Standard 1 - Institutional Mission and Goals, Planning and Effectiveness
Standard 1.A Mission and Goals
The institution’s mission and goals define the institution, including its educational activities, its student body, and its role within the higher education community. The evaluation proceeds from the institution’s own definition of its mission and goals. Such evaluation is to determine the extent to which the mission and goals are achieved and are consistent with the Commission’s eligibility requirements and standards for accreditation.
The Evergreen State College, chartered in 1967, celebrates its fortieth birthday as it prepares the self-study for the 2007 accreditation visit. The college has matured yet remains true to its founding principles and essential innovations as a public, experimental, liberal arts college.
The college mission, as articulated in its strategic plan, honors the vision of its first president, Charles McCann, who forty years ago took seriously the legislative mandate that encouraged innovation. Dean Claybaugh's early history articulates this mandate.
Perhaps most important was the mandate to the college by the governor and legislature for an innovative approach. Governor Evans declared the need for a "flexible and sophisticated educational instrument," as opposed to the "vast and immobile establishment," and expressed the need to "unshackle our educational thinking from traditional patterns." Senator Gordon Sandison, Chairman of the Advisory Council, remarked: "It was not the intent of the Legislature that this would be just another four-year college; [the college would be] a unique opportunity to meet the needs of the students today and the future because the planning would not be bound by any rigid structure of tradition as at the existing colleges nor by any overall central authority as is the case in many states."
McCann and Evergreen’s founding faculty created a college devoted to teaching and learning, infused by a culture of innovation and opposition. Their innovations were influenced by the ideas of Alexander Meiklejohn – that education should prepare students for a purposive public life within a democratic society. The founding faculty created coordinated studies programs and processes to foster collaborative, team-taught interdisciplinary learning communities. McCann established the "Four Nos" that set the foundation for Evergreen's distinctive competence: no academic departments, no faculty ranks, no academic requirements, no grades. Embedded in this set of negatives was his vision that the authority to determine what constitutes a liberal arts education should be centered on student learning fostered by the relationships among students and faculty. Evergreen’s pedagogical practices evolved from this collective effort of the early faculty to create an innovative liberal arts education and foster the qualities associated with student learning, for example, deep engagement, a wide range of knowledge, and reflective thinking. This is reflected in the mission and the maintenance of a culture that supports engaged, active citizens, community participation, and the qualities associated with publicness/community, i.e., autonomy, responsibility, problem solving, and teamwork.
Ernest Ettlich, in his 2003 interim accreditation report, captured the creative tension that has sustained Evergreen since its founding:
"The tensions between being able to assure uniformly the achievement by all students of general education goals particularly in writing, critical thinking and quantitative reasoning even as all students are being required to take responsibility for their own education is a healthy tension which should be a continuing hallmark at the institution and its evaluations. It is at the heart of the institution and contributes to its health and strength."
The founding faculty came to Evergreen to "make a difference" and recruited students interested in doing the same. Today, Evergreen is one of two public colleges cited in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives: Forty Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College, which he wrote to "help youths of many levels of academic aptitude find catalytic colleges that will change their lives, help them find themselves, raise their aspirations, and empower them. In doing so it will free them from our system's obscene obsession with academic aptitude, which does not determine achievement, satisfaction with life, or the merit of a human being."
Forty years later, Evergreen is still an experimental college with an impressive track record of student engagement and success fostering and disseminating interdisciplinary teaching and learning, anchored by a vibrant community of scholars committed to providing an affordable education to Washington residents and nonresidents alike and to serving underrepresented and non-traditional students.
1.A.1 The institution’s mission and goals derive from, or are widely understood by, the campus community, are adopted by the governing board, and are periodically reexamined.
Over the years, the college has had a variety of mission statements and goals. The latest iteration of the college's mission was adopted after a three-year review process by the board of trustees in January 2007. In May 2004, the president directed the provost to lead the update of Evergreen’s 2000 Strategic Plan. The Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee conducted a collaborative, multi-year strategic-planning process that reinforced Evergreen’s core values, articulated its mission, established strategic priorities for the allocation of resources, and set guideposts for the Campus Master Plan. The committee foregrounded the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities' 2003 interim recommendations during its planning process. In the three years leading up to the accreditation self-study, Evergreen’s Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee collected and coordinated the work completed by multiple Disappearing Task Forces (DTFs), work groups, and faculty,1 and linked several central themes: a dynamic and collaborative academic community, a focus on student learning, attention to the quality of faculty and staff work life, stewardship of our natural resources, community partnerships, and the reality that state accountability requirements would likely increase at the same time state operating support, as a percent of total operating revenue, would likely flatten or decrease. The mission statement reiterated Evergreen’s core values and its distinctive competence:
- "As the nation’s leading public interdisciplinary liberal arts college, Evergreen's mission is to sustain a vibrant academic community and to offer students an education that will help them excel in their intellectual, creative, professional, and community service goals."
1.A.2 The mission, as adopted by the governing board, appears in appropriate institutional publications, including the catalog.
The mission is prominent in college publications but, more importantly, it has sustained an ongoing faculty conversation at the heart of the self-study, i.e., what it means to be a "public" "interdisciplinary" "liberal arts" "college." This faculty conversation is occurring at the same time the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board's (HECB) Master Plan calls for a significant increase in baccalaureate degree production to align with state workforce needs. Further, the Washington legislature enacted "performance contract" legislation to link higher education funding to these degree production outcomes (in contrast to the current practice of funding inputs, i.e., student FTEs). The process of developing and reinforcing the mission and goals of the college over the past several years has allowed the faculty and administration to think hard about what the college is and to create a vocabulary that allows us to articulate the college's mission in a way that can be understood by external agencies.
At both the national and state level there has been a discrediting of liberal arts and a growing demand for professionalization, e.g., the Department of Education is promoting standardized tests of college graduates and greater control over regional accreditation agencies to enforce accountability standards and student learning outcomes. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) champions the relevance of liberal arts in an increasingly professional-oriented educational environment. Their Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative asserts that "college graduates need more cross-disciplinary knowledge, more skills in a range of areas – especially in the areas of communication, teamwork, and critical thinking and analytic reasoning – and more real world applications to succeed in a demanding global environment." Their recent publication, How Should Colleges Assess Student Learning: Employer's Views of the Accountability Challenge, presents survey information suggesting that:
- "Few employers believe that multiple choice tests of general content knowledge are very effective in ensuring student achievement. Instead, employers have the most confidence in assessments that demonstrate graduates ability to apply their college learning to complex real world challenges, as well as projects or tests that integrate problem-solving, writing, and analytical reasoning skills."
Evergreen's Master In Teaching (MIT) accreditation visit in October 2007 was a case study of this challenge and demonstrates how an ability to clearly articulate our goals helps the college achieve strong career preparation in the context of a liberal arts education. The Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) accreditation standards were geared for graduate professional schools of education, including strict standards for centralized assessment and clear expectations that programs demonstrate "positive impact on student learning." The Evergreen MIT program is purposely embedded within its liberal arts mission and pedagogy and not the traditional professional school of education model. There were clear cross-cultural communication issues at play between the accreditation team and Evergreen during the entire four-day visit as Evergreen simply did not fit the standard teach-to-the-test mold. Gradually, as they met with various stakeholder groups on campus and in the community, the team began to translate and ultimately to appreciate. At the exit interview, the accreditation team leader indicated that the MIT program met all of the accreditation standards and complimented the staff and the faculty for the design and delivery of a teacher educator program that turns out well-trained educators as evidenced by the team’s interviews with local school superintendents, principals, teachers, and MIT graduates. Evergreen's ongoing challenge, as evidenced by the MIT accreditation visit, is to retain its founding mandate, its mission, and its distinctive interdisciplinary liberal arts competence while complying with increased regulatory and accountability requirements.
1.A.3 Progress in accomplishing the institution’s mission and goals is documented and made public.
The Strategic Plan Update 2007 was approved by the board of trustees in March 2007 following several on-campus and local community fora with college stakeholders (Strategic Plan Update 2007). The senior staff held a retreat in March to use the plan as a framework to guide budget priorities for the 2007-09 biennium, craft annual work plans, and finalize the development of forty institutional indicators to assess progress towards the strategic plan priorities on an annual basis. The board of trustees directed staff to distill these forty indicators into a set of Dashboard Indicators for their own use. The Strategic Plan Update 2007 set the stage for the Campus Master Plan (CMP) and the Strategic Enrollment Plan (SEP) launched in March 2007.
The vice presidents, in their annual self-evaluations, assess progress meeting the annual goals and send these self evaluations to the entire community and the president as the basis for their annual performance evaluations. Similarly, the strategic plan is being used to frame the 2009-11 budget planning process. The president's Office of Planning and Budget coordinates the institutional budget process. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment prepares the accountability documentation required by the state and posts it on its Web site. NSSE Trends, Highlights, and Accountability Performance Indicators 2001-2007.
1.A.4 Goals are determined consistent with the institution’s mission and its resources - human, physical, and financial.
The strategic plan established nine strategic priorities within three broad goal areas:
Educational Goal: Evergreen’s tradition as an experimental public liberal arts college devoted to scholarship, teaching, and learning, and strengthening its commitment to our original principles remains intact. At the same time we must adapt to growth, new students, and a new generation of faculty.
- 1a. Reinvigorate Evergreen’s interdisciplinary liberal arts mission.
- 1b. Deepen the teaching and learning experience at Evergreen, focusing on student success.
- 2. Improve student recruitment and retention.
- 3. Recruit, retain, and revitalize faculty and staff.
- 4. Provide institution-wide support for diversity and equity initiatives.
Supporting Goal: We will continue to strive for an administrative culture that mirrors and supports Evergreen's pedagogy (interdisciplinary, collaborative learning environments) and uses human and physical resources to support teaching and learning. Two examples include cross-divisional collaborations around student success and campus sustainability.
- 5. Evergreen: A place for sustainability.
- 6. The college’s physical resources will imaginatively enhance the learning and working environment.
- 7. Use technology to enhance teaching and learning and administrative support at Evergreen.
- 8. Evergreen’s local, regional, and national partnerships are a rich resource conduit to its unique mission. The college both contributes to these partnerships and learns from them.
Financial Goal: Evergreen faces decreasing state support, prompting tuition increases, yet remains committed to serving underrepresented students. Evergreen must, in order to sustain its mission and principle augment and diversify revenue streams, improve net tuition revenue, control operating expenditures to sustainable levels, and make prudent use of existing resources.
- 9a. Diversify revenue streams.
- 9b. Keep the growth of operating expenditures to sustainable levels.
The strategic plan was used as the framework to guide the 2007-09 biennial budget allocations, the annual goals and work plans, and the Campus Master Plan (CMP). Each year, the senior staff retreat sets the annual divisional and college goals for the year. The strategic plan was used to set those goals for the 2007-08 biennium and again in the 2009-11 budget request. Examples of how resources have been allocated to these nine goal areas occur throughout the self-study. Specific examples in each of the nine goals include:
1) Enhancements to the Office of Institutional Assessment to provide multiple methods to assess student learning, report back to faculty in summer institutes, and provide mini-grants to faculty to conduct assessment projects;
2) Convened a cross-divisional Strategic Enrollment Group and provided them with resources to increase student recruitment (see Standard 3);
3) Convened an Exempt Salaries DTF to prepare an exempt compensation plan and set aside operating funds to enhance faculty and exempt staff compensation;
4) Charged a Diversity DTF and subsequent Diversity Implementation Team and augmented budgets for annual diversity activities;
5) Convened a Sustainability Task Force to produce a plan and hired a new sustainability coordinator;
6) Completed a campus master plan;
7) Added several new media/technology teaching laboratories (see Standard 5);
8) Expanded its Public Service Centers to include a new Center for Community-Based Learning and Action to enhance students' service-learning opportunities within the curriculum linked to community projects; and
9) Significantly enhanced the college's fund raising capacities with noteworthy results (see Standard 7).
1.A.5 The institution’s mission and goals give direction to all its educational activities, to its admission policies, selection of faculty, allocation of resources, and to planning.
"Every organization has a culture that is a persistent, patterned way of thinking about the central task of and human relationships within an organization. Personality is to the individual as culture is to the organization. It includes the predisposition of members, the technology of the organization, and the situational imperatives with which the agency must cope."2 The founding faculty sought to eliminate traditional barriers to learning by inculcating a culture with a healthy distrust of administration. This has helped create an ideal of a communitarian, relatively egalitarian culture at the college. Evergreen's academic administrative structures, established in the founding period, valued a flat non-hierarchical organization, a rotating deanery with close ties between academic administration and teaching, and semi-autonomous work groups (academic program teams) loosely coupled to the academic administrative structure (deanery/provost). Evergreen has sustained itself as an innovative experimental college in large part because it has retained a high degree of congruence among its critical task/mission/distinctive competence, its organizational structure, and its culture (shared values, beliefs, practices). The critical elements of collaboration, autonomy, accountability, and interdisciplinary learning have persisted over all the years of Evergreen's history.
The strategic plan mission and goals reinforced these values and gave direction to its admissions policies (discussed in Standard 3). Central to this policy is the recruitment process that is open to and looks for a wide diversity in the student body. The ideal of a public, interdisciplinary liberal arts college compels the college to look for faculty who are strong teachers, with broad interests and concerns and a capacity to work well with others to create interdisciplinary inquiry (full discussion in Standard 4). And of course these same qualities underlie the structure and content of the curriculum as described in Standard 2.
The allocation of resources and planning is clearly linked to the goals of the college. For example, the strategic plan and goals established one immediate priority – to develop a strategic enrollment plan (Strategic Enrollment Plan charge) to increase enrollments due to a mandated increase in the supply of college seats in Washington, coupled with a significant softening of the in-state transfer student market. The vice presidents charged a Strategic Enrollment Group to oversee implementation of the plan. In fall 2007, the college admitted the largest freshman class in its history. Preliminary indications are that the fall 2008 freshman class will be even larger.
1.A.6 Public service is consistent with the educational mission and goals of the college.
As a public, interdisciplinary liberal arts college, Evergreen honors the traditions of a liberal education: educating students to be thoughtful, well-educated, ethical, and active citizens. Evergreen’s culture of innovation is evident within its public service centers as they deepen Evergreen’s mission and extend the reach of the college outward from local to international communities.
Evergreen’s public service centers represent a unique resource and contribution to public service that extends well beyond the campus. They have grown in number and scope since the last accreditation. These centers enact, through their work, the central values of the college: community, diversity, cross-disciplinary approaches, social justice, and education with local, state, and national constituencies.
The centers position themselves in a reciprocal and collaborative relationship with the communities and organizations they work with. The assumption is that the centers will work in partnership with their constituents to identify needs and resources, establish goals and objectives, and collaboratively develop and implement programs and services that respond to the issues and resources that were mutually identified.
The result of this co-teaching and learning is that the experience and knowledge gained are reciprocal and of benefit to each party involved.
The seven centers enrich the campus environment in a variety of ways: by bringing guest lecturers, artists, and scholars to campus; teaching throughout various areas of the curriculum; providing public forums for presentation and dialogue; serving as consultants (subject matter experts) to faculty and staff who are developing programs; providing resource rooms with books, films, newsletters, etc., that are open to students, faculty, staff, and community members; linking students with internship opportunities in the broader community; writing and publishing materials that are available to Evergreen and beyond; partnering with other educational institutions and with community organizations on research and educational programs that inform teaching and learning at Evergreen; and so on.
As the work of the centers proceeds, the skills and capacities of the centers expand and they come to take on more complex roles in the local, regional, national, and international work in their areas of focus.
The Center for Community-Based Learning and Action, founded in 2004, works with academic programs to integrate service-learning and community project work as an integral part of the Evergreen student’s experience. They provide connections for students to work with nonprofit and community-based projects such as trail maintenance, food banks, or low-income housing. One such project is the Gateway Program that helps incarcerated youth at Maple Lane and Green Hill (youth correctional facilities) obtain pathways to higher education while promoting the youths’ awareness of their own cultural identities. (CCBLA home page)
The Evergreen Center for Educational Improvement works to improve teaching and learning in the K-12 system. Established in 1993, the center partners with school districts and trains teachers on educational reform in math, science, and culturally appropriate curricula. (ECEI home page)
The Labor Education and Research Center opened in 1987 to provide a safe forum for workers, community members, and students to examine their work and lives in the context of labor history and political economy. The center develops credit and not-for-credit educational programs for Washington state residents, often contracting with labor unions to provide continued education for their membership. (Labor Center home page)
The Northwest Indian Applied Research Institute, established in 1999, works with tribes to address issues important to the future of their communities, such as cultural revitalization, tribal governance, resource management, and economic sustainability. The institute played a major role in the establishment of our MPA program in Tribal Governance, the first of its kind in the U.S. (NIARI home page)
Since 1983, the mission of The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has been to conduct practical, non-partisan research on issues important to Washington’s citizens. Through the work of its own policy analysts, economists, and consultants, the institute works with legislators, government agencies and experts in the field to provide recommendations on relevant public policy questions in education, criminal justice, welfare, children and adult services, health, utilities, and government relations. (WSIPP home page)
Since 1985, The Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education has successfully fostered collaborative approaches to educational reform by conducting campus-based, statewide and national professional development workshops based in principles of access, equity, and significant student learning using a variety of curricular approaches including integrative learning and ongoing assessment. For the past ten years, the center has held the National Summer Institute on Learning Communities at Evergreen, which draws twenty to thirty campus teams from all over the U.S. each year. (Washington Center home page)
The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center celebrated its tenth anniversary in September 2005. The “House of Welcome” was built in collaboration with Northwest Indian tribes. Its mission is to promote indigenous arts and cultures. As a gathering place for people of all cultural backgrounds to teach and learn with each other, the Longhouse also provides a venue for hosting cultural ceremonies, classes, conferences, performances, art exhibits, and community events. More recently, the Longhouse has evolved into one of the premier Native arts management and cultural preservation centers, fostering cross-cultural exchange and expanding an indigenous Pacific Rim network. The 2006 Capacity Building Plan and the current Web site demonstrate the center's growing importance in Native arts locally, regionally, and nationally. (Longhouse home page)
1.A.7 The institution reviews with the Commission, contemplated changes that would alter its mission, autonomy, ownership or locus of control, or its intention to offer a degree at a higher level than is included in its present accreditation, or other changes in accordance with Policy A-2 Substantive Change.
Evergreen has experienced few changes of this nature during the past ten years. In each case, it has notified the Commission in advance of the contemplated changes, e.g., the dual Master of Public Administration/Master of Environmental Studies degree and the newly approved Master of Education degree.
Standard 1.B - Planning and Effectiveness, Accountability and Assessment
The institution engages in ongoing planning to achieve its mission and goals. It also evaluates how well, and in what ways, it is accomplishing its mission and goals and uses the results for broad based, continuous planning and evaluation. Through its planning process, the institution asks questions, seeks answers, analyzes itself, and revises its goals, policies, procedures, and resource allocation.
The college has long had a culture of evaluation and collaboration. Evaluation has been seen as a fundamental part of the learning process that lies at the heart of the college for students and staff. This culture has emerged out of the experience of the college as an experiment that needs to be accounted for and from a widespread desire to make Evergreen distinctive and demanding. Long before the era of numerical accountability, the college had a culture of mutual narrative evaluation that underlay all members of the Evergreen community. Some of that practice and the ethos that surrounded it have supported the move toward more formal assessment in the late 1980s and 1990s. These developments helped create the college as it was described in the Documenting Effective Educational Practices (DEEP) report in 2003. (DEEP Report)
Positive Restlessness: A Culture of Evaluation
The most extensive external assessment of Evergreen during the past five years occurred with a visit from George Kuh and his team of educational researchers from the DEEP program at Indiana University. Their report, dated December 31, 2003, was a remarkable affirmation of Evergreen’s pedagogy and a clear, accurate depiction of Evergreen’s culture and practice: “the operating philosophy: innovation leavened with autonomy, personal responsibility, and egalitarianism.” The DEEP team reported on Evergreen’s success in each of their five benchmarks of effective educational practice (academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and a supportive campus environment) and was effusive in its praise for Evergreen in all five areas. “Evergreen has created a structure for putting higher order mental skills into practice.”
The DEEP team’s work is anchored by the concept “student engagement,” of which there are two elements: (1) the amount of time and effort students put into their studies and other educationally purposeful activities, and (2) how an institution allocates its resources and organizes the curriculum and other learning opportunities and support services to encourage students to participate in activities that lead to student success (learning, persistence, satisfaction, graduation).
Subsequently, in their book, Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter3, the DEEP researchers identified twenty “gemstone” colleges which share six features that foster student engagement and persistence. These features are:
1. A “living” mission and “lived” educational philosophy;
2. An unshakable focus on student learning;
3. Environments adapted for educational enrichment;
4. Clearly marked pathways to student success;
5. An improvement oriented ethos; and
6. Shared responsibility for educational quality and student success.
Evergreen was one of the twenty gemstone colleges. The study cited several of Evergreen's practices and characterized our culture as one of “positive restlessness” meaning:
- Restless in a positive way, never satisfied with their performance, continually revisiting policies and practices to get better;
- They simply want to be the best they can be; and
- Focused on the quality of their work and its impact on students and institutional performance.
Simply put, Evergreen has a rich culture of evaluation. At the conclusion of each academic program, faculty members write narrative evaluations of each student. Students write self-evaluations of their own work and a narrative evaluation of the faculty. Faculty teaching colleagues prepare and exchange written evaluations of each other. Each faculty writes a self-evaluation. At the end of the year, the academic deans write annual evaluations of faculty on term contracts. All of these evaluations are kept within each faculty’s portfolio and reviewed annually by the deans until conversion to continuing status, and then every five years hence by teaching colleagues and an academic dean. Feedback loops abound within the academic culture of Evergreen, a hallmark of reflexive thinking.
1.B.1 The institution clearly defines its evaluation and planning processes. It develops and implements procedures to evaluate the extent to which it achieves institutional goals.
Since the college's founding, several core values have guided the development of all its programs and services. These values continue to define Evergreen‘s distinctive competence including a focus on teaching students to think critically and reflectively. Elizabeth Minnich’s recent work captures the essence of Evergreen’s pedagogy and purpose, wherein she argues that the center of a liberal arts education, especially one that is interdisciplinary, is the act of reflexive thinking, not simply that the learner is reflecting on what it is that she has learned, but that she is reflecting on how she has learned and what she has become as she has learned. This pedagogy stands in stark contrast to mainstream efforts to emphasize standardized test scores.
Legislators at the national and state levels have increased their demands on colleges to be more accountable, to improve – and provide evidence of – student learning, and to be more productive. Evergreen has responded to this challenge in a manner consistent with its mission by actively participating in state work groups to develop accountability indicators in national efforts to develop interdisciplinary assessment tools and rubrics. Multiple assessment efforts have continued, following the commission’s 2003 visit, to strengthen and reinforce the emphasis on interdisciplinary learning at Evergreen.
Nationally, researchers rely on indirect quality indicators that directly address the epistemic dimension of interdisciplinary work. Evergreen, a college with narrative evaluations in lieu of grades, and devoted to interdisciplinary and integrative learning, has had to develop its own set of interdisciplinary assessment rubrics. Student engagement is an overarching theme and guiding principle for Evergreen’s assessment work. Evergreen uses the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) scores as an indicator of academic quality. The End of Program Review (EPR) was created by Evergreen's Assessment Study Group to improve cross-curricular general education and to help the college recognize and articulate curricular offerings. In academic year 2001-02, the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment began surveying faculty at the end of each program. Faculty were asked how they integrated the four main divisions of liberal arts (arts, sciences, humanities, social science), as well as several skill areas (critical thinking, information technology literacy, quantitative reasoning, and writing), into their programs. Alumni surveys and Greeners at Work surveys are used to assess student learning, query about alumni employment and advanced education, gauge the level of alumni satisfaction with their Evergreen experience, and gather suggestions for improvements to the college. Transcript reviews are conducted to assess the degree to which students demonstrate evidence of the six expectations of an Evergreen graduate (see Standard 2).
For the institution as a whole, the strategic planning process has led to the development of a wide range of approximately fifty indicators drawn from the strategic plan to help align resources with the mission of the college. Enrollment, fund raising, net revenue/expenses, retention and graduation rates, academic quality and student success, workforce, diversity, stewardship and sustainability, public service and community service, and public relations constitute the major categories of these indicators (Dashboard Indicators).
1.B.2 The institution engages in systematic planning for, and evaluation of, its activities, including teaching, research, and public service consistent with institutional mission and goals.
Evidence that the college engages in systematic planning and evaluation at the institutional, divisional, and program levels is presented throughout the self-study in the form of institutional accountability metrics, multiple academic assessment methodologies, and internal program reviews. Much of the college's planning and evaluation work begins with off-campus retreats, an integral part of Evergreen culture. Annual retreats include, but are not limited to: board of trustees, management, senior staff, president/vice presidents, faculty, deans, agenda committee, divisional and unit. Faculty summer institutes provide focused venues for faculty to engage in curriculum planning and other strategic planning work.
Broad-based steering committees or Disappearing Task Forces (DTFs) are convened to undertake planning. In the last ten years at least eighteen major DTFs were charged, covering a wide range of issues including human resources, general education, risk and liability, enrollment growth, and diversity among other topics (See Standard 6 for a complete list). In addition, numerous study groups, advisory panels, and standing committees engaged in important elements of planning for particular areas of the college. DTFs and other planning groups use a wide variety of data and techniques to both gather data and disseminate policy ideas. Community fora on campus and in the community are held and a wiki Web site with summaries of iterative drafts of the works in progress is utilized.
Several of the work groups that emerged from the strategic plan priorities are now permanent and have institutional support, e.g., Sustainability Task Force, Diversity Task Force, Strategic Enrollment Group, and the Information Technology Collaborative Hive (ITCH).
1.B.3 The planning process is participatory, involving constituencies appropriate to the institution such as board members, administrators, faculty, staff, students, and other interested parties.
Evergreen has a forty-year history and culture of inclusive, participatory processes and decision-making. The previous section referred to eighteen major DTFs in the past ten years. In addition, there have been numerous additional advisory committees, standing committees, the Agenda Committee, S and A Boards, and, indeed, the Faculty Meeting, which have had a role in the college's governance and decision making. During the past ten years, Evergreen has experienced steady growth. This, combined with increased complexity and faculty/staff workload pressures, contributed to a sense that Evergreen’s shared governance model was deteriorating. The Governance DTF's work galvanized this sentiment and resulted in an institutional re-commitment to experiment with new structures and participatory processes (e.g., the Governance Groups convened by the Agenda Committee, the Provost and Agenda Committee co-charging DTFs, Faculty Advisory Panel on the Budget, and the United Faculty of Evergreen). Sustaining a participatory culture in this transitional era is a challenge facing Evergreen.
In recent years, the strategic plan, the CMP, and this accreditation self-study have used a combination of methods to increase participation. For example, the self-study process began three years prior to the accreditation visit, first with the strategic plan, followed by the Curricular Visions work (see below), and the CMP. By taking considerable time and working over several years, the college used this participatory model to make important progress in clarifying and articulating its institutional goals and begin a process of important incremental changes in the curriculum.
In addition to issues of size and complexity, the college's participatory governance structure is challenged by the increasing pressure on the college from the legislature, the Higher Education Coordinating Board, and other state offices to persuade the college to grow and develop in specific externally determined ways. These pressures, which have serious long-range consequences, tend to press for decisions on a much shorter time line than most internal processes. During the past five years, Washington state exerted increased pressure on the public baccalaureates to align their enrollment growth goals with those of the state. For example, the 2008 Strategic Master Plan for Higher Education in Washington, "Moving The Blue Arrow: Pathways to Educational Opportunities," which was published in December 2007, set two statewide aspirational goals: 1) create a high-quality higher education system that provides expanded opportunity for more Washingtonians to complete postsecondary degrees, certificates, and apprenticeships; and 2) create a higher education system that drives greater economic prosperity, innovation, and opportunity. The HECB plan articulates ambitious policy goals to raise, by the year 2018, baccalaureate degree production to 42,400 per year (an increase of 13,900 degrees annually) and advanced degree production to 19,800 per year (an increase of 8,600 annually). Overall, the HECB advocates a total higher education enrollment of 297,000 Student Full-Time Equivalents (SFTEs), an increase of 27% over the current biennium. These Master Plan enrollment goals, if funded, represent a significant increase in planned enrollment growth for Evergreen over the next ten years (775 new enrollments versus the planned 250) and would exceed the projected enrollment-ceiling target of 5,000 total SFTE for the college.
Increasingly, over the past three biennia, the state provided targeted enrollment growth funds in specific “high demand” degrees such as biological science, engineering, computer science, nursing, and teacher education in math/science. Clearly, legislators expect the public baccalaureates to increase degree production and do so in high-demand math/science areas while four-year college participation rates in Washington are near the lowest in the nation (Washington State Higher Education Trends and Highlights). 40% of students in four-year colleges take remedial courses (National Center for Education Statistics), the diversity of students is increasing, and access to higher education is decreasing due to the rising costs of tuition (excerpt from the 2008 Strategic Master Plan for Higher Education in Washington).
These pressures raise three challenges for Evergreen's participatory decision-making culture. First, given Evergreen’s particular emphasis on learning communities and student engagement, pressure for growth makes it more difficult to both preserve and adapt its culture and distinctive competence as an interdisciplinary learning community of scholars. Second, the emphasis on high-demand degrees, combined with increased competition for students, challenges Evergreen to find ways to grow in areas that are less liberal arts oriented. Third, over the past three biennia (2001-07), Evergreen's enrollment growth of about five hundred new SFTEs was combined with periods of budget cuts and a plethora of accountability requirements imposed by legislators and regulators upon the four-year baccalaureate institutions. A summary of these state-mandated accountability requirements is displayed in the supporting documentation at the end of this chapter. Evergreen continues to seek ways to meet its obligations to the state's Master Plan and accountability requirements while maintaining its core mission as the state's liberal arts college and honoring its participatory decision-making culture.
In its 2007-09 biennium budget request, Evergreen requested no-growth in SFTEs but was subsequently directed to add high-demand degree enrollment Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs). Within its own enrollment growth planning process, Evergreen had enhanced its upper division health sciences program enrollments and has added a new Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with emphases in Mathematics and English as a Second Language. As a result, Evergreen was able to meet these high-demand degree requirements.
Evergreen's faculty is in the midst of a generational turnover. During the ten-year period 1999-2009, about seventy-five faculty, or 50%, of Evergreen’s regular, continuing full-time faculty will retire or leave the college. One indication of the impact of this turnover is that during the three-year period 2005-07, nineteen faculty retired with a combined 598 years of service to Evergreen (an average of thirty-one and a half years each)! And at the 2007 convocation, Evergreen recognized seven faculty members, each with thirty-five years of service to the college. The faculty has been at the center of planning efforts since the early years, but with growth in the size of the college, new models of governance structures such as the Faculty Advisory Panel on the Budget whose goal is to make the budget process more transparent and inclusive are being tested.
Evergreen is in the midst of a transitional era wherein it must balance the retention of its culture and core values with adaptation to a rapidly changing external environment, a new generation of faculty, staff, and students, a new student union, and a new faculty union and collective bargaining process. Strategic planning has played an important role in this process as it reinforced the college's commitment to a set of core values and deepened its commitment to others (e.g., sustainability, diversity). When faced with the imposition of new accountability or accreditation requirements that threaten to divert it from its mission, Evergreen turns to its core values, its unique pedagogy, and its culture of innovation and creativity to make the case for its importance and distinctiveness.
1.B.4 The institution uses the results of its systematic evaluation activities and ongoing planning processes to influence resource allocation and to improve its instructional programs, institutional services, and activities.
The accreditation self-study is the overarching systematic evaluation activity. The Commission's recommendations dictate specific areas to improve instructional programs, institutional services, and activities over a five-year planning horizon and much of the current self-study speaks to those efforts in general education, assessment, salaries, financial planning, and fund raising. Biennial state accountability requirements provide another external evaluation mechanism and time frame that guides resource allocation, planned activities, and program improvements (e.g., in such areas as enrollment management, assessment, and student retention). The strategic plan provided another five-year evaluation framework to guide biennial budget requests and resource allocation. Two distinct areas emerged in the recent strategic plan (sustainability and diversity) that influenced final budget allocations. Allocations within academics were directed at program planning, interdisciplinary work, curricular visions, and improving teaching in mathematics, writing, and technological literacy (See Standard 4 Institutes). Budget requests put faculty salaries as the top priority. The budget and budgeting process is described in Standard 7.A.2, 3, and 4 and illustrates the paths by which information influences the resource allocation process.
Three specific examples of how Evergreen uses systemic evaluation activities to influence resource allocation and improve programs are: 1) the Campus Master Plan, 2) faculty development summer institutes, and 3) the Evergreen Fund for Innovation.
The Campus Master Plan (CMP) consultants took the strategic plan as their starting point, and employed three core principles (learning, community, and sustainability) as the foundation for the CMP. They employed a broad, extensive, community-wide process as they developed several iterations of the CMP, held several campus fora to solicit input and feedback, and employed an Evergreen student in the process. They succeeded in capturing the spirit of Evergreen and its future aspirations, especially in the manner in which they infused sustainability into all aspects of the plan. The CMP was approved by the board of trustees in January 2008. This plan served as the basis for the formulation of Evergreen's ten-year capital plan and to establish private fundraising priorities.
Faculty summer institutes, described in Standard 4, are both faculty-driven (i.e., faculty propose topics that, by their own assessment, are priorities for improving their teaching) and data-driven (i.e., the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment suggests areas, based upon multiple assessment tools, for inclusion in the summer faculty team curriculum planning institutes such as interdisciplinary learning and assessment, handling difficult seminar topics such as racism, and freshmen retention). The preface describes how summer institutes have been used to improve general education at Evergreen.
The Evergreen Fund For Innovation supports ideas that may be sustained after the award and represent the best that Evergreen has to offer in interdisciplinary and cross-divisional collaboration, as well as pioneering efforts by members of the Evergreen community for projects that will shape the college’s future. This year, the call for proposals utilized the strategic plan priorities as criteria for awarding the funds. The team of Sally Cloninger, Peter Randlette, Randy Stilson, and Jules Unsel received an award to establish The Evergreen Visual History Archive, which will preserve the visual and aural media record of Evergreen’s academic mission and accomplishments since the college’s inception. The team of Rob Cole, Dylan Fischer, and Alexandra Kazakova received a Fund for Innovation Award for their proposal, "Carbon Fluxes in Our Forest and Carbon Offsets as a Piece of Evergreen’s Goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2020." The research team will work to examine and address the efficacy of purchasing carbon offsets and will also address the carbon uptake and carbon-offset potential associated with the management of the un-built Evergreen State College forest reserves.
1.B.5 The institution integrates its evaluation and planning processes to identify institutional priorities for improvement.
Central to the strategic planning process was the work of the faculty that began in 2006-07 and is still in progress. The agenda committee and the provost co-charged a Governance Group Curricular Visions DTF to guide faculty discussion of “what adjustments are needed to bring current curricula, structures, responsibilities, and practices into alignment” with Evergreen’s mission as a public, interdisciplinary liberal arts college.
Positive restlessness emerged among the faculty in 2005, when many felt that the planning unit structure (implemented in 1995 as the result of a Long Range Curriculum DTF process) was moving Evergreen towards departments and threatening its core educational values. The curriculum seemed to be drifting away from full-time interdisciplinary coordinated studies programs. In response, the Faculty Agenda Committee reinstituted dean's governance groups to facilitate faculty conversations outside of the planning units and within interdisciplinary venues. As a result of these lively and well-attended conversations, the agenda committee and the provost co-charged a Curricular Visions DTF in fall 2006 to "summarize and disseminate the content of these discussions and produce coherent proposals that substantially reflect the governance groups' discussions."
Faculty governance group discussions during 2006-07, as well as several summer institutes in 2007, highlighted the central questions about what is meant by "public, interdisciplinary liberal arts education" and about what obligations faculty have to offer curricula that provide this education. The DTF produced an interim report on May 18, 2007, wherein three proposals were cited that were “ready-to-go”: Thematic Planning Groups, Fields of Study, and First-Year Cohort. The DTF also recommended that the provost provide summer funds for faculty to develop proposals for the next year. Summer work groups developed recommendations that were sent to faculty for review during the fall of 2007. Briefly, these recommendations include:
1) Fields of Study – Make the curriculum more transparent and accessible to those using a disciplinary lens: create Web-based content descriptions of the fields of study available at Evergreen; offerings in the field affiliated with the field; news and discussion sections; on-campus resources that support the field; some links to professional resources; Web pages designed so that all faculty affiliated with a field can edit the page at will and offerings will be updated automatically to match the online catalog; and brief profiles of alumni and students with examples of work done by those who’ve studied the field at Evergreen.
2) Thematic Planning Groups – This speaks to the need to reinvigorate Evergreen’s curricular structures and invites faculty to form broadly interdisciplinary groups to explore topics and issues of high interest. Faculty would create and join groups on themes they genuinely want to teach and study over a sustained period of time keyed to matters of public significance, revisable on a regular basis, and drawing together faculty from across the college who share common interests but might never realize it otherwise. These groups signal a fertile new direction in Evergreen’s life as an interdisciplinary institution.
3) First-year cohort – This idea, originating in the First-Year Experience DTF report, calls for a more integrated academic experience that will give both faculty and first-year students a sense of themselves as a teaching and learning cohort and for multi-year commitments by faculty to teaching first-year programs (e.g., an initial cohort model with a three-year cycle wherein faculty commit to teaching core two of the three years. Each core program would be twelve credits with a common four-credit module with a shared reading list, lecture series, films, etc., and a faculty seminar). A group of faculty has met during fall 2007 to begin the planning for a fall 2009 implementation date.
Several of Evergreen's major innovations (learning communities, interdisciplinarity) have been adopted by the other public baccalaureates in Washington state as well as nationally. The Washington Center for Educational Improvement is a major exporter of these innovations. Their weeklong National Institute on Learning Communities draws twenty to thirty campus teams from across the U.S. each summer.
1.B.6 The institution provides the necessary resources for effective evaluation and planning processes.
Increased external accountability demands combined with increased internal data-driven decision-making has put significant stress on the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (IR). Since the 1998 re-accreditation visit, Evergreen has increased its IR staff from three to four FTE. While small in size relative to the other state baccalaureates, Evergreen's IR staff has played a big role at the national level through presentations at national conferences, including the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), the Consortium for Innovative Environments for Learning (CIEL), and numerous assessment conferences. They have garnered national awards for their poster displays. The IR director assumed a leadership role at the statewide level among her peers and plays a key role in the Council of Presidents deliberations of a variety of statewide educational policy issues. Internally, IR is in constant demand across the campus and in the provost's office. Institutional research has played an important role in framing the primary message to external audiences, i.e., Evergreen is committed to assessment but let Evergreen continue to develop its own learning outcome measures that fit its unique pedagogy and experimental mission rather than forcing it to conform to standardized tests and traditional assessment techniques.
1.B.7 The institution’s research is integrated with and supportive of institutional evaluation and planning.
The strategic plan heightened the awareness of the need to coordinate and focus institutional research on strategic priorities. Three examples include sustainability, diversity, and the First-Year Experience. Evergreen's sustainability initiatives have resulted in a remarkable degree of congruence among academics (hands-on, real world academic programs such as Eco-design); facilities projects (Seminar II green building design, composting facility, green purchasing); students (green energy fees); faculty research (carbon neutrality); and advancement (sustainability fundraising priorities). The Evergreen Fund for Innovation funded a faculty research project to develop methods to measure the college's carbon footprint to support its strategic planning goal to attain carbon neutrality. The Sustainability Task Force has been funded to hire a coordinator.
The Diversity Implementation team has been launched with an emphasis on outcome indicators and program assessment. Several disparate activities and budgets have been consolidated to support this effort, including speaker series, summer institutes, and curriculum development.
The First-Year Experience has received institutional research support to assess the effectiveness of Orientation and Beginning the Journey initiatives. The Office of Institutional Research provides mini-grants to faculty for academic program assessments. The public service centers support institutional planning and evaluation with their community service work. Summer faculty institutes provide venues for faculty to deepen their work and skills on a variety of subjects that support the institutional mission.
1.B.8 The institution systematically reviews its institutional research efforts, its evaluation processes, and its planning activities to document their effectiveness.
Evergreen submits annual accountability reports to the Washington State Legislature through the Higher Education Coordinating Board. During the current biennium, the legislature inserted budget performance indicators into the appropriations bill [freshman retention (1st time, full-time), seniors graduating within 125% of expected credits, and job placement/graduate school attendance rates].
Washington passed legislation that now requires all state agencies, including colleges and universities, to submit an application for the Washington State Quality Award (based on the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award) once every three years, which will provide another indicator to the degree that Evergreen’s planning, management, and evaluation efforts are reviewed and improved.
1.B.9 The institution uses information from its planning and evaluation processes to communicate evidence of institutional effectiveness to its public.
Over the past five years pressure to fill enrollments has grown as the supply of seats has increased and the number of students able to afford attendance at full-time four-year institutions has declined. The state has funded two new four-year branch campuses to the north (Tacoma) and south (Vancouver) that directly compete with Evergreen. Additionally, private online colleges and mega-universities increase the supply of seats. Thus, Washington ranks forty-nine of fifty states in the participation rates for four-year colleges among eighteen to twenty-five year olds. An important part of Evergreen’s strategic planning work over the past two years has been the development and implementation of a strategic enrollment plan. The college has developed a much more sophisticated enrollment and mailing plan that helps move prospective students towards visiting campus and enrollment (See Standard 3). In addition, Evergreen has enhanced its Web team staff in order to more effectively communicate its distinctive qualities, its educational opportunities and its institutional effectiveness to the public in general and to prospective students specifically.
Student engagement, success (learning, satisfaction, graduation), and autonomy to devise their own academic pathways are core educational values at Evergreen as articulated within its five foci and six expectations.
Evergreen’s Five Foci:
- 1) Interdisciplinary education,
- 2) Personal engagement in learning,
- 3) Linking theory and practice,
- 4) Collaborative learning, and
- 5) Teaching and learning across significant difference.
The Six Expectations for all Evergreen graduates:
- 1) Articulate and assume responsibility for your own work,
- 2) Participate collaboratively and responsibly in our diverse society,
- 3) Communicate creatively and effectively,
- 4) Demonstrate integrative, independent and critical thinking,
- 5) Apply qualitative, quantitative, and creative modes of inquiry appropriately to practical and theoretical problems across disciplines, and
- 6) As a culmination of your education, demonstrate depth, breadth, and synthesis of learning and the ability to reflect on the personal and social significance of that learning.
Evergreen's educational assessment methodologies derive from these core goals. This assessment data demonstrates that there is a remarkable degree of congruence among what the college purports to do (above), why students select Evergreen, and what employers say about its graduates. To summarize briefly, the top three factors in students' decisions to attend Evergreen are 1) opportunity to design their own education, 2) interdisciplinary learning, and 3) integrated learning. The top four fields of interest for entering first-year students are visual/performing arts, natural resources, psychology, and social science. For transfer students they are visual/performing arts, education, natural resources, and public administration/social science. The top three goals, cited by entering Evergreen students for earning their degree are 1) personal success or satisfaction, 2) personal growth and development, and 3) creative and effective communication skills (for first-year students) and job or career change (for transfer students). Greeners at Work 2003 - Alumni and Employers Three Years After Graduation is a survey research project studying how Evergreen prepares its graduates for the workplace, consisting of a survey of alumni who graduated in 1999-2000. The survey also includes supervisors of alumni and indicates that supervisors rated Evergreen alumni highest on their willingness and aptitude to learn new skills, ability to work in a culturally diverse environment, and ability to cooperate on team efforts.
An important piece of the work of the strategic enrollment planning group and the new Web site is to convey to prospective students the ways in which Evergreen can help them create and develop successful and meaningful educational and career paths at the college. Much of the analysis that supports these efforts draws on the experience of college recruiters, and on their understanding of why first-year and transfer students choose Evergreen.
One important consequence of Evergreen's growth and distinctiveness is the question of identifying appropriate peers for comparisons with other institutions. The lack of comparison groups for peer benchmarking represents a challenge for Evergreen. The new Carnegie classification of colleges and universities was unveiled in 2006. Evergreen’s peer college rankings are based upon these Carnegie classifications, e.g., the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) benchmarks, U.S. News and World Report rankings, and HECB accountability measures, to name a few. Evergreen is no longer in the baccalaureate liberal arts college classification due to the fact that it awards greater than fifty graduate degrees per year. This bumps Evergreen into a different peer group entitled Masters, Smaller Programs (MSP). Given the MSP criteria (size, selectivity, residential, four-year, public/private, etc.), various sub-groups can be delineated within the MSP universe. Interestingly, Evergreen is literally in a class by itself, or “peerless,” because no other college shares all of our characteristics. This forces Evergreen to merge sub-groups using one or two Carnegie characteristics in order to create an adequate peer comparison group. Whereas in the past Carnegie classification Evergreen had several legitimate peers, in the new MSP classification, there are only five legitimate peer institutions. Without a consistent set of peers, Evergreen’s challenge is to find realistic benchmarks for the variety of data sets and indicators that are monitored and reported both internally and externally.
1 Sustainability, First Year Experience, Campus Life, Curricular Visions, Enrollment Growth, Governance, Exempt Staff Work Group, Student Evaluation Process Review Study Group, Hiring Priorities, Information Technology Collaboration Hive (ITCH)
2 James Q. Wilson. Bureaucracies: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. (New York: Basic Books, 1989), 91.
3 Kuh, George, et al. Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 24.
4 Kuh 146.
5 In 1982, tuition payments covered 17% of Evergreen’s costs per SFTE. Today, it’s up to 47%. Put another way, state General Fund support per Evergreen SFTE dropped from 83% in 1982 to 53% today.
Standard 1 Findings and Conclusions
This chapter demonstrates Evergreen’s ongoing commitment to its mission as a public, interdisciplinary liberal arts college. It argues that the college has a strong sense of its mission, that it has a strong commitment to student learning, to innovative and collaborative teaching, to public service, and to effective communication of its distinctiveness and accomplishments. Beyond this, the college has worked hard to develop a useful system of evaluating its academic program and, in conjunction with the effort around the strategic plan, it has developed institutional measures to help align the use of resources and institutional goals. The college has used its research and assessment efforts to strengthen teaching, program planning, and institutional policies. Efforts at assessment within the college and nationally continue to help convey the effectiveness and worth of educating liberal arts graduates.
Commendations and Recommendations: The college has managed to maintain its commitment to its mission and its distinctive pedagogy in a time when there are increasing pressures to standardize and measure its outcomes. It has continued to place reflexive student learning at the center of its commitments and efforts. In the years ahead, the effort to maintain the commitment to its mission will continue to be a major effort. As the college is pressed to grow, maintaining a collaborative internal ethos and governance process in the face of growing numbers and complexity will prove a major challenge. Recruiting students to study in the liberal arts will continue to be difficult and may push the college toward more professional high-demand growth based on legislative mandates. Containing such pressures while finding ways to respond to external demands will be an important job for faculty and administrators. The development of the strategic plan and the subsequent development of the CMP will help provide a rationale and a framework for future growth. The Curricular Visions process, in conjunction with the long history of annual planning of the curriculum, should allow for continuing development and strengthening of the curriculum. The college will need to continue to reflect carefully on its experience as it has in this self-study process as it goes forward.