New Scholars Program Provides "Path to Success" for Wine Industry Workers and Families

Series of $10,000 Education Grants Announced in Support of University Education and Career Success
February 15, 2017

Rohnert Park, California - The Wine Business Institute (WBI) at Sonoma State University (SSU) today announced the launch of the Wine Industry Scholars Program, a pioneering initiative with a starting gift of $100,000 over four years, including ten $10,000 grants to children and family members of vineyard and winery workers to offset tuition and other educational expenses associated with attending SSU. In addition to financial support, the new program includes a summer transition program, academic and career advising, cohort-based classes, co-curricular programming as part of the Rodney Strong Pathways Program, and student work experiences.

Founding program contributors include George Hamel III of Hamel Family Wines; Gary Heck of Korbel; Walt and Sylvia Klenz of VinCraft; Mel and Craig Mannion; Carol O'Hara of Burr Pilger Mayer; Ron Rubin of The Rubin Family of Wines; Barbara Talbott and John Riley; Gould Evans; Douglas Thornley and Susan Lundquist; and an anonymous member of the WBI Board of Directors.       

"For decades, we've recruited and supported first-generation college students, and learned that scholarships alone don't always foster success toward a degree. This new program provides students the resources and support system to forge a path to success. We're grateful to our founding group of wine industry leaders for their vision and compassion in helping guide the next generation of leaders toward academic, career, and life success," Dr. William S. Silver, Dean of the School of Business and Economics said.

The Wine Industry Scholars Program begins with a preparation period for students and parents before they arrive on campus, to speak with them about the college experience and ensure that students have adequate academic training. Students will also participate in Summer Bridge Week, an on-campus residential experience designed to introduce students to SSU resources and services, and build supportive relationships with student counselors and faculty advisors.

During their first year, students will take prerequisite courses as part of a learning community and peer support group called the Wine Industry Scholars Academy. Students will be paired with mentors from the business community beginning in their second year, as part of the leadership development and career pathing component of the program. In their third year, students will be placed in an internship where they can apply their classroom knowledge in a supportive work environment and consider opportunities upon graduation.  

For more information regarding the Wine Industry Scholars Program, please contact Ray Johnson, Executive Director of the Wine Business Institute, at (707) 664-3071 or For information regarding programs and degrees of WBI and the School of Business and Economics, please contact (707) 664-3235, email, or visit