From the President

Les Purce ImageIn 2011-12, Greeners all over the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of Evergreen’s first academic year. We can all take great pride in the extraordinary accomplishments of the ensuing four decades since the college’s founding.

Reflection seems especially appropriate for this milestone year. It has been inspiring to see so many of the founding and early faculty members return to Evergreen, to hear their stories, and to remember again the extraordinary founding of the college. It has been equally inspiring to meet again so many alumni from these past 40 years and to hear them speak of the profound and positive influence that Evergreen has had on the course of their lives. The entire college community helped make the 40th celebration a resounding success.

More than ever, it is important to reconnect with Evergreen’s founding at this historical moment, when we are confronted by a set of dramatic changes in the external environment. Foremost among these is the college’s rapidly changing relationship to the state. Fortunately, and against the expectations of many, the 2012 legislative budget resulted in no additional budget cuts to Evergreen. This is a welcome respite from a long series of cuts, but it is only a respite. In the past two years, state support for Evergreen has dropped 28%. Two consecutive 14% increases for resident undergraduate students have partly, but far from completely, made up for this reduction. Taking a slightly longer view, we have lost more than half of our state support over the past four years and seen tuition increase nearly 70% for resident undergraduate students.

The loss of public support for higher education has implications far beyond Evergreen. It raises questions about the future of a democracy that in the past championed broad access to education and the benefit of social mobility. We need not quietly accept this as our fate. At the same time, we would be irresponsible if we failed to prepare for the very real possibility that state support for higher education will continue to erode. A significant part of our work in this and the next several years will be finding strategic ways to address the financial needs of the college, our students, and their families.

In this environment, it is very gratifying to witness the burst of creative energy that marked the past year. We began fall quarter with Evergreen’s first all-campus Convocation, the first step of an effort to greatly improve the orientation and transition support that we provide entering students. The same energy is going toward implementation of the Remodeling Teaching and Learning at Evergreen (RTaLE) initiative adopted by the faculty a year ago. All this work is very much in the creative spirit of Evergreen’s founding, and our commitment to remodeling teaching and learning at Evergreen means we will continue to lead within higher education for years to come.

From the 1,178 students who met in borrowed classrooms, fields and woods, and even in the state capitol building that first fall, to the nearly 4,500 students and 40,000 alumni the college boasts today, the history of Evergreen is all about people. Evergreen has become nationally recognized for academic rigor and commitment to sustainable practices. Greeners are not only leaders in their fields, but in the fields that will be so instrumental as we look to our future – organic farming, sustainable building, alternative energy, e-commerce, environmental conservation, collaboration and social justice.

As we celebrate the past 40 years, we also look toward our future. We are providing students a high quality educational experience in new and innovative ways. Despite the economic challenges of our state and our country, we are optimistic about our future and committed to serving students’ learning needs. In reflecting on this past year, I am awed by the extent to which the college’s faculty and staff have continued to fulfill this mission. Our thanks go out to all of you who love this college and support this critical work.

Thomas L. Purce, President