This fall, the new Washington State University Department of Viticulture and Enology will welcome its first chair, associate professor of viticulture Jean Dodson Peterson.

Jean Dodson Peterson
Jean Dodson Peterson

The new V&E department was approved earlier this year, building on a bachelor’s degree program established in 2020. The department is based at the university’s Tri-Cities campus at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center. Dodson Peterson will take on the leadership role from wine scientist Thomas Henick-Kling, who served as program director since 2009, according to a news release from the university.

“I’m excited for the new department to have such a vibrant and enthusiastic leader,” said Sandra Haynes, WSU Tri-Cities chancellor, in a statement. “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 will join WSU from California Polytechnic State University, where she has worked on the development of the undergraduate curriculum. She earned her doctorate in horticulture from the University of California, Davis and her research focuses on rootstock-scion interactions in grapevines.

At WSU, she is looking forward to introducing more undergraduates to the opportunities in wine science and working with the faculty to set the new department up for success, according to the news release.

“I had no idea this major existed when I went to college,” Dodson Peterson said in a statement. “It isn’t an area of study that most 18- or 19-year-olds are aware of. We must open their eyes to the opportunities that exist in this profession.”

This students-first approach caught the attention of the hiring committee, said grower Dick Boushey, a member of the committee.

“Research is important, but you have to be a place where students want to come,” he said in a statement. “Jean has the skills to do that. I’m as excited about this hire as anything the WSU wine program has done, and I’ve been working with this program since the 1980s.”

by Kate Prengaman