Vineyard, winery worker families get $150,000 to attend Sonoma State University

Adriana Avalos, far left, and Rosa Zuniga, second from right, with other members of the group of 15 inaugural Wine Industry Scholar Program scholarship recipients and the recognition luncheon Nov. 13, 2017. (SONOMA STATE UNIVERSITY)


The Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University on Monday announced the first scholarship recipients of the Wine Industry Scholars Program, totaling $150,000 this year.

Fifteen students received individual $10,000 scholarships as part of the Wine Industry Scholars Program (WISP), a collaboration between the School of Business and Economics and the university’s Educational Opportunity Program. The EOP is dedicated to supporting the access, retention and graduation of first-generation students from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

The new scholarship program is designed to provide first generation children from families of vineyard and winery workers access and support services through higher education, according to the institute. The group of scholars was recognized during a luncheon ceremony on Nov. 13, including guests from the Wine Business Institute board of directors and EOP academic advisors. Students and donors were able to meet and connect.

“Being a Wine Industry Scholar means that I can keep furthering my education,” said Adriana Avalos, a criminal justice major at SSU and a scholarship recipient, in the announcement. “I will be able to achieve my goal of getting my Master in Student Affairs without having to worry about finances as much. Through the Wine Industry Scholars Program, I have met people who continually encourage me to keep going and achieve my best. Without this program and the support from it, I would not be able to keep going.”

Another recipient, Rosa Zuniga, an SSU psychology major, said she has struggled to pay bills during winter breaks.

“It was a relief knowing that I was able to get rent covered for these few months, and it would be okay for me to take a two-week break from work for the holidays,” Zuniga said in a statement. “Bottom line is, thank you for being so generous. I sincerely appreciate it,”

Karen Thompson, interim dean of the School of Business and Economics, said the intent is to make this the first of many such groups of recipients.

“Beyond the much-needed financial assistance it provides, this program also includes a summer transition program, academic and career advising, and co-curricular activities,” she said in a statement. “Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we can look forward to the continued growth and success of this unique program and the students it serves.”

Wine Industry Scholar Program contributors include the Kalmanovitz Foundation, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Cooperages 1912, Gary Heck of Korbel, Walt and Sylvia Klenz of VinCraft, Mel and Craig McKibben, Carol O'Hara of BPM, Ron Rubin of Ron Rubin Winery, Barbara Talbott and John Riley, Gould Evans, Douglas Thornley and Susan Lundquist, and Chris and Kathy Burt.

Wine Business Institute scholarships still available in 2018 include Charlie Palmer’s annual Pigs and Pinot, $10,000; Donn P. Reisen Scholarship for MBA Students in Wine Business, $5,000; Liz Thach Wine Industry Scholarship, $1,500; La Tosh Wine Scholarship, $2,000; two Southern Wine & Spirits of America wine business scholarships, $10,000; Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards Wine Business Scholarship, $2,500; and Vintage Wine Estates Wine MBA Scholarship, $5,000.

The deadline for these applications (online application form) is Feb. 23.