Sonoma State University and California wine leaders advance industry diversity with launch of Wine Business Institute’s Inclusive Excellence Program

June 24, 2021
WBI Inclusive Excellence Program

(Rohnert Park, CA) —  Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics has teamed up with top wine industry brands to launch The Wine Business Institute’s Inclusive Excellence Program. With a commitment of nearly $1,000,000 from the wine industry-leading brands, the innovative program establishes a cohort of students from underrepresented backgrounds who, through scholarships, internships, and mentoring programs, will be guided toward successful executive-level careers in wine business.

The WBI Inclusive Excellence Program is the most recent initiative launched at SSU by wine industry partners. In 2017, the WBI Board of Directors, including firms such as F. Korbel & Bros. and Wine.com started the Wine Industry Scholars Program, which in four years has raised more than $2.2M in scholarships and academic support for first-generation, low-income students with family links to the wine industry and established SSU’s Center for Academic Access and Student Enrichment.

Leadership gifts to the WBI Inclusive Excellence Program include Foley Family Charitable Foundation, Kistler Vineyards, Charles Woodson Intercept Wines, and O’Neill Vintners & Distillers. In addition, the Napa Valley Vintners and the United Negro College Fund have earmarked significant scholarship support for students associated with SSU’s Inclusive Excellence Program. As many as 200 students over the next five years will benefit from generous scholarship funds and wraparound academic and career mentoring, as well as paid internship opportunities. SSU’s Wine Business Institute and Center for Academic Access and Student Enrichment will jointly coordinate this program. Prospective and current SSU students interested in learning about and applying for these inclusive excellence scholarships can do so here

“Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute is embodying the university’s commitment to student success, diversity, and inclusivity, and I could not be more grateful and proud.  With the help of our wine business partners, we are preparing diverse and talented professionals for careers in California’s wine industry. We appreciate that our philanthropic partners have prioritized student access and success. Their support helps SSU to continue to be a socioeconomic elevator, preparing job-ready graduates to fuel California’s thriving economy,” said Judy K. Sakaki, president of Sonoma State University. 

“I am very appreciative that I was selected for the AAAV scholarship! It has impacted my school career by allowing me to focus entirely on my studies, compared to the financial stress caused by being a college student. This award shows me that my hard work is acknowledged, and I am grateful for the scholarship,” said student Amira Bailey, recipient of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) Wine Business Scholarship, B.S. in Business Administration with concentrations in wine business and marketing.

"When we created the Charles Woodson & O'Neill Family Wine Scholarship, we not only wanted to offer financial support for BIPOC students interested in the wine industry, we wanted to inspire and encour­age others in our industry to also donate and cre­ate opportunities through full or partial scholarships for these students," said Jeff O'Neill, founder and owner of O'Neill Vintners & Distillers, and donor to the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. "This is a wonderful milestone for the Institute, and I hope it is only the beginning!"

“Kistler Vineyards is honored to partner with Sonoma State University to help underserved students pursue opportunities in the wine industry. The WBI Inclusive Excellence Program was thoughtfully crafted and will produce a new generation of industry leaders,” said Tom Bonomi, SSU WBI board member, and co-manager, Kistler Vineyards.

“Marian Wright Edelman said, ‘It really takes a community to raise children, no matter how much money one has. Nobody can do it well alone. And it’s the bedrock security of the community that we and our children need.’ This quote means to me that it really takes the community's help in supporting students to achieve their goals and lifelong dreams,” said student Haddie Daner, recipient of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) Wine Business Scholarship, B.S. in Business Administration with concentrations in wine business and marketing. “The AAAV is an amazing organization that supports underrepresented students who are part of the Sonoma County community. I am beyond thankful and honored to have been chosen as a recipient.”

“Creating opportunities for underrepresented and underserved communities was incredibly important to my brother, Patrick, who was a winemaker in Napa and Sonoma for many years. Fostering a more inclusive, supportive, and diverse industry is vital to the health and sustainability of our communities and businesses, and we are pleased to play a role in creating brighter opportunities for the next generation of industry leaders,” said Courtney Foley, member of the Foley Family Charitable Foundation and sister of the late Foley Family Wines winemaker, Patrick Foley.

Additional contributors to the School of Business and Economics and Wine Business Institute Inclusive Excellence initiative include the Association of African American Vintners, Bouchaine Vineyards, Chris and Kathy Burt, Gary Farrell Winery, Gary Heck of F. Korbel & Bros., Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Liz Thach, Marilyn Reisen, Rabo AgriFinance, Randy Lewis, Ridge Vineyards, Scott Labs, Vintage Wine Estates, Vinventions, Viviann, and Mark Stapp, Wine.com, and anonymous donors. 

Media Contact

Julia Gonzalez