WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor honored for her role in supporting local entrepreneurship

By Lacey Desserault

Sandra Haynes, chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities, was awarded the Sam Volpentest Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, also known as the “Sammy” award by the Richland Rotary Club at their annual Entrepreneurial Award ceremony on Nov. 7. This award is granted to individuals who demonstrate excellence in the local community through entrepreneurship and leadership.

Karl Dye, TRIDEC president & CEO and Diahann Howard, executive director of Port of Benton delivered the award to Chancellor Haynes at WSU Tri-Cities, as she was out of town during the ceremony.

The Richland Rotary presents two entrepreneurship awards annually: entrepreneurial awards for local businesses, and the “Sammy” award. These awards were originally created in 1996 to honor the creative and talented entrepreneurs in Benton and Franklin counties, with a focus on the region’s economic development efforts. To be considered for the Sammy award, each nominee must be a leader in their community, and have contributed to entrepreneurship in the community, either by being an entrepreneur or fostering entrepreneurial spirit through the creation of jobs, companies, mentorships, investments, programs, or services, either inside or outside of the person’s job.

The nominating committee selected Haynes because she has been a driving force in several entrepreneurial community and academic programs since being appointed chancellor in 2018. In June 2023, WSU Tri-Cities was one of six winners of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize for their Empowering the Future Energy Workforce program. This program creates new academic programs, establishes new collaborations with industry, and expands local entrepreneurial activities. The university is developing a curriculum for the Clean Energy Ambassadors Network involving students, faculty, and industry mentors to tackle local climate change challenges that affect disadvantaged communities. With a focus on the environment and clean energy, and a need for more student-industry engagement, the DOE prize is driving new collaborations and strengthening existing ones.

“Ultimately, entrepreneurship is about seeing a need, figuring out how to meet that need, and pushing forward to make sure that it is done,” said Haynes. “WSU Tri-Cities is entrepreneurial in that we see needs, we go out and fill them, and we serve our community while doing that.”

Haynes emphasized the importance of the university’s mission in serving the region. “I’ve always believed that an institute of higher education cannot just be in the community, it has to be of the community. That’s why we have a mission to serve our community, no matter what higher education institution you are in. It is especially important for our campus because, even though we are part of a larger system, we are located in a community where local students come to us for a quality education and they stay here.”

These successes, among other accomplishments on the WSU Tri-Cities campus, contributed to the consideration of Haynes for this award. Haynes initiated the launch of the Institute for Northwest Energy Futures, and has been a champion of research on sustainable aviation fuels in the Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory, partnerships with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, STEM education programs for K-12 schools, and the participation in the community benefits plans for the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub. She is also the chair for the Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC) board of directors.

The Richland Rotary partners with TRIDEC, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tri-Cities Research District, Fuse, Port of Benton, Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Benton Franklin Workforce Development Council in granting this award.