July 21, 2022

Founding chair’s focus is students in new viticulture and enology department

Jean Dodson Peterson will join Washington State University this fall as founding chair of the newly created Department of Viticulture and Enology.

She will be based on the WSU Tri-Cities campus at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center and will take over leadership from renowned wine scientist Thomas Henick-Kling, who has served as WSU V&E program director since 2009.

Washington State U. Wine Service Center
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center at WSU. Photo: Washington State U.

“I’m excited for the new department to have such a vibrant and enthusiastic leader,” said Sandra Haynes, WSU Tri-Cities chancellor. “Given our proximity to the Washington wine industry in the mid-Columbia region, we value our relationships with winemakers and grape growers. Dr. Dodson Peterson’s focus on student success, experience with the wine industry and in higher education, and openness to innovation will be great benefits to our campus and the future of the industry.”

Dodson Peterson said her top focus will be students. In her faculty role at California Polytechnic State University, she has overseen the redevelopment of the undergraduate curriculum for the past seven years. Her goal is to empower the next generation of students to solve current and future problems.

“We need to train our students to be critical thinkers such that they have the skills to tackle the problems of tomorrow,” Dodson Peterson said. “I am looking forward to joining WSU and the opportunity to facilitate building a department that will benefit the state of Washington and its incredible wine industry.”

Dodson Peterson said her experience of “lucking into” her discovery of wine science drives home the need to be more active in recruiting undergraduate students. She enrolled at the University of California, Davis as a Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior major and wanted to become a medical doctor. Serendipity, and a talk with her friend and future spouse, led her to take an introduction to wine class. Her future changed quickly after that.

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