Eastern Edge in Tri-Cities: Powering the Hispanic Workforce

November 5, 2021

Eastern Washington University’s fall Eastern Edge event went on the road to the Tri-Cities for an inspiring discussion on how we can work with our community partners to prepare the growing Hispanic population to meet the needs of our workforce.

Presenters included Shari Clarke, PhD, EWU’s Vice President for Diversity and Senior Diversity Officer, as well as Patrick Jones, PhD, Executive Director of EWU’s Institute for Public Policy & Economic Analysis, and a panel facilitated by Nydia Martinez, PhD, Associate Dean for EWU’s College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences.

The data shows that from 2000-2019, Washington’s Hispanic population grew by 7.5 percent – one of the fastest-growing populations in the state. In 2019, the highest percentages of Hispanic residents were found in central Washington with Adams (68.5%), Franklin (55.3%) and Yakima (51.4%) counties posting the highest shares. In this thought-provoking forum, attendees heard from experts on demographic projections, professional workforce development, and the support systems needed in our communities. You can read Jones’ key demographic presentation here.

Eastern is well-positioned to lead this effort, according to Clarke.

“For many years, Eastern has served tens of thousands of first-generation college students in this region, particularly from underrepresented and underserved communities,” says Clarke. “Eastern has already responded to the continued growth of our Latinx communities by embarking on an exciting initiative to become a Hispanic Service Institution.”

To help in this overall effort, Eastern announced during the forum that Providence and Cambia Health Foundation have each made financial gifts to EWU that will significantly impact the lives of several thousand historically underrepresented students at the university over the next three years.

Panelists included Martin Valadez, interim Executive Director of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Alfredo Carlos, PhD, the new Director of Chicana/o/x Studies at EWU; and EWU alumni: Stephanie Fuentes, retention specialist and math adjunct instructor at Columbia Basin College and Carla Lobos, assistant superintendent of instruction for the Pasco School District.

Eastern Edge community forums are designed to showcase the work of EWU experts who are changing the way we think, learn and do – both inside and outside of the classroom. The events also demonstrate how Eastern faculty, staff and alumni are powering the region through groundbreaking research, new approaches to teaching and learning, and powerful solutions to issues of concern in our communities.