Academic Affairs

Wine industry professionals seeking to advance their position or learn more about wine science may benefit from Washington State University’s online wine business management certificate. 

Registration for fundamentals of the wine business, the first of six modules offered by the Carson College of Business at WSU Tri-Cities, is open until  midnight, January 1,  at http://bit.ly/2A4nTgG. Students may register for individual modules or the entire one-year certificate.

Instructors include wine-industry experts, business and law professionals, and hospitality professors. Because the wine business management program is taught online, students can complete studies at their own pace within each module.

One unique aspect of the certificate is the wine business resident experiences. Students enrolled in the full certificate participate in two, off-site, hands-on wine experiences. The first introduces the strategic management wine project in Richland. Its proximity to the Red Mountain AVA, a designated American viticultural area in Benton County, Washington, exposes students to an agricultural region that distinctly makes Washington wine unique. The second residency at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville aims to immerse students in Washington’s wine business hub.

For more information about the wine business management certificate, call the Wine Beverage Business Management program at 509-335-5766 or email darcie.bagott@wsu.edu.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Students will present on their research, course projects and art from noon – 1 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, Dec. 12-14, as part of the Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition - Spring 2017Members of the public are invited to attend the student presentations. The sessions will be in Consolidated Information Center room 120, with Thursday’s presentations also in the Art Gallery and SIMIAN Lab, located on the second floor of the library.

Allison L. Matthews, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of psychology, said that the symposium provides students with the opportunity to showcase their research designs and findings, in addition to providing them with the public experience of communicating those results to a wide audience.

“This event is a great way for our students to present their scholarship, creative works and real-world research that has the potential for advancing discovery and knowledge in a range of academic subjects,” she said. “The Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition allows our students to showcase these projects and highlight their accomplishments.”

Academic areas highlighted during the symposium include: biology, computer science, English, fine arts, history, political science and psychology.

Some of the projects include:

  • Partnering with PNNL to write software that helps advance informatics and instrumentation to help understand fundamental biology, including aiding cancer research.
  • Evaluating the composition of macroinvertebrate samples from the Tucannon River.
  • Exploring how dystopian literature reflects the culture and social anxieties of a given time period.
  • Using quantitative analysis to help establish patient demographics and to assess the relationship between mental health and blood sugar levels – a partnership with the Grace Clinic in Kennewick.
  • Creating virtual reality environments through the use of the Simian Lab on campus.
  • Partnering with CypherPath to write software that can analyze network traffic, which can be used for cyber security.

 

Contacts:

Allison L. Matthews, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of psychology, 509-372-7146, almatthews@wsu.edu

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations spe

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities alumnus Geoff Schramm never thought he would go to college.

Coming from a family where no one before him in his family had gone to college, he said it was sort of a family tradition that he goes straight into the workforce after high school.

Geoff Schramm presents during first-generation student celebration event

WSU Tri-Cities alumnus and instructor talks with students about being a first-generation, non-traditional student during a first-generation celebration event on campus.

“That’s just what you did in my family,” he said. “I didn’t have a blueprint for college or someone that could tell me about the experience. In some odd way, I felt it wasn’t for me when I was young.”

However, when the recession hit in 2008, he started thinking more about his future and the uncertainty that detailed the availability of jobs that were opened to him without an undergraduate degree. That same year, he applied to Washington State University Tri-Cities, got in, but couldn’t muster up the courage to start his classes. Then in January 2011, with his wife’s hand in his, he walked up the entrance steps to campus to begin his first semester at WSU Tri-Cities.

As the first person in his family to attend college, the beginning of this new college process was daunting. Often times, he said he didn’t feel he was smart enough. But through getting involved with campus programming, student clubs and especially through the development of professional relationships with faculty and staff, he said he found his place and really excelled in school.

“I decided to really submit and give myself to the process,” he said. “Once I started to do that and get involved with things on campus, everything changed.”

Finding his feet

While going to school, Schramm worked in the career development office as a career coach and then as a student mentor. He was also involved with several student clubs and served as a member of TRIO, which provides support services for students who are first-generation, disabled or economically disadvantaged.

Meanwhile, Schramm worked heavily with his environmental science faculty mentors to get a grasp of his school work, learning everything he could about his future field. Those same individuals then helped him connect with external professional learning opportunities that paired directly with his coursework.

WSU Tri-Cities alumnus Geoff Schramm hugs professor Dick Pratt following receiving his diploma last spring.

WSU Tri-Cities alumnus Geoff Schramm hugs professor and mentor, Dick Pratt, following receiving his master’s diploma last spring.

As an undergraduate student, Schramm completed a number of internships in his academic field. His first was with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which was followed with an internship with Mission Support Alliance doing biological monitoring. He also did a six-month internship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As his combined school and career participation grew, so did his confidence, he said.

“I realized you may not get a degree because you’re smarter,” he said. “You can achieve a degree because you’re persistent enough to see yourself excel and you see it through. You have to put yourself out there and take opportunities as they come. I grew as a person mainly because I put myself out there.”

Prior to the end of his senior year, he decided to pursue a master’s program in environmental science. Through this opportunity and combined with his regular courses, he got the chance to teach several undergraduate lab courses, which opened his eyes to his love for teaching. He spent the past several summers helping instruct science courses for middle and high school students. He also completed an additional internship, this time with CH2M.

After graduating with his master’s in environmental science last spring, Schramm now works for Washington River Protection Solutions as an environmental quality lead. In addition to his full-time position, and as a way to give back to his time at WSU Tri-Cities, he also continues to teach science courses at the university.

Inspiring a new generation of college graduates

As he looks back on his college years, he said they were the ones that really prepared him for the best version of his professional self that he could be.

“I love being here,” he said of WSU Tri-Cities. “It was hard for me to leave as a student because I did see this place and the people here as family. The personal gratification that I felt through this place, which helped me reach my own desires, dreams and aspirations, stays with me.”

Geoff Schramm presents during the first-generation student celebration event at WSU Tri-Cities

Geoff Schramm presents during the first-generation student celebration event at WSU Tri-Cities.

Schramm said he now hopes to inspire in his children, as well as other men and women, to achieve their own aspirations through obtaining a college education. He asked his son recently if he was thinking about college.

“Heck yeah, I think about college all the time,” his son replied.

“I hope to build a legacy for my family and show them that education is important, life-long learning is important and giving back is important,” he said. “Hopefully through this experience, I’m giving them that.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Vincent Danna (’17) was in middle school when he lost all of his hair.

He suffers from a condition known as alopecia universalis, which is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. His personal struggle led him to want to become a dermatologist and help those who experience serious skin diseases and other ailments.

Vincent Danna (left) and brother

Vincent Danna’s brother (right) decided to shave his head in support of Vincent when he lost all of his hair in middle school.

“It sounds silly,” he said, “but my experience really spiked my interest in wanting to help other people through medicine.”

His passion led him to pursue a degree in biological sciences at Washington State University Tri-Cities, which in turn helped him land an internship at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He continues to conduct cancer research with the computational biology group at PNNL.

He plans to use both experiences to get into a good medical school so that as a doctor, he can help others with similar and more serious medical conditions.

Real-world cancer research

At PNNL, Danna and his colleagues are analyzing ovarian cancer data in order to digitally categorize the productivity of what are called kinases. Kinases are enzymes within a cell that modify proteins and play a major role in the process of cell division.

Under the supervision of his PNNL mentor, Jason McDermott, Danna’s research focuses on identifying whether certain kinases are significantly overregulated or underregulated within cancer cells, which could demonstrate how kinases lead to the formation of malignant tumors. Targeting dysregulated kinases, he said, has the potential to stop the spread of the cancer, or to prevent it from developing altogether.

WSU Tri-Cities alumnus Vincent Danna

WSU Tri-Cities alumnus Vincent Danna

This spring, the team analyzed kinase data from 69 ovarian cancer patients. Danna said their results are promising.

“Cancer is essentially the over-replication of cells,” Danna said. “Chemotherapy targets fast-growing cells, but that can affect the whole body, as well as normal cells, which is why patients typically lose their hair. With our research, we hope to target something more specific, like a kinase or a gene.”

In the future, he said individuals may be able to take a drug or another inhibitor to suppress or better regulate those kinases.

“Targeted therapy is recognized as being one of the healthier and more beneficial methods in treating patients with ovarian cancer,” he said.

Danna and his colleagues at PNNL are now investigating whether dysregulated kinases have implications for phenotypes. Phenotypes are an organism’s gene-expressed observable characteristics, such as hair color. The outcome could help predict a patient’s lifespan and ability to fight ovarian cancer.

“The goal of that research is improving that patient’s quality of life and and to give them a better estimation of what they’re dealing with,” he said.

Additionally, Danna and other PNNL researchers are using similar processes to examine patient resistance or sensitivity to a type of cancer treatment called platinum therapy. The therapy uses platinum compounds to produce changes in the DNA structure as a way of treating specific cancers, including ovarian cancer.

Medical school and beyond

Danna said his science and statistics courses at WSU Tri-Cities gave him the ideal foundation for being successful with his work at PNNL. He said gaining the biological knowledge, as well as developing the statistical analysis skills to understand the computational side of writing code and programming through his internship, is what gave him the background to be successful with his position at PNNL.

Combining his academic knowledge with the opportunity to work on research that has real-world medical applications, has given him a realistic look at how medical research is done, and as a result, is experience he can someday use as a doctor, he said.

“It feels good that the research I’m completing will hopefully make a difference in the lives of future cancer patients,” he said.

Danna plans to take the Medical College Admission Test this spring and apply to medical schools soon afterward. He is currently considering the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine as an option.

Looking to the future, he is excited to lead his own medical initiatives that one-day might positively impact the lives of patients.

“I know what it’s like to suffer from a condition that can affect your physical and even emotional well-being,” Danna said. “I hope to make a difference in the lives of my own patients, someday.”

Preliminary research to be scaled into larger effort analyzing trends in wine industry entrepreneurship

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – From renowned winemaking regions to those that aren’t typically known for winemaking, business faculty from Washington State University Tri-Cities are studying why people start wineries in locations across the United States.

VineyardWine is currently made in every state in the nation; however, there are wineries located in regions that may not be suitable for grape growing or that don’t have a heavy foundation in wine entrepreneurship, said Rhonda Hammond, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of hospitality business and wine beverage business management.

Study examines winemakers’ motivations

“There is a gap in data regarding entrepreneurship in the wine industry,” Hammond said. “There hasn’t been a lot of research conducted on wine entrepreneurship in the United States. Not all winemakers are established in the places best for winemaking.”

Hammond, Byron Marlowe, clinical assistant professor and wine and beverage business management program coordinator, and Paul Skilton, associate professor of management, want to understand winemakers’ motivations and analyze major themes in entrepreneurship for wineries across the industry

In spring 2017, the researchers examined 307 U.S. wineries and vineyards as identified by Wine America, the national association of American wineries. They analyzed web and other digital media information to determine why wine makers chose various winery locations, and to see if location impacted success.

Location familiarity may trump best growing climate 

Hammond said their initial research indicates some winery owners, especially for those in regions that aren’t known for wine, may have sought out locations based on familiarity, regardless of whether the region’s soil, atmosphere, reputation and other conditions were conducive for winemaking. Others may import their fruit juice from other locations, she said.

“If people are already familiar with a place, then it makes it easier for them to be aware of opportunities and feel more comfortable starting a business in that location,” she said. “Some may also be able to import grape juice. Just because they may not be able to grow the grapes there, doesn’t mean they won’t be able to get the juice to produce wine.”

Hammond said wineries located in climates unsuitable for grape growing may also make wine with other fruits.

“The definition of wine is fermented fruit juice,” Hammond said “Hawaii, for example, is making pineapple wine. With the ability to transport juices, winemakers can utilize materials from other regions.”

The researchers plan to expand their research into a more extensive study where they will reach out to wineries across the country to assemble in-depth information about the wineries’ beginnings.

“We are hoping this can give us some direction and hopefully turn into something much bigger for the betterment of the wine industry,” Hammond said.

Chosen as one of approximately 30 students nationwide for summer optometry experience in Berkeley 

By Jessica Roth, WSU Tri-Cities

Catalina Yepez

Catalina Yepez

RICHLAND, Wash. – As a result of resources and mentorship she received at Washington State University Tri-Cities, student Catalina Yepez not only began the initial steps of realizing her future dream of becoming an eye doctor. The opportunities also led her to be selected for an opportunity open to only 30 students nationwide.

Yepez was selected as one of 30 students across the country to participate in a weeklong workshop that prepares students for medical school and careers in optometry at the University of California, Berkeley, this summer. The opportunity is one that was recommended to her by a WSU Tri-Cities professor.

She is now using the support of both her professors and her academic advisor to propel her opportunities as a future optometrist.

Identifying career dreams

Prior to beginning college, Yepez said she didn’t know what she wanted to pursue as a professional career. While going to school at Columbia Basin College, Yepez earned a receptionist job at a local vision clinic to help finance

Scan of Yepez's eye

During her optometry experience in Berkeley, Yepez got get a close look of her eye as part of an introductory eye exam.

her education. As she worked her way up, from clerical duties to conduction pre-testing for patients, she became fascinated by the whole field of optometry and found that she enjoyed working in the clinic.

While conducting an eye exam for a young boy who was fearful of the whole experience, but then became elated when receiving his first pair of glasses, Yepez’s eyes were opened about the opportunities in optometry.

“He exclaimed ‘I can see! I can see!” she said of the young boy’s reaction upon receiving his new glasses. “It was rewarding knowing that something so small and simple can change a person’s attitude and expression for the better. That is when I realized that optometry is what I wanted to do.”

Propelling dreams into actions

Shortly after that experience, Yepez began restructuring her academic plan to meet the pre-med requirements for optometry. She decided to transfer to WSU Tri-Cities her junior year to complete her undergraduate degree and to take advantage of the opportunities and resources available through the four-year university. An academic advisor, she said, was incredibly helpful with that process.

“I spoke to Mariella (Lora) with advising, she helped me out so much with my decision to transfer to WSU Tri-Cities,” she said. “It’s amazing how far you can go with the right support.”

Last spring, Elly Sweet, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of biology, encouraged Yepez to apply to internships to help her prepare for her future in optometry. This prompted her to look into prospective schools that she’d be interested in attending, and through her search she found a workshop offered at University of California, Berkeley.

Yepez and friends in an eye exam room

Yepez and friends in an eye exam room

The workshop allows students to experience what life was like as a medical student in the school’s optometry program. The program also provides students with valuable information about the admissions requirements and standards for medical school.

Yepez gained a recommendation from Nelmi Devarie Baez, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of chemistry, to include with her application for the program. She said she had Devarie Baez as an instructor for her organic chemistry class, which was one of her hardest courses. But through his mentorship, she gained an understanding for the material that would be vital to her future as an optometrist. With his recommendation and to her surprise, Yepez was selected of one of 38 students from around the United States for the experience.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” she said of her admittance into the program.

Through the program, Yepez spent one week in California with her cohort learning about strategies for a good score on the Optometry Admission Test, which is required for admittance into any optometry program, in addition to learning about how to prepare for an interview in the medical school application process and opportunities for real-world experiences in optometry after graduation. She also got to tour the university’s facilities and get a feel for the types of things they would be doing as medical optometry students.

“It was exciting,” she said. “We played with all of their equipment and learned how to perform a basic eye exam on each other. We learned more about the eye and vision and we got to experience a little bit of what it’s like to be a student there.”

Planning future career success

Yepez said if it wasn’t for the help and support of the faculty and staff at WSU Tri-Cities, she might not have realized her potential as a future optometrist and wouldn’t have gained admission into the Berkeley workshop.

“Everybody here at WSU Tri-Cities is trying to help you succeed,” she said. “There are a lot of resources here if you use them, and they help you out a lot. I am very happy I came here.”

Following her graduation this spring, Yepez said she plans to spend a gap year job shadowing local optometrists in the field and volunteering at a local cancer center before applying to optometry programs. She said she one-day hopes to work in a medical firm in the Tri-Cities region and might consider opening her own practice.

“WSU Tri-Cities has made me realize that optometry is a competitive field and I need to be a competitive applicant,” she said. “There are ways for me to prepare and resources here I can use. I’ve definitely gotten help every time I’ve asked for it.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Jonah Firestone
Firestone

RICHLAND, Wash. – WSU Tri-Cities is developing a teacher endorsement program in computer science that has attracted a $49,000 grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and a matching contribution from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Currently, there is no teaching endorsement program at any universities in Washington state for computer science, which makes program development in the subject increasingly important in today’s advancing technological society, said Jonah Firestone, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of teaching and learning and campus lead on the grant.

“The state of Washington has pushed to have at least one computer science teacher at every school who has an endorsement in the subject,” Firestone said. “Up until now, it was usually a math or science teacher who also had an interest in computing that would serve that role. But we need to take that further and offer an endorsement in the subject in order to best prepare our teachers.”

The first phase of the grant funds, he said, will fund the development and offering of professional development workshops with teachers from five districts that include Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Prosser and Othello. The workshops, which currently are being developed by WSU Tri-Cities and PNNL and will be taught by PNNL computer scientists this spring, will provide training on computer science concepts and skills and for designing computer science curriculum.

The funds will also go toward stipends for educators who participate.

Firestone said there will be a combination of teacher recruitment for the program and recommendations from districts for current instructors who would immediately qualify for the program based on their roles in schools.

“We’re looking at teachers who are already in technology classes, plus we’re working with our contacts at the local science, technology, engineering and mathematics schools to inquire about teachers who would qualify and be interested,” he said.

Morrison Judy
Morrison

The second phase of the grant entails the analysis of data collected over the course of the workshops, which will then be used for the development of a computer science certificate program for educators. Firestone and Judy Morrison, associate professor of teaching and learning, will co-lead the project. Together they will analyze the workshops and develop the certificate program.

Firestone said the certificate program will combine education courses with computer science courses.

“Classes on the content are not enough,” Firestone said. “We have to have classes on how to teach this material to the kids.”

WSU Tri-Cities is the only university in the state selected for the grant program. Twenty-four other districts, schools and nonprofits also were selected for the program, who will use the funds to train teachers, provide and upgrade technology, and expand access to girls, students from underrepresented populations and communities who have historically been underserved. The grants awarded to higher education institutions across the state total nearly $1 million.

“We are very grateful to OSPI for presenting this opportunity and to PNNL for providing the in-kind matching funds that will go toward the program and their time in working with us on this endeavor,” Firestone said. “This grant is allowing us to get this program started and off the ground. This is stage one of a multistage process.”

 

Contacts:

amazon catalyst + wsu logos

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University announces the launch of a collaborative program with Amazon titled Amazon Catalyst — a successful innovation grant program.

Amazon will provide up to $300,000 to WSU to launch the initiative, providing funding and mentorship to support bold, globally impactful and disruptive projects proposed by members of the university community. The Amazon Catalyst program will support the expansion of the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the WSU system.

Grants will be available to students, staff and faculty across all of WSU’s campuses, colleges, research stations and extension offices located throughout the state. The grants can be awarded in any field, including the humanities, engineering, physical and life sciences, and the arts. Grant recipients also will join the Amazon Catalyst Fellows, a collaborative community of individuals who share a passion for building solutions to solve complex problems. The grants reward creativity, scholarship, and innovation for devices, products, processes and services.

Amazon first launched Amazon Catalyst at the University of Washington in 2015. In the program’s first two years it funded dozens of projects, ranging from self-cleaning solar panels to eco-friendly self-driving bikes, that tackle difficult challenges.

“We’re excited to bring the Amazon Catalyst program to WSU and to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurial spirit across the entire state of Washington,” said H.B. Siegel, director of engineering at Amazon Web Services, Inc.

Keane Christopher-
Keane

“As the state’s research land grant institution, with a mission of supporting and creating innovation that drives the economy of the state of Washington, we are thrilled to have the Amazon Catalyst program at WSU,” said Chris Keane, the university’s vice president of research. “Thousands of exciting ideas are generated across our campuses each year. This program will bring much-needed resources to help translate those ideas into successful endeavors.”

Amazon Catalyst projects must address a key problem faced in the world today. Problems can be diverse and focus on a variety of topics from computer security to immigration to healthcare. Given the complex nature of these issues, the solutions may come from different fields and perspectives. Therefore, grants are open to all members of the university community.

The Amazon Catalyst grant application process kicks off in the fall of 2017, and grants are scheduled to be awarded in early 2018.

For more information see https://catalyst.amazon.com/wsu

 

Media Contacts:

  • Ann Goos, director for public affairs, WSU, 206-465-5136, ann.goos@wsu.edu
  • Brian Kraft, WSU Office of Research, 509-335-3959, bkraft@wsu.edu
  • Marie Mayes, WSU Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, 509-335-5628, mmayes@wsu.edu

By Maegan Murray

In graduate student Kenny Nyirenda’s home country of Zambia, access to clean water sources can be challenging, especially in remote areas.

That is why he has committed his graduate research as a Fulbright scholar at Washington State University Tri-Cities to improving access to clean sources of drinking water and finding solutions to prevent water pollution.

The Fulbright Scholarship allows students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The prestigious program awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Kenny Nyirenda with UK Groundwater Project

Kenny Nyirenda completes some work with the UK Groundwater Project.

As part of his Fulbright program, Nyirenda is studying under Yonas Demissie, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WSU Tri-Cities, to look at the impacts of mining on groundwater resources, as well as how climate change is impacting groundwater resources.

“Because of what is happening in terms of climate change and in terms of pollution, people are now resorting to the ground for their water sources,” he said. “Groundwater is often a clean source of water and is readily available in the ground, although it can get depleted and polluted especially by anthropogenic activities.”

Nyirenda said Zambia is largely known for its mining, which puts pressure on water resources as a result of excessive pumping and pollution from the activity.

“We want to make sure that this resource is protected, and many surface water bodies are drying up in some parts of the country due to prolonged dry seasons attributed to climate change,” he said. “There is fresh water available in the ground and we need to make sure we are protecting the resource, especially in these areas that are prone to climatic change.”

Currently, as part of a graduate seminar, he is reviewing the data and literature on the impacts of mining on groundwater in Zambia and around the globe, assessing the potential of acid mine drainage and its impact on groundwater sources.

“What they are mining in Zambia are mainly base metal sulfide-rich mineral deposits, which have the potential to generate acid when exposed to air, moisture or rain water,” he said. “Once that acid is generated, it becomes a nuisance because it spreads into the environment together with the dissolved heavy metals it carries and ends up in groundwater.”

Solving the issue of access to clean drinking water and preventing pollution from occurring within not only his home country, but throughout Africa, he said, could solve many more problems throughout the continent.

“Many diseases that are prevalent in Africa stem from consumption of poor quality drinking water,” he said. “If you sort out the problems with water, you sort out problems with most of Africa. We need to figure out how to protect the resources that we have, as well as improve access to good quality water across Africa.”

Geophysical survey of groundwater - Kenny Nyirenda-1

Kenny Nyirenda participates in a geophysical survey of groundwater.

Nyirenda said he has never personally suffered from lack of access to clean drinking water, as he grew up in a military barrack where his father served in the military. As a result, he and his family were provided with water and electricity. Across rural parts of Zambia and in other parts of Africa, however, people may not have regular access to the same resources.

“For one, many might not have the knowledge to know whether a water source is OK,” he said. “Additionally, because there are natural sources of pollution, people may collect water thinking that it is of good quality, when in fact, there may be serious issues with it.”

Nyirenda said he plans to take the research he develops through WSU Tri-Cities and inform people, as well as implement changes, in his home country. His home university, The Copperbelt University, was selected by the World Bank as an Africa Center of Excellence in Sustainable Mining. One of its aims is to promote a balance between environmental sustainability and mine production. The pairing of his Fulbright experience at WSU Tri-Cities with the resources afforded to him at his home university will allow him and his colleagues to make a true difference when he arrives back home.

“One of the great things about the Fulbright program is the mutual understanding between the two countries that I can take my work back home to implement positive changes,” he said. “When I go back home, my network here will still be there as a result of this Fulbright experience. My work doesn’t have to end here. We will still be in touch to communicate about developments and regarding new opportunities once I return home.”

Nyirenda hopes to work with the United Nations Environment Programme or United Nations Water to bring about positive change regarding water infrastructure and policies surrounding the resource in his home country. From there, he hopes to become a politician so he can help lead initiatives that will improve access to good quality water.

“Politicians have the opportunity to be more powerful to implement most of these innovative ideas regarding water access and policy,” he said. “I want to use this influence to implement these ideas.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Yichien Cooper, adjunct professor of teaching and learning at Washington State University Tri-Cities, is showing the world that arts education is more than the creation of physical and digital media through her work in growing international partnerships across the globe.

Yichien Cooper and teachers from STEAM workshop in Hong Kong

Yichien Cooper and teachers from STEAM workshop in Hong Kong

Cooper traveled to Asia this summer to create and build upon international partnerships in arts education where she presented at conferences and provided workshops in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. During these presentations, she worked with arts educators and researchers from around the world, discussing ways to bridge gaps in arts education. She said instilling arts-based academic programming among STEM-based programming is critical to growing a students’ problem-solving and innovative ability.

“Art isn’t just art,” she said. “It is the confluence of ideas that come from many different experiences and knowledge that one obtains throughout their life. When applied to subjects like science and engineering, for example, that is when products and initiatives develop that continue to change the world.”

Leading by example

Cooper said many Asian nations are now trying to catch up on American standards for pairing the arts with technical and science-based academics. The United States, she said, began a focused philosophy to include arts with STEM fields, combining the old “STEM” acronym to make “STEAM.”

She said countries in Asia have witnessed the successes of companies ranging from Microsoft, to Apple, to scientific and medical firms that have

As an invited speaker for the 2017 InSEA World Congress, Cooper gave a talk on “Building A Sustainable Creative City through Art with Social Purposes: An Autoethnographic Account of Being an Arts Commissioner.” She talked about how one discovers identity and sense of self through the planning and development of public arts.

taken the world by storm by means of developing products and apparatuses that originated out of creative real-world problem-solving.

“What research has shown is that with the introduction of arts concepts among these technical fields, children thrive in their creative product development, their teamwork ability and their ability to think long-term to come up with creative solutions to real-world problems,” she said. “It’s a tool that is effective in bridging across curricular areas and improving learning.”

Cooper said other countries are emphasizing how arts can enrich students’ learning. With the popularity of STEAM education, they are looking up to what American students are able to accomplish through that creative process.

“They want to collaborate and implement those strategies within their own schools,” she said.

Presenting to countries across Asia

During her travels in Asia, Cooper gave a range of presentations focusing on how to incorporate the arts into various academic fields.

One of her presentations focused on integrating arts at Washington State University Tri-cities, providing highlights from her upcoming Chinese book, “The Power of Integration” which will be out in November in China. During another presentation, Cooper talked about her work partnering with local schools in the Tri-Cities to develop their arts programming in combination with STEM curriculum. Cooper also spoke about her journey as an art advocator in Richland at the 36th International Society for Education Through Art World Congress in Daegu, Korea..

Cooper (second from right) with some participants during her STEAM presentation in Foshan, China, where she conducted a three-day workshop on STEAM. The participants were asked to apply simple machinery in a craft design Displayed in the photos, participants showcase an octopus head dress where the wearer pulls strings to move all tentacles.

Cooper spoke to educators and individuals from various industries on improving visual literacy and research through data visualization. As the chair of the data visualization working group for the National Art Education Association Research Commission, she said it is important to create visual representations of information that is easy and accessible for all to understand and ingest, making it more accessible to the non-technical expert in that field.

Cooper also conducted hands-on workshops that were organized by the Art Education Research Institute in Taiwan, Art Education Training Center at Foshan in China, and the Hong Kong Society of Education in Art.

Further, Cooper used her experience abroad to build partnerships with local students overseas. She worked with teachers at Shang-Shi Elementary School in Taiwan, where both groups hope to partner to develop joint curriculum for arts education.

“We could have the students in Taiwan showing our American students what their art and arts curriculum looks like and our American students can share with them what art looks like in America,” she said. “Our ultimate challenge is the time difference, so we might go for a video-based route and exchange videos, as well as talk about each other’s daily life and how they are similar and different.  Shang-Shi strives to provide global education to children’s life, being able to assist them finding opportunities for students only shows that we are living in a global village.”

Looking toward the future of arts education

As the Acting President of World Chinese Art Education Association, Cooper will organize the International Society for Education Through Art Asia Regional Congress in 2018 in Hong Kong with colleague Solan Wong, of the Education University of Hong Kong, and Kaitak Kwong, president of the Hong Kong Society of Education in Art.

Focusing on collaborative efforts to sustain greater arts education community, she said the conference aims to welcome groups from throughout Asia and south-east Asia. The congress will focus on the theme of “challenges and transformations,” or CT for short in connection to the type of body scan, and the goal will be to evaluate the next steps for arts education and embracing challenges within current educational systems.

“So many countries individually write their teaching standards, training standards and curriculum,” she said. “The fact that we can come together and work collaboratively and share ideas is a huge win for education. We all have a common goal that is focusing not only on the immediate results for our students, but the long-term value of their education. That is a good change.”

Cooper said it is true that many schools across the world have slowly began to narrow their scope on art, but through these types of international partnerships, arts associations around the globe hope that individuals will see the value and significance of arts in education, especially when combined with the traditional STEM fields.

“We need to make art visible,” she said. “Art brings people together. It transcends gender, age and physical boundaries and it’s an important part of a student’s education.”