Partner to help tomorrow’s wine leaders overcome unexpected hurdles

Wine science student working with grape liquids.

With help from passionate Cougars and the Washington wine community, students facing costly, unexpected emergencies can stay on track to change the world of wine for the better.  

The Viticulture and Enology Student Support Fund was created one year ago through the combined efforts of Washington winemakers and faculty in Washington State University’s Department of Viticulture and Enology (V&E).  

Since inception, more than $15,000 in donor-funded aid has helped students meet critical needs for emergency health care, childcare, and housing. Without that support, some might not stay in school. 

“This fund is the most important thing I’ve been part of since joining WSU,” said Jean Dodson Peterson, founding chair of the V&E Department and Student Support originator.  

 She launched the fund after taking a deep dive into why students sometimes leave the program.  

“The majority were not academic issues, but low-threshold issues, often only a few hundred dollars, and sometimes really heartbreaking,” Dodson Peterson said. “Once they leave, they don’t come back. My goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.” 

Many students come to V&E from non-traditional or first-generation backgrounds and may balance work and family needs with a university education. Some can’t come to class if they can’t get childcare or must choose between rent or a medical bill and school. Many already work in the industry, as interns, or as student employees. Support funding helps them avoid having to balance a second or even third job. 

“Our students are very dynamic but sometimes they need a little help,” Dodson Peterson said. “This provides that stopgap. It also opens the door for conversations that lead to long-term student success,” linking them to wider community and university resources and scholarships. 

Jean Dodson Peterson in a vineyard.
Jean Dodson Peterson, Founding Chair, WSU Department of Viticulture and Enology

“The scholarship cycle is once a year, but emergencies can pop up anytime,” she added.  

Dodson Peterson praised the phenomenal effort made by a team of faculty and registrars who review and approve emergency requests, often same day. 

“We know our students,” she said. “We talk to them face to face and want to get help to them right when they need it.” 

The WSU V&E program is critically important to the long-term success of the Washington wine industry, said Marty Clubb, owner and managing winemaker of L’Ecole No 41.  

“Its students are the heartbeat of our future,” he said. 

A 2024 CougsGive challenge match donor, Clubb recently donated to the fund to help students get through critical financial difficulties. 

“History shows that without help, these students have a higher likelihood of dropping out,” he said. “I challenge fellow Cougs and winemakers to help as well.” 

The Student Support Fund is the financial element of broader strides that V&E is making to help build student engagement, including a new curriculum launching this fall. 

The V&E students of today will carry on the work of current winemakers, growers, and scientists. Thanks to the Student Support Fund and its backers, their unique ideas and life experiences will continue to enrich and diversify both their department and the Washington wine industry at large.   

“Empowering students through crisis funding not only ensures the preservation of their talents but also upholds the promise of a thriving future in the wine and grape industry,” Dodson Peterson said. “We’re showing our students that we stand firm with them from the moment they say yes to WSU until the day they go out into industry and beyond.” 

To support this fund, visit the CougsGive WSU Viticulture and Enology site and become a CougsGive Ambassador. You can provide a gift on April 17 and help share the word to support deserving WSU students and life-changing Cougar experiences.