Evergreen State College is a small (4416) public school located outside of Olympia, Washington. The architecture is metal and concrete/modern, and the campus is set in the middle of over 1000 acres of forest. The beach is an easy 20 minute walk away through the woods. There is an organic farm attached to the campus, so a lot of the food sold in food service is grown on their own farm. Students can get a plot of land to work on, or take agriculture classes, and work on the farm. They even have chickens and goats!
Evergreen has a unique curriculum that is “program” based, rather than course based (themed topics, team taught). A student picks a “program” which can last for 1 quarter, 2 quarters or a full year. To understand this, a student really needs to look at their catalog, but for example, a performing arts student might choose Theatre/Dance history for a quarter, and Media Services (film, journalism, etc.) for another 2 quarters. Each of these programs would be comprised of maybe 3 or 4 disciplines, taught by a team of teachers who planned the interdisciplinary program. It’s really quite fascinating, and will allow a student who can typically be bored with school, to dig in and understand how their education fits together and matters in the world. A non-traditional approach for sure, but so effective. Professors and students write evaluations at the end of each program, rather than having grades, so when a student leaves Evergreen, they have a tome filled with detailed descriptions of all they have accomplished during college.
There are no general ed requirements, so students take the programs that interest them for the first two years, and then decide where to concentrate. Sciences are rigorous and intense at Evergreen. There is tremendous support from the professors, in terms of designing a curriculum that interests each particular student.
One thing that sets Evergreen apart from other schools is the focus on “seminars” which are small group meetings with the professors of each program. In these seminars, the students sit around a table with the professor and focus on connecting everything they have learned. Students polish their speaking skills here, and assure professors that they have mastered the material. It seemed evident that every student on that campus possessed excellent communication skills, and it stood out while we were touring Evergreen.
Transportation is not a problem, as the bus arrives on campus every 15 minutes, for an easy ride downtown Olympia (the state Capital), or to the airport.
At graduation, Evergreen continues to show their unconventional nature–caps and gowns are optional, so it is not unusual to have Batman and Big Bird showing up to pick up diplomas!
Want to learn more about Evergreen State College? Give us a call at (818) 207-0263