WSU searches for founding chair of new wine department

Washington State University’s newest department needs a leader.

Photo of center at sunrise
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center

The newly approved Department of Viticulture and Enology has a new job posting for a founding department chair to lead and guide the unit’s research, teaching, and outreach.

“The creation of a new department is a really important step,” said Rich Zack, associate dean of Academic Programs in WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “The Washington wine industry is incredibly excited about and supportive of this department, and we’re excited to find a leader for it.”

WSU formally established a bachelor’s degree in Viticulture and Enology in 2020, and the creation of a separate department is the next evolution in the growth of the program.

The department will be housed on the WSU Tri-Cities campus, where the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center is located.

“That’s a first for us, where a chair will be based at a campus that’s not Pullman,” Zack said. “It makes sense—that’s where the industry is, where there are so many opportunities for faculty and students.”

The current viticulture and enology program is a group of dispersed scientists and students.

“There are people in different units, such as horticulture or entomology, located in different places,” said Zack, himself a WSU entomology professor. “Many people have split assignments. We’ll still have all of these individuals, but now people will be hired specifically into the Department of Viticulture and Enology.”

The Washington wine industry has been asking for an independent unit for several years, Zack said, and is helping the department succeed.

“The wine industry is super excited about this advancement,” he said. “They’re doing everything they can to help establish a successful, thriving department within our college.”

WSU is carrying out an international search for a new department chair, concentrating on prominent wine regions around the world.

“The ideal person would be someone who works well with industry and stakeholders, who will be out there in vineyards and wineries,” Zack said. “But we’re open to people with different backgrounds, they don’t have to have academic backgrounds. They could be from the wine industry, they could be in a related field like food science or fermentation science.”

The new chair is expected to be in place in August.