WSU wine science department to debut new curriculum in fall 2024

Three students reach into a metal machine that holds clusters of wine grapes.
Starting this fall, WSU V&E undergraduates will experience a revitalized curriculum that comprehensively prepares them for wine industry careers.

RICHLAND, Wash. — Starting this fall, Washington State University viticulture and enology (V&E) undergraduates will experience a revitalized curriculum that comprehensively prepares them for wine industry careers.

“This is special,” said Jean Dodson Peterson, WSU V&E department chair. “It marks a new era for our department, reintroducing WSU V&E to both local and global wine industries. I feel privileged to steward this transition for our department.”

Almost every class in the major has been redesigned, and most upper division courses now require a hands-on vineyard, winery, or other lab component. Going forward, all V&E students will spend time learning small-scale winemaking practices in the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, and an increased number of internship units is necessary for graduation.

A few V&E courses will remain essentially the same, but will be accessible to students earlier in their academic trajectories. The new curriculum will also continue to allow flexibility for discussions around relevant topics like wildfire, climate change, and disease.

Each of the committee’s decisions supports an overarching goal: provide students with the fundamental aspects of wine science while teaching them how to implement that science in real-world scenarios.

“We aim for our students to be fully prepared for their careers,” said Dodson Peterson. “We seek to foster not only their connections with WSU and their peers but also with key stakeholders in the wine and grape industry. This approach ensures they will possess substantial real-world experience as they embark on their professional journeys.”

A woman in a black vest and gray shirt stands in a vineyard with blue sky in the background.
Jean Dodson Peterson

To guide the process, the curriculum development committee established a set of core values that align with the nascent department’s new learning objectives and the strategic plan of the WSU Tri-Cities campus, where the V&E program is based.

“It was an excruciating amount of work for all of us, but in the end a very gratifying experience,” said Jim Harbertson, associate professor and curriculum development committee chair. “We are all very proud and excited to get started with the new curriculum.”

The committee used survey responses from recent graduates, current students, student interns, and industry stakeholders to help reimagine coursework and determine areas ripe for improvement.

“The data and the ensuing discussion were pivotal,” Dodson Peterson said. “They prompted us to reconsider our educational delivery methods. We are transitioning our approach to a more hands-on, lab-intensive, and experiential model, thereby enhancing the practical learning aspect of our major.”

To minimize disruption, the department will honor the original curriculum for students who enrolled in the program prior to fall 2024. Alternatively, those students can choose to transfer to the new catalog and its corresponding set of requirements.

“I strongly believe in ensuring that students have a clear and defined degree path,” said Dodson Peterson. “It is crucial to maintain this focus as we transition from graduating previous generations.”

While Dodson Peterson doesn’t anticipate any major future changes to the department’s new curriculum, she acknowledges that classes will likely continue to evolve based on student need. Faculty will closely monitor students’ progress and continuously assess courses and units, making annual changes as necessary.

“Curriculum should never be stagnant,” said Dodson Peterson. “I perceive it as a living, breathing entity, an integral member of our department. Embracing dynamism is essential, and WSU’s curriculum cycle structure effectively supports this adaptability.”

Help students be successful:

The V&E Student Support Fund and the V&E Experiential Learning Fund help WSU students succeed and contribute to the skilled and adaptable workforce that is key to a Resilient Washington.

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