Student Stories

Adriana Guzman

Education is helping Adriana Guzman pursue her dream of becoming a doctor, so she chose a summer research project about educating the next generation of environmental scientists. The focus isn’t health science, but she still found common ground.

“For example, air quality could be a real damaging factor in the future,” said Guzman, a Washington State University Tri-Cities biological sciences student. “It could grow to be a major problem in the health care industry.

“That’s something that relates to my future career as a doctor,” she said. “I can help educate kids on that topic.”

Guzman was one of 13 students selected by the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), one of several summer undergraduate research experience programs offered through WSU. She created lesson plans for the McCall (Idaho) Outdoor Science School, an extension program of the University of Idaho.

“I don’t necessarily want to be an educator, as I have always been more focused on health care,” she said. “But I was given this opportunity, and I’ve learned to appreciate how everything comes together.

“Being out here, in the wild, learning how to put these lesson plans together, you realize just how much everything is connected,” she said. “I’m learning while teaching these kids. Everyone benefits.”

Because her education has allowed her to be successful, she wants other students’ educations to help them achieve their goals. The lesson plans she created will be used to teach middle school and high school students about a variety of ongoing scientific research.

And she has enjoyed interacting with the students.

“I do some evening programs,” she said. “I also have taken the kids on hikes and taught them the scientific method. It’s been a lot of fun.”

After graduating from WSU Tri-Cities, Guzman said, she hopes to attend the new WSU medical school before pursuing a career as an obstetrician.

Jared Beauchene


Jared Beauchene never figured he’d work in a nuclear fuel plant right out of college. But he will; in fact, he will start part-time as a mechanical engineer this fall with the AREVA company before turning full-time following spring graduation.

Helping him achieve this success were two years of work in AREVA’s federal services division and an internship with the international nuclear and renewable energy technology company in Richland this summer.

Beauchene working at his summer internship. (Photo courtesy of AREVA)

“Through the internship, I performed a variety of tasks and calculations to help test different equipment and components used in nuclear fuel designs,” said Beauchene, a mechanical engineering student at Washington State University-Tri-Cities.

He learned of AREVA’s internship program a few years ago through a friend after seeing a posting in the WSU Tri-Cities Career Development Center.

“I learned valuable skills about working in the industry, as well as building relationships that will help me throughout my career,” Beauchene said.

“As an engineering student, I felt inclined to solve problems by myself, even if this meant struggling for long periods of time,” he said. “However, in a work environment time is money, and you are part of a team.”

To read more about Jared’s internship, check out his post on the AREVA blog.

Globally, AREVA is involved with the entire nuclear cycle, from uranium mining to used fuel recycling, including nuclear reactor design and operating services. For more information, visit

Alisa Sabandith

Transferring to WSU Tri-Cities helped Alisa Sabandith find her fit and gain the most out of her undergraduate experience. As a freshman at another university, Alisa decided that she wanted more out of her college experience than going to and from class. With her needs in mind, she began looking for universities to transfer to. Alisa was determined to find an affordable university that would provide hands-on learning opportunities in her field of study.

Changing her major from elementary education to environmental science, Alisa was looking for a university that would offer her opportunities to learn both inside and outside the classroom. Being located on the Columbia River, WSU Tri-Cities was a prime location for Alisa to gain experience in her newly selected field of study. She spends her summers interning at the national lab located near campus where she has the opportunity to participate in scientific research with innovative researchers. Alisa said, “Working with the many engineers and scientists is an enriching experience.” Not only is Alisa active academically, she is also a devoted leader on campus.

Being a transfer student, Alisa was able to use the small campus size of WSU Tri-Cities as an opportunity to get involved in student leadership. Not knowing any of her fellow classmates, a current student had asked Alisa if she would like to get involved in student leadership. This is how Alisa became director of academic affairs for the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities (ASWSUTC) and later on becoming vice president of ASWSUTC. Currently, Alisa one of the student ambassadors in the Office of Admissions. In this role she engages with prospective students to share the many benefits of pursing a degree at WSU Tri-Cities.

You too can find your fit here at WSU Tri-Cities! Alisa’s best advice is, “Don’t be scared to get involved!”

Robb Zimmel

Robb Zimmel remembers as a child watching his German relatives create concoctions from grapes and beets, onions and rhubarb. It wasn’t a stew, though, but wine that was cooked, bottled, capped with balloons and left to ferment.

“The balloons would get bigger and bigger,” said Zimmel, a Washington State University Tri-Cities graduate. “As soon as they deflated, my grandma would say ‘it is time’ and they would gather to finish the winemaking process.”

Since that early age, he has been comforted by the memory of winemaking, inspired by some of the most beautiful women in his life. This summer, he will release wines on his own label after graduating as part of WSU Tri-Cities’ first blended learning classes last year.

“I fell in love with that process, that romance, that wonderful feeling that came with making wine,” he said.

Education ‘changed my life’

While pursuing a full-time career as a flight paramedic in Portland, Ore., Zimmel followed his family’s example and made wine on the side. But after Sept. 11, 2001, he was called from the U.S. Army Reserves to serve overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He remembers calling his wife late one night in 2010 on a satellite phone from the middle of the desert: “I can’t do this anymore,” he said. She asked if he would be interested in putting his wine experience to use as a new career.

The day he got back to the United States, he headed to the WSU Vancouver campus where he studied for two years before transferring to WSU Tri-Cities to complete his degree in viticulture and enology.

“At WSU, I’ve studied with some of the nation’s best wine professors and worked with alumni who have studied all over the world,” he said. “My education at WSU changed my life.”

Winning ways … and wines

A little more than a year ago, Zimmel was recommended for a position in the tasting room at Barnard Griffin Winery in Richland by friend and fellow WSU viticulture and enology graduate Joel Perez.

Zimmel credits owners Deborah Barnard and Rob Griffin and their daughters Elise Jackson and Megan Hughes for his growth as a winemaker. Griffin would often invite him to bring in wine he made to be tasted and refined.

“Why would they go out of their way to help me?” Zimmel said. “But that’s just how they are. They are the most giving family I’ve ever met.”

“I’ve always been interested in the education part of the wine industry,” Griffin said. “I do it because I want the Washington wine industry to be great. If Washington wins, we all win.”

Embraced by family of vintners

With the support of the Barnard Griffin family and WSU, Zimmel said, he created the first batch of wine on his label, Cerebella. The name refers to a part of the brain and is a tie to his former career in the medical field.

He created 500 cases of wine in four varietals including a riesling, chardonnay, merlot and malbec. They will be available for purchase this summer.

To preorder or arrange a tasting, contact him through his Facebook page, Zimmel Unruh Cellars, at

“I just can’t believe that day has finally come,” Zimmel said. “I’m a winemaker, and I owe it all to the people who have helped me along the way. It’s a dream come true. It really is.”