News Briefs

Heritage students present their works to peers and professionals at conferences

Two Heritage students recently presented their academic work at conferences dedicated to their study areas.

Anna Diaz-Farias

Mathematics major Anna Diaz Farias represented Heritage at the 2023 Annual S-STEM Scholars Meeting this September in Washington, D.C. S-STEM is an effort jointly supported by the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It supports the recruitment, retention and graduation of academically talented, low-income students to degree programs in science, technology, engineering and math. Diaz presented her research, “Data Fusion Methods in Application to Ocean Acidification,” as well as attended a career fair and learned about scholarship opportunities for graduate school.

Amalia Rubio Gonzalez

Criminal Justice major Amalia Rubio Gonzalez attended the Western Association of Criminal Justice conference in Spokane, Wash. in October. The association is a regional arm of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, an international association dedicated to fostering professional and scholarly activities in the field of criminal justice. Gonzalez presented the preliminary results of her content analysis on opioid and fentanyl legislation. She is a McNair Scholar and recent graduate of the Law School Admissions Council Plus program who plans on attending law school after graduating from Heritage.

Heritage professor receives fellowship to support work on cultural connection

Dr. Yesenia Navarrete Hunter, assistant professor of History, was selected for the 2023-24 Humanities Washington Fellowship. The fellowship “supports early- career scholars and professionals who wish to design and implement innovative projects for underserved communities.”

Navarrete Hunter was selected to develop a project that brings together diverse communities in the Yakima Valley for a series of cross-cultural conversations on the topics of Quinceaneras, place and poetry on the Yakama reservation, and Spanish-language radio for a project she calls We are Neighbors/ Somos Vecinos. She will host three events, one for each topic.

The fellowship provides its recipients with a stipend and funding to produce their projects and builds a learning community comprised of other recipients for skill building and networking.

Heritage opens its doors to local high school students without library access

Corey Hodge (center left) and Brenda Barragan (center right), a teacher at Toppenish High School, pose in front of the Sr. Kathleen Ross Center with some of her students, after the agreement between the two schools was signed.

This fall, Heritage opened the Donald K.C. North Library to Toppenish High School students after theirhigh school’s library became unavailable.

The high school’s library closed in 2020 to make room for a career center. However, the closure left students without a place to conduct research, access books and databases, connect to free internet, and even have a quiet place to study. School officials approached Heritage to request that the university allow their students to access the college’s library.

“The opportunity for Heritage to provide access to Toppenish High School students we saw as a vital link to their education,” said Daniel Liestman, Heritage’s library director. “In today’s world of fake news, misinformation, and rampant bias, it is imperative that students in both college and high school become smart and savvy consumers of information.”

Heritage and Toppenish School District cemented their relationship in October by signing a memorandum of agreement, which allows chaperoned Toppenish High students to visit the Heritage library to access resources and borrow library books and other materials.

Eagles Market food pantry opens on campus to address food insecurity

In September, Heritage officially opened Eagles Market, a program to address food insecurity among students and their families. Food insecurity refers to the lack of consistent access to nutritious food. Many college students face financial challenges and struggle to afford sufficient and healthy meals as they balance school, studying and family life. By establishing a food pantry, Heritage helps ensure that students have access to nutritious food, especially when they are away from campus. “In a recent student survey, many respondents said having a food pantry would reduce the stress of having to find food and allow them to concentrate on their studies and help them do better in school,” said Corey Hodge, vice president of student affairs. “By providing a reliable source of food, Heritage and its benefactors show their commitment to support the well-being of students and foster an environment conducive to learning.”

Sr. Kathleen Ross, Ph.D. performs a blessing during the Eagles Market dedication.

Eagles Market is made possible through the generosity of the Kwik Lok Corporation in Yakima, Wash., and an anonymous donor in Washington state. Heritage also secured a relationship with Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) in Yakima to supply frozen, refrigerated, and non-perishable food items to the food pantry, where it will be safely stored and packaged for distribution.

Heritage University’s new Master of Social Work granted pre-candidacy status

Heritage University’s new Master of Social Work (MSW) program is on its way to becoming officially recognized and accredited by the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Board of Accreditation. The CSWE has placed HU’s MSW on the June 2024 BOA Agenda for candidacy review and has been granted “pre-candidacy status.”

Students who enter programs in pre-candidacy will be retroactively recognized as having graduated from a CSWE-accredited program once the program earns initial accreditation. The accreditation process can take three years, and there is no guarantee that a program in pre-candidacy will eventually earn candidacy or initial accreditation. Accreditation provides assurance about the quality of the program and the competence of students graduating from the program.

Partnership with Gesa Credit Union pays big dividens for student scholarships

Heritage University received its first disbursement of funding from the Gesa Credit Union Affinity Card partnership. Evan Buelt, education partnership specialist with Gesa, presented Heritage with a check for $5,000 in October.

The Affinity Card is a partnership run by the Gesa that supports educational institutions. Credit union members who opt to receive a Heritage University branded debit card support student scholarship at the college every time they use their card.

“Heritage is grateful to Gesa and its members for using these cards that earn money for students with every swipe,” said Wise.

The Affinity Cards are free to Gesa Credit Union members with a checking account. There is no fee for members to switch their existing cards to a Heritage Affinity Card. For more information about this program, visit

Heritage honors university faculty and staff at Fall Convocation

Three faculty members and one staff member were singled out for their outstanding commitment and service to the university and its students during Fall Convocation in September.

Tim Newbury, director of food services, received the Presidential Staff Appreciation Award. This is the first year this award has been made.

Kimberly Bellamy-Thompson, chair of the Department of Social Science, received the Distinguished Faculty Award.

Gregorio Ochoa, social work adjunct faculty, received the Heritage Adjunct Recognition and Appreciation Teaching Award.

Dr. Bob Kao, associate professor of natural science, received the SGA Faculty Appreciation Award. This is the first year this award has been made. It is given by the Heritage University student body to the faculty member of their choosing.