Redefining a Good College

November 18, 2019
Redefining Community Full Image

In September 2019, the prestigious Washington Monthly recognized Evergreen as their number one master’s degree granting college in the U.S. A month later, I stood at a lectern in that other, surreal Washington, our nation’s capital. I was there to explain to a group of high-powered donors and educators just how and why Evergreen excels at serving first-generation, low-income, and other nontraditional students, and how those students go on to excel in their jobs and public service.

Washington Monthly’s ranking is not one about traditional definitions of institutional wealth and status. It recognizes colleges with authentic purpose, which promote social mobility and the public good, and where tuition is relatively affordable. It’s intended to recognize colleges good at helping all students learn, not those designed for a favored few and which exclude others.

It’s highly unlikely that you will ever find Greener families bribing or cheating to get their students into Evergreen’s varsity athletic programs (although our soccer and volleyball teams had great seasons). Come spring break, the majority of Greeners are more likely to be hiking in the woods, volunteering, or working a second job than to be partying in the Caribbean. And so, it was wonderful to see our college lauded on the national level for helping students earn worthwhile degrees that lead to good jobs, for focusing on social justice and sustainability, and for many other things Evergreen does well.

And yet we must do and be more. Student demographics are changing. More arrive at Evergreen needing support. They want a clearer route through our programs toward their educational goals. The way we spoke to and served students in the past does not match the expectations of today’s first-time, first year, or transfer students. In a changing landscape, upholding our commitment to serving them requires innovation, courage, and a fresh approach. As I write, Evergreen’s faculty and staff are renewing the college to serve today’s students.

This issue of the Evergreen Magazine explores cycles of time through science, faith, craft, art, and legend. Within these cycles, there is life and promise. The brightest reminder of this on campus these days is our powerfully incandescent and inspiring Welcome Woman who greets all visitors at the main entrance to campus. After intense restoration work, we celebrated the Welcome Woman’s renewal in early October. She is an icon for our indigenous arts and education work and a beacon of true welcome for all in our diverse community. For me, she is a vivid messenger who helps us dream about Evergreen’s promising future.