By Eadie Balint, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Students and staff will take to the fashion runway while learning about appropriate work attire during the 2017 Washington State University Tri-Cities Professional Fashion Showcase noon-2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, in the West Atrium on campus.

Students, faculty and staff showcased professional attire during last year's WSU Tri-Cities Professional Fashion Showcase.

Students, faculty and staff showcased professional attire during last year’s WSU Tri-Cities Professional Fashion Showcase.

The event is open to WSU Tri-Cities students, faculty and staff. Outfits will range from what students should wear to an interview, to how to build a wardrobe, to cocktail and formal attire.

Following the fashion show, students will enjoy free pizza and soda, hair and make-up consultations and a tie tying station. Students may also enter to win door prizes.

The event is presented by the WSU Tri-Cities Career Development office and sponsored by Macy’s, Mary Kay, Paul Mitchell The School Richland, Platinum Entertainment, Dawson Richards, Papa John’s and the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities. For more information, contact career development at 509-372-7600 or

News media contacts:

Danielle Kleist, WSU Tri-Cities student life, 509-372-7104,
Eadie Balint, WSU Tri-Cities career development, 509-372-7214,

By Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities spring enrollment increased by approximately 21 percent from last spring, according to official numbers released Friday. Enrolled students, including undergraduate, transfer and graduate students, total 1,825.

“This positive increase is an indicator that our community is finding value with our student-focused, personalized approach to higher education,” said Mika McAskill, WSU Tri-Cities director of admissions. “The feedback our faculty and staff receive suggests students see our unique position as a campus that is proactive in connecting industry to classroom and that fosters invaluable relationships to create career-prepared graduates.”

2017 spring orientation

WSU Tri-Cities 2017 spring orientation

WSU Tri-Cities continues to be the most diverse campus in the WSU system, with 35.8 percent of students identifying as minorities, 57.4 percent female and 36.6 percent first generation.

In addition to students, the campus continues to grow in facilities and programming. The WSU Tri-Cities student union building under construction will be open in the fall. Recently the campus also added undergraduate degrees in biology and fine arts.

“As the Tri-Cities and the region continue to grow, WSU Tri-Cities enrollment is growing by continuing to offer tremendous value with a polytechnic approach of ‘learn while doing’ in a student’s field of study and desired career,” said WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Keith Moo-Young. “Our students work closely with faculty and staff, where they find opportunities for internships, co-ops, research and real-life application of their degrees.”

He said he is confident students at WSU Tri-Cities will enter the professional marketplace career-ready with the ability to adapt to a global economy.

Read about WSU’s growing enrollment systemwide at Learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experiences and dynamic community engagement at

News media contact:
Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities director of marketing and communications, 509-372-7319,

By Maegan Murray

Washington State University Tri-Cities’ recent Point to Success Brunch raised $33,550 for the Carson College of Business’ degree programs, which will go directly toward supporting student success on the Tri-Cities campus.

“We are incredibly grateful for the funds we received, which help us to achieve excellence by having resources beyond state funding,” said Donna Paul, WSU Tri-Cities Carson College of Business academic director. “Dollars raised at the event are directly invested in business education at WSU Tri-Cities, providing resources for student academic and career success, faculty research and teaching effectiveness.”

In addition to a gourmet meal, which was entirely donated by Anthony’s at Columbia Point, those in attendance also participated in a silent auction, a wine grab and heard presentations by and conversed with a range of prominent local and regional community members. Some of those individuals included WSU and NFL football great Jack Thompson; WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Keith Moo-Young; WSU Board of Regents chair Lura Powell; WSU Carson College of Business Dean Chip Hunter; Nancy Swanger, WSU director of the School of Hospitality Business Management; and Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner.

“The feedback from the attendees and WSU administration is that the event was a huge success,” said Gary Spanner, WSU Tri-Cities advisory board chair for the Carson College of Business. “Going in, nobody knew what to expect of a Saturday brunch in the dead of winter, but it turned out to be a fun, novel, and effective fundraising approach. And importantly, all of the funds raised stay in the Tri-Cities to support the Carson College at WSU Tri-Cities. Anthony’s wants to make it an annual event, so we’re looking forward to holding the next one.”

In addition to serving as a fundraiser, Paul said the event served to raise awareness about the importance of growing community partnerships that are crucial to both student and faculty success. It also provided an opportunity to showcase how WSU Tri-Cities is educating its business students with hands-on, career-based opportunities as a result of those same community partnerships.

At WSU Tri-Cities’ Carson College of Business, students can earn baccalaureate degrees in hospitality and wine business management, business administration and a master’s in business administration. Paul said area companies realize the value of educating the upcoming workforce and partner regularly with the university for success workshops, opportunities in internships and other professional experiences.

“People often think of the Tri-Cities as a technocracy, and while they should, business is an essential part of the success of technology businesses, as well as agriculture businesses and health care organizations, to name a few,” Spanner said. “By supporting excellence at the Carson College at WSU Tri-Cities, we’re supporting excellence in the future of the entire Tri-Cities. A very large percentage of local graduates stay in the Tri-Cities to pursue their careers.”

Spanner said they are also grateful that Anthony’s donated so many of their resources toward the event.

“The advisory board of the Carson College of Business at WSU Tri-Cities was floored when Anthony’s restaurant offered to host this brunch at no charge,” he said. “The wait staff even donated their time for the event, and we are deeply grateful for that.”

To donate to the WSU Tri-Cities Carson College of Business and other university programs, visit

For more information about degree programs offered through WSU Tri-Cities’ Carson College of Business, and to apply, visit

PULLMAN, Wash. – As the new associate dean for international programs, Joseph Iannelli will be responsible for developing and expanding global opportunities and collaborations in Washington State University’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.

“Joseph has been providing outstanding leadership in connecting Voiland College faculty and students internationally,” said Don Bender, interim dean of the college. “In keeping with the university’s Drive to 25, we look forward to growing these efforts and broadening our global interactions and experiences.”

Iannelli, who has been at WSU since 2014, will maintain his position as founding director and professor in the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences at WSU Tri-Cities.

In his new role, he said he intends to develop partnerships with overseas universities and organizations in research and student exchange that will enhance economic development and goodwill toward his college, WSU and the state of Washington.

He has led several efforts to increase the university’s global connections. Earlier this year, WSU became the first university in the state to receive European Union funding to support student and faculty research exchanges. He has established partnerships with Technology University of Dresden, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and Zurich University of Applied Sciences to begin student and faculty exchanges, joint graduate programs and research initiatives.

“These types of collaborations are important because we live in a globalized society,” he said. “When we provide this enhanced education, we graduate students who are ready to excel in their professions on the global scale.”

A fellow of the British Higher Education Academy, Iannelli holds a Ph.D. in engineering science with a focus on aerospace engineering and computational fluid dynamics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He holds a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Palermo, Italy, and a diploma in fluid dynamics from the Von Karman Institute in Belgium.

By Maegan Murray

Stemming from his background growing up in Ethiopia, Yonas Demissie views water as a commodity more valuable than oil.

In the nation of more than 94 million people, just 42 percent have access to clean water in Ethiopia. That is why the WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering has directed his research efforts toward the monitoring, exploration and evaluation of the resource that is vital in sustaining life.

Yonas Demissie, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, reviews data pertaining to his research in water-related issues.

“Here in the U.S., we take water for granted,” Demissie said. “Our daily water use here is as much as 10 times than that of a person in other countries where water is in limited supply.”

Demissie said he has personally never experienced not having access to clean water, because he grew up in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa where infrastructure is more advanced than other parts of the nation. But that doesn’t mean the issue doesn’t hit close to home.

“I may have grown up in the city, but the water scarcity issue and famine in the country are regular news,” he said. “It always bothered me to see images of starving children. There is no excuse for a child to get hungry. As a society, we should all be responsible for that. I want my research in water to be my contribution to society. Water is a very critical resource that needs to be accessible, protected and properly managed.”

Demissie is currently working on a myriad of research projects at WSU Tri-Cities that focus on various aspects of water-related issues.

“In terms of overall impact, any study on understanding and properly managing water resources is key,” he said.

Climate research on Department of Defense facilities

Demissie is currently half-way through a four-year project studying the impact of climate change on military infrastructure, focusing specifically on whether defense infrastructure and facilities could handle increased flooding and abnormal increases and fluctuations in precipitation. His research is funded as part of a $1 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Yonas Demissie, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and his research team at WSU Tri-Cities.

“DOD has many facilities across the globe and many of those installations are close to coastal areas,” he said. “They are worried about sea level rise, increased extreme storms and how that will affect their facilities and operations. Our research is to assess flooding risk with the DOD facilities’ existing storm water management system and whether it is sufficient or needs to be upgraded.”

Demissie said when there is an increase in the temperature, there is an increase in the atmosphere’s ability to hold more water, which increases the chance of heavy rainfall. He said he and his team are currently analyzing the historical climate data to see if precipitation has increased over the years, whether storms now last longer and whether there has been an increase in the intensity, frequency and duration of the precipitation.

A change in precipitation caused by climate change and/or other factors, Demissie said, could also have drastic impacts in other areas such as agriculture.

“In our regions, for example, how snowfall on the Cascade Mountains is going to be affected due to climate change will be an important issue in determining future agriculture productions,” he said. “Even though the total amount of annual precipitation may not be affected, there may be a shift in when that precipitation may occur.”

Instead of most of the precipitation occurring in the winter and early spring, as it is now, Demissie said it may occur mostly in winter, or even in the fall. He said farmers may not have the water when they need it for their crops and that the timing shift could have a significant negative effect.

In a similar study funded by the state’s water center, Demissie recently completed evaluating and updating decades-old design standards used to construct water related infrastructure, such as culverts, bridges and dams, for all the counties in Washington state.

Additionally, he and his team were also recently awarded funding from the state’s water center to study drought characteristics in the Yakima basin and to evaluate effectiveness of a $4 billion water management plan currently under consideration for tackling drought in the region.

“Climate change is one of our generation’s major issues that we are going to have to deal with,” he said.

Reducing effects of nitrates and phosphors stemming from biofuels industry on Gulf of Mexico

Researchers are making significant strides in the biofuels industry, creating fuels for jet airplanes, cars and more that help reduce the United States’ carbon footprint. WSU is leading the industry in research for biofuels with its Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). But increases in the crops in the Midwest required to make certain biofuels may be having a damaging effect on ecosystems in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.

Sediment in the Gulf of Mexico – Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Demissie is studying the impact of increased nitrates and phosphors from farming practices related to the biofuels industry in Midwest on the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico, and how they can minimize those issues.

“In the Midwest, they are making biofuels from corn, which requires increased nitrogen and phosphors applications, which end up in the streams,” he said. “Increased nitrate and phosphors lead to algal bloom, which eventually prevents vegetation and fish from growing in lakes and other water bodies.”

Demissie said increased algae prevents the natural process of photosynthesis from happening in the water as the sun can’t reach the lower levels and life essentially ceases from occurring. Because the Gulf of Mexico is connected to the Midwest through the Mississippi River, those nitrates and phosphors run directly into the gulf, causing algae bloom that currently covers areas as large as Connecticut and Rhode Island, combined.

“The Gulf of Mexico is one of the important regions for fishing,” he said. “We are growing more corn in the Midwest to meet demands of biofuels, but at the same time, we could end up killing an important industry downstream. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Monitoring groundwater contamination at Hanford

Hanford B Reactor building

Hanford B Reactor building

Since he started at WSU Tri-Cities in 2012, Demissie has consistently worked with Hanford Site contractors and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory staff in monitoring and modeling the groundwater flow from the site to ensure there is no radiation and other toxic contamination with vital sources such as aquifers and reservoirs used for human daily water use.

Contamination from the Hanford Site stems back to the facilities’ production of plutonium from World War II and the Cold War. Chemicals were released, both planned and unplanned, into the soil around the site. Scientists have since worked to develop and improve upon models that are used to predict the flow, as well as determine which areas they should treat.

“We are consistently monitoring groundwater contamination for Hanford, using various monitoring and modeling projects to tell where it’s flowing and how fast it is traveling,” he said.

“We’re always working to improve methods and models for doing so,” he said. “We’ve made significant strides in reducing the contamination from those early years.”

Researching means to open access for Nile River

Demissie is presently working with a team of people to examine current flow patterns and allocations of the Nile River, and how they can more effectively be shared by all African countries associated with the river.

Map of the Nile River

Map of the Nile River – Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Nile River is the world’s longest river, flowing 6,700 kilometers through 10 countries in eastern Africa, where water is mostly scarce. Demissie said any water project in the upstream tributaries of the Nile has been under political contention, as countries like Egypt and Sudan use the river as their main source of water and electric power generation.

Ethiopia, where 80-90 percent of the Nile water originates, historically was not using the river despite being hit by regular famines caused by highly variable rainfall in the region. However, Ethiopia is now constructing the largest dam in Africa on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River, for electric power generation. Political officials in Egypt are worried that it would limit their access to the river, which they said they have a natural right to two-thirds of the resource, as indicated in The Nile Waters Agreement that was signed in 1959, which Ethiopia never signed.

Demissie and his colleagues Gabriel Senay, Naga Manohar Velpuri, Stefanie Bohms and Mekonne Gebremichael completed a study in 2014 that integrated satellite data and modeling to detail the variability of water sources in the Nile Basin. Their study revealed that about 85 percent of runoff generated in the equatorial region (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda) is lost along the river pathway that includes the Sudd wetlands, which has an area approximately twice the size of Maryland. This proportion is higher than the literature reported loss of 50 percent.

In addition, their study found that the expected average annual Nile flow at the Aswan Dam in Egypt is 13 cubic kilometers greater than the reported amount of 84 cubic kilometers originally reported. Demissie said that means there is a flow amount that equates to more than half of Colorado River of water each year that was not accounted for during the 1959 water agreement.

Demissie said the loss in runoff and flow volume at different sections of the Nile River, however, tend to be more than what can be explained by evaporation losses, suggesting a potential recharge to deeper aquifers that are not connected to the Nile channel systems. He said the study indicated the need for increased instrumentation detailing the hydrometeorology of the basin.

“Our knowledge regarding water availability in the Nile Basin and how much and where water is lost in the system is limited,” he said. “But our analysis shows that we get more water into the system than what was originally estimated. There is extra water that Ethiopia can use.”

Demissie said he hopes his group’s initial research will lead to bigger developments in assessing the direction, flow and amount of water from the Nile, which could lead to positive legislation among the African countries that may help lead to an agreement that would benefit all.

“Having a good understanding of water as a resource and coming up with a better management strategy I believe is critical for most societies,” he said.

By Kaury Balcom, Viticulture & Enology

RICHLAND, Wash. – Wine and grape industry members and students are invited to a research symposium, “Climate Extremes: Is the Pacific Northwest Wine Industry Ready?” 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday, March 17, in the East Auditorium at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Researchers and industry leaders will discuss climate trends, impacts of extreme weather, solutions for mitigating damage and available resources. The symposium is hosted by the WSU viticulture and enology program.

Registration is $100 per person and includes a social reception to follow. Discounts are available to students on a first come, first served basis with priority given to WSU viticulture and enology students. For more information and to register, go to or email

In the Pacific Northwest, recent warmer spring and summer temperatures have led to earlier harvests. The region also has experienced early fall frosts before vines are fully dormant, then generally mild winters (with the exception of several cold snaps this season) followed by sharp declines in temperature through early spring.

Heat and cold extremes can be damaging to grapevines and impact fruit and winemaking decisions. Information presented at the symposium will equip growers to manage vineyards amid these variable conditions.

Speakers will include:

* Hans Schultz, president of Hochschule Geisenheim University in Germany and international expert on grapevine physiology and climate. He has conducted viticulture research in Germany, France, Australia and California.

* Greg Jones, director of the division of business, communication and the environment and professor and research climatologist in environmental science and policy at Southern Oregon University. His research specializes in the climatology of viticulture, with a focus on how climate variation influences vine growth, wine production and the quality of wine produced.

* Markus Keller, WSU professor of viticulture. His research focuses on developmental and environmental factors and vineyard management practices that influence crop physiology of wine and juice grapes.

* Roger Boulton, professor, chemical engineer and Stephen Sinclair Scott Endowed Chair in Enology at the University of California, Davis. He studies the chemical and biochemical engineering aspects of winemaking and distilled spirits production.

* Steve Ghan, climate scientist at the Climate Center, Pacific Northwest National Lab. His research has made important contributions to the influence of complex topography on microclimate and used that understanding to simulate the impact of climate change on mountain snowpack across the Earth.

The symposium is a part of the Ravenholt Lecture Series, which brings grape and wine industry professionals to WSU to share their research and professional perspective. The series is made possible through an endowment from the Albert R. Ravenholt Foundation. Ravenholt, an early pioneer in Washington’s wine industry, was founder of Sagemoor Vineyards.


News media contact:
Kaury Balcom, WSU viticulture and enology, 509-572-5540,

By Maegan Murray

Demi Galindo, a master’s student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, recently received a call that would change the course of her life.

She had been accepted to medical school. Better yet, she had received a tuition waiver for her four years of medical education, with the exception of two semesters during her third and fourth years – an acceptance package that is incredibly rare.

“Most people will tell you to not expect to get these, so I feel incredibly grateful to have received this package,” she said.

At WSU Tri-Cities, Galindo maintained a 3.8 grade-point average as a pre-medical student. After graduating last spring, she took on the incredibly difficult task of earning a master’s degree from WSU Tri-Cities in biological sciences in a single year, which she plans to have completed by the end of this spring semester. But it was the research opportunity and mentorship from a WSU Tri-Cities professor that she said truly set her apart from other applicants.

In her junior year as an undergraduate, Elly Sweet, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of biology, approached Galindo about a research opportunity that not only would give her a leg up on her competition for medical school, but also had ties back to medicine.

Mentorship leads to opportunity

Sweet is one of many mentors participating in WSU Tri-Cities’ Million Women Mentors program. Through the program, female students are paired up with female mentors who are successful in related fields. Sweet currently mentors approximately 80 students in the general biological sciences, both male and female, of which many are pre-health students.

“Dr. Sweet has done a lot for me in my undergraduate years, from being an excellent teacher for medical school prerequisite classes, which is how we met in my human physiology class,” Galindo said. “Throughout the semester, I could come to her for questions regarding class materials. During one of our meetings, she mentioned the chance to do research in Dr. Jim Cooper’s lab, which I was not even aware of prior to this.”

Through the research opportunity, Galindo worked under the direction of Cooper and Sweet studying the effect that the over and under abundance of thyroid hormone has on zebrafish jaw formation, of which they hope to use for advancements in human health in the future.

“We’re trying to determine what is causing these changes in the development of the fish, which may be translated to learning more about human skull deformities in humans,” Galindo said.

Using own mentorship experience to lead students to greatness

Sweet said she had a mentor while she completed her schooling, and that it served as a tremendous asset. Her mentor, Diana Darnell, mentored her while she was an undergraduate.

“She was an amazing biology professor,” Sweet said. “I worked as an undergraduate researcher in her lab where I had my first exposure to the world of developmental biology research. Dr. Darnell was not only an excellent professor; she was always there for her students outside the classroom.

“I valued her presence and guidance throughout my undergraduate years. Ultimately, she led me to my first job and graduate school in developmental biology,” she said.

Sweet said what is most rewarding about serving as a mentor, herself, for the biological sciences is that she can help students pursue their passions. She said she is relatively new to the role, and that her first main group of students she’s mentoring is graduating and getting accepting into medical schools this year.

“Students first come to my intro to biology classes as shy freshmen trying to find their place,” she said. “They are hard-working students from a variety of backgrounds. By their senior year, they are eager and ready for their next steps beyond WSU Tri-Cities. I enjoy helping them pursue their dreams.”

Looking toward the future

In addition to directing her toward her research experience, Galindo said Sweet helped her with academic planning, gave her advice in the application process for medical school and was overall a great person to talk to when she was feeling stressed.

“Overall, she has just been a great person to turn to and I can be straightforward with her since she knows me so well,” she said.

Galindo said she encourages students to start conversations with their professors because, especially at a smaller campus like WSU Tri-Cities, the one-on-one connection and support is immensely valuable.

“Students may not know where to turn to for advice on this whole process, so I advocate for getting involved in extracurriculars and don’t be afraid to talk to your professors,” she said. “I think some of my success came from the fact that I just went and talked to my professors and was noticed for this with such small class sizes. The opportunities just started to expose themselves.”

Galindo will start medical school this August. From there, she said she is thinking about a career in family medicine or neurology.

“I think because of the diverse cases and schedule of family med, this is where I will most-likely end up,” she said. “I would like to have a joint practice with several other physicians as this will give me the flexibility to have a family, too.”

Galindo said she hopes to stay humble with her aspirations, while providing the best quality of care possible.

“I want to be a physician that people in my community know for having excellent care, as well as a physician that will listen to them and be on their team when it comes to their health,” she said.

For more information about WSU Tri-Cities’ role with Million Women Mentors and how to get involved, visit For more information about the organization, itself, visit

By Zahra Debbek, Office of International Programs

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University is teaching English as a second language at its Tri-Cities campus beginning this month.

The Office of International Programs Intensive American Language Center (IALC) was established in 1984 in Pullman with the goals of teaching English as a second language and preparing international students to study at U.S. colleges and universities.

“We want to globalize our efforts through the university systemwide,” said Asif Chaudhry, vice president for international programs. “We take pride in helping to prepare our students to succeed in a global marketplace.”

The IALC is expanding from the Pullman campus after receiving 20 months of official accreditation.

“We are one of the top programs in the country recognized by NAFSA: Association of International Educators,” said Kate Hellmann, IALC director. “The IALC in Tri-Cities will facilitate the internationalization of WSU while preparing students to academically succeed and matriculate to WSU.”

“This partnership is a critical element to the campus globalization efforts and will provide numerous cultural and economic benefits to the mid-Columbia region,” said Chris Meiers, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor for enrollment management & student services.

To learn more about the program and apply directly to the Tri-Cities campus, visit

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University will introduce five recipients of this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award at a ceremony in the CUB Senior Ballroom at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

The award is given out each year to individuals or groups within the  Washington State University community who have demonstrated altruism, community service, efforts to advance diversity, and an educational commitment to inclusion.

Recipients this year are Computer Science Professor Behrooz Shirazi, Academic Success and Career Center Assistant Director Sharon Ericsson, WSU Tri-Cities graduate student Brent Ellis, the WSU Crimson Group, and Family Promise of the Palouse.



Since arriving at WSU in 2005, Shirazi has been instrumental in building a diverse, world-class faculty in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), one of WSU’s most rapidly growing areas. The Huie-Rogers chair professor stepped down in December 2016 as the director of EECS to lead the School’s new Community Health Analytics Initiative (CHAI). His many accomplishments include helping EECS’s Power Engineering Program become recognized as one of the top three programs in the world. He provided leadership for the development of a new software engineering program and the creation of new graduate degree programs to better meet industry needs. In his department, he is known for his outstanding leadership, mentoring, and for taking special interest in his faculty, staff and students. Nominator Barbara Lyon, an EECS fiscal specialist, said he has fostered an environment in which diverse people thrive and feel highly valued. “He has gained the respect of his colleagues and peers for his exemplary character, integrity, as well as his honesty and ethical stance,” she said.



Through Ericsson’s work with College Success Foundation students and Passport Scholars, she advanced diversity in powerful ways by making WSU a welcoming place for students traditionally excluded from higher education. She specializes in helping first generation, low-income, and foster care students, often serving as one of their initial contacts when they arrive on campus. Nominator Karen Weathermon, director of First-Year Programs, has observed the difference Ericsson’s hands-on mentoring makes in the success of these students. “They graduate from WSU despite some very significant personal challenges,” she said. “It’s a testimony to Sharon’s unwavering and active encouragement, connecting them to resources and mentors, and encouraging them to see their potential in new ways.”



After violence forced him to flee his home country of Burma and spending years in a refugee camp in Thailand, Ma Thu Sha La has been building a new life in Tri-Cities, Wash. Since 2011 he had been living in a cramped apartment with his wife and three children. Thanks to Ellis and Habitat for Humanity, his family now has a home they can call their own. Ellis served as project leader for the construction of the home, otherwise known as “Coug House”.  His group of WSU faculty, staff and alumni collectively donated over 1,250 hours to the project.

Crimson Group

Crimson Group provides a peer network for its members and promotes higher education to undocumented communities on and off campus. It hosted the inaugural UndocuQueer Conference in the fall and reaches out to hundreds of undocumented high school students across the state.

Family Promise of the Palouse

Family Promise of the Palouse’s motto is “ending homelessness on the Palouse, one family at a time”. By coordinating the resources of 27 congregations of various faiths, they provide temporary housing, meals, transportation and daycare for those in need. Since it was established two-and-a-half years ago, it has assisted 34 families.

The awards will be presented during the 30th Annual MLK Community Celebration, a free event open to the public. Charlene Carruthers, a community organizer, writer, and advocate for social justice and feminism, will give the keynote address. To learn more about Carruthers and all WSU events planned in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, visit


Maria de Jesus Dixon, WSU Culture and Heritage Houses Manager, 509-338-9209,

By Maegan Murray

Lindsay Lightner’s teaching career and experience in education has taken her all over the country, and even across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom.

31305116876_59678b1ae0_zHer first teaching job right out of college was as a middle school science teacher in New York. From there, she taught writing at Penn State after receiving her master’s degree in the subject. Her efforts then led her overseas to educate future teachers at Canterbury Christ Church University before she returned to the U.S. and took a position as an academic advisor at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

In all those years in education, what fascinated her most were the possibilities for exploring teaching styles and innovative strategies in education and helping students from all backgrounds succeed in the field she has dedicated her life to.

“The more I worked with students, the more I realized the different challenges they had, which led me to more questions,” she said. “The kinds of questions I was having I could only answer through research. That is really what interested me in pursuing a PhD here at WSU Tri-Cities – that research capability. I started thinking about what I could bring to the table that could potentially have a large impact on the future of education.”

Lightner is now pursuing a PhD through the mathematics and science education doctoral program at WSU Tri-Cities while she works full-time as the university’s alternate route to teacher certification coordinator.

Washington currently ranks third in the nation for the concentration of STEM jobs by state, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. With this distinction comes the responsibility for preparing students who will one day fill those roles. Through the College of Education at WSU Tri-Cities, students in the mathematics and science education doctoral program are researching ways to prepare both teachers and students to be successful in those fields. Both are crucial to growing the state’s local talent, and in turn, the state economy.

Blending established educational experiences with innovative research

In her current role as the alternate route to teacher certification coordinator at WSU Tri-Cities, Lightner sees first-hand how the implementation of new and engaging strategies can improve the overall teaching experience, and in turn, students’ knowledge retention.

Lightner works with paraeducators who are combining their established experience in the classroom with courses at WSU Tri-Cities to earn their bachelor’s degree in elementary education. At the end of the program, the new teachers will hold endorsements in English language learning, bilingual education or special education, in addition to the elementary education endorsement.28769500240_cfcf868fce_z

Lightner said for new teachers, teaching science and math may be intimidating as they often don’t have specific expertise in those subjects.

“The research on preservice elementary teachers indicates that many of them feel more anxious about teaching math and science than other subjects, such as reading,” she said. “Some of this could be due to their own negative experiences as learners of science or mathematics, or due to social biases.”

31226392371_071ca34be1_zLightner said through her doctoral research, she is exploring how people learn throughout their lives and how they integrate their past experiences with new learning opportunities to create new knowledge, practices or understandings for themselves.

“I’m interested in seeing how college students and new teachers make sense and learn in different environments, whether those are university classes, work situations or a free choice activity,” she said.

Through the education doctoral program, Lightner is currently conducting a survey that measures what the alternate route students think about teaching in general and also what they think about teaching science.

“A lot of the work that math and science educators do at any grade level is to inspire learners with not only the content, but also a sense of wonder and possibility about science and mathematics,” she said. “This is no different for teacher educators than for kindergarten teachers. But college students have more previous experience that we have to engage with as they learn.”

A perfect fit

In her career in higher education, Lightner said the doctoral program in mathematics and science education at WSU Tri-Cities has been a perfect fit as both her coursework and her research area apply directly to her work with students who are learning to teach those subjects.

28979748981_7c4e65d6dc_z-1“I think they are very complimentary,” she said. “It is very exciting to have something where I’m developing real-world skills that I can put toward my job.”

Lightner said she appreciates that her course schedules are a mix of online programming and in-classroom experiences, as it allows her flexibility in her full-time work schedule. She also works with nationally-renowned education professionals whose research and academic contributions have changed the world of education for the better.

Lightner also shared from her experience as a teacher, both locally in the United States and internationally in the United Kingdom, as well as from her experience as an academic advisor, and compared these experiences with those of her fellow classmates.

“One of my classmates is a high school math teacher,” she said. “Another is a middle school science teacher in a rural school. One is a community college math instructor and then there’s me: a former teacher with experience both in the K-12 system and in higher education. It is neat to be able to draw from other people’s insights and approaches.”

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