Cowlitz Indian Tribe invests in STEM education and research 

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Lisa King, president, WSU Foundation; Mel Netzhammer, chancellor, WSU Vancouver; Timi Marie Russin, member of the Cowlitz Tribal Council and Cowlitz Tribal Foundation manager; Patty KinswaGaiser, chairwoman, Cowlitz Indian Tribe; Karissa Lowe, member, Cowlitz Indian Tribe; Greg Ford, chair, Cowlitz Indian Tribe Education Committee; Kirk Schulz, WSU president; and Mike Connell, vice president of Advancement and CEO, WSU Foundation.

A $1 million philanthropic investment by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to advance life sciences and STEM education at WSU Vancouver will benefit students, research and outreach in Southwest Washington. The commitment made by the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation will be used to support the construction of the Life Sciences facility, which also includes a $4.5 million state-of-the-art growing facility.

“The WSU Vancouver community is grateful for the generous investment and partnership from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and looks forward to the completion of our campus’s new Life Sciences Building in 2024,” said Mel Netzhammer, chancellor of WSU Vancouver. “This commitment will open doors for our talented faculty and students to make discoveries and share valuable knowledge of the world around us, thereby improving the quality of life across the region and beyond.”

“The Cowlitz Indian Tribe invests in education because we understand the value that it brings to individuals and the community,” said Timi Marie Russin, Cowlitz Tribal Foundation manager. “We are honored to be a part of the mission and grateful for the partnership with WSU Vancouver.”

The 3,300-square-foot greenhouse and growing facility will be home for lab-based experiments, lectures and independent research projects that will benefit biology and environmental science education and research programs. The greenhouse is part of the new and innovative 60,000-square-foot Life Sciences Building, which broke ground in November 2021. Slated to open in 2024, the building will house laboratory space for programming in biology and chemistry, serving general educational needs for all students and foundational courses for an array of STEM degrees. Largely funded by $52.6 million from the state of Washington’s 2021 – 23 capital budget, the Life Sciences Building will also house basic, translational, applied and clinical health programs—including nursing, neuroscience, psychology, molecular biology and medicine.

“WSU’s partnership with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe aligns squarely with our shared value to understand and protect the lands and world around us,” said Kirk Schulz, WSU president. “Everyone at WSU is grateful for the generosity and leadership of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe for their remarkable support of this project. I look forward to growing our collaborations with the Cowlitz peoples to address challenges and advance communities in Southwest Washington—and throughout the state and region—for generations to come.”

With its collective emphasis on art, culture, environmental justice and education, the Life Sciences Building and greenhouse fit neatly within the mission of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and the philanthropic goals of the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation. Since 2017, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe has donated approximately $28 million to its local community and the state of Washington as a whole.