Article by Will Ferguson, Washington State University
Four years ago, on his way home to Walla Walla from school in Arizona, Taylor Hermsen was thumbing through an in-flight magazine when he was struck by an idea for his doctoral research.
“The magazine was all about wine,” Hermsen said. “Being a native of the Inland Northwest, I thought I knew a lot about my home, but the fact that many people visiting eastern Washington are doing so because of the wine industry had never really occurred to me before. I started wondering how it all got going, and the project kind of snowballed from there.”
Now a Ph.D. student in history at WSU, Hermsen has been awarded the 2018 Boeing Graduate Fellowship in Environmental Studies to support his doctoral work developing an environmental history of Washington’s wine industry.
While still in the early stages, Hermsen’s thesis will explore the wine industry’s ecological impact as well as the complex social and cultural influence it has had on the state since the end of prohibition in the 1930s.
The Boeing Graduate Fellowship in Environmental Studies supports the multidisciplinary study of environmental issues and is made possible by a generous endowment from The Boeing Company. More than two dozen students have received the Boeing fellowship since it was established in 1994.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to provide an environmental historian’s perspective on Washington’s wine industry and how it has shaped regional identity,” Hermsen said. “While there have been a lot of economic and scientific studies done on Washington wine, there have not been a lot of historical ones, and I am excited to contribute to the literature.”\