And Still We Rise!

Illustration by Sirin Thada

2020 was a challenge for us all, to say the least. From a pandemic to politics and everything in between, it could be easy to dwell on the challenges of the year. But, here at Heritage, there are far more things to celebrate than to lament. The university and our students came together united in the face of what none of us ever would have imagined and not only continued to operate but persisted and made advances that will benefit our students. Here is a look back at some of our high points of the year.




The Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club perform at the Seasons Performance Hall in Yakima, Wash in January 2020.

Heritage welcomed the Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club to the Yakima Valley as part of their Pacific Northwest tour. The event was part of a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program cross-cultural sharing.


Illustration by Sirin Thada


Admissions Director Gabriel Piñon and HU senior Grisel Rodriguez testified to the Washington State Senate in support of Bill 6559, which would increase the maximum Washington College Grant award at private colleges and universities, such as Heritage.


HU Physician Assistant Program students in Olympia, Wash.

Students from the Physician Assistant Program at Heritage met with Washington state representatives and senators in support of House and Senate bills designed to improve access to healthcare.


Illustration by Sirin Thada

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Heritage University closed its campus and moves all instruction, student support services and business functions online for the remainder of the spring semester.

Jackie Vargas

Jackie Vargas (History and Criminal Justice double major) completed the Washington State Legislative Internship Program in Olympia.




Illustration by Sirin Thada

Yakima Valley Partners for Education, an initiative started and supported by Heritage University, provided food vouchers to 220 families impacted by COVID-19 in the lower Yakima Valley through a grant received from the Communities of Color Coalition and a contribution from Fiesta Foods Supermarkets.




EAGLES Scholarship recipient Colton Maybee

The university awarded the first of its newest full-ride scholarships to 20 students. The EAGLES Scholarship is awarded to STEM students whose interests include working to protect the environment. In addition to the financial award, recipients receive academic mentoring and the opportunity to participate in paid environmental pollution research.


Illustration by Sirin Thada

288 men and women earned their master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Heritage University in 2020. While the pandemic meant the traditional commencement exercise couldn’t happen, graduates donned their caps and gowns for virtual celebrations with friends and families, and Alumni Connections sent every graduate a special gift box in honor of their accomplishment.



Sixteen Heritage University students joined more than 800 of their peers from colleges and universities across the United States to participate in the Professional Development Training Seminar for Undergraduates offered by Brown University, intersecting with the Leadership Alliance National Symposium.


Illustration by Sirin Thada

It was a seemingly impossible task- reimagine the valley’s most successful and time-honored fundraising event in the middle of a global pandemic when standard operating procedures are anything but standard. But, on June 6, Heritage University’s supporters rose to the challenge in a big way. The Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner brought in a record-breaking $851,807!




HU class held virtually courtesy Yusuf Incetas

Improvements made to technology for online learning meant students would be able to take many courses virtually, both synchronously at the time that their classes meet and asynchronously at a time that best meets their schedule when fall semester started. The improvements will impact student success long after the end of remote learning mandates. Students will never have to miss a lecture because of unforeseen circumstances, and they will be able to watch lectures as often as they need to fully learn the course material.


Illustration by Sirin Thada

History professor Dr. Blake Slonecker’s article “‘It’s with Tokens’: Women’s Liberation and Toxic Masculinity” in Seattle’s Underground Press appeared in the summer 2020 issue of the Pacific Historical Review.


Illustration by Sirin Thada

Alumna Magaly Solis, citizenship program manager at La Casa Hogar in Yakima, Wash., received the 2020 Violet Lumley Rau Alumna of the Year award.

Fall semester began with a partial campus opening and options for academic delivery. Students could take classes online synchronously or asynchronously from off-campus or come to campus and attend class from the classroom with their peers and instructors. Student services, such as the library and computer labs, also opened for student access with social distancing protocols in place. 327 new students enrolled at Heritage for the fall semester.


Alex Alexiades

Heritage University Assistant Professor Dr. Alex Alexiades completed his second Fulbright U.S. Specialist Program Fellowship for his work in South America.




Social work class taught by Corey Hodge

The Social Work program welcomed its largest class of students into the major. A combined total of 67 juniors entered into the program at both the Toppenish main campus and the regional site in the Tri-Cities.


Melvin Simoyi

Dr. Melvin Simoyi’s review article, “Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia in Athletes, the Young and the Old,” was published in The Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research.


Illustration by Sirin Thada

The Heritage chapter of the student organization Enactus hosted the first-ever virtual Leaders of Tomorrow conference for high school students.


Melissa Hill


Dr. Melissa Hill, VP for Student Affairs at Heritage, joined the College Success Foundation Board of Directors.




Illustration by Sirin Thada


Mathematics majors Eduardo Gonzalez and Seong Park’s article, “Fluorescence Lifetime Measurements with Simple Correction for Instrument Temporal Response in the Advanced Undergraduate Laboratory,” was published in the American Journal of Physics.


EmpowHer 2020


Roughly 100 women from across Washington state gathered virtually for Heritage’s first-ever EmpowHer forum. The event was a stimulating discussion by a diverse group of women to explore how they, as women, can come together to affect change and build opportunities for everyone.



Physician Assistant students helped protect the community from influenza by providing a drive-up flu vaccination clinic in the Heritage parking lot.





Students from Claudette Lindquist’s Heritage University 101 class organized an Indigenous story-telling event on Zoom as part of the group’s public service project. During their research for the project, they discovered that only 38 books out of the thousands of books available in the Yakima County public libraries focused on Indigenous people. The students started an online petition and social media campaign to raise awareness for the issue.

Illustration by Sirin Thada

Heritage celebrated Native American Heritage Month by honoring four Native American elders who have made significant contributions to their community. This year’s honorees are Sharon Goudy, Kip Ramsey, Lorena Sohappy and Davis Washines.


Heritage University and Behavior & Law Corp., one of the leading online training companies in Europe and Latin America, signed a collaboration agreement to expand Behavior & Law training courses in the United States.





Enactus’s annual Pantry of Hope food and necessities giveaway went virtual. Instead of gift baskets, 100 families in need received Walmart gift certificates. Participants qualified for the gift cards by participating in an online money management course covering budgeting, saving and building credit.



Heritage University announces return to full in-person instruction for fall 2021 semester


Heritage University announces return to full in-person instruction for fall 2021 semester

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University has announced plans to return to full in-person instruction for the upcoming fall 2021 semester. The plan takes into account the progress Yakima County has made towards preventing the spread of Covid-19 and the increasing number of vaccinated residents in the county. “These trends have boosted our confidence that we can fully reopen campus in time for fall,” said Heritage University President Andrew Sund, Ph.D. “We will continue to rely on the Yakima County Health District, as well as State and Federal authorities, to ensure our plans are consistent with their guidance regarding current Covid-19 protocols.”

Sund applauded the efforts by Heritage University’s employees to support student learning in the face of the challenges created by the pandemic. “I am proud of how our faculty and staff rallied to provide a safe and quality educational experience for the students who chose to learn on campus, while also delivering the tools necessary to students who chose to attend classes remotely,” said Sund.

The Heritage University campus has been partially open since the fall 2020 semester to accommodate students who do not have the conditions in their homes to conduct significant academic work. In being present on campus, students have access to reliable high-speed Internet and plenty of space for studying. A full reopening will allow students to develop camaraderie with other students and interact with faculty and staff. “We are anxious to re-establish our sense of community at Heritage,” said Sund. “The majority of students that choose Heritage University to fulfill their higher education do so because they believe in the value that participating in a campus environment brings.”

For the fall 2021 semester at Heritage University, graduate classes will begin August 2, 2021, and undergraduate classes will begin August 23, 2021. For more information, contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or

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Heritage University EAGLES scholars selected for prestigious internships nationwide. Application for the coming year’s scholarships close May 3.


Heritage University EAGLES scholars selected for prestigious internships nationwide.  Application for the coming year’s scholarships close May 3.  

Toppenish, Wash. – Recipients of the EAGLES STEM scholarship program at Heritage University have accepted summer internships at prestigious institutions nationwide.

Each year twenty EAGLES scholars not only receive a full-tuition scholarship but also can apply for prestigious internships, research experiences and enhanced learning opportunities through annual career panels at both Heritage and Portland State University. Applications for the EAGLES Scholarship are now being accepted: the deadline to apply is Monday, May 3, 2021.  The application and complete scholarship details can be found at

The EAGLES Scholarship program is funded through a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) received by Heritage University and Portland State University (PSU) and supports students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields as well as environmental science, biology and computer science at Heritage and PSU. The scholarship will ultimately be awarded to at least 116 students at Heritage and PSU over the next three years.

Last fall, twenty students joined the EAGLES Scholarship program at Heritage, an initiative to increase enrollment and retention of low-income and under-represented groups in the STEM fields, among others. Heritage Associate Professor Alexander Alexiades, Ph.D. is pleased how this first cohort of EAGLES scholars has embraced the opportunities the scholarship has created for them. “We are very proud of every one of our students, especially those who have shown their potential by earning a lucrative summer internship. It’s a testament to their hard work, and to the EAGLES program, which put these talented students on the path to their current success.”

Alexiades further explained that the opportunities associated with this scholarship can be life-changing. “Earning your college degree is always a significant achievement and opens doors to so much in life. And when you can have your tuition fully paid by a scholarship and complete internships at some of the most prestigious research universities in the country it will open doors not only of opportunity but of possibility.  Once completed, graduates could go anywhere and do anything they have their hearts set on. Every student in the valley intent on earning a STEM degree should be applying for this scholarship.”

The Heritage EAGLES scholars who have secured summer internships so far include:

Angeles Marin, a biology major, will participate in two summer programs. The first is with the Heritage University and Pacific Northwest Partnerships National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (HU PNW NSF REU) under Heritage Associate Professor Dr. Robert Kao, for which Marin will receive a $6,000 stipend. Her research will focus on cell biology and phenotypic analysis of Tetrahymena thermophila. For the second program, she will attend the 6-week Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) at the University of Washington. The UW SHPEP encourages scholars to consider, from the cellular to the global level, factors that influence health. Marin will receive a $1,200 stipend for participating in this program.

Colton Maybee, a computer science major, will spend this summer on an internship with Portland State University’s Teuscher Lab, where he will work on a project titled “Computational Modeling Serving the City.” This internship includes two weeks of training in computational modeling, followed by eight weeks of online research overseen by a mentor. Maybee will earn a $6,000 stipend from this internship.

Gustavo Mendez-Soto, an environmental science major, will participate in a Washington State University research program titled “Stakeholder-Informed Innovations in the Food-Energy-Water Nexus.” Students in this program will develop complex systems thinking and system dynamics simulation skills, work with data wrangling workshops, and engage in professional development and team-based exercises through shared activities. Mendez-Soto will receive a $5,400 stipend for this nine-week program.

Anna Diaz, a mathematics major, has been accepted into the Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP) at Brown University in Providence, R.I. and will work with Dr. George Karniadakas, who is leading a team to develop cost-effective methods to monitor and forecast ocean acidification using mathematics, physics and machine learning. The program includes activities directed by her faculty mentor, participation in weekly meetings, and a variety of professional development activities sponsored by the Leadership Alliance and the Brown community. Diaz will also attend the Leadership Alliance National Symposium (virtual in 2021) and present her research to faculty and peers. The nine-week program comes with a $4,500 stipend.

Anthony Brooks, a biology major, will support Portland State University’s Department of Environmental Science and Management with a project titled “Determining salt marsh restoration success using focus groups of managers and the public, and past data.” Brooks will receive a $4,300 stipend for this eight-week internship.

Mayra Diaz-Acevedo, a mathematics major, will join the Numerical Analysis research group for the 2021 Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Diaz-Acevedo will receive travel and living expenses as well as a $4,000 stipend for this eight-week internship.

Andrea Mendoza, a biology major, will perform fruit tree pest research with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Moxee, Wash. working with Dr. Rebecca Schmidt-Jeffris, research entomologist.

For more information on the EAGLES Scholarship, please contact Julie Conley, EAGLES project coordinator at (509) 654-0297 or To schedule an interview with Alex Alexiades, please contact Davidson Mance, Heritage University media relations coordinator at (509) 969-6084 or


EAGLES Scholars top left to right: Anthony Brooks, Anna Diaz, Mayra Diaz-Acevedo, Angeles Marin. Bottom left to right: Colton Maybee, Gustavo Mendez-Soto, and Andrea Mendoza

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Yakima Valley Partners for Education joins United Way of Central Washington to increase access to Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefit


Yakima Valley Partners for Education joins United Way of Central Washington to increase access to Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefit

Toppenish, Wash. – United Way of Central Washington and Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) will use a grant from the Perigee Fund to help families access Washington state’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit. With help from Grandview-based Taxes-Y-Mas, communities in the Lower Yakima Valley will receive information about the benefit and obtain support through the application process. Almost all Washington workers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for fathers, mothers and guardians to bond with a newborn.

YVPE is a cradle-to-career initiative in Yakima County supported by Heritage University and funded by Save the Children. Suzy Diaz, director of Collective Impact at Heritage University, believes the grant from Perigee will help spread the word about the importance for parents and guardians to use the Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit to bond with their children. “Quality bonding time is essential in the development of healthy families and healthier communities,” said Diaz. “Time to bond and be present with a loved one includes not missing out on precious developmental milestones.”

United Way of Central Washington has a long-standing relationship with employers throughout Yakima County and believes improving employee access to Paid Family and Medical Leave can benefit a company through worker retention and satisfaction. “It is important for individuals to know and utilize Paid Family and Medical Leave because so many families are forced to make impossible choices between their financial stability and their families. Paid Family and Medical Leave gives working individuals the time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one or recover from one’s serious condition,” said United Way of Central Washington President & CEO Neiri Carrasco.

Olivia Gutierrez and Francisco Vazquez, owners of Taxes Y Mas in Toppenish and Grandview, are long time community and family advocates as well as small business advisors. During this tax season, they will be distributing information about the Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit to thousands of households in the Lower Valley. “Families express relief for the ability to focus on having their newborn, and the excitement they have for the opportunity to bond with their baby,” said Gutierrez.

For more information, contact Jamie Shores at or Suzy Diaz, director of Collective Impact, at For complete program information visit


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Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops celebrate completion of CHIEF ACADEMY management training program by front-line employees

Chief Academy organizers from left to right:Monica Sanchez, John Reeves, Steve Carpenter, Salvador Benitez, Charles Wheaton Ph.D, Erica Tait, Howard Allred, Cesar Silva, Ryan Hopkins


Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops celebrate completion of CHIEF ACADEMY management training program by front-line employees

Yakima, Wash. – Heritage University and Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) are celebrating the completion of the first-ever CHIEF ACADEMY management training program by YCH employees. YCH partnered with Heritage@Work, the university’s workforce training and development division to deliver the program that, when completed, earned 16 full time employees a Management Training certification.

CHIEF ACADEMY at YCH consisted of workshops that covered five essential topics determined to be of high importance to the company. They included:

  1. The Art of Communication – a business writing and communication workshop which offered tips on improving existing skills as well as preparing participants for public speaking.
  2. Putting Humanity into Human Resources – a highly-interactive workshop covering the important basics of human resources with role-playing activities.
  3. Data Science – a workshop that helps those in company leadership roles understand the importance of data analytics by identifying, interpreting and summarizing data.
  4. Business Finance – a workshop to help employees understand financial drivers and strategic objectives and realize the connection between strategy and financial success.
  5. The Book of Leadership – a workshop where employees learn the attributes of a leader, the difference between management skills and leadership skills, and what it means to be a leader at YCH.

Experts from each field taught the workshops at the company’s Headquarters in Yakima, Wash. from October through December 2020.  Ryan Hopkins, chief executive officer at YCH, said the curriculum developed by himself, Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Garcia, and Heritage University will equip participants with the training, skills, knowledge, and tools to enhance some already skilled managers and leaders within the company. “As a company that is 100% grower owned, YCH is built on the philosophies of continuous improvement and empowering employees.  The CHIEF ACADEMY is a proud example of hop growers working with a great local university to empower our employees and in turn empower great leaders within our community.”

John Reeves, director of Heritage@Work, said the curriculum developed for CHIEF ACADEMY is the result of a deep and thorough understanding of the company’s needs. “Our team worked with YCH leaders to learn where they wanted to see their employees grow, and tailored specific curriculum designed to teach those skills,” said Reeves. He went on to explain that companies who “grow their own” as Ryan Hopkins referred to the training, have one of the best ways to hold onto great employees. “It is an investment, but businesses who empower their employees to grow their careers, get to hold onto good people.”

For more information, please contact Heritage University Media Relations Coordinator Davidson Mance at (509) 969-6084 or or Yakima Chief Hops Global Communications Manager Cait Schut at (916) 690-4379 or

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Heritage University names new director of Student Life and Engagement


Heritage University names a new director of Student Life and Engagement

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University is proud to announce the selection of Isaias Guerrero as the university’s new director of Student Life and Engagement. Guerrero, who was already a staff member at Heritage, and who is a graduate of Heritage, moves to Student Life from the TRIO/Student Support Services department following an exhaustive search which determined the best candidate for the role was already close to home.

Isaias Guerrero, director of Student Life and Engagement at Heritage University

As director of Student Life and Engagement, Guerrero will be responsible for providing support services for the campus student community through events and group activities designed to engage students by promoting participation, service and leadership.

Dr. Melissa Hill, vice president for Student Affairs at Heritage, is thrilled with the committee’s selection of Guerrero. “Isaias brings a wealth of knowledge to the Student Life department, not only with his work through TRIO but his firsthand experience as an alumnus,” said Hill. “He’s been there as a student and knows what it takes to engage students and create positive experiences for students during their time at Heritage.”

Guerrero said the mentorship and guidance he received at Heritage University helped him succeed as a first-generation college student. “The guidance I received in navigating college was so important to my success because I had no one to relate to at home,” he said. “Heritage became a sanctuary of learning for me. Every day I stepped onto campus was a new adventure. I was excited to see my friends and challenge myself in the classroom. This was possible through my involvement with various campus activities. I want to provide these same opportunities to other students.”

As a student, Guerrero was selected to participate in the Act Six scholarship and leadership program which prepares students to become community leaders. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the university in 2019 and began working for TRIO at Heritage as a retention specialist that same year. Guerrero started his new role as director of Student Life and Engagement on January 21, 2021. Guerrero is studying for his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership with a focus in Student Affairs.

For more information, contact Davidson Mance, media relations coordinator, at (509) 969-6084 or

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Yakima Valley Partners for Education receive grants to help families impacted by food insecurity


Yakima Valley Partners for Education receives grants to help Lower Valley families struggling with food insecurity

Toppenish, Wash. – Heritage University’s collective impact initiative known as Yakima Valley Partners for Education (YVPE) has received $34,000 in grants to help Lower Yakima Valley families struggling with food insecurity due to the ongoing pandemic.

Eva Lujan of Latino Community Fund, Forbes Mercy of Washington Broadband and Micaela Razo, also of Latino Community Fund, hold check donations.

YVPE received a $15,000 grant from Save the Children to purchase grocery gift cards for families struggling with food insecurity, and this grant was matched by Latino Community Fund at $15,000. YVPE also partnered with Fiesta Foods which provided $3,000 and grocery cards, with Washington Broadband’s Forbes Mercy also contributing $1,000. These grants allowed YVPE to provide more than 600 grocery gift cards for families in need.

Bryan Ketcham, director of Catholic Charities Housing Services in Yakima, says nearly 90 families living in their housing sites in Wapato and Sunnyside are able to feed their loved ones because of YVPE’s efforts. “During this time of the year and with the current pandemic we have seen a significant increase in the level of need amongst our residents,” said Ketcham. “Paying for their rent, utilities and access to food and other emergency services have been among the highest of priorities and needs that our staff has been helping our residents to access. We are grateful for YVPE’s generosity.”

Luis Alberto Moreno, of Fiesta Foods, Eva Lujan and Micaela Razo of Latino Community Fund, and Alexis Magallon, also of Fiesta Foods, hold grocery gift cards.

Micaela Razo, program director at Latino Community Fund says she is humbled to work within the community to be a voice and resource to the most in need during the pandemic. “We continue to hear the need and work effectively to network with multiple organizations, school districts and businesses to bring relief to the families in need,” said Razo, “Our goal is to make sure we can be a beacon of light in time of darkness to our community. Together we can do more for each other.”

Distribution of the grocery gift cards made possible through these grants began last month in time to help families during the holidays, and will wrap up later this month. For more information, contact Suzy Diaz, Heritage University Collective Impact director at or (509) 480-9354.



Class Notes


Francisco Guerrero (B.A., Business Administration) received the Outstanding Leadership Award from HAPO Community Credit Union. He is the Finance Center Manager at the Sunnyside branch, a position he has held since 2007. Additionally, he was elected mayor of the City of Sunnyside in 2019 and assumed the role in January 2020.



Norma Ortiz (B.A., Business Administration) joined Catholic Family Charities as a Human Resources Recruitment Assistant.


Alyson Mehrer (B.A., Criminal Justice) enrolled in the University of Idaho College of Law and began her studies there in September.

Anitramarina Reyna (B.S.N., Nursing) joined the Cle Elem- Roslyn School District in September and serves as the district’s nurse.

Noemi Sanchez (B.A., History) joined the Washington Immigrate Solidarity Network in Seattle, where she is a fellow working with community members to build a plan to implement the 2019 Keep Washington Working Act enacted by the State Legislature. The act addresses Washington’s economy and immigrants’ role in the workplace.


Submit Your Class Notes

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News Briefs – Fall 2020

Biology professor’s work published in scholarly review

In September, the Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research published a review article by Associate Professor Dr. Melvin Simoyi. His article, Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia in Athletes, the Young and the Old analyses the significance of Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), which is the variation of heartbeat in synchrony with respiration in athletes, infants, adolescents, adults and senile adults. RSA is linked to many physiological phenomena including the body’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment (homeostasis), a predictor of nicotine dependency in adolescents, physical fitness, and overall health of the human body. This Review further explores how RSA varies from the early developmental stages to the late senile stages of life.

Mel HillHeritage VP joins national educational organization board of directors

Dr. Melissa Hill, VP for Student Affairs at Heritage, joined the College Success Foundation board of directors in September.
College Success Foundation was founded by Bob Craves and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins in 2000 to serve student populations who might not otherwise go to college. The foundation provides students with the inspiration, mentoring and financial supports they need to navigate their path to college completion.

College Success Foundation board members are leaders in academia, business and philanthropy, and passionately believe that education raises income, provides security, reduces unemployment and improves health outcomes.

Students benefit from community award

Students impacted by the COVIC-19 pandemic who do not qualify for federal assistance will get the help they need, thanks to a grant from the Yakima Valley Resilience and Response Fund. The fund awarded Heritage a $50,000 grant to provide emergency funding for non-Title IV eligible students, most of whom are DACA students.

The award is the result of a funding partnership between the United Way of Central Washington, the Latino Community Fund and the Yakima Valley Community Foundation.

Gift of laptops bring academic continuity to students during COVID-19 times

A gift from Cadwell Industries is helping Heritage students continue their education through the COVID-19 disruption. The medical device manufacturer based in Kennewick, Washington, donated 90 laptop computers to Heritage and two other colleges in the Tri-cities area for students to use as they work remotely.

Heritage University students are particularly vulnerable during this time of remote learning, said Dr. Kazuhiro Sonoda, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Many Heritage students are the first in their families to attend college and come from low-income families where access to technology is limited. During normal times, these students depend upon the university’s many computer labs to complete their studies. While the labs are open for student use this semester, with strict social distancing and hygiene protocols in place, concerns for personal safety and the safety of vulnerable family members in their homes can be a barrier to accessing these resources. Students needing laptops can check out these donated computers and complete their studies from the safety of their homes without disrupting their education.

PA students provide drive up flu prevention

Students in Heritage’s Physician Assistant program aren’t waiting until graduation to make an impact on their community’s health. In October, they held a drive-up flu shot clinic on campus. In the two hours the clinic was open, they inoculated 27 people against the flu.

While health officials always recommend that people get their flu shot annually, they are doubling down on their recommendations this year as a way to reduce the drain on healthcare resources already strained by the pandemic.

EmpowHer event brings women together in a virtual celebration of the right to vote

In March, a group of women leaders were poised to come together for an event designed to empower, educate and inspire women. Called EmpowHer, it included a diverse panel of female leaders from across industries, non-profit organizations and political affiliations. Then came COVID, and the world shut down.

Organizers were quick to point out that the event wasn’t canceled, just postponed until it was once again safe to gather. But when weeks turned into months, and the need for sisterhood and inspiration became even more acute as the world struggled with the pandemic, the committee decided to revive the stalled event and move it online.

In October, nearly 100 women from throughout Washington state took to Zoom for a virtual EmpowHer.

“It really was an event true to its name,” said Dana Eliason, senior development director and lead organizer of the event. “It was such a dynamic group of strong, inspiring and supportive women. We all left the event ready to lend our voices to the causes near and dear to each of our hearts and to embrace civil engagement, a right that our grandmothers and great- grandmothers fought so hard to secure.”

True to its original intent, the event featured women from across many sectors, including: Regina Malveaux, director of the Washington State Women’s Commission, Washington State Representatives Debra Lekanoff (D-Burlington) and Gina Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale); Quinn Dalan, Yakima Volunteer Attorney Services executive director; Magaly Solis, La Casa Hogar citizenship program manager; Reesha Cosby, YWCA of Yakima Board of Directors president; Caty Padilla, Nuestra Casa executive director, and Virginia Hislop, community volunteer.

While the theme of this year’s event revolved around the anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, Eliason emphasizes that EmpowHer will be an annual event that focuses on issues of importance.

You can watch the event in its entirety online by visiting

Leaders for the Good of the Nation

Every year, Heritage University kicks off its celebration of Native American Heritage Month with a flag-raising and honoring ceremony recognizing four Native American elders.  This year global circumstances forced us to celebrate differently. While we were unable to come together for the gatherings, we celebrated nonetheless with virtual lectures and the selection and public promotion of the four elders whose lifetime contributions to their community made and continue to make a significant impact in the lives of others. This year, we recognize:

“PUNIA” KIP RICHARD RAMSEY, SR. is an entrepreneur, a staunch advocate for treaty rights,
and a historian. Over his lifetime, he has built a cattle ranch and feedlot, a logging company, two gas stations and restaurants, and a tribal fuel distributorship. His businesses add to the economic vitality of the communities in which they sit and employ many Yakama tribal members and others in the community. When the State of Washington infringed upon his rights to move his products freely on state roads to bring them to market, he refused to back down. Twice, he took his battle to protect treaty rights all the way to the Supreme Court. Twice he won, reaffirming the Yakama Nation’s status as a sovereign nation. Above all, Kip is dedicated to serving the people of his community. He sits on numerous boards of directors, including the Heritage University board, for the last 35 years. Punia is an advocate for education and a protector of cultural treasures.

SHARON GOUDY “KUMSHAPUM” is a dedicated mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and wife of more than 50 years to Pat Goudy, who is rooted in her Christian faith and traditional religions and commitment to ensuring the sovereignty of the Yakama Nation. Her work building the vitality of Yakama Nation programs and enterprises spans more than 50 years and began while she was earning her college degree. She’s led programs that support tribal members’ economic independence, oversaw the administration of the tribe’s law and justice programs, and currently manages YN Credit Enterprise. She has a heart for youth and elder services. Through her term on Tribal Council, she helped lay the groundwork for the revenue-generating businesses runt hrough Yakama Nation Enterprises. She serves on the Elders Board and college intertribal relations board. Her work ensuring sovereignty and the welfare of indigenous people isn’t limited to the Yakama Nation. She’s spent 21 years serving on the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians, a consortium of 57 tribes, helping to build policies and initiatives that address tribal sovereignty.

SUPTIKAWAI LARENA SOHAPPY, the daughter of Julia and Frank Sohappy, a well-known medicine man, grew up in the Wapato and Priest Rapids Longhouses. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, having attended Haskell Institute. Suptikawai dedicated herself to helping the people of the Yakama Nation. She served as an interpreter for elders seeking financial and housing services with Yakama Nation Housing Authority. While at Yakama Nation Credit, she helped establish the tribal payroll deduction program, which later became the rotating credit program. As coordinator of the Yakama Victims of Crime Assistance Program, she helped crime victims access services to help them heal. Additionally, she served as a Tribal Council member and is currently Vice Chairwoman of the General Council. Suptikawai is one of the elders of the Wapto Kaatnum and an elder at the Priest Rapids Longhouse. Above all, she is dedicated to her large, extended family.

DAVIS “YELLOWASH” WASHINES has dedicated his life to protecting the welfare of the Yakama Nation, the Yakama people and the rights guaranteed to them by the US-Yakama Treaty of 1855. He dedicated more than 35 years to ensure the safety of his community as a Yakama tribal police officer, the chief of police, and the chief of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. He worked on many efforts to improve the safety of tribal members, including the establishment of mandatory seatbelt laws on the Yakama Nation, and bringing national attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. He is a dedicated advocate for protecting Yakama treaty rights and was instrumental in restoring the original spelling of the Yakama name as it is recorded in the US-Yakama Treaty of 1855.