Time to Speak Up About Evergreen
This generation of Greeners is creating their own stories. Read on to learn how you can help Evergreen by telling yours.
Evergreen is unique. Evergreen changes lives. Evergreen generates amazing stories and prepares alumni for fulfilling careers. It is a place of intellectual epiphany, creative synthesis, funny anecdotes, and emotional memories. It offers time and space to dig deep and dream big.
Evergreen has earned a distinctive national reputation for innovative teaching, academic excellence, environmental leadership, exceptional value, a welcoming campus culture, and more.
For most of its existence, Evergreen quietly flourished through word of mouth. As the higher education landscape changed in the U.S. over the last decade, however, small liberal arts and sciences colleges have struggled to explain their worth to prospective students and the greater community.
It’s time to speak up and tell our Evergreen stories: to prospective students, to people in our circles of influence, to decision-makers, to those who need to hear them.
What can we use to tell them? We can use our own authentic experiences, for a start. We can back them up with data on the successes of Evergreen: qualitative data from our personal experiences, and quantitative ranking and survey data and prestigious accolades. Whether you are a graduate, a current student, staff or faculty member, or just someone who cares about this extraordinary campus community and its impact, here is some information you can use in your version of Evergreen’s story.
Fifty Years Forward
As we cross the midpoint of a century and look back on 50 years of Evergreen trailblazing, it’s not hard to see why we’ve earned a national reputation for excellence. It’s also not hard to see—looking at the political and social landscapes of a changing nation—that we, and other universities, have reached a pivotal moment in higher education. Students want to know that they are getting value for their tuition dollars and that their degrees will help them get to where they want to be. We have to do better at helping all our students to succeed.
Historically, Evergreen has always been an accelerator of original thinking. Evolution and innovation are at the heart of this institution. So how are we evolving to meet the needs of students in 2019 and beyond? How can students follow an area of interest, feel a stronger sense of community and belonging, and succeed at Evergreen?
Paths of Study
New interdisciplinary paths of study are being developed that will enable all students to move clearly from foundational to more advanced work. Paths currently under construction include visual and media arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. More thematic arenas, such as Environmental Studies, Native Programs, Food and Agriculture, and Latin American Studies, are also in the works. All paths should be ready for exploration in the 2020–21 academic year.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Evergreen 2018’s Number One Most Innovative College—West Region.
Additionally, Princeton Review, Fiske Guide to Colleges, the Peace Corps, and College Factual all continually give Evergreen top rankings. In the National Survey of Student Engagement, compared to students at other participating schools, Evergreen students report significantly higher participation in activities known to build skills transferable to the workplace.
86 percent of seniors report that Evergreen contributed quite a bit or very much to their skills in thinking critically and analytically.
87 percent of seniors think that Evergreen contributed quite a bit or very much to their growth in working effectively with others.
85 percent of seniors say Evergreen contributed substantially to their growth in understanding people of other backgrounds. (NSSE 2018)
The initiative is designed to offer students interdisciplinary programs from beginning to advanced study. We’ve seen some students who end up moving laterally around the curriculum, often in beginning-level programs. Now each path of study will have a foundational and an advanced offering each year. This approach makes space for focused work for two years (supporting transfer students as well), while leaving room for students to take programs that are outside the two-year path. It’s also excellent preparation for graduate work and internships.
“Imagine a first-year student taking some exploratory, multidisciplinary program such as Knowing the World Through Thought, Sound, and Vision with an ethnomusicologist, a philosopher, and a marine scientist,” said Sean Williams, a 28-year faculty member.
“After that, the student might be excited about music, or philosophy, or science, and go off to take a foundational program in one of those areas, followed by an interdivisional program connecting music and physics, then an advanced program in music,” she explained.
“Now, take transfer students coming in with 90 credits from somewhere else. They could potentially go straight into an advanced program with prerequisites, rather than spinning their wheels by repeating a program that features only foundational work; they could also take a foundational program in their junior year and an advanced program in their final year.”
Beginning with pre-orientation pro- grams (Evergreen Student Civil Engagement Institute [ESCEI] and Multicultural Scholars Program), we’re working to make those who are new to campus feel even more welcomed, engaged, and supported. While ESCEI has been around since 2012, and Multicultural Scholars since 1997, more emphasis is being put into bridge programs that invite students to campus one week early and encourage them to find friends and familiarize themselves with the campus.
“Studies show that students who connect early with faculty, staff, and peers are more likely to be engaged throughout their time on campus and succeed through graduation and beyond,” said Jadon Berry, director for new student programs.
Every new student—including each first- year student—is now matched with a personal advisor. This move is another evidence-backed effort to increase students’ likelihood of staying on course to degree completion. Students are also provided a new-student handbook and degree-planning guide, and texting capability to engage with their advisors
“We’re integrating these initiatives as seamlessly as possible to support students in discovering and achieving their educational goals,” said Jennifer Drake, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
This academic year offers improvements with students in mind. The Help and Technology Center is now positioned between the library and Computer Center. The Writing Center is now open on Sundays to better accommodate students who may work or have other obligations during the week.
And First Peoples Multicultural, Trans, and Queer Support Services (formerly two separate groups) has grown to more fully support students of color and LGBTQ+ students on campus. A beautiful new Student Equity and Arts Lounge (SEAL), a gathering space designed for students to bring their whole selves to campus, opened in October.
Legislature: How Can You Help?
As the only public liberal arts and sciences college in Washington, a big part of our work is in helping those who live here—and the lawmakers, lobbyists, and advocates who influence decisions—understand how Evergreen and its staff, students, and alumni make a difference for the state.
“It’s really important for legislators to be able to visualize how much of an impact Evergreen makes in their community through our talented alumni,” said Evergreen’s new director of government relations, Jeremy Mohn MPA ’19.
When we think of the legislators who might be interested in Evergreen, whose constituents we serve, it’s easy to just consider the districts comprising the south Puget Sound area—Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey. We think of the Shelton area to the south and north through Tacoma where we have a footprint. However, we work with students from all across the region, and their representatives have a vested interest in making sure their students are well served.
“Our alumni are making a difference across the entire state—opening businesses, running state agencies, and more,” Mohn continues. “So really they’re the big picture of how Evergreen impacts the whole state. So, while we might not have a physical footprint in Okanogan or Walla Walla or Bellingham, our alumni sure do.”
A 2018 Thurston Economic Development Council study of Evergreen’s economic im- pact calculates that for every dollar invested by the state, the college generates $4.68 in return to the region. Alumni earnings in Washington state are estimated to be $538 million annually.
“My legislative strategy is bold and pro-active—and that’s something alumni can do, too,” said Mohn. “If you are a civically engaged individual who attends town halls, or open coffees with legislators, go there and sit with them and tell them your Evergreen story. Tell them how your education prepared you for your career, for your life after college. Show them the talent and capabilities you bring to their district. Be proactive in communication; if you can’t see them in person, call and write letters.”
For more information on how to contact your district legislator, check out the Washington State Legislator's website.
Meet Evergreen’s Jeremy Mohn
Mohn grew up the youngest of four boys and was the first to graduate from high school—with honors, as class president, and as the editor-in- chief of the school newspaper. While he was a prime candidate for financial assistance as a first-generation student entering college, he encountered a barrier that many students face: the refusal or inability of a parent or guardian to fill out the documentation required for financial aid.
So, between the ages of 18-24, Mohn waited tables to pay class-by-class at community college as he could afford it. He earned his AA when he was 24, the legal age of qualifying for aid without any requirements from parents or guardians. He was then accepted at Western, where he majored in political science and minored in journalism. This is where he first connected with politics and government and volunteered for local campaigns.
After graduating in 2012, he worked as a field organizer for marriage equality in Washington. He got his feet wet in the legislature working for Senator Kevin Ranker ’97, and continually challenged himself and grew into progressively more substantial roles with influencers, including working full time for Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson.
“For my whole career I’ve had a heart for higher education, and I’ve always wanted to come back to it. One change I’ve always wanted to make is to see more opportunities for students who were in my situation, who should be able to go straight to college, but can’t get the financial documentation they need. There are just so many ways we can remove barriers and help kids get to college. I love to work with lawmakers, and to be in a position to help students is incredibly exciting."