By Ryan Luse
I remember the first time I heard about this one of a kind school and was immediately intrigued. I was living in California and friend of mine named Amy had graduated from Evergreen State College. Amy often talked about her eclectic Evergreen experience, her brilliant Professors and non-traditional environment that made my school Emerson seem a tad traditional in many ways. So I was excited when I noticed Loren Pope include this unusual and offbeat school in Colleges That Change Lives and now I know without a doubt I want to visit this school- because it continues to blow my mind.
Pope says, "Evergreen State College offers the most unusual undergraduate experience in the Northwest, or in any public institution anywhere." I certainly believe him. Evergreen opened its doors in 1971, and is a youngster compared to all the other historic colleges with years of tradition. From the beginning the school wanted to be experimental and alternative and it turned what we know as traditional higher education on its head. Evergreen does not use letter or number grades but instead uses "narrative evaluations" that even the students do for the teachers. It makes education more of a discussion and a journey rather than a competition.
There are colleges that are similar in independent spirit like Hampshire and Marlboro but Evergreen’s campus alone seems worth the visit. Evergreen sits right smack in the midst of the Evergreen Forest in Olympia, Washington but is also close to urban cities in the Northwest.
If St. Olaf and Evergreen were paint brushes, I envision these schools producing completely different canvases. St. Olaf would paint with a wide brush appealing to many and probably be pleasing to the eye. Evergreen would maybe put down the paint brush and use its fingers with whatever color seemed prominent at the moment. The canvass of Evergreen would appeal to a much narrower group, but indeed a passionate one.
I see this being a school for a certain kind of kid- someone independent and not one to conform and definitely a progressive person. Jeff Jocoby, a media producer who is quoted in the book, puts the experience of Evergreen quite eloquently "Evergreen provides an opportunity to experiment and discover; to wonder 'what if' and to push the envelope of what’s possible. Don’t do what you think you should do or what seems safe. Do what seems fun and pursue what challenges you."
I wish I knew about Evergreen when I was on my college search. The off-kilter, almost rebellious vibes it reverberates would have appealed to my soul searching high school angst. My sister Chelsea who went to Duke would have hated it on the other hand. The more I learn about the school the more excited I am to visit, and I can’t wait till I meet the non-traditional kid looking for a one of kind school like Evergreen.