By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Members of the community are invited to become part of Washington State University Tri-Cities’ new student union building by buying a brick, bench or patio planter.

WSU Tri-Cities newsThrough the “Buy a Brick” program, participants may purchase:
• A 4×8-inch red brick with black block lettering – $100
• An 8×8-inch gray brick with black block lettering – $250
• A wood and iron rail bench with nameplate – $1,000
• A patio planter with nameplate – $1,000
• An array of bricks can be ordered with a minimum of $1,000

Each item would display the name, organization or insignia of the participant and would become a permanent part of the new building.

To buy a brick, bench or patio planter, visit

“The student union was made possible entirely by students,” said Ken Fincher, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor for advancement and community engagement. “They voted to assess a fee on themselves to raise the funds to construct the facility, which will include a lounge area, student office space, restrooms, a meeting room and more.

“This is the WSU community’s opportunity to become a part of the students’ mission, as well as support student success for years to come,” he said.

WSU Tri-Cities broke ground on the 6,250-square-foot, $5.73 million facility in May. It is scheduled to open in fall 2017.

For more information, contact Fincher at 509-372-7398 or


Ken Fincher, WSU Tri-Cities advancement and community engagement, 509-372-7398,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,

RICHLAND, Wash. – Four Washington State University Tri-Cities students are working with AREVA, a multinational group specializing in nuclear power and renewable energy, to identify real-world process and cost improvements for the company using the Six Sigma approach.

The effort is part of WSU Tri-Cities’ master’s in business administration capstone course, which is led by Tim Baker, associate professor of finance and management science.

WSU Tri-Cities news

Tim Baker, background, with some of the Six Sigma students. (Photo by Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities)

“Through student-led projects, we either implement process improvements or new product designs and measure the benefits of each,” Baker said of the Six Sigma process. “It’s all about maintaining a continuous improvement in methodology.”

MBA students John Kummer, Kevin Sykes, Hongfei Rassmussen and Sammy Ernst are currently examining the processes and organizational structure within AREVA to identify cost and process improvements for production supplies.

Baker, who holds the highest certification in the Six Sigma process – a master black belt, said WSU Tri-Cities has paired up with local organizations for the last eight years to complete similar projects, and that AREVA has been a primary customer since day one. The student projects, he said, has saved various local organizations significant time and money.

Baker said on one previous year’s project, the students worked out a procedure to save the Sandvik Specialty Metals company approximately $750,000 due to a 25 percent reduction in throughput variability in the pilgering process for their titanium rods production. Another student project reduced the average patient flow time for the Grace Medical Clinic by 17 percent.

This year’s student group hopes for similar results in their own project with AREVA.

What is Six Sigma?

 Baker said the purpose and goal with the Six Sigma process is to systematically assess the current state of a process, uncover and prioritize improvement and design goals and generate and prioritize ideas for improvements and designs.

Six Sigma professionals measure the benefits to the client for an implementation of an improved process or new design and set up a control plan for the client to ensure that performance does not regress once the Six Sigma project has been disbanded.

Paul Skilton, assistant professor of management, information systems and entrepreneurship, said one of the great aspects of the project and utilizing the Six Sigma approach in a real-world scenario is that the students actively see all the “worms” and the “mess” of systematic procedure within companies, which is also not unique to any one company.

“They’re working through organizational messes that end up generating real results,” he said. “They are able to work through what we call a wicked problem. It’s a problem that doesn’t appear to have nice answers, but they ultimately have to get to one.”

Value to the company and the student

For AREVA, getting students involved in the company’s process and procedures opens opportunities to evaluate both new and old strategies.

“Projects like these give us a fresh perspective on our own processes and identify previously unseen improvement opportunities,” said Lance Stephens, AREVA manager of operations strategy and supply chain.

Ernst said part of her job outside of school is recognizing a problem within her company, examining the root of that problem and determining a solution. Utilizing the Six Sigma process through a real-world scenario in her MBA class, she said, is instrumental both in her academic and professional life.

“My employer is currently trying to ramp up in Six Sigma and improve its processes,” she said. “There is a huge push towards Six Sigma in our career fields, so this is definitely a huge asset.”

Sykes said it has been rewarding seeing the “mess” of the internal company structure because it is useful in his own career.

“It’s real-world life experience and we get do dive into a project in a company and see the overall scope,” Sykes said. “It’s been a really good learning experience.”

Skilton said WSU Tri-Cities also benefit from having Baker as their professor and mentor, as he is a world-class Six Sigma and operations research expert.

“As a result of his knowledge and experience in the field, our students here locally get to work on these exceptional projects,” he said.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Community members are invited to attend a free, interactive garden day fit for the whole family 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, June 25, in the garden below the Wine Science Center at Washington State University Tri-Cities, 359 University Dr., Richland.

Tours of the new two-acre native plant and pollinator education garden will be offered, as well as a catch and release pollinator art station and opportunities to learn about sustainable landscaping techniques, native plants and native bees. The event is organized by Heritage Gardens, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon and the Columbia Basin Native Plant Society.

“The garden is a great space for community events that promote sustainable landscaping and learning about native pollinators and their role in agriculture,” said Heather Wendt, coordinator with Heritage Gardens.

Garden tours will run every half-hour beginning at 9:30 a.m. Visitors are invited to bring lunch and enjoy the afternoon at the facility’s new picnic tables.

For more information, contact Gretchen Graber, Columbia Basin Native Plant Society,


Gretchen Graber, Columbia Basin Native Plant Society, 206-265-0430,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Ma Thu Sha La was an infant in 1982 when his family left his home country of Burma, fleeing what quickly became a war zone.

“Soldiers came into the village and we couldn’t live there anymore,” he said through a translator. “They started killing people. We were scared we might be next. Everyone left.”

As refugees in Papu, Thailand, his family shared a one-bedroom bamboo hut alongside thousands of others. They struggled for low-paying jobs in road construction and WSU Tri-Cities newsweren’t allowed to seek employment outside the camp. Ma Thu said sometimes, despite hours of grueling road work, they would not see a paycheck for their efforts.

“It was hard,” he said. “But the worst part was the waiting. We lived in the dark, not knowing what was going on.”

In 2011, after years in the refugee camp, Ma Thu and his wife, Lu Dee, whom he married in 2003, received word they would be coming to the United States after applying and being approved for their green cards.

Once in the U.S., they aspired to own their own home, but they didn’t know if the feat was possible. In their first few years in the U.S., the family shared a two-bedroom apartment in Pasco, Wash., on Ma Thu’s salary of $25,000.

WSU Tri-Cities newsLast year, the family was approved for a three-bedroom, 1,200 square feet house after applying through the Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity. Sponsored and built in partnership with Washington State University Tri-Cities, the home is one of 24 themed houses sponsored by various local organizations as part of Habitat’s Whitehouse Addition Project in Pasco.

To make their home a reality, WSU Tri-Cities must raise approximately $80,000 to supplement the building and enable Habitat to sell it to the family at an affordable price with no-interest loans. The family is required to dedicate 500 sweat equity hours to construction.

Donations may be made to the program by contacting Ken Fincher, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor of advancement and community engagement, at ken.fincher@tricity.wsu.eduor 509-372-7398.WSU Tri-Cities news

“This is an opportunity to provide for a family that has lived a life unimaginable to many,” Fincher said. “For years, this family dreamed of a home. This is our chance to give them one. Any donation will go directly into this project.”

Volunteering requires no previous construction experience and all equipment is provided on site. To sign up to volunteer, visit For more information on the Coug House, visit


Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Cain,-left,-Loeffler-and-KlingeleRICHLAND, Wash. – Three undergraduate students were awarded $3,000 research grants from Washington River Protection Solutions as part of the Chancellor’s Summer Scholars Program at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Students will do research collaboratively with faculty mentors, developing skills to prepare them for careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) or a related field.

Daniel Cain

Daniel Cain, mentored by physics instructor Cigdem Capan, will enhance capabilities for LIGO Hanford’s physical environmental monitoring subsystem. Some of his tasks will include mounting a half-wavelength antenna interface, mixing the antenna signal with a radiofrequency local oscillator and delivering the processed signal to the data acquisition system. He will also help upgrade LIGO’s cosmic ray detection system by designing, shipping, stuffing and testing circuit boards.

Eric Loeffler

Eric Loeffler, mentored by Changki Mo, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is constructing a flight motion simulator, which combines two areas of his interest: aviation and mechatronics. He will research different methods of controlling a platform to simulate the sensation of movement and explore audio and visual stimulation through headphones and virtual reality headsets before combining his knowledge into constructing the full simulator.

Zoe Klingele

Zoe Klingele, mentored by biological sciences assistant professor Jim Cooper, is researching jaw development in zebra fish. The fish is a model species used extensively for medical and developmental research. She will breed zebrafish and use high-speed video to record their feeding biomechanics before and after metamorphosis, which is the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult. Metamorphosis causes a complex change in zebrafish cranial biomechanics, and Klingele will study the role of thyroid hormones in regulating this transformation.


Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,


By Kaury Balcom, Wine Science Center

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University and the Auction of Washington Wines will host the Tri-Cities Wine and Jazz Weekend June 24-26.

Several ticket packages are available for individual events and a weekend package for two that includes hotel accommodations. See

Proceeds will benefit WSU viticulture and enology research, which focuses on ensuring the Northwest stays competitive in the national and global wine market while providing sustainable growth in the industry. Research funded through Auction of Washington Wines also provides hands-on training for students, creating a workforce to meet the growing needs of the grape and wine industry.

The Vineyard Dinner Series will kick off the weekend at 6 p.m. Friday, June 24, with a gourmet meal and wine pairing hosted by Red Mountain wineries Col Solare, Fidelitas and Hedges Family Estate.

The second annual Wine and Jazz Festival starts at 6 p.m. at WSU Tri-Cities in Richland with jazz saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa as headliner. Opening acts, wine tasting provided by 25 Washington wineries and food are sponsored by Toyota of Tri-Cities, Brightstar Entertainment, RBC Wealth Management, Russ Dean RV and SmoothJazz 102.3.

Brunch and Bubbles will be 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, June 26, at Bookwalter Winery with live music and WSU Blended Learning student-made sparkling wines.

“The research conducted by WSU’s viticulture and enology program is vital to the growth and success of our industry and will help propel us further onto the world stage,” said Sherri Swingle, executive director of Auction of Washington Wines. “We are excited to partner with WSU to bring this signature event to the Tri-Cities and anticipate the Wine and Jazz Weekend will grow into a regional celebration of Washington wine.”

Auction of Washington Wines is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Washington wine while producing and hosting one of the most celebrated wine auctions in the country. It provides financial support for Seattle Children’s Hospital and invests in viticulture and enology research and education through WSU. It has raised more than $34.5 million since its inception in 1988.


Kaury Balcom, WSU viticulture and enology, 509-372-7223,

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities will celebrate the first year of its running start program with a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, on the grassy area between the West Building and Consolidated Information Center (CIC) on campus.

Chancellor Keith Moo-Young, who was instrumental in bringing the program to WSU Tri-Cities, will address the history of the program and campus. History associate professor Bridget Farley will congratulate participants on their achievements on behalf of WSU Tri-Cities faculty members. The ceremony will recognize 14 running start delegates who volunteer at various campus events.

All running start students will receive a certificate of achievement; graduating high school seniors will receive an additional certificate for completing the program.

For more information about running start, visit The program is accepting applications for the 2016-17 school year.


Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

quit-smokingRICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities will join the other WSU campuses and more than 900 universities nationwide in becoming tobacco free beginning Aug. 22.

WSU Spokane and WSU Vancouver became tobacco free in May 2012 and December 2013, respectively. WSU Pullman will become tobacco free beginning Aug. 22, as well.

“This was a well-thought-out process that welcomed feedback from the whole WSU Tri-Cities campus community,” said Chancellor Keith Moo-Young.

Wide approval for better health

“The intent of the new policy is to promote the health and wellbeing of the students, faculty and staff on the WSU Tri-Cities campus,” he said. “This is another positive step forward in fostering a healthy learning environment for everyone.”

A draft policy was made available for review to the WSU Tri-Cities community in the fall and winter. Every student and employee was sent a survey to complete. More than 70 percent of those surveyed were in favor of the change.

Under the new policy, all forms of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping, will be prohibited on campus property. That includes buildings, parking lots, leased property, grassy areas and open space.

Cessation, research exempt

The prohibition does not apply to WSU Office of Research Assurances Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved research projects. Nor does it apply to U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved nicotine replacement products, provided that they deliver the nicotine dose directly to the user and without exposure to others.

WSU Tri-Cities is committed to assisting those who want to quit using tobacco. For WSU tobacco cessation resources, visit the “Get Help Quitting Tobacco” website ( For other information, read the WSU Tri-Cities Tobacco Policy FAQ ( or


Scott Tomren, WSU Tri-Cities environmental health and safety coordinator, 509-372-7163,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

RICHLAND, Wash. – Just the other day I looked up and wondered the very same thing. The sky is certainly blue, I thought. But on second thought, it isn’t always blue. Sunsets burst in pink and orange. The night sky is black.

That’s when it hit me. If our sky gets dark when the Sun is out of sight, maybe the answer to your question had something to do with light.

I decided to visit my friend Cigdem Capan, a physicist at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

“When we look at the sky during daytime, the sky does not emit the light,” she said. “It receives it from the Sun and spreads it around. Only some of the rays will reach the surface of Earth, or our eyes.”

Read all of this answer from Dr. Universe at


A service of Washington State University, Ask Dr. Universe answers some of the most interesting, tough and smart questions from curious kids all around the world.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Israa Alshaikhli and Tyler Schrag are the newly elected president and vice president of the Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities (ASWSUTC) for the 2016-17 school year.

Campaigning on the slogan, “Serve, Represent, Lead,” the sophomore students hope to increase communication between student leaders, the student body and administrative leadership on campus.

ASWSUTC election

Israa Alshaikhli and Tyler Schrag are the newly elected president and vice president of the Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities (ASWSUTC) for the 2016-17 school year.

“Our platform was based on communication, collaboration and development,” Alshaikhli said. “We see the best means of communication as transparency. We want to try to get information out to students so they can decide and relay back to us what they want to see on campus while being informed about everything we are doing.”

Alshaikhli and Schrag also hope to create cheaper options and access for textbooks, cheaper means for student printing, more study spaces and increased student recreation on campus.

“Of course we can’t force students to get involved, but the more we reach out to them, the more interested they are,” Schrag said. “It is all about planting that seed.”

Alshaikhli is pursuing a degree in biological sciences on the pre-medicine track and is minoring in psychology. She started and was president of the belly dancing club on campus, served as student senator for the College of Arts and Sciences and is an orientation leader.

Schrag is pursuing a degree in business administration. He started the world research club on campus, served as student senator for undecided majors – where he was voted senate pro tempore – and is an orientation leader.

Alshaikhli and Schrag got 45 percent of the votes, with 41 percent going to former ASWSUTC President Vanessa Sanchez and Vice President Edward Lima, Jr., and 14 percent going to student candidates Alisa Sabandith and Anjhelica Ampil.

“We’re excited and still can’t believe that we were elected,” Alshaikhli said. “We can’t wait to get started.”

The elected college-specific senators include:

• Arthur Baranovskiy – engineering
• Falon Ah Quin – arts and sciences
• Nikita Fisenko – nursing
• Sunbal Hashmi – business
• Lei Zhu – graduate
• Jesalyn Rodda – general senator/undecided majors


Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,