With a longstanding commitment to serving traditionally underserved populations, The Evergreen State College in Washington continues to explore innovative approaches to higher education.
Founded in 1967 with the mandate from then-Gov. Daniel J. Evans to “unshackle our educational thinking from traditional patterns,” The Evergreen State College in Olympia seeks to redefine liberal arts education and engage students in the learning process.
Without grades — instead using narrative evaluations — or traditional majors, students have access to a wide range of learning opportunities. Evergreen offers courses in more than 60 subjects — some traditional like economics, American history and physics, and some contemporary, such as community studies and consciousness studies.
There are no explicit prerequisites to complete a bachelor’s degree. Instead, advisers and faculty work with the students to meet their academic and professional goals.
The student body in Olympia is approximately 4,000. With 28 percent students of color and approximately 23 percent faculty and staff of color, Evergreen is more diverse than the community in which it is based (approximately 83 percent White).
“When we define diversity broadly, beyond ethnicity, we found that more than 90 percent of Evergreen’s 2016 graduates belonged to at least one traditionally underrepresented group. In addition, nearly 30 percent of our students report being LGBTQ or questioning,” says Dr. George Bridges, now in his second year as president.
“Evergreen is, to its core, nontraditional, and students that come here feel a connection to the college either because they themselves feel a bit ‘non-traditional’ or they are drawn to our unique offering of collaborative learning, narrative evaluations [instead of letter grades], and comprehensive, team-taught programs [instead of classes],” he adds.