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Heritage in the time of Coronavirus

Dining rooms and bedrooms become classrooms as COVID-19 forces Heritage to take student learning online through Zoom. Here, Professor Corey Hodge leads one of her social work classes.

Dr. Melissa Hill, vice president orders limiting gatherings of more that all non-essential businesses for student services, vividly recalls the days leading up to the closure of Heritage University’s campus in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. On February 27, she and her fellow vice presidents and President Andrew Sund were traveling to Seattle for a leadership conference. Just two days prior, Seattle and King County officials confirmed the first United States COVID-19-related death of a patient in a nursing facility. By the time the team returned to campus a few days later, the number of cases had climbed to 14, and deaths associated with the disease had increased to six. News reports were filled with stories of concerned citizens calling for the closure of Seattle-area businesses, schools and universities.

“We realized that we were entering into an unprecedented time and that we needed to move rapidly to build our plan of action,” said Hill.

The university’s leadership team started meeting daily to prepare a contingency plan in case they had to close the campus. As they worked to figure out how to minimize the impact on students’ education, the rate of infection in western Washington state continued to climb. On Friday, March 6, three Puget Sound area colleges announced they were closing their campuses and moving instruction online, just as Heritage students were wrapping up their midterms and heading off to spring break. By the following Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, and Washington’s governor made his first orders limiting gatherings of more than 200 people.

“We were watching things escalate pretty rapidly in western Washington,” said Hill. “As the number of cases climbed higher and higher in the Seattle area, we seemed pretty isolated here in the Yakima Valley. Still, we knew it was just a matter of time before it would come across the Cascades and into our community.”

By the end of spring break, it was clear that the university had to move instruction online, at least for the short term. Sund announced on Friday, March 13, that spring break was extended by one week to give faculty and students time to prepare to move to small group meetings, where social distancing could be observed, and remote learning. The plan was to resume the semester on Monday, March 23, with campus offices open and staff in place, but almost all instruction online for the next two weeks. However, on the day classes were slated to begin, the governor issued an executive order that all non-essential businesses were to close their physical spaces, and workers were to stay home. By 11:00 that morning, everyone was sent home, the campus was shut down, and all classes and business functions were moved online.

“One of the things that we did well was responding rapidly when it became clear that we were going to have to dramatically change the way we do business,” said Sund. “Things were shifting daily, sometimes hourly, and we needed to be flexible. We had to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and we needed to build ways that everyone could remain safe and complete their education.”

Miles apart but still close together, Heritage’s various departments continue to operate through virtual meetings.

MOVING INTO THE VIRTUAL WORLD

Moving from traditional classrooms to remote learning took a team of individuals with varying specialties. Luckily, much of the infrastructure was in place for distance learning and telecommuting. The university’s Information Technology (IT) department rebuilt its infrastructure following the 2013 fire that destroyed Petrie Hall. The new system contained redundancies to protect critical data from future catastrophes. A by-product of this precaution is that there is more than enough space available to handle the demands of an entire campus working remotely.

Remote learning and telecommuting had been in existence on some level for years at Heritage. Many faculty and staff could already access their desktop computers remotely. MyHeritage, the university’s academic platform, was in place and used to varying levels of its full capacity by faculty and students. Much of the work preparing for the campus closure was training those who were not already familiar with remote access and assisting full time and adjunct faculty who were not fully utilizing MyHeritage with moving their entire curriculum onto the platform. While the university’s Center for Intercultural Learning & Teaching provided MyHeritage training and support, IT secured Zoom accounts for all faculty, staff and students to use for meetings, team projects and group study, and virtual classrooms.

Dr. Yusuf Incetas – photo right – and his ED 496 Senior Capstone students meet virtually online through Zoom.

“By far, our biggest challenge was ensuring that everyone had access to computers and Wi-Fi from off-campus,” said Aaron Krantz, director of IT. “We distributed every laptop we had at our disposal, and we’re purchasing additional laptops for distribution when fall semester opens.”

Aside from the academic challenges, Heritage had to build its strategies surrounding student services. Even during normal times, the demand for student services such as the Academic Skills Center (ASC) and tutoring, CAMP and TRIO, and the HU Cares program is high.

“Many of our students need these extra supports to succeed in college. Tutoring is critical and our ASC moved rapidly to open virtual face-to-face tutoring,” said Hill. “As the semester progressed with virtual classrooms, we received an increasing number of referrals to HU Cares (a safety-net program that assists students in crisis with extra support such as emergency funding, mental health counseling, food and transportation assistance.)”

Hill explained that the issues students faced varied from food insecurity to greater need for assistance with mental health issues, to struggling with being able to work well in the new environment.

“A major challenge for our students is identifying a safe and quiet place to study,” said Hill. “Not only were they at home trying to stay connected and learn, many of our students have school-aged children or younger siblings who were also home needing to access computers and study areas to do their work. When we would ask students, ‘where is your quiet space to do your work?’ we were frequently told, ‘I don’t have one.’ It’s a real challenge when you share a small space with your active family, juggling everyone’s needs.

“On top of that, we have a higher number of students who share their homes with essential workers, particularly in agriculture. This is an area that is being particularly hard- hit by the pandemic. We saw an increase in mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety as students dealt with these pressures.”

Heritage addressed these needs through a variety of means. The university contracted with a licensed therapist to provide additional mental health services through remote access. Funds received from the government’s CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund helped address food insecurity. Every Heritage student received $500 to assist with financial hardships brought on by the pandemic. The money came from a combination of private contributions to the university’s Emergency Fund and funding received from the federal government’s CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. DACA students, who were explicitly excluded from receiving assistance through the CARES act, were provided assistance through giving by several private donors who wanted to ensure they had the same level of support as non-DACA students.

Throughout it all, communication was, and remains, key throughout the shutdown. Heritage hosted several live Zoom information sessions in both English and Spanish. Some were specific to university operations and academic delivery during the shutdown. Others focused on the virus and safety precautions everyone can take to limit its spread.

Enzo Eagle helps Heritage Admissions distribute new student welcome packets during a drive up session at the university.

RECRUITING FOR THE CLASS OF 2024

It isn’t just the current class of Heritage students impacted by the pandemic. At the time of the campus closure, admissions counselors were hard at work bringing in the upcoming class of Heritage Eagles. While many universities’ application and acceptance periods were passed, Heritage maintains open admissions. Students can and do, apply for admission throughout the year, sometimes as close as a few days before the start of the semester.

The months before high school graduations tend to be among the busiest for Heritage recruiters as they help incoming students complete their application requirements and reach out to other prospective students who are just beginning to consider their options.

The order to close campus meant admissions counselors could no longer meet prospective students in person, on campus. However, it didn’t mean the face-to-face meetings stopped. Counselors and student ambassadors moved their work into their home offices, meeting with future Eagles virtually through Zoom.

Additionally, the university modified some admissions requirements to remove barriers that could keep students from enrolling. For example, the university changed the requirement for official transcripts. The closure of school districts made it difficult for students to access official transcripts. However, they do have access to an online grade book that shows the courses taken and the grades received throughout their high school career. Heritage is now using these in place of the transcripts until official transcripts can be acquired. Additionally, the requirement for placement testing to determine students’ level of college readiness is waived. Instead, placement for math and English are being determined through SAT or ACT scores, when available, or through documents being used as transcripts.

Incoming students like Viviana Phillips, from A.C. Davis High Schoo, took advantage of Admissions’ drive-up pick-up option to receive their new student welcome packets over the summer.

“The burden of these times shouldn’t be placed on these students’ shoulders,” said Gabriel Piñon, director of Admissions. “Heritage University is all about access and equity. We are going to do everything we can to ensure that those who want to earn a college degree can do so.”

Where things got a little tricky for Admissions was the public celebrations of full-ride scholarship recipients that’s become a tradition for the university.
Each year in the early spring, Heritage makes surprise visits to the homes and schools of the winners of its full-ride scholarships to announce their award. Each recipient is celebrated and presented with an oversized check in front of an audience of their family, teachers and peers. That couldn’t happen this year. What also couldn’t happen was in-person, on-campus presentations of college starter gift boxes to every accepted and enrolled new student.

“These personal, high-touch interactions with our incoming class are an important part of welcoming students and getting them introduced to the campus culture,” said Piñon.

The Admissions team adjusted to the “new normal” by setting up drive-up awards. Recipients came to Heritage with their families in their cars to receive their accolades and gifts. Heritage shared their stories with the rest of the HU community through social media postings.

Despite the challenges, the outlook for new student enrollment is good. The university is on course to enroll 350 new students for fall 2020. This is 10% above last year’s incoming class.

SILVER LININGS

While the changes to business practices and academic delivery had to happen rapidly and did cause some disruption in the short-term, some of the outcomes have the potential to be beneficial to students in the future.

Dr. Kazu Sonoda, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, points to the university’s growing ability to implement blended models of traditional, in-person classrooms with synchronous and non- synchronous course delivery.

Working from home is the new normal for Heritage faculty and staff, including Enedeo Garza III, one of our student ambassadors who work in Admissions.

“Our students have a lot of challenges and demands on their time that can interfere with their schooling. For example, a broken- down car can make it difficult for a student to get to a class,” he said. “If a student misses one or two classes, it can be challenging to catch up. Being able to provide a blended model of education, where students can attend class in real-time in person or online, or to revisit the class virtually at another time, can keep them engaged and keep them from falling behind.”

The university is working with an outside consultant this summer to make improvements to its distance learning delivery both to address the immediate needs as well as for planning for future applications.

2020/21 ACADEMIC YEAR

In late spring and early summer, much of Washington state began to see cases of COVID-19 flatten. Counties were able to move into Phase 2, meaning some businesses could start to open. However, such was not the case in Yakima County, where Heritage is situated. In June, Yakima had the dubious distinction of having the highest infection rate in the western United States. What this means for the university’s ability to return to business, as usual, remains unknown.

“We are watching this situation very closely and following the directives put forth by the governor,” said Sund. “Heritage will definitely have classes in session this fall. We’re working on contingencies for every possibility, from continuing with online courses to transitioning back into the classroom. Ultimately our goal is to provide a quality academic experience for our students so that they can remain on track to earn their degrees and begin their careers.”

Incoming freshman and Soar Scholarship recipient Bryana Soto-Guillen and her family drove up to Heritage to receive her big celebratory check from Admissions Director Gabriel Piñon.

Heritage University hosts 3rd Annual All Nations Student Powwow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Heritage University students bringing successful powwow back to campus for third year

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s two Native American student clubs are bringing the successful All Nations Student Powwow back to campus for a third year. This year’s powwow will take place Saturday, April 13, 2019.

“The powwow is a great way to showcase the rich culture of the Yakama people, and share it with the community, said Brenda Lewis, president of the American Indigenous Business Leaders (AIBL) of Heritage University chapter. “We are honored that more and more people come out each year to celebrate with us and to experience a bit of the cultural traditions that we hold close to our hearts.”

Central to the powwow are the dance and drumming competitions. Registration for the competitions opens at 10:00 a.m. The event officially kicks off with the Grand Entry at 11:00 a.m. Men and women of all ages – from tiny tots to seniors over 55 – will compete in traditional, fancy, and grass for men and jingle for women dance competitions. Several honor dances and intertribal dances, where people from every culture are invited to participate, are also planned.

Local drum group Chute #8 will serve as Head Drum. Heritage University board member and long-time supporter Arlen Washines, deputy director for Yakama Nation Human Services, and Clayton Chief from the Ministikwan Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada will serve as masters of ceremonies. Casey Wallahee will be the Arena Director and Karen Umtuch will serve as the Whip Woman.

In addition to the drum and dance competitions taking place in the arena, various other cultural activities will go on throughout the day, including a stick game demonstration, storytelling and basket weaving demonstrations. Shoppers can enjoy handcrafted Native and western arts as well as enjoy food from a variety of vendors. Rounding out the day will be a hosted evening meal at 5:00 p.m. prepared by the Toppenish Longhouse.

The Powwow is a free event and open to the public. It is presented by AIBL and the Heritage University Native American Club (HUNAC). Vendor applications are still being accepted. For more information, visit heritage.edu/powwow or call (509) 865—8588.

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Flag raising ceremony and an event honoring Yakama elders kick off Native American Heritage Month at Heritage University

Flag raising ceremony and an event honoring Yakama elders kick off Native American Heritage Month at Heritage University

Toppenish, Wash. – A flag-raising ceremony and a celebration honoring several Yakama Nation elders will kick off Heritage University’s annual recognition of Native American Heritage Month. President George H. W. Bush designated November as Native American Heritage Month in 1990.

The Heritage University Native American Club (HUNAC) and Heritage University are sponsoring the events on campus (free to the public unless otherwise noted), which include:

Friday, November 2:
Heritage University will raise the flags of the Yakama Nation, the state of Washington and the United States during a ceremony featuring the Yakama Warriors. The ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be held at the main campus entrance. At 10:00 a.m., Honoring Our Elders, an event celebrating Yakama Nation tribal elders Loren Selam, Sr., Marlene Spencer Simla, Wanda Sampson and Delano Saluskin and their contributions to the Yakama Nation community, will take place in Smith Family Hall. This event is by invitation only.

Wednesday, November 7:
Therapy Through the Art of Wápaas Weavingwill be held in Smith Family Hall from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., and will feature community member Bessie Wilson (Wahpeniat) teaching how to weave hemp, string and yarn into wápaas bags. Also on November 7, the Community Dinner Gathering will take place in Smith Family Hall. This event will feature a silent auction and entertainment will be provided by motivational speaker Dyami “Eagle Thomas.” The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at Heritage, the HU chapter of American Indian Business Leaders and the HU Garrett Lee Suicide Prevention Grant have joined as sponsors of the dinner which will be held from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

November 12 – 17
Heritage University students, faculty and staff will celebrate American Indian/Alaska Native heritage by participating in “Rock Your Mocs,” an event where people are encouraged to wear moccasins during the week. The event also honors the ancestors of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Tuesday, November 13:
HUNAC will host Ichishkíin Gamesin the Patricia Wade Temple Conference Room from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Students and families from the community are invited to enjoy games played in Ichishkīin including “Aw np’íwitak” (Go Fish), “Nax̱sh” (Uno) and more. The games featured are developed by students of Ichishkíin programs at Heritage University and the University of Oregon. No experience with the language is necessary as tutors will be teaching pronunciation and phrases at the event. Also on November 13, HUNAC member Candace Chief will hold a Ribbon Skirt Workshopand show how to make colorful, cultural skirts. The workshop takes place in the Harry Kent Building from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Monday, November 19:
Ichishkíin Family Game Nightis another opportunity for the public to play games in Ichishkíin. The game night takes place in Smith Family Hall from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, November 20:
HUNAC invites you to Community Storytellingat the Heritage University Tipi from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Tribal elders, students and community members will share traditional stories while roasting marshmallows and sipping hot cocoa.

Tuesday, November 27:
Ichishkíin Family Game Night– Smith Family Hall, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 28:
A three-day extravaganza geared towards creating awareness of frybread will begin on this way, with the screening of the mockumentary More Than Frybreadin Smith Family Hall from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. You’ll learn why frybread is revered in Indian Country.

Thursday, November 29:
HUNAC members will show how frybread is made during a cooking demonstration outside Pigott Commons from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. People will get a chance to buy frybread during this event.

Friday, November 30:
Heritage University students and staff will have the opportunity to put their frybread cooking skills to the test during a competition outside the Arts & Sciences Center from 12:00 pm – 2:00 p.m. HUNAC members will serve as judges for the competition.

Yakama Nation and Heritage University sign memorandum of understanding to strengthen and formalize ties

Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy and Heritage University President Andrew Sund shake hands during memorandum of understanding signing ceremony

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Yakama Nation and Heritage University sign memorandum of understanding to strengthen and formalize ties

Toppenish, Wash. – Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman, JoDe L. Goudy and Heritage University President, Dr. Andrew Sund have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which formalizes their working relationship and mutual goals to provide high-quality college education to Yakama tribal members.

The MOU, Dr. Sund says, reaffirms Heritage’s origins and mission to provide college education to underrepresented populations, “We strive always to stay true to the vision of the two Yakama women, Violet Lumley Rau and Martha Yallup who, along with Sister Kathleen Ross, were instrumental in starting Heritage,” said Dr. Sund. “This MOU sets forth terms for Heritage and the tribe to strengthen our relationship and formalizes the processes by which we work together on an ongoing basis to ensure we create academic programming that is culturally competent and a campus climate that meets the cultural needs of Yakama students.”

Chairman Goudy welcomed Heritage University officials and faculty to council chambers as part of the signing of the MOU. “We are very humbled in today’s time to take an action that aligns with the vision that our elders have had for the benefit of our members seeking higher education,” said Goudy. “This MOU represents a step taken in the right direction to position our membership for success and we thank Heritage University for the collaboration and commitment to the education of Yakama members.”

The MOU is the result of Heritage University board member and Yakama Nation  Human Services Deputy Director Arlen Washines searching for such a document and coming up empty. “We have a long history of working together informally, but it was time to get a formal document created in which both the Nation and Heritage could outline their commitments to each other,” said Washines. “Today marks a significant milestone in our long relationship.”

Dr. Maxine Janis, the President’s Liaison for Native American Affairs at Heritage, watched Chairman Goudy and Dr. Sund sign the agreement in tribal council chambers. “It was my esteemed honor to witness the signing of the MOU. Heritage University now more closely aligns with the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855 honoring the land, lifeways, and culture of the people whose homelands our institution is situated.”

For more information, contact Elese Washines at (509) 865-5121 ext. 4530 or elese_washines@yakama.com, or David Mance, Heritage University media relations coordinator, at (509) 969-6084 or Mance_D@Heritage.edu.

Social Scene: El Grito de Independencia at Heritage University, Yakima Herald-Republic, September 19, 2018

Heritage University in Toppenish hosted an El Grito de Independencia celebration on Saturday, September 15th, 2018.  (Leann Jones / Contributed)

View the gallery at yakimaherald.com.

Heritage University names new provost

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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.

Students share research through ‘elevator speeches’ during symposium

Summer Internship Research Symposium at Heritage University, September 14, 2018

Several Heritage students shared what they learned during their summer internships with the Heritage campus last Friday. During the “Summer Internship Research Symposium,” students presented posters detailing their work. They also summarized their work by delivering “elevator speeches” which focused on the most important aspect of their internship.

Great job everyone!

Heritage University campus and community celebrate El Grito de Independencia

The Heritage University campus was festive this weekend as student clubs and organizations held the first ever “El Grito de Independencia” in observance of Mexican Independence Day. El Grito commemorates the “Cry of Dolores,” a historical event that set off the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. 

Diana Maria Oliveros Martinez delivering the El Grito at the El Grito de Independencia event at Heritage University, September 15, 2018

Close to 500 people attended the Heritage festival which featured fun for the entire family. The cultural event included Folklorico dancers, piñata breaking, games for kids, and performances by Banda Parla Azteca and the CWU Mariachi Club. Families were treated to a free movie and popcorn. 
The highlight of the night was the reenactment of the “El Grito” as delivered by special guest Diana Maria Oliveros Martinez of the Consulate of Mexico office in Seattle. We wish to thank everyone who made the event possible and those who attended.
Click below to see videos and pictures from the event.

Heritage University hosts festival for Mexican Independence Day, Yakima Herald-Republic, September 5, 2018

TOPPENISH, Wash. — Heritage University will host a cultural festival in honor of Mexican Independence Day next week.

The festival, called “El Grito de Independencia,” will commemorate what’s known as the “The Cry of Dolores,” when a Roman Catholic priest in the Mexican city of Dolores Hidalgo rang the bell of his church and gave the call to arms that triggered the Mexican War of Independence in 1810.

Read more at yakimaherald.com.

Heritage University receives $1.5M scholarship endowment for Native American students, KIMA-TV, September 5, 2018

TOPPENISH, Wa. — Heritage University is helping Native American students reach their educational goals with a $1.5 million scholarship endowment.

Ida Moses-Hypeer is a Senior at Heritage University and she is majoring in business with the help of several scholarships from the school.

“Blessing and also really helpful because, including myself, when you’re having these many scholarships all I want to think about right now is to learn,” said Moses-Hypeer.

Watch the story at kimatv.com.

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