Jun 22, 2024  


History of the University

Heritage University is unique in its origins. Both old and new, it is a successor institution to Spokane’s Fort Wright College (formerly Holy Names College), founded in 1907 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). A new institution was born in 1981 through a change in name, location of administrative offices, ownership and sponsorship. Under the impetus of two Yakama Nation women, leaders from business, religious and education communities in the Yakima Valley incorporated as Heritage College so they could acquire the outreach programs that Fort Wright College operated in Omak and Toppenish.

On July 1, 1982, the transition to Heritage College became official. The new institution began offering undergraduate and graduate degrees as a separate, private, independent, nonprofit college, with its main campus near Toppenish and satellite campuses in Spokane and Omak. In 1987, the Spokane campus was closed and the students moved to the Toppenish campus. In 2008, Omak courses were consolidated with courses offered in collaboration with Wenatchee Valley College. In 2009, the college site was placed under the Heritage University office at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake.

In 1993, through a cooperative agreement with Big Bend, upper-division courses began, leading to a Heritage College four-year degree. A similar program began at Columbia Basin Community College in Pasco, in 2003, and at South Seattle Community College in 2006. All these outreach sites are included in Heritage’s accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Numerous school district sites throughout the state of Washington are also used to deliver Heritage’s master’s degree programs. These sites are monitored and approved by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

In 2004, Heritage College was designated Heritage University to reflect its substantial master’s degree programs, and to more accurately reflect, for students from Central and South America, the baccalaureate level of education provided at Heritage.

The university was founded as a nonsectarian institution, not affiliated with any church or religious group; however, Heritage’s educational values have been influenced by the sponsoring religious order of Fort Wright College. The SNJM was founded in rural Quebec in 1843 to start schools in isolated towns where the poor had no educational opportunities. They emphasized high scholastic standards and enkindling the life of the mind in a personalized learning environment. They envisioned education as the full human development of each student — intellectually, professionally, spiritually and morally — while creating community and inspiring service to others. Over the following years, they embedded these values in educational ventures pursued around the globe, with great respect for various cultures. This is the educational heritage of today’s Heritage University.


Heritage University empowers a multi-cultural and inclusive student body to overcome the social, cultural, economic, and geographic barriers that limit access to higher education. Rooted in the homeland of the Yakama Nation, the University embraces transformational student-centered education that cultivates leadership and a commitment to the promotion of a more just society. 


From its founding days, Heritage has been inspired by a vision of education that embraces issues of national and international significance. These issues revolve around the realization that cooperation across cultural boundaries — whether they are geographic, ethnic, racial, religious, or economic — will be vital to human survival. Heritage recognizes a basic principle rooted in all the world’s great religions and moral traditions: Each person is endowed with inalienable dignity and gifted with unique potential.

To translate this vision into everyday reality, the Heritage learning community requires a highly qualified and unusually dedicated faculty and staff, coupled with a low student-to-faculty ratio. These employees’ dedication to the university mission leads them to create and sustain unique educational programs specifically tailored to the special needs of multicultural and rural or isolated constituencies. The Heritage community attempts to live its motto, “Knowledge brings us together,” by placing great importance on the dignity and potential of each student, and by considering diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds as assets to the educational process.

Heritage has a student body with substantial diversity, which creates an effective learning community where each cultural group is valued. To develop community and concern for the common good, the university seeks to provide leadership in supporting cultural pluralism within our own and other communities; cultural pluralism creates a climate of respect and appreciation by fostering “learning about us” in an interdependent and connected world. Heritage acts to make its curriculum, staffing, teaching and other collegiate activities reflect this learning.

Underlying the vision are three key values: 1.) honoring each person’s human dignity and potential, 2.) seeking intellectual growth and challenges and 3.) celebrating the shared spiritual roots of all humankind.

The Heritage vision is embodied in these eight operating principles:

  H for the healing circle of life we live together;
  E for excellence in teaching and in learning;
  R for responsiveness to student needs: intellectual, family and personal;
  I for inclusivity and cultural pluralism;
  T for teamwork in building community;
  A for awareness, leading to continuous improvement;
  G for grassroots community involvement; and

for effectiveness in managing limited resources to achieve Heritage’s goals.

National and Regional Recognitions

In June 1986, Heritage University received recognition as an accredited institution of higher education from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the regional accrediting body responsible for verifying compliance with nationally recognized norms. This accreditation was retroactive to Sept. 1, 1985. From July 1, 1982, until September 1985, Heritage had candidacy status with the accrediting association. The most recent re-accreditation visit by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities was in May 2011, after which the university’s accreditation was reaffirmed.

Heritage is a member of the All Nations Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP) for Native American-Serving Institutions of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).

The university is officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as eligible for federal student aid and institutional grant programs.

Heritage offers teacher education programs at the initial and continuing certification levels that have been approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board of Washington state. The university’s principal credential, program administrator credential, and school counselor credential are also approved by the state of Washington.

The Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) degree was accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), effective with the class of 1997. The next major review by CSWE occurred on schedule and re-accreditation was given in 2010.

The Higher Education Coordinating Board of Washington state officially recognizes Heritage and has granted it participation in the state student aid and the state work-study programs, both on and off campus, and has made it eligible for certain competitive grant opportunities offered by the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The university is an institutional member of the following organizations:

  • Association of Governing Boards (AGB) of Higher Education
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)
  • American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for Liberal Arts
  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)
  • Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)
  • American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)
  • Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) (national organization)
  • Independent Colleges of Washington (ICW)
  • Northwest Association of Private College and University Libraries (NAPCU)
  • Washington Council for High School-College Relations
  • American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)
  • Pacific Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (PACRAO)
  • Private Registrars of Washington (PROW)
  • Oregon Private Academic Library Link (OPALL)
  • American Indian Graduate Center
  • Council of Independent Colleges (CIC)
  • National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)
  • Western Association of College and University Business Officers (WACUBO)
  • Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities (OCICU)
  • Campus Compact (service learning and civic engagement)
  • EDUCAUSE (intelligent use of information technology)
  • Education Conservancy
  • Global Learning Goals for Higher Education: Washington state
  • Larson Art Gallery
  • Allied Arts of Yakima County
  • Yakima Ready by Five (early learning organization)

Individual faculty members and administrators hold memberships in numerous other regional and professional associations.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Heritage University has concluded a formal memorandum of understanding for partnership activities with each of the following entities: Battelle Memorial Institute’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Department of Energy at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the University of Washington, Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University, Big Bend Community College, Columbia Basin College, Wenatchee Valley College, South Seattle Community College, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Tri-Cities Laboratory, Lourdes Health Network, Kadlec Medical Center, and Kennewick General Hospital.

The university also collaborates with a large number of school districts throughout the state of Washington and has agreements for internships, practicum sites and clinical learning sites with numerous regional health care organizations, businesses, social service agencies and educational entities.

Heritage was designated in 1997 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a National Center of Excellence for rural community development activities, and was one of two universities nationally to receive this designation for the eight consecutive years in which it was awarded.

The university is located within the Yakama Indian Reservation, less than three miles from the tribal headquarters. Numerous working relationships with tribal programs enhance the goals of both the university and the Yakama Nation, including projects with the Yakama Tribal School, the Yakama Nation Natural Resources Division, the Yakama Nation Museum and Cultural Center, the Office of Economic Development and other programs.

The University of Washington’s strong partnership with Heritage is enhanced by having UW offices on the Toppenish campus. From these offices, UW personnel facilitate joint projects in the Yakima Valley for such efforts as tourism development, increased community access to technology and rural health research.

Core Themes

  1. Access and Equity:  Heritage University strives to identify, recruit, enroll and retain students from a wide range of different types of backgrounds.
  2. Academic Excellence: Academic excellence includes all aspects of a high quality liberal arts and career-preparatory educational experience for all students, from the individual course level through completion of their goals.  It includes student satisfaction with courses and student services, employer satisfaction with Heritage students, the percentage of courses taught by full-time faculty, and student outcomes (graduation rates, placement rates, and course success)
  3. Community Engagement : Community engagement includes partnerships with various organizations across the regions that Heritage University serves.  It embraces an outreach mentality leading to immersion in local communities to understand their educational needs and adapt to meet them, and to lead students and graduates to give back to their communities.
  4. Institutional Vitality:  Vitality relates to the health of the institution itself, such as its financial sustainability.

Student Body and Faculty

From an initial enrollment of 85 students on the Toppenish Campus in 1981, the main campus grew to more than 900 students by 2010. When combined with enrollment at the satellite sites, the total number of students enrolled in Heritage University programs is over 1,200.

About one-third of the undergraduates are of typical college age, 18-23, and the overall average age of undergraduates is 23. There is a good mix of traditional-age students and students returning to school for the first time in several or many years. Approximately 75 percent of the students work at least part time.

Most of the undergraduate students at Heritage are enrolled for at least 12 semester hours (full-time), but a significant number are part-time. Most students are pursuing a baccalaureate degree program. As of May 2010, a total of more than 7,000 certificates, baccalaureate diplomas and master’s diplomas have been awarded by the university. More than half of Heritage baccalaureate graduates go on to earn a graduate degree; in fact, the most recent survey of baccalaureate degree recipients revealed that 96 percent of them were employed.

Heritage’s faculty is composed of over 200 well-qualified members holding master’s and doctoral degrees from more than 60 different colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad. Approximately 50 of these scholars are employed full time by the university, and the remainder is adjunct faculty. Many faculty, in addition to their doctoral or master’s degrees, have practical perspectives gained from full-time professional jobs as accountants, school administrators, lawyers, scientific researchers, musicians and artists, journalists, business managers, social workers, counselors and teachers.

All of Heritage’s faculty members are carefully chosen to blend excellent academic competency with commitment to the mission of the university. The average class size is approximately 12 to 15 students. Following lengthy research and study, the faculty adopted a statement of “Key characteristics of highly effective faculty at Heritage University” in 1997 and updated it in 2005. It serves as the basis for faculty performance assessment processes. Outstanding dedication by individual instructors to helping students reach high standards is a hallmark of Heritage’s faculty.

Facilities and Resources

In its 1981 humble beginnings, Heritage College began as a small four-room cottage and three leased classrooms at the McKinley School site.  Heritage University (HU) has since expanded to a modern well-equipped university campus, with state of the art classrooms, teaching laboratories, and technology infrastructure.

The Kathleen A. Ross, SNJM Center - Constructed in 1993, The Kathleen A. Ross, SNJM Center houses the HU Library, President’s Office, Academic Skills Center, testing center, and 4 fully operational classrooms.  In 2010 the building was renamed in honor of Heritage’s founding president, Sister Kathleen A. Ross, who expanded the campus, programs, and outreach to create a higher education institution that is responsive to the needs of its community and provides opportunity that otherwise would not have been possible.

Petrie Hall - Rebuilt in 2014, Petrie Hall houses the Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs’ Office, four fully-equipped technical classrooms, and an innovative Art Gallery & Studio. The main building was entitled Petrie Hall in honor of Lorene M. Petrie, a local resident whose charitable trust made the 11.5 acre Heritage College land and buildings property acquisition possible in 1983 - existing previously as the site of the McKinley School.  This original 13,000-square-foot building was renovated in 1994 and again in 1999. But in 2012, HU experienced a disastrous fire, destroying the building. This tragedy was turned into a blessing, allowing for its full replacement and contribution to HU expansion through construction of two other campus facilities, the Jim & Gaye Piggott Commons and Rick & Myra Gagnier Hall.

Sister Elizabeth Simkins Building - Previously named Alder Hall, the 6,000 square-foot Sister Elizabeth Simkins Building stretches along the western edge of campus and includes faculty offices for the College of Education. It was named for Sister Elizabeth Simkins, one of HU’s founding faculty members, a professor of early childhood education who embodied the Heritage ideal of service by giving generously of her time, talent and humor to university students from 1982 to 2002.

Hitchcock Building - The department of Advancement is currently housed in Hitchcock Building. The Advancement department is dedicated to a strategic, integrated method of managing relationships to increase understanding and support among institution’s key constituents, including alumni and friends, government policy makers, the media, members of the community and philanthropic entities of all types.

Rick and Myra Gagnier Hall - The Rick and Myra Gagnier Hall was erected following Heritage University’s fire in 2012, providing a new and energized space for the Information Technology department. This building reflects the spirit and contributions of Rick Gagnier, who served as Heritage’s CFO and Vice President for eleven years.

Jim & Gaye Piggott Commons - This beautifully crafted building houses an uncluttered dining commons serviced by the Eagle’s Café – Heritage University’s own full-service, restaurant-quality cafeteria. The University Bookstore and mailroom are found on the North end of the building, while the Fireside Room, a friendly student lounge space, and the Patricia Wade Temple Room, a conference facility, are on the South end.  This facility provides staff & students with important features that have contributed to creating community on the campus.

Arts and Sciences Center - The Arts and Sciences Center, built in 2008, is a 34,000-square-foot building that includes four large science labs, project rooms, preparation and storage areas, the Advanced Nursing Skills Lab, additional high-tech classrooms, a reception area, small study nooks for students, and faculty offices.  It also includes Smith Family Hall, the largest conference room available on campus, accommodating up to 450 people.

Heritage Village - Eleven additional mobile buildings were established as the Heritage Village in 2012, following a fire that destroyed some of the institution’s original buildings. These buildings continue to provide space for vital functions of the university, including The Nest which houses Student Government Association offices, a workout room, and lounge for students.

Student Service Center - The Student Service Center provides facilities for departments in admissions, financial aid, registration, student billing, career planning and work-study placement.  This building is the one most immediately accessible from the main parking lot on campus. This building opened in May 2001 to function as a one-stop shop for students.

Community Business & Training Center - Beginning in 1999, technology resources from the University of Washington and the Washington State K-20 Network have served Heritage students and faculty as part of the comprehensive University of Washington-Heritage University partnership. Additional hardware and software, as well as videoconferencing, are available to students in the campus Community Business and Training Center, which was completed with HUD funds as a joint project with the University of Washington in 2005.

Harry Kent Building - The Harry Kent Center houses classrooms, offices and meeting spaces, with special emphasis on Native American heritage and programs. An outside mural, painted by former Heritage student Laurie Housman, visually represents some key values of the Yakama Nation and the environment of the Valley.

Heritage University Early Learning Center - The Heritage University Early Learning Center, located on Fort Road directly across from Petrie Hall, houses a child-care program for children ages 1 to 5, and serves as an Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program for preschool-aged children.  Students, employees, and local families enroll their children in this all-day child learning center. The Annex, an early 20th century Grange Hall, as well as its land, was acquired in 1990 through a generous donation by Dr. and Mrs. Richard Twiss.  This helped support a new building for the Heritage University Early Learning Center in 2010, and expanded the total campus to almost 18 acres.

Library and Information Resources and Services

The Donald K. C. North Library, located in the Kathleen A. Ross, SNJM Center, provides a central focus for the scholarly and intellectual life of its students, faculty and staff, and meets the informational and educational needs of the university and local community. The library develops, augments and maintains collections of print material, electronic products and other non-print resources to support all areas of the university curriculum; to facilitate the development of research skills for students, faculty, and staff on and off campus; and to contribute to the cultural enrichment of the Heritage community.


Library users have access to 70,000 print and 104,000 electronic volumes. The library subscribes to serial publications such as magazines, journals, newspapers and newsletters. Computer terminals provide online access to Voyager, an electronic catalog, which lists the university holdings. Membership in OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) and WIN (Washington Idaho Network) provides access to millions of additional records and materials from member libraries through interlibrary loan. Internet access is available, with web-based indexes, electronic journals, electronic books and reference databases licensed for use by the university community. Audiovisual materials for instructional support are located in the circulation area. Microform materials are located in the reference area. The library archive, called the K ROSS Collection, consists of rare research materials of regional and cultural interest. Consult the library Web pages for titles and access information. Please contact the library for assistance and access to these resources and services. 

Information Literacy

Library personnel offer a wide range of opportunities for instruction and research strategies in the use of printed and electronic resources. Training includes library orientation, research strategies, library information retrieval, instruction for new students, instruction to support university courses, instruction sessions for classes or individuals and training of students who work in the library. Off-campus students and faculty have equal access to information literacy training and skills development. Additionally, students and faculty may contact the library staff via telephone, fax, e-mail and the university website.

Services Provided

The library Web page, http://libguides.heritage.edu/libraryhome, offers information regarding all aspects of library service and facilitates requests for such service. Links to online catalogs, licensed databases, useful Internet sites, tutorials, citation styles and other educational material address the needs of both faculty and students.

Library staff assists students, faculty and staff in the location and use of circulating and reference books as well as electronic databases.

Students, faculty and staff must have valid library accounts. Inquire at the circulation desk regarding establishment of accounts. All patrons must present a picture ID at the circulation desk to borrow materials. Books are loaned for up to four weeks, with one renewal permitted. Reference books, reserve materials and current periodicals may be used throughout the library. These items do not circulate.

The library issues a number of its own publications, including library use and research guides, subject bibliographies, newsletters, and user policies and regulations. Consult the circulation and reference areas for these handouts. Interlibrary loan of materials not held in the library is available to students, faculty and staff. Requests may be made via e-mail, telephone or forms available online. There is usually no charge for this service.

The university licenses electronic databases. These are available on and off campus via the Internet. Consult the library staff or instructors for information on how to access these databases and electronic journals off-site.

A network printer is available for printing online material. These printers are for school-related purposes only. Non-university research can be saved to a portable device or e-mailed to a private account.

The library houses a photocopy machine, microfilm reader/printer, video and audio equipment, typewriter and basic office equipment for patrons.

Numerous ready-reference books and materials are available at the main reference desk. These include guides to database use and items of local interest.

The library staff will accommodate students with special needs.

Hours of Operation

Please consult the library Web page for current hours of operation. Changes in the posted schedule may vary during intersession and summer sessions. Contact the library with further inquiries at (509) 865-8521 or check the Web page at http://libguides.heritage.edu/libraryhome .

Computer and Information Technology Resources

Heritage is committed to providing our students hands-on access to state of the art computing technology. Located in common areas, formal computer labs, and computer teaching centers located all across campus, these high technology resources include a Gigabit research network, Linux super computer array, and multiple dedicated student-computing labs.

Students attending Heritage regional campuses located at community colleges sites across Washington State enjoy similar access to computing technology through our joint facility use agreements.

High-speed Internet connectivity and access to a wide range of online classes and student support resources including IT HELP Center services, are provided by state-of-the-art, multi-gigabit fiber optic connections across the entire campus. Students, faculty, and guests are provided unlimited access to high-speed wireless (Wi-Fi) services.  Students can find technology assistance in person at the Help Desk in Rick and Myra Gagnier Hall, at (509) 865-8579, or at ITHelpDesk@heritage.edu.

Academic Support

Heritage University is committed to providing students with learning communities for students seeking additional academic support and help.  The Kathleen Ross Center houses the array of student support services at the University.

The Academic Skills Center and the Writing Center offer students the opportunity to work with skilled tutors to help students achieve their academic goals and improve their knowledge in specific subject areas.  The Writing Center focuses on supporting students with idea generation and development, research papers, citation, and general composition writing for scholarships or graduate school applications. The Academic Skills Center provides group tutoring, one-on-one tutoring, and online tutoring in core content areas such as mathematics, science, accounting, and general study skills. 

The Testing Center provides services to future students with complete placement testing for new or transfer students who have applied for admission to Heritage University.  Faculty and Current Students can use the Testing Center to administer make-up and accommodation testing. Community members can also request proctored testing services.

Career Services provides assistance with resume/cover letter reviews, interview preparation, employment connection, and Myers-Briggs assessment.

The Donald K North Library, also located in the Kathleen Ross Center, houses the reference desk, provides an array of online and in-print academic and scholarly resources, and offers students a quiet and respectful place to study. 

Ownership and Administration

The university is incorporated and registered as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Washington. It is owned and governed by a self-perpetuating board of directors of up to 24 members, who represent a broad cross-section of communities and professions and is multicultural and multi-denominational. The president serves at the discretion of the board and is responsible for operating the university with the assistance of administrative officers and their staff members.

Information Disclaimer

At the time of publication (August 2011) the programs of Heritage University are offered as indicated in this catalog. However, the administration reserves the right to make necessary changes to programs, requirements and fees during the life of this catalog. Such changes will be published by Academic Affairs or Student Services. Prospective students are advised to check with the registrar for the latest information.


Heritage University subscribes to the principles and laws of the federal government and the state of Washington pertaining to civil rights and equal opportunity, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1973. The university has a policy of equal educational opportunity, equal employment opportunity, and nondiscrimination in the provision of educational and other services to the public. Heritage does not discriminate in admission or access to its educational facilities or in its treatment of students or employees in its programs and activities on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, veteran status, or disabling conditions, in violation of federal or state law.

The current law of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, states the following: “A disability can be a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual.” The ADA law prohibits discrimination and ensures that individuals with disabilities have “the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life - to enjoy employment opportunities, education, to purchase goods and services, to participate in State and local government programs and services.” As an institution of higher education, Heritage University commits to make reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. If you believe you have a disability which may warrant you an accommodation, the first step is to contact the Office of Ability Services to schedule an appointment at: 509-865-8515 or e-mail OfficeofAbilityServices@heritage.edu.

Diversity and Equity

The objectives of the Heritage University Equal Opportunity Program are to eliminate discrimination and, in conformity with state and federal laws and in keeping with the university’s mission, to develop and maintain a workforce and a student body that reflect the communities of the regions that the university serves. Applications for employment and student admission are especially solicited from groups underrepresented in various levels of the workforce and/or in the region’s higher education student bodies.