By Christina VerHeul, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine

Elson S. Floyd_College_of_Medicine logoSPOKANE, Wash. – A new profile of the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine charter class shows it is comprised of a strong percentage of women, low socioeconomic status and first generation students.

The class, a group of 60 students who are current residents of or have significant ties to Washington, represent a population of talented students who would otherwise have been forced to go out of state for their medical educations.

2017 Elson S Floyd College of Medicine class photo.
WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine 2017 charter class.

Selected from more than 700 applications that were submitted in just 27 days – the timeframe between receipt of preliminary accreditation and the application submission deadline – competition was stiff for the coveted spots.

“Our recruitment cycle for this first class was extremely truncated,” said Dr. John Tomkowiak, founding dean of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “While most schools began recruiting in the summer, we couldn’t begin recruitment until November 2016. Despite the challenge, the fact that we received more than 700 applications in less than a month only highlights the pent-up need for medical education in this state.”

The college focused on drawing students from a wide cross-section of rural and urban underserved areas across the state to increase the likelihood they will return to their communities to practice medicine. It then selected students from 15 of the state’s 39 counties, with 15 percent of the class hailing from rural communities.

The college exceeded national averages for admission of females and average age, and had great success recruiting first-generation college graduates, as well as students with low socioeconomic status.

“We are proud of the highly accomplished group of students we selected for this charter class,” said Tomkowiak. “As we continue to grow in awareness and reputation, as well as build our recruitment efforts across the state, we anticipate the applicant pool and matriculated classes will continue to impress.”

Below is a profile of the charter class:


  • Females: 34 (56.7%)
  • Legal Washington residents: 57 (95%) *The 5% nonlegal Washington residents must demonstrate they are from Washington by meeting at least 3 of the 4 requirements: born in Washington, childhood address in Washington, graduated from a Washington high school, parent/guardian currently lives in Washington.
  • Childhood in a rural Washington county: 9 (15%) *Based on Office of Financial Management data.
  • Childhood in a medically underserved Washington county: 58 (96.7%) *Based on the area health resources files from Health Resources & Services Administration.
  • Washington counties represented: 15, including Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Franklin, Grant, King, Pacific, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Whatcom, Whitman, Yakima.
  • First-generation college graduate*: 11 (18.3%) *bachelor’s degree
  • Low socioeconomic status*: 20 (33.3%) *Based on AMCAS EO1 or EO2
  • Average age: 26 / range 21-36
  • Advanced degrees: 7 (11.7%)


  • Total AMCAS applications: 711
  • Total secondary applications sent: 501
  • Total completed applications: 466
  • Total interviewed: 332
  • Matriculated class: 60

For more information, visit

Media Contact

  • Christina VerHeul, director of communications and marketing, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, 509-368-6850,

By Maegan Murray

After a successful first year, Washington State University Tri-Cities will grow its offerings for professional development training, expanding to offer opportunities for individuals state-wide in leadership, project management, executive communication, professional engineering and more.

Instructor Semi Bird leads leadership class at WSU Tri-Cities

Semi Bird, senior instructor for WSU Tri-Cities’ professional development and community education, leads a leadership course at WSU Tri-Cities. The program is now expanding its course offerings to be open to individuals and companies state- and nation-wide after a successful first year.

“We started out with our Leadership in the 21st Century course last September, and the feedback from our professional students was so significant and so overwhelmingly positive that it inspired us to broaden our course delivery,” said Semi Bird, associate director and senior instructor for WSU Tri-Cities’ professional development and community engagement.

Bird said unlike many traditional leadership and professional development courses, the trainings offered through WSU Tri-Cities are all in-person and incorporate real-world experiences. The curriculum is based in individual participant experiences in the workplace and delivers dynamic discussion and role-play on how to handle difficult conversations and other situations. Participants also develop a common bond through shared personal experiences in the work place, all of which are broken down and discussed in the trainings.

“Students leave understanding that they are not alone and they leave better prepared with tools to grow their productivity and satisfaction in the workplace,” Bird said. “We’ve seen people return time and again for our different courses because they’re getting something out of the experience that they can use immediately in their work environment and role within their organization.”

Renowned leader teaching the courses

Bird is a demonstrated leader. His previous professional experience ranges from his leadership in the U.S. Army Special Forces as a Green Beret, where he earned the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat, to his role as the senior advisor to the United States ambassador of Bangladesh, to his proven track record of success as an entrepreneur in private business.

Bird said he was inspired to enter into the sector of professional development because he wanted to share his career knowledge as a leader with others so that they can grow and thrive within their respective organization. The return, he said, is that the individual’s employer wins, because their employees not only have the skills to be successful, but also the skills to better interact with their fellow employees.

Instructor Semi Bird talks with participants in a leadership course at WSU Tri-Cities

Semi Bird, senior instructor for WSU Tri-Cities’ professional development and community education, presents during a leadership course at WSU Tri-Cities.

Becky Chamberlain, WSU Tri-Cities director of continuing education, said Bird has a gift as an instructor and mentor.

“He teaches from experiences and delivers his curriculum with great passion,” she said. “I have been told by so many of our students that our Leadership Academy training is the best training they have experienced. Our students always take away calls to action using the skills and tools they received in our workshop.”

One student from CH2M stated that their favorite part of the training was “the open, free dialogue and trainer’s enthusiasm for the subject matter.” Another student from Mission Support Alliance said, “The dialogue with Semi and the other participants was invaluable. This allowed for a conversation, as opposed to a presentation format.”

Diversity in thought

Bird said students in the courses come from a wide-variety of industries where they gain from one another’s similar and dissimilar experiences, all within the same session.

“We are training employees of federal agencies, law enforcement agencies, banks, contractors, engineers, scientists and project managers,” he said. “This allows us to have highly-impactful discussions and engagement across disciplines.”

Participants in a leadership course at WSU Tri-Cities

Students in a WSU Tri-Cities leadership course present their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) at the end of their experience. Participants come from a range of positions, experience levels and organizations to participate in the courses.

The WSU Tri-Cities courses are offered to individuals from all experience levels, from entry-level employees to executives. Throughout the last year, WSU Tri-Cities grew its program to offer a variety of courses geared toward maximizing employee success, growing team efficiency and effectiveness, leadership preparation for aspiring leaders, as well as maximizing leadership dexterity for executive management.

WSU Tri-Cities has partnered and contracted with a range of regional and national corporations, some of which include the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington River Protection Solutions, regional Native American tribes, Mission Support Alliance, CH2M, Gesa Credit Union, the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce and Gear Up.

Expanding leadership training to meet state and national needs

This year, with the influx in courses offered, WSU Tri-Cities also aims to expand its offerings to individuals and organizations across the state and nation.

“Our training is real,” Bird said. “You can learn what you want in a book, but this is practical, tested, real-world training that has a proven track record for success within any organization.”

“You come through one of our courses and you go back to your workplace and see real results,” Bird said. “Right now, the feedback we’re getting from our students, who are leaders, themselves, is that they want to put their employees through the same or similar trainings. We are answering that call and need in our community and we want to grow the program to meet the need across the state and beyond.”

For more information on the courses offered through WSU Tri-Cities’ professional development and community education program and to sign up for a course, visit or contact the office at or 509-372-7174.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Washington State University is leading the online implementation of a program aimed at reducing school truancy that could positively impact schools not only across the state, but also across the nation.

WARNS logoThe Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students program, also known as WARNS, uses data-driven procedures to track and improve interventions with students. As indicated in the Becca Bill, which requires children from the age of 8 to 17 to attend a public, private or home-based school, unexcused absences may be an early warning sign for unaddressed problems with school failure and dropout rates.

Paul Strand, WSU Tri-Cities professor of psychology, Nick Lovrich, WSU Regents professor emeritus, Brian French, professor and director of WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center and Psychometric Laboratory, and Bruce Austin, research associate in educational psychology and the LPRC, have worked since 2014 to evaluate and refine the Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students program, also known as WARNS.

WSU psychology professor Paul Strand

WSU psychology professor Paul Strand

The program was developed in 2008 to assess students on a scale of six needs that have been linked to truancy, delinquency and/or dropping out of school: aggression-defiance, depression-anxiety, substance abuse, peer deviance, family environment and school engagement. Within the program, schools can use the data to develop and implement a plan for at-risk students through school community truancy boards to help prevent and/or correct student behavior.

WSU’s recent evaluation of the program supports using the WARNS as a global screening assessment of risks and needs, citing its reliability and validity. The evaluation was published in SAGE Publications this spring.

“A critical component to the use of scores for decisions about youth is building this line of evidence,” French said.

When children stop going to school, Strand said it can have a substantial effect on their attitude and success in school.

“What happens is kids fell behind in their credit accumulation and when they get to be a sophomore or junior, it starts to feel like a lost cause,” he said. “We want to try to identify truancy problems as early as possible because the less days that kids go to school, the less well they do. It is true that kids that go to school regularly may still struggle, but they struggle less than kids that don’t go.”

WARNS program now available online to schools

WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center houses the online implementation of the assessment, which is offered to individual high schools and middle schools for $275 per year plus a $1 charge for each student assessed. Districts can also sign up for a subscription for $500 for both middle school and high school WARNS plus a $1 charge for each student assessed. The costs of the program are to ensure the technical integrity and continued development of the assessments.

Strand said he and his colleagues are excited to be in the stage of online implementation because the resource is invaluable for schools across the state.

School buses

Photo of school buses, courtesy of Alex Starr on Flickr

“We are in a position now where schools can use this,” he said. “We want to get the word out about how to use this system. We think the cost is minimal compared to the benefit that both schools and students could experience.

For more information on the assessment, including how to get started using WARNS, visit

The WSU researchers are also developing programs for elementary schools, as signs of delinquent behavior can begin at early as fifth-grade, Strand said.

“Where truancy really begins to show a problem is about seventh-grade, but even in the fifth- and sixth-grade, you can start to predict who the kids are who will have problems,” he said.

The team’s research for the WARNS program was supported by $150,000 and $98,000 grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a $21,400 grant from the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, a $25,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Priority Spokane and a high-risk, high-reward grant from the WSU College of Education.

“These funds help support the development of the Platform for Supporting Successful Outcomes, on which WARNS resides,” French said.

Use across the state and nation

Currently, approximately 80 schools across the state are using the platform, in addition to a school district in the state of Georgia. Schools in California, Ohio and Connecticut have also expressed interest, Strand said.

“Schools in Spokane County, for example, experienced increased graduation rates, of those that were using it,” Strand said. “Now, we’re working with a group that is part of WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center to put the whole program into an online platform, with the help of WSU’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center. Students can take the assessment and get immediate feedback. We’re also making it very affordable so schools have the means to access this resource.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – A recent study conducted by a Washington State University Tri-Cities faculty member indicates that holding at least one internationally-recognized wine credential could have a positive correlation on the number of social media followers a wine blogger may have.

Bottles of WSU Blended Learning wine

Bottles of Blended Learning wine made by students in WSU’s viticulture and enology program.

The results of the survey were published recently in the International Journal of Hospitality Beverage Management.

Byron Marlowe, a clinical assistant professor of hospitality and wine business management in WSU Tri-Cities’ Carson College of Business, surveyed 30 prominent wine bloggers with Twitter accounts. During a 45-day period, he tracked the number of Twitter followers they had, whether they posted about and recommended international wine destinations on their account and the wine credentials they listed. The bloggers selected for the survey had a minimum requirement of 500 Twitter followers.

The analysis indicated that wine bloggers with at least one credential from the nationally or globally-respected certifying bodies for wine credentialing had an average of 75 percent more followers than those without certifications. Those certifying bodies included: The Court of Master Sommeliers, Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Society of Wine Educators, Culinary Institute of America, International Sommelier Guiled, Sommelier Society of America and the International Wine Guild.

“The wine bloggers who went through the certification process received knowledge and expertise that make their recommendations inherently more meaningful, even if their followers did not know of their certifications,” Marlowe said.

The survey also showed that bloggers with higher credentials were more likely to recommend an international destination for wine consumption or purchase. Marlowe said bloggers that didn’t have certifications may simply not have had the international experience to review those types of wine or the regions from which those wines were created.

“A wine blogger without a certification may not have visited or studied in Burgundy, France, for example, because they didn’t have knowledge of the region or the need to be there to pass an exam for their certification,” he said. “So they wouldn’t have the background or motivation to recommend that destination or wine region.”

Grapes being crushed at the WSU wine science center

Grapes are pressed for winemaking at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities.

As a result of the survey, Marlowe recommends wine bloggers consider obtaining established certifications to heighten their credibility, and as a result, help potentially increase their number of followers on social media platforms and increase their brand reach.

WSU conducts a one-year wine business management certificate program for those looking to expand their knowledge of the industry. The certificate consists of six modules offered in an online format and requires two weekend experiences in Washington wine country. These weekend experiences provide students with an opportunity to network and learn with wine industry professionals, faculty and fellow students about the business of wine.

For more information on WSU’s wine business management certificate program, visit

Marlowe’s research is in line with WSU’s Grand Challenges, a suite of research initiatives aimed at large societal issues. It is particularly relevant to the challenge of sustaining resources with respect to food production and related business.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation will donate $1 million to the Washington State University Viticulture & Enology Program, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Announced at the annual Auction of Washington Wines Gala on Aug. 19 in Woodinville, Wash., the donation will be dedicated to teaching labs and facilities as well as scholarships for viticulture and enology students. 

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center

Half of the $1 million donation will support the build-out of the Life Science Teaching Laboratory at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, — a state-of-the-art facility that is one of the most technologically advanced wine science centers in the world and attracts exceptional researchers and students — on the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland, Wash. The remainder will fund viticulture and enology student scholarships, $100,000 every year for five years. In recognition of the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation’s gift, the atrium of the Wine Science Center will be named in their honor: The Wine Spectator Atrium.

Wine Spectator,, is a print and online publication, with approximately 3 million readers worldwide. It examines the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine’s role in contemporary culture and providing expert reviews.

“We are elated to have the support of such a pre-eminent authority on wine,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation’s generous donation is an investment in the WSU viticulture and enology program and showcases the caliber of research work that is at the forefront of our Drive to 25,”

“Washington State University has demonstrated a leadership position in wine education in the United States, and we are therefore proud to recognize the university’s high achievement with our commitment,” said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher, Wine Spectator.

Washington wines are recognized for their quality and value, evident through data published by Wine Spectator magazine. For the past six years, Wine Spectator has rated more Washington wines 90 points or higher and at a lower average price than any other wine-producing region in the world.

WSU’s viticulture and enology program,,  is a comprehensive education and research program that prepares students for successful careers in the wine industry and supports the needs of the region’s winemakers and grape growers. Multidisciplinary, science-based, and hands-on, the viticulture and enology program offers students technical, scientific, and practical experience in every aspect of the grape-growing and winemaking process.


Media contact:

Marta Coursey, director, WSU CAHNRS Communications, 509-335-2806

Kaury Balcom, WSU Viticulture & Enology, 509-572-5540,

Lori Rosen, Wine Spectator, 212-255-8910,

RICHLAND, Wash. – Five local freshman at Washington State University Tri-Cities are among the university’s latest class of STEM Scholars.

As part of earning the distinction, where STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the students are honored with a $8,400 per year scholarship and will join the university’s STEM Learning Community. The community consists of a cohort of students that pursue a range of extracurricular opportunities and activities in the STEM fields.

WSU Tri-Cities STEM Scholars – (from left) Louis Theriault, Aaron Engebretson, Jared Johnson, Destiny Ledesma and Diamond Madden

The students awarded include:

  • Aaron Engebretson – Liberty Christian High School
  • Jared Johnson – Richland High School
  • Destiny Ledesma – Hanford High School
  • Diamond Madden – Southridge High School
  • Louis Theriault – Mid-Columbia Partnership

In order to be eligible for the program, students must have a minimum high school grade-point average of 3.75 based on a 4.0-scale, officially pursue a STEM-based major available at WSU Tri-Cities, be enrolled as a full-time student at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as actively participate in STEM Learning Community activities offered through the campus. Undergraduate majors eligible include: civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, environmental sciences, general biological science, general mathematics and general physical sciences.

“The students selected display an incredible work-ethic and strong potential for careers in the STEM fields,” WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Keith Moo-Young said. “We’re excited to offer them a variety of resources to propel them into their respective STEM majors, which will encourage them to lead their fellow students within those majors, pursue prominent research at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as inspire future students to follow in their footsteps.”

Kate McAteer, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs, said the research component of the experience will provide the students with a solid foundation for their academic futures.

“These STEM Scholars have the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research right from the beginning of their academic careers,” she said. “It provides them with an early start on building a solid foundation of skills required to be successful scientists and engineers.”

Aaron Engebretson

Aaron Engebretson


Engebretson plans to major in engineering. In high school, he served as class president during his senior year and was his class valedictorian. He was a member of Key Club where he served as the vice president of the club. He received the Northwest Nazarene Bridge Academy Scholar Award for taking 15 or more college credits while in high school and maintaining a 3.5 or higher GPA. He also received the Essence of Liberty Scholarship from Liberty Christian School. He hopes to one-day join Engineers Without Borders, which works with developing countries to find solutions for water supply, sanitation, agriculture and civil works. He also hopes to explore research in nuclear science while attending WSU Tri-Cities.

“The STEM Scholars program is very important to me,” he said. “It will surround me with fellow students that are driven, intelligent and interested in STEM … STEM careers are on the forefront of modern-day advancements and research. From the future of cars, to the future of modern medicine, STEM Careers provide solutions to a variety of different problems and challenges.”


Jared Johnson

Jared Johnson

Johnson plans to major in electrical engineering. He is currently finishing his associate’s degree through Columbia Basin College’s running start program where he continues to receive high honors and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. At Richland High School, he earned Summa Cum Laude. Additionally, Johnson gives back to the community through his role with the National Honor Society, as well as helping with Second Harvest food distribution, tutoring high school math and assisting with various elementary school functions. He said he is looking forward to exploring the variety of research opportunities at WSU Tri-Cities.

“With a STEM education, there will be many job opportunities and career advancements,” he said. “STEM subjects have always been interesting to me in school. WSU Tri-Cities provides a wonderful university experience, while still having small classrooms for personalized education. WSU Tri-Cities is also a high-ranking STEM university.”

Destiny Ledesma

Destiny Ledesma


Ledesma plans to major in biology. In high school, she participated in the running start program at WSU Tri-Cities, in addition to serving as her class senator during her junior and senior years. It is with that role that she and her fellow peers brought back the “Every 15 Minutes Program,” a two-day event that sheds light on drinking and driving. Ledesma also gives back to the community by volunteering every year with the Tri-Cities Union Gospel Mission where she makes dinner boxes for the homeless with her family. She also volunteers at the Tri-Cities Water Follies, where she has served in various roles throughout the last few years. She hopes to attend medical school and pursue either a career as a reconstructive surgeon or dermatologist. She looks forward to pursuing research opportunities at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as getting involved with campus student government.

“It’s been such an honor and a blessing to have been able to receive such a prestigious scholarship,” she said. “I have been truly blessed with this opportunity to further my education … It will help prepare me to take on professional life after college and into the workforce. This program has truly changed my life.”


Diamond Madden

Diamond Madden

Madden plans to major in the physical sciences, with possibly an emphasis in chemistry. She earned 38 credits from Central Washington University’s running start program while she played softball, basketball and track and field for Southridge High School. Additionally, she played cello, violin and piano with the school’s orchestra, served in the school debate club, worked part-time for Tropical Sno and participated in the school’s Ignite program, which helps incoming freshmen transition to high school. She also volunteers occasionally with a local food bank. She hopes to pursue a career as a research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which has been a dream of hers for years.

“Words can’t even describe how much the STEM Scholars program means to me and my family,” she said. “Being the second youngest of seven children in a single-income family, this gives me the assurance that I can continue and complete my education for a degree in the sciences … I believe WSU is a remarkable college, with Tri-Cities being the perfect location for me and given the fact that the university partners with PNNL.”

Louis Theriault

Louis Theriault


Theriault plans to major in civil engineering. In high school, as a home-schooled student, he participated in the WSU Tri-Cities running start program, which is what helped him decide on attending WSU Tri-Cities for his undergraduate degree. Over the years, he volunteered to help the Academy of Children’s theater put on its summer camps, helped at his home school program’s “Camp Invention” and continues to serve as a camp counselor for numerous camps, including for the upcoming STEM Camps at WSU Tri-Cities this July. He hopes to participate in WSU’s engineering study abroad opportunity at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences while earning his undergraduate degree at WSU Tri-Cities. After graduation, he hopes to serve as a civil engineer, working possibly around the United States or for an international engineering firm.

“The STEM Scholars Award means the world to me,” he said. “I didn’t believe that I would be one of the chosen people when I signed up. It is going to help me pay for almost all of my college and help me save money for my future … I want to pursue a career in the STEM fields because I want to be able to make a difference in the world.”

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – Jonah Firestone, an education professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities, knows that technology is the future of education, which is why he is researching the use of virtual and augmented reality as tools for not only the general classroom, but specifically with special education in the kindergarten through 12th-grade setting.

Virtual reality in the classroom

A student tries out a virtual reality headset as part of research being completed by Jonah Firestone, a professor of education at WSU Tri-Cities. Firestone will complete a study on how the technology may be used in special education.

“With regular video games, you’re looking at a flat screen,” he said. “But with virtual reality, you wear a head set and you can look all around. It’s a 360-degree view up and down and you can see this complete world around you. As kids get more used to using this type of technology and as the price goes down, schools are going to start adopting these because you can now send an entire classroom on a field trip to The Louvre without leaving the classroom.”

Firestone said for subjects like science and history, teachers rely on textbook and stationary images to give students a picture of what they’re talking about as it is expensive to take students to laboratories and settings that are referenced in those lessons. With virtual and augmented reality, however, teachers can bring those settings and projects to the students in the virtual sphere.

“We can use this technology to put children and adults into complete virtual worlds where they can be a cell in the human body, or students can do experiments in physics and chemistry that they couldn’t normally safely do in the classroom setting,” he said. “You can then repeat those over and over again.”

Overcoming learning disabilities

Firestone said virtual and augmented reality have different purposes, but both can be applied as additional tools in the classroom, which could help students who struggle with traditional learning methods.

“We used to talk about this thing called learning theories where certain people were characterized as different types of learners, but that’s not really true,” he said. “We all learn in a variety of different ways. But with the more modes in which we learn, whether it be oral, visual or tactile, the more we’re readily going to learn.”

Virtual reality controllers

Controllers for the HTC Vive virtual reality technology.

Some students may have problems processing information that is given to them orally, or students may have visual disabilities where they have difficulty processing static information like documents with lots of text, he said. Students also may have issues holding their attention for an extended period of time.

“So what virtual and augmented reality do is reinforce learning in ways that helps from a variety of different vectors,” he said. “And realistically, strategies used in special education are good practices for any education setting. We can translate what we learn about these tools into the general classroom setting, as well.”

With virtual reality, students wear a head set where it provides them with a complete 360-degree view of a setting or project that the students can interact with. With augmented reality, students use a device like a tablet or a headset where the device projects an image into the real-world setting. Firestone said a good example of augmented reality is Pokemon Go, where the image of a Pokemon is projected through a screen into the real world.

“We’ve all taken classes where we’ve aced the class, but we have no idea what we’ve learned,” he said. “What we want to accomplish with virtual and augmented reality is a more organic method of learning. This organic method of learning is accomplished through learning by doing.”

Research results so far

Firestone worked with Don McMahon on the WSU Pullman campus to run a study with special education students at the college level who studied bones and skeletons using augmented reality with the help of iPad Minis. They compared what the students learned and absorbed with augmented reality to what they learned and observed from textbooks and the team got great results.

Firestone is now taking that research a step further by applying the same tools to kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms.

Students test out virtual reality

A group of students test out virtual reality headsets. WSU Tri-Cities professor Jonah Firestone will complete a study on how the technology may be used in special education.

“College kids are great, but I am very much interested in how these technologies can be applied to the k-12 setting,” he said. “What we’re currently doing is taking this same process and we’re modifying it for fifth-graders. Then, we’re going to modify it for middle school and high school.”

Firestone said he is using augmented reality to supplement different school lessons, including science where students observe and learn about the human body.

“Imagine looking at a picture of a femur, but with augmented reality, not only do you see a picture of a femur, but it has a voice that defines it for you and then shows you where it is on the human body,” he said.

Firestone is also looking into using virtual reality to immerse the kindergarten through 12th-grade students in an underwater experience called “The Blue.”

“It’s an underwater application where you see whales and you’re in a reef,” he said. “I’m then comparing that to the same information that the students glean from a text.”

Firestone said he’s had great results with the technology so far and that blending the virtual experiences with what students are presented with in a textbook is a winning combination.

“There is no one magic solution for learning, but the more things we can put together, the more kids are going to end up learning,” he said.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Registration is now open for employers to sign up for a booth at the 2017 Washington State University Tri-Cities Career Fair, which will be held from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Sept. 28 in the Student Union Building and Consolidated Information Center building on campus.

WSU Tri-Cities career fair, 2016

WSU Tri-Cities career fair, 2016

Held each fall, the career fair is open to WSU Tri-Cities students, alumni and the general public. The career fair offers employers an opportunity to reach its staffing goals while allowing WSU Tri-Cities students to search for and connect with potential employment and internships.

Employers can register for the event until Sept. 15. The cost is $100. Online registration is open until Sept. 15 and only to employers paying with a credit card.  Employers paying by check may download a printable registration form at

Late registration costs $150 and is subject to space availability. For late registration availability, employers should contact Eadie Balint, career fair coordinator, at 509-372-7214 or

The career fair provides employers access to more than 1,800 students, local alumni and public job seekers. Career fair also features a student spotlight program where select students present a one-minute resume pitch to assembled employers, an on-site job board to post job and internship openings and access to interview rooms.

Additionally, the fair will include a new discussion panel focusing on the “State of the Tri-Cities Work Force.” The panel will feature local professionals from various backgrounds and businesses discussing future staffing goals and needs, preparing students to enter the workforce and the economic vitality of the community. The program is open to all registered employers and includes a complimentary breakfast.

For information about the WSU Tri-Cities Career Fair, visit

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities signed a memorandum of understanding today to partner with Vanwest College from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Mahasarakham University from Talat, Thailand, for a language and cultural exchange program that will benefit students from each of the three campuses and countries.

Christ Meiers, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services, and Nitiphong Songsrirote, dean of the Mahasarakham University Business School, sign an MOU for a language and cultural exchange partnership.

The purpose of the partnership is to deliver programs that promote academics and cultural understanding between the three institutions and countries associated. VanWest will be responsible for delivering an English as a second language program, academic workshops and sightseeing at its campus. WSU Tri-Cities will be responsible for cultural exchange activities at its campus, which may include select lectures and presentations, tours and friendship exchange meetings with local organizations. The Mahasarakham University will be responsible for facilitating study abroad opportunities for WSU Tri-Cities students.

“This is a valuable experience both for our students and from those students from Thailand and British Columbia,” said Chris Meiers, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services. “The students will benefit from the language exploration and competency experiences at VanWest and at Mahasarakham, in addition to learning about the cultural components, networking and more through WSU Tri-Cities and the regional community.”

Administrators from Mahasarakham University said they were excited to be partnering with both WSU Tri-Cities and Vanwest College.

(Left to right) Yujin Song, VanWest admission and marketing manager; Yawittha Daroth, Mahasarakham student; Mullika Yothikha, Mahasarakham student; and Kornuma Laphanuphat, Mahasarakham international affairs officer.

“Coming to Canada and the United States is a great experience for us,” said Pornlapas Suwannarat, associate dean for research and international affairs at Mahasarakham University. “We are hopeful for a fruitful collaboration to take place between VanWest and Washington State University Tri-Cities.”

A group of students and administrators from VanWest College and Mahasarakham University spent the last couple of days learning about the educational and business opportunities at WSU Tri-Cities, touring the Tri-Cities region, as well as networking with local businesses.

“It’s been a fun and enlightening past few days for all institutions,” Meiers said. “We have a lot to share and learn from one another. We’re excited about this partnership and the educational and cultural opportunities that will enrich the student experience for all three institutions and countries.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University recently took home top honors in the research poster competition at the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, for research on a technique typically used to evaluate the characteristics of wine.

To determine the characteristics and compounds in wine, researchers combine a wine sample with a mixture of water and octanol, which is a fatty alcohol. As a result, different compounds from the wine separate and enter into two phases: octanol and water. The relative separation of the compounds into the two phases is known as the beverage’s hydrophobicity.

These two phases are then analyzed using mass spectrometry, a sophisticated technique that identifies the individual compounds within those phases. The identified compounds can help determine the astringency, or mouth feel, of the wine as well as the color and other sensory factors.

Wine scientists expand applications

WSU distilled spirits evaluation research team
Jim Harbertson, Caroline Merrell and Tom Collins (l-r) display some of their major findings in distilled spirit analysis application.

The WSU Tri-Cities team, which consisted of wine science postdoctoral researcher Caroline Merrell, associate professor of enology Jim Harbertson, and assistant professor of wine science Tom Collins, decided to analyze distilled spirits using the same process.

“It started off as ‘let’s see what happens when we apply this technique to a product other than wine,’” Collins said. “Spirits make sense for this analysis not only because of their similarities to wine, but also their differences. We expected to extract different things from the barrels for spirits than for wine, and I think we clearly see that with our findings.”

A measurement in wine is used primarily to evaluate phenolic composition, Harbertson said. The phenolic composition, derived from the grapes and barrels, affects the taste, color and mouthfeel of wine.

“But in spirits, the phenolics are only derived from the barrel, so the process provides an interesting piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Whiskey, tequila, rum, cognac

In their research, team members examined a range of distilled spirits including American whiskey (bourbon), Scotch whiskey, Irish whiskey, tequila, rum, cognac and Armagnac. The barrel type used in the aging process for these spirits significantly impacted the identified compounds, Merrell said.

“For instance, all the bourbons separated out together as part of the statistical analysis,” she said. “Bourbon is made in new, heavily charred barrels. Because bourbons use newly charred barrels, there is more extraction of different phenolic and flavor compounds during aging. All the other spirit types age in previously used barrels, which have already had substantial amounts of phenolic and flavor compounds extracted.”

Barrel selection insights

Their initial research shows the importance of barrel selection in making distilled spirits. The hope is that it will give the industry more tools for making alcohol, Merrell said.

“Our research gives the industry more insight into the effects of barrel selection for different types of spirits,” Collins said. “We had a fair amount of interest from distilleries after the presentation, and we look forward to opportunities to collaborate and explore these effects in more detail.”

The team hopes to expand their research beyond commercially available products. The plan is to acquire distillation equipment at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center to prepare, develop and analyze their own spirits.

To his knowledge, this is the first time anyone has used the hydrophobicity technique to examine the components of distilled spirits, Collins said.


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