Wine Industry Scholars Program Awards $150,000 to First-Generation University Students

Over $40,000 in Additional Wine Business Institute Scholarships Available in 2018
January 10, 2018

Rohnert Park, California - The Wine Business Institute (WBI) at Sonoma State University (SSU) today announced the first group of 15 students to receive individual $10,000 scholarships as part of the Wine Industry Scholars Program (WISP), a collaboration between the School of Business and Economics and SSU's Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), 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. The group of scholars was recognized during a luncheon ceremony on November 13, 2017, including guests from the Wine Business Institute Board of Directors and EOP Academic Advisors, where students and donors were able to meet and connect. 

"Being a Wine Industry Scholar means that I can keep furthering my education. 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," Adriana Avalos, criminal justice major and WISP scholarship recipient.

"I'm humbled and grateful to have gotten the Wine Industry scholarship. I've always struggled the most during winter break in regards to money and paying my bills. 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. Bottom line is thank you for being so generous, I sincerely appreciate it," Rosa Zuniga, psychology major and WISP scholarship recipient.

"As educators, we are thrilled to provide opportunities that make a difference in the lives of our students. Our hope and expectation is that this extraordinary group of students represents the first of many to receive academic support through the new Wine Industry Scholars Program," Dr. Karen Thompson, Interim Dean of the School of Business and Economics said. "Beyond the much-needed financial assistance it provides, this program also includes a summer transition program, academic and career advising, and co-curricular activities. 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 The Rubin Family of Wines; 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 Pigs and Pinot Annual Scholarship in the amount of $10,000; Donn P. Reisen Scholarship for MBA Students in Wine Business in the amount of $5,000; Liz Thach Wine Industry Scholarship in the amount of $1,500; La Tosh Wine Scholarship in the amount of $2,000; two Southern Wine & Spirits of America Wine Business Scholarships in the amount of $10,000; Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards Wine Business Scholarship in the amount of $2,500; and Vintage Wine Estates Wine MBA Scholarship in the amount of $5,000. The deadline for all applications is February 23. The application may be accessed here:

For more information regarding the Wine Industry Scholars Program, or for information regarding WBI programs and degrees in the School of Business and Economics, please contact (707) 664-3235,, or visit To learn more about the EOP department and programming, visit