveling to and from campus every day.”

While this was the first Homecoming, Wise is confident it won’t be the last.

“We learned a lot from this first event and are already thinking about ways to build upon its success for next year.”

Growing the Hops Industry


Hard work, ingenuity and care for farmers earns industry leader award of distinction.

Heritage University faculty and students have received scores of accolades over the years, but so far, nothing quite like that recently bestowed on John Reeves, director of Workforce Development for Heritage@Work, a division of Heritage University.

For his 40 years devoted to developing the United States hop industry, Reeves was cited by the Order of the Hop, an organization established in France in 1406 by John the Fearless, the Duke of Burgundy. Reeves flew to the Czech Republic in July to attend the award ceremony.

Reeves’s work helped build today’s robust American hop industry, second in the world only to Germany’s. The Yakima Valley is the nation’s largest hop producer, with three-quarters of all hops grown in America coming from the Valley.

Reeves seems destined to have done great things in agriculture. When he was ten years old, he started working in the fields of southern Illinois, picking fruit and pulling weeds. When he was 12, he started a commercial tomato farm on land his dad gave him. At 13, Reeves went to work on other farms once he’d harvested his tomatoes. He once set a record by working over 100 hours a week three weeks in a row.

Reeves worked both sides of the agriculture field, laboring with migrant workers and doing business with a cooperative in Chicago that sold his tomatoes – all before high school. He put himself through college, graduate school and his Ph.D. program.

“We worked long days in hot, humid southern Illinois,” Reeves said.

In the early 1980s, Reeves brought his work ethic, people skills, and education to the Yakima Valley as field operations manager for Anheuser- Busch. He immediately developed relationships with growers and made his mark.

Before Reeves entered the scene, there had been no U.S. program for virus testing of hop plants. There was no such thing as a set of quality standards for hops nor any widely understood concept of hop farm sustainability. For the hop growers of the Yakima Valley and elsewhere, there was no selling direct to brewers to earn top dollar for one’s crop.

Reeves’s work changed all that. He was instrumental in establishing the industry’s greenhouse-based virus-free plant propagation program, which meant healthier hop plants and a more robust industry. While employed by A-B, he developed the mega brewer’s ten-point program on quality and farm sustainability, helping growers implement important standards for hop seed, leaf, stem, aroma and more. He made it possible for growers to work directly with buyers, skirting the “middleman” wholesaler and earning more in the process.

Later, Reeves and his leadership team at Yakima Chief Hops built a state-of-the-art carbon extraction facility that removed hops’ alpha acid and oil compounds – the elements that give beer its bitter flavor as well as its aromatic notes. The machine did this, minus the use of any chemicals.

With a master’s degree in plant ecology and a Ph.D. in molecular virology, Reeves took on the challenges before him. His depth of knowledge and his commitment to the industry led to a combined 22 years in leadership positions with Yakima Chief Hops and, later, Roy Farms.

Early on, Reeves’s deep sense of caring for people earned him a reputation as a fair player with the interests of the Valley and its growers at heart.

“John is known as a person who not only can accomplish the task at hand but will do it in a manner that ensures maximum consideration of the people involved,” said Ann George, Executive Director of the Washington State Hop Commission. “He’s established many lifelong friendships among those who have been his colleagues and constituents.”

Reeves says the award experience has caused him to think back on his life, that it’s a long way from rural Illinois to Prague – where, coincidentally, he had an office when he worked for Anheuser-Busch.

Reeves says a trip highlight was seeing a former Latinx colleague receive formal recognition from the Order, which he says almost eclipsed the delight he felt about his award. The man started in the business working in the fields, and Reeves gave him his first promotion.

“Today, he’s a vice president at Yakima Chief Hops and the first Latinx person to be recognized with an award like this,” Reeves said.

Reeves continues to provide management consulting to several area companies in addition to his role in Workforce Development at Heritage, which provides training programs for Yakima’s workforce.

He feels much of his life’s work has been centered on providing opportunities for people.

“A lot of the meaning in my life has come from my work. At a young age, I learned valuable lessons about hard work and teamwork that have stayed with me my whole life.

“I saw people who were systemically discriminated against, and I tried to change that.

“What’s always driven me is seeing people being able to elevate themselves.”