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The Wine Studies program at Central Washington University is continuing to evolve, adding two new certificate programs this fall to meet the changing needs of the state’s wine industry, according to a news release.

Starting in September, undergraduate students will be able to pursue 16-credit certificates in Tasting Room Management and Winery Event Design.

Just last year, the program introduced its second bachelor’s degree specialization in wine industry management to accompany the original four-year degree in wine studies.

“We designed the new certificate options so they would be accessible to all undergrads,” said Jill Perillo Clark, a lecturer and program director for CWU Wine Studies. “The prerequisites are pretty flexible. Our goal is to open the classes up to anyone who is interested.”

Clark said a number of her courses have been attracting interest from students pursuing careers in craft brewing, distilling, hospitality, tourism and marketing. One reason, she believes, is that all of these industries have many similarities, especially in Washington state.

“When it comes to customer engagement, there is so much crossover with beer, wine, and spirits,” said Clark, a CWU alumna (‘03 and ‘16) who joined the faculty in 2017. “All of these businesses are trying to figure out how to build better relationships with their customers, and with everything that’s happening right now, we are seeing a big shift toward social media and e-commerce.”

One course that was particularly relevant during the spring quarter was Wine 332 — Social Media Management. Clark said while consumer habits have changed since businesses were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no shortage in demand.

“Spring quarter was the first time I taught that course, and it ended up being very timely,” she said. “The wineries haven’t been able to bring in their customers for tastings, so developing and maintaining relationships on social media has become even more important now.”

The most notable change in the wine studies program over the past year has been the introduction of the WIM degree — the only specialization of its kind in the state. Instead of focusing on wine-making and grape-growing like other colleges and universities in the state, the WIM degree delves more into business aspects such as marketing, sales, distribution, social media, and industry law.

“We have some great wine-making and viticulture programs in Washington, but what needed to be addressed was how to get the products to market,” she said. “I like to think we have built our own little niche at Central with our focus on the business side, and I feel really good about our program being able to address a growing need in our state.”

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