WSU Tri-Cities Tag

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Elmar Villota

RICHLAND, Wash. – In Elmar Villota’s home country of the Philippines, as much as 15 percent of households do not have electricity. Villota, a doctoral student in biological systems engineering at Washington State University Tri-Cities, is motivated to close that gap with renewable energy.

“A simple light bulb could make a world of difference,” he said. “Without a sustainable source of electricity, students can’t have light or read comfortably at night. Imagine how much knowledge they would miss.”

Elmar Villota, left, educates
Filipino residents on basic
maintenance and
troubleshooting for an
energy device.

With a population of more than 100 million scattered across more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines faces the challenge of extending power to everyone, he said.

“In the Philippines, we are end users in terms of technology,” Villota said. “Historically, we have purchased technology rather than making or innovating it ourselves for our own use.”

Renewable energy, he added, could help address the nation’s sustainable energy concerns and stimulate technological growth.

Turning biomass into fuel, other products

As part of the Engineering and Research Development for Technology scholarship program, which is offered to all Filipino engineers by the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology, Villota is working toward his doctorate at WSU Tri-Cities.

Elmar Villota with Filipino residents.

He is studying how to convert second-generation biomass, such as agricultural waste or woody crops, to biofuels and other useful products, such as bio-based polymers and chemicals. Working under WSU associate professor Bin Yang, Villota mainly is focused on enzymatic hydrolysis, a process that uses bacteria and fungi to break down plant cell walls to sugar, which is turned into fuel.

Villota has written a book chapter on the subject in cooperation with Yang and Ziyu Dai, a senior scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He is also working with Rongchun Shen, a visiting scholar from China, on techno-economic assessment regarding methods for converting lignin—structural polymers in plants—into useful, high-value products like bioplastics.

Bioproducts lab, PNNL draw scholar

Villota was attracted to WSU Tri-Cities because of its national reputation for excellence in renewable energy research and its partnership with PNNL, a leading national innovator in the renewable energy sector.

Elmar Villota in a BSEL lab at WSU Tri-Cities.

“WSU is one of the best schools for renewable energy because of the WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory and the university’s relationship with PNNL,” he said. “That is what really encouraged me to go here.”

He also contributes to advancing Filipino renewable energy through his home university, serving as a lecturer at Central Luzon State University. He also is a technical expert in renewable energy for the university’s Affiliated Renewable Energy Center and Phil-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology.

Villota said he is hopeful that thousands of fellow Filipinos will benefit from his work, which could lead to basic electrification and light and even broader impacts.

“Through this experience, I hope to extend students’ learning capabilities, and in turn, extend the potential for them to make a difference in the world,” he said.




Elmar Villota, WSU Tri-Cities doctoral student,
Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities biological systems engineering, 509-372-7640,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,

By Monique Van Sant, WSU Tri-Cities intern

conca-webRICHLAND, Wash. – Scientist James Conca will talk about the evolution and future of the worldwide energy market and specific dangers facing energy sources at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, and at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in the East Auditorium at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

The free, public presentations of “The GeoPolitics of Energy: Achieving a Just and Sustainable Energy Distribution by 2040,” are part of the Herbert M. Parker Lecture Series. Conca will sell and sign copies of his book of the same name after both talks.

Learn more about the Parker Foundation and Conca, who is on its board of directors, at

Conca said all energy sources must be developed to full potential if the world is to attain sustainable energy without intermittent shortages, security vulnerabilities, extreme costs or environmental catastrophe.

“While renewables can overcome their hurdles of space needs, grid connections and material requirements in time to replace significant fossil fuel, nuclear can immediately begin replacing coal,” he said. “Nuclear, however, faces perceptual and market challenges that must be addressed, including nuclear waste, interstate commerce clashes, the rise of natural gas and other non-scientific issues.”

Conca is a senior scientist at UFA Ventures, Inc., an environmental remediation company in Richland. He is an affiliate scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a science contributor for Forbes magazine on energy and nuclear issues.

Herbert M. Parker, the first head of the Hanford Laboratories that later became the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was a pioneer in medical radiation therapy and radiation protection.


Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities marketing and communications, 509-372-7319,
Ken Fincher, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor, 509-372-7398,
Wayne Glines, Herbert M. Parker Foundation,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

art-from-last-year-detailRICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities is accepting art submissions for the annual Night with the Arts, which will take place 5-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28.

This cultural and artistic event features the Chancellor’s Art Exhibition Series, WSU Tri-Cities student and community exhibits and live performances.

Art from the 2015 show.

Artists may submit their work in two categories:
• Chancellor’s Exhibit: A jury will select one or more artists to feature in the exhibition space and in the administration corridor of the East Building. One work will be chosen for the Chancellor’s Award. The recipient is encouraged to donate the work to WSU Tri-Cities as part of its permanent collection. Those not selected for the Chancellor’s Exhibit will be placed in a community gallery for the event.
• WSU Tri-Cities student exhibit: Open only to WSU Tri-Cities students.

Because Night with the Arts is open to all ages, artists are asked to consider the audience when submitting pieces.

The event is an opportunity to showcase a range of artwork from throughout the regional community, said Amber Eubanks, WSU Tri-Cities community engagement specialist.

“We’re trying to bring the community of the arts together, showcasing everything from musical performances to the best of two- and three-dimensional art pieces,” she said. “It’s a great event for the whole family.”

To submit an art piece, fill out the submission forms at


Amber Eubanks, WSU Tri-Cities community engagement specialist, 372-7106,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

RICHLAND, Wash. – More than 60 employers will participate in the Washington State University Tri-Cities annual career fair 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Consolidated Information Center (CIC).

The fair will be open to WSU Tri-Cities students only 9:30-11 a.m. It will open to the public at 11 a.m.

The career fair attracts not only students, but also alumni and community job seekers. It offers employers an opportunity to seek staff while allowing WSU Tri-Cities students to search for and connect with employment and internships.

The fair will include a job posting board, interview room and student spotlight breakfast where select students give a 60-second resume pitch to employers. Parking will be free.

For more information, visit or contact Eadie Balint, WSU Tri-Cities career fair coordinator, at 509-372-7214 or


Eadie Balint, WSU Tri-Cities career development, 509-372-7214,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities continues to set enrollment records with 17 percent growth from last fall, according to official numbers released Friday.

Enrolled students, which includes undergraduate, transfer and graduate students, total 1,868 – an increase of 275 students compared to last fall. Included in that growth, WSU Tri-Cities welcomed 284 transfer students, which marks a 35.2 percent increase in that category from last fall.

enrollment-2“We couldn’t be more pleased with the rate at which WSU Tri-Cities is growing, while not compromising on the preparedness of our students, as well as the diversity of our student body,” WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Keith Moo-Young said. “Our growth is truly a reflection of the excellent programs, career opportunities and volunteer experiences our students observe.”

WSU Tri-Cities is recognized as having a very diverse student population, with 33.5 percent of students identifying as minorities, 58.5 percent female and 38.4 percent first generation college students. Of the new freshman on campus, 58.8 percent identify as first generation, which is 21.2 percent higher than the average first generation new freshmen in the WSU system.

Moo-Young said through the construction of WSU Tri-Cities’ first student union building, in addition to the construction of the student housing complex, the university continues to grow the resources available to students, which has also had an impact on the positive enrollment trajectory.

“As we continue to grow in numbers, we also continue to grow in programs available to students and in physical infrastructure,” he said. “These university improvements will continue to have a positive effect on our growth as a campus and in our ability to meet the industry needs by supplying career-ready graduates in the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics fields.”

Learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experiences and dynamic community engagement at

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

amy-roth-mcduffie-detailRICHLAND, Wash. – A Washington State University Tri-Cities professor is part of a project awarded $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation to teach mathematical modeling in elementary school as it applies to real-world cultural and community contexts.

The goal is to determine strategies that teachers across the nation may use in their own classrooms.

“We are connecting math to kids’ own community and culture so they can use it to make sense of their world,” said Amy Roth McDuffie, professor of mathematics education in the College of Education. “It’s not enough that they answer a math problem. It is the whole process of problem solving that is important.”

Mathematical modeling for younger grades

Amy Roth McDuffie

Mathematical modeling – using graphs, diagrams, equations and more to predict patterns and provide solutions to real-world issues – historically has been taught in high school and college. But recent Common Core State Standards require elementary students to meet benchmarks too.

Unlike upper level mathematical modeling, such as weather predicting, students will use grade-level appropriate math tools, such as counting, multiplying, dividing and making graphs.

“One example is having students use data from a family business,” said Roth McDuffie. “With an inventory model, we can collect data on what sells, then generate formulas for how to guide purchasing in the future.”

Teachers recruited across regions

Elementary teachers recruited in the Northwest and Southwest will meet monthly to use existing research to refine established strategies and develop new ones. They will apply the strategies in their own classrooms, then revise and refine them to achieve what works best.

Throughout the process, teachers will collect data through classroom observation and tests, as well as state testing, to determine student comprehension and retention. Findings will be published so other teachers can implement the ideas.

Grant funds will support stipends for the university researchers and graduate students, elementary teachers and for compilation and review of project data.

Joining Roth McDuffie in the study are: Erin Turner, associate professor of teaching, learning and sociocultural studies at the University of Arizona; Julia Aguirre, associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Washington Tacoma; and Mary Foote, professor of mathematics education at Queens College, City University of New York.


Amy Roth McDuffie, WSU Tri-Cities mathematics education, 509-372-7384,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,

RICHLAND, Wash. – Khalida Brohi was named a Forbes “30 Under 30” top young world leader in social entrepreneurship for her work in women’s rights in Pakistan in 2014. On Sept. 28, she will lead a presentation on her work at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Brohi will speak on two separate occasions on Sept. 28 at WSU Tri-Cities. Her first presentation will be open only to the WSU Tri-Cities campus community and will begin at 3:10 p.m. in the East Auditorium. Her second presentation at WSU Tri-Cities will begin at 7 p.m. in the East Auditorium and will be open to the public.

Brohi will also speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 in Compton Union Building’s senior ballroom at WSU Pullman.

Summit Eden

Khalida Brohi

“(During my presentation at WSU), I will be talking about the constant emphasis everyone puts on changing policies in countries like Pakistan,” Brohi said. “I come from a rural background there and I have seen the huge gap between the way tribal communities operate and the country … (Sometimes) no law can protect a woman unless the tribal men and women are educated.”

Brohi’s presentation is part of WSU’s common reading program, where thousands of first-year students in the WSU system read a book focusing on an issue that sparks discussion, highlights research across disciplines and introduces different ways of understanding complex issues. This year, students are reading New York Times Best Seller “I Am Malala,” which focuses on Pakistani teenager and author Malala Yousafzai who survived a 2012 attack by the Taliban and launched a campaign for education.

“Much of Brohi’s life parallels that of her fellow Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai,” said Susan Poch, WSU common reading program co-director.

As a teenager in Pakistan, Brohi witnessed the honor killing of a friend who had married for love instead of a family-approved choice. The experience inspired her to rally on the issue, which led her to found the Sughar Empowerment Society, a nonprofit organization that supports rural and tribal women in Pakistan by empowering them socioeconomically, emotionally and intellectually.

Kate McAteer, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs, said WSU Tri-Cities is honored to welcome Brohi to speak to both campuses as her personal experience will shed light on topics that are important to the modern world.

i-am-malala“What is great about the common reading program at WSU is that it brings together the campus and regional community for healthy discussion on complex topics that impact the world,” she said. “Students spend their first year examining and discussing these topics through their coursework. The community is then invited to join that conversation by bringing their outside experiences and perspectives to light through the public presentation and discussion.”

WSU Vancouver selected a different book for their common reading program. Students are reading “Integration Nation: Immigrants, Refugees and America at Its Best,” By Susan E. Easton. The author will deliver a lecture Oct. 26 at WSU Vancouver.

The two-year leadership and social justice theme of the WSU common reading program is in line with WSU aiming to solve some of the world’s Grand Challenges, with specific relevance to the challenge of advancing opportunity and equity.

For more information on the lecture and common reading program at WSU Tri-Cities, visit

By Kyla Emme, College of Education intern

sarah-newcomerRICHLAND, Wash. – Sarah Newcomer, an assistant professor of literacy education at Washington State University Tri-Cities, recently earned a national award for her work to increase opportunity and equity in education.

The Concha Delgado Gaitan Early Career Presidential Fellowship is presented by the national Council of Anthropology and Education (CAE) to a maximum of eight recipients each year.

Newcomer’s recent publications include studies about using wordless books for immigrant students in the classroom and the transition to teaching “world” languages rather than “foreign” languages.

“My research corresponds to CAE’s mission through examining practices supporting family engagement and school-community partnerships,” she said, as well as promoting “racial and social justice in all settings where learning takes place.”

She completed a B.A. in Spanish at Northern Arizona University in 1995 and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, language and literacy from Arizona State University in 2012. She teaches undergraduate courses at WSU Tri-Cities that focus on literacy in students from fourth grade to middle school.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Kayla Stark, a student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, has performed for venues ranging from hundreds to thousands around Tri-Cities, Wash. But last week, on Aug. 18, she performed at her largest venue yet: at a Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.

Stark has sung the national anthem a number of times throughout the last three years at various events around the Tri-Cities. She said singing has always been a passion of hers, allowing her to venture outside of her comfort zone and develop her talent as an artist.Kayla Stark 1

“I performed for the Tri-City Dust Devils, at Tri-City Americans games, at the Benton Franklin Fair and then at my husband’s graduation for WSU Tri-Cities this May,” she said. “But I never thought I’d be singing at a Seahawks game.”

Stark’s father, Tom Oleson, has encouraged her to perform for larger venues because he knew it was something she was passionate about. This year, he sent a video to the Seattle Mariners as an audition for singing the national anthem during one of their season games, but they sent a nice letter back stating essentially, “thanks, but no thanks,” she said. That letter, however, didn’t discourage her dad for trying for other large venues.

“He told me he wanted to send something in to the Seahawks, and expecting the same response, I was like ‘OK Dad, knock yourself out,” she said. “But then, while I was at work, I got the email. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, they are serious. This is real. This is really happening.’”

Three weeks later, Stark found herself driving with her father, husband and brother-in-law to CenturyLink Field in Seattle: the home of the Super Bowl XLVIII champions. She had three practice tries at “The Star-Spangled Banner” during her sound check prior to performing it live shortly before the Seahawks took on the Minnesota Vikings.

Stark said the friendly and welcoming staff at the stadium, as well sound check practices, were what helped calm her nerves.

“I just closed my eyes and went for it,” she said. “It wasn’t my best, vocally, but it was still an amazing experience. Everyone I came in contact with at the stadium were also so amazing. They were all so nice and so helpful.”

Stark said it is still sinking in that she got to perform the nation’s song at one of the Northwest’s largest athletic venues.

Kayla Stark and family[2]“I was just so happy to honor our country and the people that have served it,” she said. “I am so grateful to my dad for helping me pursue my dreams. Performing is something I really enjoy and I feel like it challenges me in a good way. It is kind of an adrenaline rush. I like anything that tests my boundaries. I feel like singing is that kind of thing for me.”

Stark is studying elementary education at WSU Tri-Cities and is set to begin her student teaching this year. She said while she enjoys singing, she isn’t sure if she wants to pursue it professionally as she doesn’t want the job aspect to ruin her love for the art.

Stark said in her career as a teacher, however, she will use the experience to encourage her students to follow their dreams.

“I plan to use this experience to encourage my students to pursue anything they are interested in or passionate about,” she said. “I want my students to understand that the things that challenge them the most are the things that help them grow the most. Anything that takes practice and hard work will be worth it in the end – this goes for faith, talents, hopes, ideas and so much more.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

PASCO, Wash. – After a year of planning, thousands of volunteer hours and a whole lot of hard work, Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity and Washington State University Tri-Cities are set to present a Burmese family with the keys to their first home.

WSU Tri-Cities students work on construction of the home.

Members of the community are invited to attend a dedication of the Tri-Cities Coug House at noon Saturday, Aug. 27, at the home’s site, 304 N. Charles St., Pasco.

“It’s been great seeing how we’ve all come together as a community to make this family’s first home a reality,” said Brent Ellis, the WSU Tri-Cities student volunteer coordinator who led construction. “In addition to the volunteer efforts, students got to put their skills from the classroom to work on the house.”

WSU Tri-Cities signed a partnership agreement with Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity to build the home in August 2015. The house is one of 24 constructed as part of Habitat’s Whitehouse Addition.

The dedication will include comments by Ellis and Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Lisa Godwin, followed by lunch provided by the family and a self-guided tour of the home.

The homeowners, who escaped their home country of Burma during war, include Mah Thu Sha La, his wife Lu Dee Na and their three children. They lived for years in a Thailand refugee camp before getting green cards in 2011. Last year, they were approved for a home in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

The new homeowners, the Sha La family.

The family has dedicated 500 hours of sweat equity, which is required for them to purchase the home with a no-interest 20-year mortgage. More than 150 volunteers from WSU Tri-Cities and the Tri-Cities community contributed to the construction.

“Everyone benefited from this first-of-its kind partnership,” Ellis said, adding that it generated partnerships among many groups around the Tri-Cities community.

For more information, contact Amber Eubanks, WSU Tri-Cities community engagement specialist, at, or Roddie Shanley, Habitat family services and site coordinator, at