Grant set to support wine business

Sonoma State University is laid upon the same ground as some of the finest vineyards in the world. Sonoma State and the Wine Business Institute have strived toward education that reflects the region. 

On Jan. 25, Sonoma State University received a $500,000 grant in order to better serve those educational goals. Tatiana and Gerret Copeland, owners of Bouchaine Wineries in Napa, donated the gift toward The Wine Spectator Learning Center.  

“This grant is extraordinarily meaningful in a couple ways,” said William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics. “The expression of support from vintners who are well-known and such strong business people, that they see value in our program is something we’re proud of. The amount of the donation is significant as well. It will help us as we are developing the Wine Business Institute.”

The $500,000 gift will specifically support The Copeland/Bouchaine Terrace and Gardens. On preliminary designs of the Wine Spectator Learning Center, the terrace and gardens will overlook commencement lawn and lake. The University Commons is the future site of the learning center.  

Marvin Shanken, CEO and president of Wine Spectator, a wine magazine which bears the future learning center’s name, connected the Copeland’s with an opportunity to support Sonoma State’s new building. 

The donation opportunity allowed the Copeland’s to invest in the education of students, specifically in the areas of hospitality and management.

“I think there is a lot of sweet innocent people that go into this business not knowing how tough it is from a business or financial sense,” said Tatiana Copeland. “I think there was this hole or gap in business education. We saw the need for this. Since we are pursuing our own dream of hospitality and the whole wine experience, why not do that for the university.”

Tatiana Copeland also reflected on the effect Sonoma State’s campus had on her in a previous visit. While in attendance of the Green Music Center’s presentation of Festival del Sole, the Copeland’s had an opportunity to visit the campus. 

“I thought it was one of the most beautiful campuses I had been to in a very long time,” said Tatiana Copeland. “We went to Sonoma State University with the perspective of enjoying a nice evening of music, I just put it in the back of my mind of what a fantastic campus it was. Never for a moment did I think that there would be an opportunity of doing [work] like this in the future.”

According to Silver, the Wine Spectator Learning Center is currently in the design phase with architects and will not begin construction until the end of 2015. A rough estimate of the project’s completion is late 2016 or early 2017. 

The initial design and amenities of the learning center is subject to change, but preliminary sketches and artist renditions give insight into what is expected. 

Built upon what is currently the University Commons, the learning center will be a state-of-the-art building with “space for the present and future of education,” said Silver. 

A commons area will still exist within the building, an area likened to the Student Center. Equipped with a Café, and “hubs” where students can connect their mobile devices and work interactively will be a focal point. 

Three classrooms will occupy the remaining space within the structure. The classrooms will serve various purposes, including lectures, seminars and a more interactive environment with what Silver described as including a station similar to Apple’s Genius Bar within Apple Stores. 

The new learning center will not be exclusive to Wine Business Institute enrollees, but for the entire student body. But the new learning center will provide the Wine Business Institute with a facility, a point that Silver feels is necessary to the wine business.

“This has been one of our challenges. We have this thing called the Wine Business Institute, but there is no institute, no physical infrastructure,” said Silver. “Wine is one of those that conveys a sense of place. Our goal is to be the global leader in wine business education and research. We want to bring people all over the world here.”