Bountiful Giving and Grateful Hearts

Nearly three-quarters of a million dollars! That is what Heritage’s generous donors contributed to support student scholarships in a single night at the 33rd annual Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner.

“Scholarship Dinner is one of the most magical evenings of the year,” said David Wise, vice president for Advancement. “I say this all the time; Heritage is truly blessed with some of the most gracious and generous friends and donors. The work we do here at this university simply would not be possible without their continued commitment. Some of our most ardent supporters come year-after-year, for 10, 20 even 30 years in a row, to be part of this great event that celebrates our students and ensures that they, and future generations of students, can access a quality college education here in the Yakima Valley. Their commitment to this institution and our students is truly heartwarming and humbling.”

The event brought 250 people to the university campus on the first day of June, and raised a total of $742,275 in gifts that came in through a combination of sponsorships, table sales and paddle raises. This brings to the total raised since its inception to more than $7-million.

“One of the things that makes this so beautiful is who is giving,” said Wise. “Most universities have a deep alumni base that stretches over many generations, and their alums are by far their greatest source of contributions. Heritage is a young institution. We do not have that same luxury. Our donors are, for the most part, complete strangers to the students in whom they are investing. They give to Heritage, to our students, because they believe in the power of education, in the ability of Heritage to deliver that education, and in our students’ capability to succeed, graduate and make a real difference in the world.”

The event, with its gourmet meals, fine wines and attention to details, has a reputation for being one of the premier dinners of its kind in the Yakima Valley. Local favorite Gasperetti’s Gourmet Restaurant catered the four-course meal, and O Wines and Columbia Crest provided the wine. An original piece of artwork by Central Washington artist Rich Kimura—a work created from folded vintage fruit labels that is a cross between origami and a kaleidoscope image—set the feel for the evening. And of course, the students themselves take the starring role, hosting the evening and sharing their stories with the guests.


Board members Rick Linneweh and John Reeves.

The night’s grand total: $742,275 raised!

Guests raise their numbers high to make their gifts during the paddle raise at the end of the evening.

Recent graduate Shelby Clark, B.S.N., Nursing, shared a bit about her journey and the importance of scholarships.

Vice President for Advancement David Wise leads the paddle raise.

Dr. Andrew Sund and his wife, Norma Chaidez raise their paddles to support scholarships.

Bertha Ortega, Senator Curtis King, Ester Huey

Jim Barnhill sports his Heritage jersey emblazoned with his Boy Scouts number and Scholarship Dinner paddle raise number.

Retired Rep. Norm Johnson and Sharon Young

Growing Our Own

Workforce Development Program Introduced to Fill Skills Gaps

Martín Valadez was having lunch with a business acquaintance several months ago, casually sharing that he was taking a job with a new workforce development program called Heritage@Work being developed by Heritage University. He wasn’t trying to drum up business… not yet. He hadn’t even started his new job as the program director! But the response to his announcement, which was repeated at subsequent lunches with additional business contacts, was always the same – “Wow, I think we need that!”

What he quickly discovered is the workforce development program, while originally developed by Heritage to address a need in the agricultural industry, touched on an unmet need throughout the Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities.

David Wise, Vice President of Advancement and Marketing, said Heritage learned, through conversations with local growers and others that a skills gap existed in the region. “There was a need for short- term training programs first in agricultural companies,” said Wise. “The labor market is tight, and these companies are evolving and becoming more high-tech, so they need additional workforce skills that can also lead to greater, more challenging positions for their employees.”

However, what they learned, said Wise, is that the need for up-skills was more widespread than just farm workers… it cuts across all industries, from financial institutions to municipalities to health care. “There is an education gap between high school and college that we discovered,” confirmed Wise. “Businesses who empower their employees find they are more likely to stay and grow their careers and, as a result, their earning potential. Through Heritage@Work, the employer retains good people, and our university provides a much-needed service.”

Martin Valadez


Heritage@Work is about meeting practical and specific skills deficiencies within companies. The training provided is different for each organization, customized tothe workforce and the goals of the business. Topics like supervisor training, professional writing, leadership, ethics, and accounting basics are common requests across organizations said Valadez. But there are also niche areas like governmental accounting or human resources practices in unionized workplaces, that apply directly to one company.

“Heritage@Work is driven by the customers, so it’s very focused on how to meet their needs,” said Valadez. “We developed it not to compete, but to meet a need that no other organization is structured to meet. We don’t want to reproduce what anyone else is doing.”

Valadez was the perfect candidate to lead this charge. He brings years of experience in instruction and curriculum development as a former college professor of history and ethnic studies. Later, he moved into a career in business development and served as the president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This dual perspective helps him see both sides of the partnership clearly. He can relate to the concerns of a business while also leveraging his expertise in higher education to find solutions.


This partnership, regardless of the company or industry, begins the same – with a thorough needs assessment. “Many customers already know what they want,” explained Valadez. “With others, we meet with a number of people in the organization and put together recommendations based on what we’ve heard, confirming their priorities.”

Valadez has a full plate, managing the logistics of the curriculum, the instructors and the venues. Some are one-off training sessions while others are comprehensive courses that run for many months. He writes some of the curriculum and recruits experts, from higher education or the business world, to write other parts and then conduct the training. The perfect candidates are subject matter experts who are also engaging in the classroom. His connections in both higher education and the community have helped.

“I may use current or retired professors or current or retired professionals in a specific field or industry,” he said.


The name of the game is providing businesses with custom skills training, in which they get exactly what they are paying for. Some want the classes to count toward continuing education credits for their employees while others ask about making the trainings available for college credit so an employee can pursue a degree at Heritage. All of those moving parts fall under Valdez’s auspice.

In a recent example, he sought out faculty in the English department to determine whether a 16-hour workforce-training curriculum might transfer to Heritage as a one-credit class. Valadez said the curriculum is rigorous and more application than academically focused. “Everything in the workforce training modules is practical. There’s a lot of continuous conversation and a lot of feedback from organizations.”

To ensure the training is delivering and equipping the employees as it was designed, Heritage@Work asks participants to complete assessments and provide feedback at the beginning and the end of the training. “We need to demonstrate there is growth and learning,” said Valadez.

Heritage@Work was championed by President Andrew Sund, Ph.D., who oversaw a highly-successful program like it at his previous institution and “lit the fire” at Heritage, said Wise, who was tasked with researching the demand before the program was introduced. Heritage board member John Reeves was another strong proponent, focused especially on how it would benefit farm workers and the agricultural industry. He was instrumental in collecting stakeholders and holding focus groups to make the idea a reality.

Just twelve months later, Heritage@Work is up and running, and generating a lot of excitement, all without a dollar spent on formal marketing! “It’s been gratifying,” said Wise. “It’s a unique opportunity for us – to help those who are already employed contribute more while also providing a diversified revenue stream that contributes to the overall financial health of our university.”

To learn more about Heritage@WORK, visit

Camp S.E.E.D. Flourishes

Local middle school and high school students have a better understanding of the business world after participating in Camp S.E.E.D. Marketing Day at Heritage University last month. Several dozen students from area schools spent two weeks with Heritage University Enactus members to learn marketing skills. With the help of mentors, they researched, developed, manufactured and marketed products which they sold to the campus community on June 28. The students also sold lunch and snack items.

This is the fifth year for Camp S.E.E.D. (Social, Economic and Environmental Development) at Heritage. Several of the mentors, including Grandview High School student Agustin Cortes, attended Camp S.E.E.D. as a student, and is glad to be giving back to the program.

To see pictures from Market Day, visit the Enactus Heritage University Facebook page by clicking here. Camp S.E.E.D. will host a second cohort of students the first week of July at Heritage.

Camp S.E.E.D. Market Day at Heritage University, June 2018