The Evergreen State College

Board of Governors’ Academic Statements


The Evergreen State College Foundation’s Board of Governors joined entering students this fall in crafting academic statements in which they reflect on their college educations, the importance of the liberal arts and their personal experiences of Evergreen.

For the first time in the 2012/2013 academic year, each Evergreen student will write an academic statement about her or his college education. Students will revise their statements annually with support from the faculty. Each student will decide how best to document how she or he is earning a bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College.

The final version must be submitted to the College as a condition of graduation, and becomes the cover page of each student’s official Evergreen transcript, where it will introduce the student’s undergraduate career to an outside audience. This requirement goes into effect starting with incoming students in fall of 2013. Learn more.

The Statements

Tom Anderson ImageTom Anderson ’73

In 1973, I graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Bachelor of Arts degree. My family was working class and my father was a musician. I would be only the second person in my entire family at that time to reach the goal of a college education. The second member was my uncle who had a PhD in Library Sciences initiated by the GI Bill after World War II. So to say I was supported and encouraged to finish college was an understatement. However, I didn’t know what I wanted to be or what career path I should follow. Instinctively, I followed the arts, i.e. music, literature, poetry and all forms of visual art that would be my focus in my studies.

In 1969, after graduating from high school, I enrolled at Clark College in Vancouver, WA, and immersed myself in the art programs. I took every class available in drawing, painting, ceramics, technical illustration, dark room photography, art history, color theory, design, etc. There were also the required pre-requisites of biology, English, math, PE, and speech.

My speech teacher was Mrs. Decker. She was serious, passionate and intimidating. One of her most famous students was Edward R. Murrow. I may have learned more from that class than any other because it taught me to listen. It also taught me the fundamentals of communication, writing, expressing an opinion or story. "Know your material and use humor to engage your audience," she would say. Little did I know that it would create the foundation for my interest in communication.

In 1971, just prior to my graduation from Clark College, I was given a catalog for The Evergreen State College. It was inspirational in its philosophy and course outlines. The opening letter from Charles McCann stated, "This book differs from the usual catalog because it is a prospectus: Proposals of activities yet to happen. In this first Evergreen catalog you have no history to go by. Prospectuses give rise in the absence of experience to dreams utterly unconnected with the reality". To me it was a clarion call that I would be participating in creating social and educational history and most importantly in becoming part of a new community of the future. I enrolled and was accepted for Evergreen’s first fall quarter.

The first year in the Man and Art program I was supported in my curiosity for all forms of art and validated that the arts could make a difference socially, locally and globally. We created the four-story mural in the library stairwell, created The Right of Spring Festival, shared ideas in seminars and acted upon those ideas among which were creating the college radio station KAOS-FM. I was also given the opportunity for a work-study job as the college’s first graphic arts assistant and assigned the freedom to create and participate in "real world" experiences including designing catalogs, posters, program materials, logos and more. I always had an interest in animation, the process of film-making and seeing my drawings move through space. During my second year I had an individual contract with Bob Bernard to do just that. Bob and I developed the animation facilities using one of only three 16mm cameras in the state that had not been used to date. I taught myself the process and use of equipment which by today’s standards are considered archaic. The computer interface involved reams of printed co-ordinates for camera settings and drawing by hand on transparent cells--twenty drawings per second of film. I produced soundtracks in the college’s recording studio to enhance the imagery. It was intense. My work was somehow known by others and I was given an invitation to apply for a position with a new animation group in Marin, CA. I was 21 years old and newly married. Not quite ready to relocate, I turned it down. Subsequently, that group became Lucas Films and the Star Wars franchise was born shortly thereafter. A simple twist of fate...

I graduated in June 1973 unsure of what my future would hold. The choice was mine to make.

Evergreen and my liberal arts education gave me the tools and the confidence to make decisions, to embrace critical thinking, to take risks, to communicate my ideas and listen openly to the ideas of others, to prepare to feel as if I was contributing to the world and not just participating in it. I have integrated every experience I had in college into my occupation as a self-employed artist and entrepreneur. Lao Tzu said: "When the lesson is to be learned the teacher will appear.” I was at the right place at the right time.

I am grateful for my experience at Evergreen, the friends I made and continue to have, the faculty, staff, the choices that were given freely and the stories I gathered that helped to make me who I am today.

Sophie BilezikianSophie Bilezikian, Evergreen Parent

I graduated from Radcliffe College in 1965. I barely remember what courses I took, never mind specific names, dates, or facts I might have learned. The requirements included studies of the humanities as well as the social and natural sciences. There was a mandatory freshman writing course. I majored in biology and played in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra.

Was it worth it? Here’s what I learned: There were worlds out there unknown to me, but at least I found out that they were there, and that I could learn more if I wanted to. I read about people, both real and fictional, who had dealt with personal troubles and triumphs. I learned from their experiences. I learned that sometimes, to get something accomplished, I had to work with people I wouldn’t have chosen as friends. I discovered viewpoints different from my own. I didn’t have to agree, but I had to acknowledge the differences, as well as the possibility that I might change some of my own beliefs. I learned that scientific research is always collaborative, and that every research project begins at a place where a previous project has left off. A liberal arts education will teach you how much you don’t know and how much you can’t do on your own. But you also learn how to go after what you don’t know, and how to build teams to get things done. You have these skills for the rest of your life.

Keri CarkeekKeri Carkeek ’92

My liberal arts education has liberated me to have an amazing career at Intel for 15 years and counting; I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Evergreen that makes me uniquely qualified for my leadership role at work.

I frequently identify myself as an engineer-want-to-be and I work with incredibly smart engineers innovating our next technological revolution. My colleagues are often intrigued when they learn I graduated from Evergreen and they don’t initially understand my non-traditional education. They get a puzzled look on their faces after responding to what my major was in. Once I share I didn’t have to declare a major my answer is my studies were equally divided between the arts and sciences.

I graduated from Evergreen in 1992 and my studies at Evergreen included creative writing, drawing and painting, photography, art history, physics, biology, chemistry, and calculus. These were not individual classes but were integrated into courses that incorporated things like Chaos Theory with painting or participating in seminar after reading The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, then going to the lab to run specs on a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.

I have made “pretty pictures” to more clearly articulate complex processes and/or ideas for our most senior executives at Intel so they can focus their time on the proposal or decision instead of questioning the content. I credit my ability to effectively communicate and share innovation with my colleagues and respect as a strategic collaborator for engineering teams because of my well-rounded background in the arts AND sciences.

What good is solving the world’s most challenging scientific problems if you are unable to articulate your discovery? Science and the liberal arts are not mutually exclusive but go hand-in-hand for developing our next generation of well-prepared and well-rounded employees and entrepreneurs.

Rebecca Chamberlain PhotoRebecca Chamberlain

Academic Statement as Story: Teaching as Pilgrimage and Reflective Practice

To see the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wild flower,
hold eternity in the palm of your hand
and heaven in an hour

William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

My educational journey revolves around the word “consider,” which means “with the stars .” I am five. I stand next to my father-in wonder-watching stars mix with phosphorescence, reflecting in the waters of the Salish Sea on Whidbey Island. What is above is below, and the world becomes a hologram of lights. I am staring into the core of the cosmos. I want to know “how” and “why?” As we talk, I learn that there are no easy answers to the mysteries of life. Instead, we ask questions and tell stories.

Another constellation of meaning occurs in the late 1970s when a series of events change my life, bringing together love of scholarship and literature, writing and storytelling, culture, arts, and environmental education, and the outdoors. I am an undergraduate studying English Literature, poetry, and writing with a series of demanding, warmhearted mentors. I also work at the Pacific Science Center as a Science Interpreter. I develop educational programs for the Starlab Planetarium, and Sea Monster Longhouse. Here, in 1979, I meet Vi Hilbert (taqʷšəbluʔ), Upper Skagit elder.

Vi Hilbert is teaching Puget Salish language at the University of Washington, so I decide to do my graduate work there. Her generous mentorship opens me to profound levels of diversity and cultural understanding that come through oral stories: they embody living wisdom and encode teachings about flora and fauna. Epics, like the “Star Child Myth,” reveal complex narrative patterns and deep symbolic and cosmological insights. I dedicate myself to working with Lushootseed language and stories, and Vi adopts me as her daughter. In 1985, I am adopted as an honorary member of the Upper Skagit Tribe.

At the University of Washington, I study with preeminent Medievalist, David Fowler. Through his meticulous guidance and demanding analysis of texts, I study medieval literature and Arthurian romances, and begin a study of oral, manuscript, and textual traditions. Vi Hilbert and David Fowler are generous mentors who extend themselves personally and professionally, challenging and guiding me in ways I cannot imagine. Their example is still at the heart of my teaching pedagogy. They encourage me to cross borders and construct interdisciplinary lenses--structural and analytical, archetypal and symbolic—including cultural, linguistic, historic, and social perspectives that reflect on patterns and symbols in oral, poetic, artistic, and literary works. I bring these perspectives into my work for the Seattle Audubon Society, The Washington State Arts Commission, Lesley University, and other organizations.

Coming to Evergreen in 1996 is another quantum shift, teaching writing, storytelling, and literature within a rich academic, multicultural, and interdisciplinary context. Telling the Lushootseed “Star Child Myth” and doing astronomy field work and research; connecting Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to sustainable business practices; taking students to Mt. Rainier to study writing, natural history, and outdoor education: each program and guiding question, each paradox and creative contrary, reveals new constellations of thought and imagination as we cross thresholds of knowing, both inner and outer.

Today, these relationships urge us to consider the future, as the life of our planet is at stake.

We begin and end our journeys with stories. They reveal the patterns of relationship that have been handed down--through our words and through our cells, through what we know and what we do, through our myths and through our histories, through our intellect and imagination--as we struggle to make meaning. Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, in Journey of the Universe, talk about two evolutionary drivers. Like patterns of DNA that store information and construct the cells of our body, patterns of language are the DNA of human consciousness. Through a phenomenology of language, the “word is made flesh.” Whether oral, written, or through the invention of new technologies, symbolic consciousness (through language) has reshaped the earth.

Even as our technological eyes and ears peer out into the vast origins of the cosmos, still need to learn to live justly and sustainably at home. How we connect the dots, construct our constellations, and define our spheres of influence, is the trademark of a Liberal Arts education. Like the North Star, Polaris--which is a double star--interdisciplinary work in the Liberal Arts revolves around the companion words “consider” and “considerate.”

In “The Power of Story, Words on the Wing,” I say:

Perhaps McLuhan suggests a solution to our dilemma when he says, “two cultures or technologies can, like astronomical galaxies, pass through one another without collision; but not without change of configuration.” Are we ready for a transformation of this magnitude? Can we connect traditional stories and myths with new technologies in ways that don’t hypnotize us into a trance, but actually engage us more completely with community and the natural world?” (Chamberlain, pp. 454–455).

As our collective actions and stories create the galactic social, economic, and political forces that shape the evolutionary life of our planet, how we read, write, reflect, examine, discuss, create, imagine, and strive for excellence must be combined with a commitment to diversity, social action, community service, compassion, tolerance, and sustainability. As we engage intellect and imagination, each of our stories has a gravitational pull or effect that influences the whole.

I return to the lesson that I learned from my father. When facing great complexity or mystery, there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask questions and tell stories.

Chamberlain, Rebecca. “The Power of Story: Words on the Wing,” Liberating Voices! A Pattern Language For Communication Revolution. Ed. Doug Schuler. Boston: MIT Press, 2008. Print.

“The Earth Is our First Teacher: A Poetics of Language and Place.” Evergreen Academic Web Pages. Web. 2007.

Swimme, Brian, and Mary Evelyn Tucker. Journey of the Cosmos. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011 (p. 88). Print.

Craig ChanceCraig Chance ’81

In 1979, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Olympian, extolling the virtues of my Evergreen education. As I reflect on my Evergreen experience, I am compelled to share a few of those words, printed in our local paper just seven years after the college opened:

“Two years ago I was a local area high school senior. Like most of my peers, I had a very negative perception of The Evergreen State College.”

At the time, I didn’t think that I could be interested in a non-traditional school that was deemed ‘unproven’. I spent my first year at a private university. My letter to the editor elaborated on this:

“While at that institution I noticed how closely the interdisciplinary and upper-division courses resembled TESC’s description of itself’.

I decided to transfer. After just a short time at Evergreen, my perspective had been changed. Evergreen allowed me to flourish in ways that set me up for success for years to come. My young self in 1979 acknowledged this in my letter:

“I have found that TESC’s prestigious faculty is amazingly dedicated. I have also discovered that TESC’s diverse students are friendly, hard-working and intelligent. Above all else, I am favorably impressed by the quality of TESC’s intensive and challenging educational programs. Undoubtedly, TESC is a valuable resource for serious, ‘career-oriented’ students. In the years ahead I expect to see my hometown and TESC growing and prospering together.”

In the following decade I graduated from TESC, earned a Master of Business Administration degree from a respected private university, and launched my commercial banking career. Today, I am a senior vice president of a strong community bank with operations in multiple states. My management responsibilities include community development strategies and oversight of lending programs that enhance the competitiveness of family-owned small businesses. In addition to my volunteer work with TESC, I have the privilege of serving as the board chair of a housing authority that creates homes and paths to self-sufficiency for low-income families and vulnerable individuals.

Evergreen provided me with the opportunity to develop the necessary skills to achieve post graduate education, career, and community involvement goals. In recognition of Evergreen’s role in my successes I become a loyal contributor to the college’s foundation.

The letter I wrote well over three decades ago “is my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Paul GoldbergPaul Goldberg ’91

The first time I applied to attend The Evergreen State College I was denied admission. This was hard for me, but not nearly as hard as the second time I was denied.

How could Evergreen not want ME? I was a native son after all--my family deeply involved in the college from its beginning.

When I was denied the second time I asked for a meeting with the head of Admissions. We met twice, in which I pleaded my case; finally I was offered a conditional acceptance. I was offered enrollment in a night class (Literature, I think) and if I got a sufficiently good evaluation I would be granted full admission the following quarter.

This process of having to earn my place at Evergreen, in this way, set the tone for my education here--I owned it. I had fought for my admission and proven I could be successful here. I didn’t know it at the time, but this process of pleading my case to those in charge, and pushing myself to try harder, changed my life forever.

I learned, from even the admissions process that I would have to be an advocate for myself and that sometimes you had to push yourself, overcome failure and try again, and again.

After I began my coursework at the college, I was amazed at the close working relationships I had with my faculty and my fellow students. I had regular one-on-one meetings with my faculty on an almost weekly basis. This allowed me to get deeper into the material. I received regular feedback about my work from faculty and students and then had the opportunity to revise my work several times before it was complete.

Something magical happened my second year. I was working in a theater/performance program and learned a lesson that has served me well over and over: Knowing the answers is not the first stage in learning--it’s the last. In other words, if you know the answers all of the time you are not challenging yourself with difficult enough questions or new enough ideas. To always be sure of the answer is to rehash the known--the main idea being that “not knowing” is what leads you to discovery.

This idea has made me a lifelong learner, with a passion to understand deeply the new and sometimes off-track; to see failure as an essential part of success; to take on challenges that others may fear for failure; to not be afraid to ask the dumb question in the search for a deeper understanding. This is what is fundamental in making a school without grades succeed. If we only grade the most successful moments we doom all of the natural learning and discovery that occurs from great challenges.

I remember meeting a pulmonologist several years ago. He told me 80% of his patients would die. I couldn’t believe what kind of doctor this was. But he made it clear that people only came to him if they expected to die. He saved 20% who had no chance. He had to fail over and over just to have the chance to save a few. If we looked at only his success rate he would be a failure. Instead, when we see the whole picture he is one of the best pulmonologists in the world.

Evergreen’s pedagogical commitment to study the new, the forgotten, the under represented, as well as the well-worn paths, has propelled the college and me to great successes in places where a little light is needed.

Interestingly, this place of the new is often the place of most opportunity for an entrepreneur.

I am very proud of my work in helping to ensure that students, in the future, have access to an Evergreen education. Personal wealth should not be a prerequisite to a top-level education. With the work of the Foundation and the help of our supporters, we can expect to see many more of our graduates shining a light into the corners discovering the new, the miraculous, and the unknown.

Joyce IrvineJoyce Irvine ’79

It has been thirty-three years since I graduated from The Evergreen State College. WOW! A lot of life has happened since the summer of 1979. My life was in turmoil and the life of Evergreen seemed to be in jeopardy – at least financially.

I am the first in my family who has graduated from college, but I will not be the last. That statement has motivated me since, and is the basis for my continuing involvement.

It is no exaggeration to say that at Evergreen, I had an epiphany. The college provided an environment to learn, to question, to think, to explore, to challenge and to collaborate. I had never been exposed to a style of learning that required "involved listening," not just to faculty, but to the viewpoints of my peers. Respectfully listening led to critical thinking. This interaction continues to shape my thinking today. My experiences at Evergreen allowed me to confidently take risks in my professional life. I actively sought experiences with companies where I could learn new skills, take risks, dare to excel and even, at times, leave, when my heart led me away to a new challenge.

For me, my liberal arts education was a journey. When I graduated, I did not leave the love of learning behind. I embraced the challenge that lifelong learning provides. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new or reevaluate something old.

I have been actively involved with Evergreen for more than 20 years after graduation. I am fortunate in that I can give both time and money to support the college. The "time" brings me the most satisfaction. The "money" allows me to give the opportunity to a student who wants to change his or her life. A scholarship has the potential to be a life altering event. Everyone who wants one should have the opportunity to experience an Evergreen life.

Glen KriekenbeckGlen Kriekenbeck, ’89

I graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1989. It took me a while to find my way to an institution that provided a place and a community that matched my style of learning. I went to the University of Washington directly after graduating from high school in 1980. I enjoyed the first two years of undergraduate life, and took a variety of classes from music to computer programming to art history. However, the rich resources and opportunities at the University didn’t support my personal educational goals. The atomistic social model prevented me from learning collaboratively in a community, and majors and departments fragmented my learning into discrete, unrelated components.

It was a joy to come to Evergreen where I was expected to integrate all my interests, and use them to provide a distinct perspective to my education. Whether it was discussing the efficiencies of operating system primitives in seminar, overcoming my fear of public speaking by hosting a show on KAOS, or performing a piece of electronic music on a computer interface that I had designed, my perspective was valued. Learning at Evergreen demanded my full commitment and engagement, both in the classroom and in the wider community. I was taken seriously, and the whole structure of the college supported me.

In a way, I feel that the perception of Evergreen changed in a similar way: it began to be taken seriously as an institute of higher learning. The attacks and calls for Evergreen to be shut down in the early ‘80s gave way to acceptance. By the time I graduated, it was understood that Evergreen’s non-traditional educational style was valuable and successful. I began to feel that this unique institution needed my support to continue to grow, and it needed to be around to support the students of tomorrow who need a place like Evergreen to thrive. I had been given this rare opportunity to learn and grow, and I wanted to be sure that others have the same opportunity.

I’ve been fortunate: I now have time and resources that I can use to give back to this great school. It’s also a time of great need. When tuition is rising much faster than the ability of students to afford it, and when traditional state support for education is in sharp decline, my gift makes it possible for a student to come to Evergreen and fully realize her potential. It enables a student to purchase material that he needs to present his research, both advancing his own learning and increasing understanding in the greater community. My volunteering and my financial contributions help students not only become educated, but also empowered.

Rick OldenburgRick Oldenburg, ’07

Words fail me when it comes to describing the educational opportunity offered all students at The Evergreen State College.

I left Boise State University in 1972 with nearly three years of credits for a job opportunity in Tacoma that I didn’t think would be repeated. Within two years, another opportunity took me to Seattle where I immediately applied to three universities to finish up my undergrad degree. Not one of them would accept more than a handful of my credits from Boise State. I was shocked. Thirty eight years later, not only did Evergreen accept most of my credits, but it offered an opportunity to finish my degree during evenings and weekends through the PLE program (Prior Learning from Experience). I finished my degree in one year of concentrated hard work and effort on my own time.

Reentering college not only invigorated my gray matter, but in the presence of young, middle-aged and older students alike, I was exposed to so many individuals in their own businesses that it inspired me to do something I had thought about for some time . . . namely create and open Oldenburg & Associates, a fundraising consulting firm to assist non-profits in attracting financial resources.

I blame my success on several things: first, the work ethic which my parents and co-workers helped instill in me; second, a mental agility and nimbleness that allows for continual transformative thought and action; finally, the inspirational approach to learning that I experienced at The Evergreen State College which was consistent with the two items above, and which continues to guide my interaction with large and small groups alike.

As a direct result of my time at Evergreen, I own my business today. Instead of working for just one organization, I now feel the rewards of working with several organizations simultaneously, each of which make a difference in the world around us. I also volunteer time and energy as a member of the Board of Governors for The Evergreen State College Foundation. The Foundation raises scholarship funds for students who are working hard for their degrees (both undergrad and graduate) as well as smaller research opportunities for faculty members of the college.