RADLab – Digital Storytelling of Rural America

Rural America. It’s not just country music and acres upon acres of farmlands. It’s a complex stewpot of people from different cultures and ethnicities. It’s multi-million dollar agribusinesses that communities depend upon for their economic prosperity. And, sadly, it’s communities that struggle to deal with the same social ills that impact larger cities–poverty, crime, violence, substance abuse–but often without the resources necessary to make a difference.

A joint project between Heritage University, Whitman College and Seattle-based PopUPJustice gave students a voice to tell the story of rural America through their eyes. Called Rural American Digital Lab (RADlab) students became filmmakers, producing short documentaries on topics of social justice that impact their communities.

RADLab invited 11 students from Heritage along with 11 students from neighboring Whitman College in Walla Walla, to come together to learn, in person and across campuses, how to leverage digital technology to shine a light on the fabric of
life in rural America. The goal said Aurora Martin, the founder of PopUPJustice, was not just to introduce students to the conferencing from the Whitman power of digital technology and storytelling to affect societal change, but also to build bridges and community across two very diverse student bodies.

For Heritage students, RADLab was an opportunity for many to tell their own stories because they or their family members were the subjects in videos that dealt with compelling topics including domestic violence, gender issues, homelessness and immigration status.

(Pictured left to right) Heritage students Cecilia Vizcaino, Noemi Sanchez, Madeline Alviso Ramirez and Maria Soto present their project at Whitman College.

The structure of RADLab was intense–19 days packed with training on advanced digital equipment and audio and video editing software. Every morning, Heritage students, whether in person or through video conferencing from the Whitman campus, heard lectures from subject matter experts about rural issues, ethics in storytelling, podcasting and video log best practices, and more. Every afternoon, the students were let loose to brainstorm, conduct interviews with their subjects or shoot supplemental footage, and edit their project.

Maria Soto, a third-year Heritage student who is double majoring in social work and history, said the quality of the speakers exceeded most students’ expectations. “We did not know there would be such a strong team from all over Washington,” she explained. “We heard from a YouTuber, a Ph.D., and filmmakers who taught us technical skills, like ways to shoot from the back to protect identity. And the importance of moral responsibility and content in storytelling because this is someone’s life.”


The students were broken into groups, and Soto’s group created a project based on the poem, I am Joaquin by Rodolfo Gonzalez. It explores the complexity of Mexican-American identity. Her group filmed the stories of four individuals, and two group members were featured in those stories, which dealt with the challenges of gender identity, undocumented students, farm workers, and a cholo who is giving back to the community.



“I was born in Mexico but have spent the majority of my life here,” explained Soto, noting that she, too, has struggled with issues of Mexican and American identity. “I learned it’s okay to be both. And that we are all part of the same ethnic group, but we can be all of these different things, too.”

Noemi Sanchez is a junior history major who participated in RADLab and also appeared in the video, sharing her experiences as a queer and non- binary student in a conservative rural area.

“For me, one of the skills I further developed was navigating conversations about social justice with people who are not affected by it,” noted Sanchez, who said sharing her story was scary but also liberating. “I didn’t have much experience filming or adjusting audio, but these skills have also helped me produce flyers and short videos for other student organizations and community groups I’m part of.”

Noemi Sanchez and visual arts major Anthony Tzib start their initial research for their RADLab project.

This is exactly the vision that Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson, chair of the Social Sciences Department, had for RADLab, which took almost a year of planning and conference calls to put into motion. “Journalists haven’t been paying attention to rural America, and I’m concerned about the repercussions of not having a voice,” said Bellamy-Thompson. “Here we are just two hours from Seattle by car and from San Francisco by plane, and yet, we have such disparity in digital technology in rural America.”

Thompson said RADLab allowed these students to bring attention to their stories while also gaining job skills and showcasing what they could do when given the resources in a hands-on, experiential learning setting.

Martin, whose organization helps to consult and incubate innovation and social connections, saw RADLab’s mission to be two-fold. “At the end of the day, RADLab was a community-building experiment that sought to plant seeds of innovation starting with the stories of why.” Explaining further, Martin said that because they worked with a shoestring budget that required innovative thinking just to launch the program, they were forced to strip away many extraneous factors and focus on those who could best inform solutions – end users who actually live the problem and who benefit from solutions.

“For me, this was a story of grit and grace,” said Martin. “The ideas are there; they just need the resources.”

Bridging the diverse cultures between the Heritage University and Whitman College students was a key element of RADLab.

Blake Slonecker, chair of Humanities at Heritage and a member of the RADLab design team, said one of his goals for his students in any learning experience is that they leave asking different questions than when they started. For one Whitman student, that meant overcoming a fear of the homeless and being willing to see them as a people with a story of their own. For Heritage students, it was transforming the way they saw the power of digital technology to produce words and images that told a story in ways that can impact hearts and minds for change.

“During the very last few days, we got together with the Whitman students, and we watched all of the videos,” said Sanchez. “And even from the people in my small group, I learned so much I didn’t know.”

HU biology professor develops ‘quizfolio’ to get students interested in science

Getting students interested in science is always a challenge, but HU assistant biology professor Dr. Bob Kao may have developed a new way to pique the curiosity of pupils. He’s developed an innovative assignment called a “quizfolio.” What exactly is a quizfolio? It’s a blend of a quiz and mini-portfolio, and the Yes We Must Coalition ran a story on the concept in its newsletter. Click here to read the full story.

Heritage University faculty member named ‘Distinguished Nurse of the Year’

Heritage University faculty member named Distinguished Nurse of the YearAnita shoup

Toppenish, Wash. – The March of Dimes’ Washington state chapter has named Heritage University Assistant Nursing Professor Anita Shoup as Distinguished Nurse of the Year. With this award, the March of Dimes recognizes Dr. Shoup for having a lasting positive impact on the nursing profession in Washington state.

Dr. Shoup has nearly 40 years of experience as a clinical nurse specialist and is a founding member of the Washington State Council of Perioperative Nurses, an organization now in its 28thyear. Dr. Christina Nyirati, the director of the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program at Heritage, said Shoup has played an important role in developing, implementing and evaluating the BSN’s curriculum. “The dedication she’s shown in working as a nurse, influencing healthcare policy and training our students for excellence in nursing makes her a perfect choice for recognition as Distinguished Nurse of the Year,” said Nyirati.

Dr. Shoup, Dr. Nyirati and sixteen BSN students from Heritage attended the March of Dimes ceremony in Seattle last month where Shoup received the award. “While I was surprised, humbled and honored to win, I felt it was more important that the students who were there got the chance to engage in professional networking and celebrate outstanding nurses who care for patients day in and day out,” said Dr. Shoup.

Anita Shoup joined Heritage University in 2015 as an assistant professor of nursing and the coordinator of simulation and experiential learning. In addition to overseeing classroom, laboratory and clinical instruction, she oversees the program’s learning resource center and simulation suites to ensure an authentic experiential learning experience for students. Shoup has worked for Swedish Medical Center and the University of Washington Medical Center, both in Seattle, as a perioperative clinical nurse specialist, as a clinical nurse consultant for Mölnlycke Healthcare, and as a faculty member for the University of Washington School of Nursing. She earned her doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in nursing all from the University of Cincinnati.

For more information, contact Anita Shoup at (509) 865-8596 or Shoup_A@Heritage.edu.


Heritage University and Yakima Valley College Sign MOU for Criminal Justice Program Press Release

Heritage University, Yakima Valley College sign memorandum of understanding for criminal justice program

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University (HU) and Yakima Valley College (YVC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that makes it easier for students studying criminal justice at YVC to transfer to Heritage University to earn a bachelor’s degree in that field.

The MOU ensures that YVC students who successfully complete an associate of applied science-transfer (AAS-T) degree are guaranteed to be accepted into HU’s undergraduate criminal justice program. “We want students who start at YVC and then transfer to HU to experience a smooth transition, with minimal to no loss of credit and duplication of coursework,” said Janet Foster Goodwill, criminal justice instructor and department chair at YVC. “The process by which our students can turn their two-year degree in criminal justice, into a four-year degree at Heritage has never been easier.”

YVC students who pursue a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice can take advantage of a program designed for career success. “Studying criminal justice is so much more than public safety,” said Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson, social science department chair at Heritage. “We teach innovative ways to approach public policy and justice in an ever-changing America. Students can take advantage of established internship programs with law enforcement agencies who have a need for people with critical-thinking skills, the ability to integrate ideas and a commitment to lifelong learning.”

For more information, contact Janet Foster Goodwill at (509) 574-4794 or jgoodwill@yvcc.edu or Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson at (509) 865-0748 or Bellamy-Thompson_K@Heritage.edu.

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Heritage University finals week schedule now online

Finals week is less than a month away, and the information you need to know can be found online.

The PDF posted has information including: class code, class name, instructor name, final exam day, final exam date, final exam time and final exam room.

Click on the link for the complete schedule.



Heritage University’s BSN Program Receives Accreditation

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University announced today that its bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program has earned accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The BSN Program met all four accreditation standards, and its accreditation status is valid through 2023, when the program will be eligible for renewal. The CCNE is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency and contributes to the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate and residency programs in nursing. CCNE serves public interest by assessing and identifying programs that engage in effective educational practices.

Dr. Christina Nyirati, director of the BSN program at Heritage, said “the program  cultivatesnurse leaders to provide culturally competent, community-focused care. By preparing our BSN program to meet CCNE professional nursing education standards, real health equity for the ethnically diverse populations in the Yakima Valley is served.”

Heritage University President Dr. Andrew Sund said the BSN at Heritage promotes fulfillment of the Heritage University Mission, as it prepares graduates to function as providers of care, scholars, as well as leaders and collaborators. “We are proud of the work Dr. Nyirati and her team are doing to meet the regional, statewide and nationwide demand for nurses,” said Dr. Sund.

The CCNE accreditation of the Heritage University BSN program is effective as of January 31, 2018, the first day of the program’s recent CCNE on-site evaluation. For more information, contact Dr. Christina Nyirati at (509) 865-8578 or Nyirati_C@Heritage.edu.


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Heritage University’s Physician Assistant Program opens application process for 2019-20 academic year

Heritage University P.A. Program students Jim Peterson, Sal Lopez and Angie Bosma

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University announced today that the application period has opened for its Physician Assistant Educational Program for the 2019-20 academic year. Classes for this cohort will begin in the summer of 2019.

The Physician Assistant Program at Heritage University is one of three healthcare industry-related programs (the other two being the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Master of Arts in Medical Science) that exist to meet the demand for highly-qualified medical professionals that are in high demand in rural communities like the Yakima Valley.

Dr. Linda Dale, the director of the P.A. Program at Heritage, is thrilled to be providing students with the education and training they need to become successful medical professionals. “We are excited to soon begin the process of sifting through thousands of inquiries and hundreds of applications from around the country from people who want to become physician assistants,” said Dr. Dale. “We will choose the top 32 candidates who want to concentrate their work in underserved, rural areas like ours.”

Dr. Dale said the program is fully committed to providing students with the best education possible and has already surpassed two other program goals related to rural health care; the first was to have two-thirds of graduates working in an underserved area (actual percentage is nearly 70 from the first three classes). The second goal was to have at least half of the graduates working in primary care (the actual is just over 50%).

The Physician Assistant program is a partnership between Heritage University and Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences with which the University has a deep and growing relationship.  “The P.A. program is a tremendous example of our collaborative effort to provide for the healthcare needs of The Valley,“ said Edward Bilsky,Provost and Chief Academic Officer and Professor of Biomedical Sciences at PNWU.  “We continue to explore additional opportunities on which we can work together in the future to continue to meet those needs.”

To learn more about the P.A. Program at Heritage, visit heritage.edu/PAprogram. For more information contact Linda Dale at (509) 865-0707.


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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


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.

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.