KENNEWICK, Wash. — The WineVit conference recently returned to Kennewick, Wash., drawing a multitude of Washington State University faculty, students, and staff, as well as grape growers, tasting room managers, and other Washington wine industry players.
The event, which serves as a catalyst for growth and innovation in the industry, further confirmed that WSU is leading the charge in key areas such as grapevine disease and pest management, clean plant certification, and hyper-accurate weather data, all while preparing graduates for successful careers.
WSU’s viticulture and enology offerings have grown immensely since establishment in the 1930s, and the program’s recent elevation to department is key to future success. During the conference, Department Founding Chair Jean Dodson Peterson detailed an exciting future, explaining how V&E will support WSU’s larger goals of creating a diverse set of global leaders and applying research to real-world situations.
“WSU’s focus is on advancing, extending, and amplifying knowledge,” Dodson Peterson said. “V&E is excited and eager to continue contributing meaningfully to the realization of WSU’s greater institutional vision. We want to ensure that WSU V&E is a leader in academic institutions for research, Extension, and education.”
Dodson Peterson also used the event as an opportunity to reveal the overarching goals of the department’s learning objectives. V&E graduates will use critical thinking and problem solving to remedy issues facing the V&E industry worldwide; show technical confidence in winemaking practices, viticulture, sensory analysis of wine, and more; pursue environmental and social equity by evaluating and adapting foundational viticulture and enological practices; and promote lifelong learning, she said.
“It’s WSU V&E’s mission to provide a comprehensive education and research program that prepares students for successful careers in our wine industry and to support the region’s winemakers and grape growers,” added Dodson Peterson. “We are well equipped to do this.”
The program isn’t without opportunities for growth. Dodson Peterson shared plans to address students’ needs by expanding hands-on lab offerings and making classes accessible for those who need a more flexible schedule. Partnership and shared dialogue with the wine industry and WSU alumni are also key.
“It’s with the support of the growing Washington wine industry that the V&E program has developed into a world-class research and Extension unit,” Dodson Peterson said. “It’s through shared dialogue with all of you — the industry, the alumni — that we will make progress happen.”
Dodson Peterson also highlighted the importance of diversity and explained why it’s crucial to encourage participation of V&E students from all backgrounds.
“If we value a diverse workforce that’s capable of innovative and inspiring ideas, we must support these voices as they pursue these degrees,” she said. “We want the future of V&E in Washington to be reflective of who we are as a state.”
A strategic, shared vision for how WSU V&E will meet the anticipated and unanticipated needs of the grape and wine industry in Washington and beyond is an investment in the department’s future — a future that looks very promising to Dodson Peterson.
“I am truly inspired by the dedication and effort this industry has shown so far,” she concluded. “I am certain we can continue to grow our Washington state industry together and be a global leader.”
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