Findings and Conclusions
Evergreen is still Evergreen. Student autonomy and engaged student learning remain at the heart of the institution. Evergreen has continued to honor students’ capacity to know what they want to learn and to find ways to help students undertake that learning. The college continues to offer students an opportunity to create their own education while allowing them to experience the growth and expansion of understanding that occurs when learning happens in a community of learners who create and share their understanding publicly. This engagement is recognized in the DEEP Report and Loren Pope’s Colleges that Change Lives as the center of Evergreen’s distinctiveness as an institution.
Evergreen is still Evergreen. Faculty collaboration, planning, and the pursuit of substantive questions through broadly-based inquiry still lie at the heart of the teaching work of the college. New faculty members have replaced old, but the college has managed in large measure to retain the opportunity for faculty to work together to create a new curriculum each year, a curriculum creating a process that requires faculty to intellectually engage with each other, to think hard about teaching, and design work for students that both provides structure and allows for autonomy and growth. Evergreen teaching remains a complex act that both brings forward the substantive knowledge of disciplines and scholarship and, through learning communities of faculty and students, strengthens and deepens the social and intellectual context of learning, creating for students and faculty an opportunity for reflexive knowledge.
Evergreen is still Evergreen. The early values and principles of the college continue to help the college think about its work. The five foci – personal engagement, interdisciplinary study, collaborative learning, learning across significant difference, and linking theory with practice–are critical guidelines to faculty and students in designing their work. The Expectations of an Evergreen Graduate – articulating and assuming responsibility for ones own work; participating collaboratively and responsibly in a diverse society; communicating creatively and effectively; demonstrating integrative, independent, critical thinking; applying qualitative, quantitative, and creative modes of inquiry; and demonstrating depth, breadth, and synthesis of learning and reflection on the personal and social significance of one's learning – continue to identify goals to which students appropriately aspire. The four nos – no grades, no requirements, no ranks, and no departments – still shape the ideal of a level playing field for intellectual life at the college.
Evergreen has managed to create significant congruence between its mission as a leading public interdisciplinary liberal arts college and the experiences of students, and the outcomes for its alumni. The college was founded on an understanding of publicness grounded in personal responsibility and active, collaborative citizenship. The Evergreen educational practices are designed with the twin goals of personal responsibility and collaborative work. They ask students to think critically, work on complex problems, and communicate clearly. Evergreen graduates identify these capacities as the primary qualities of their undergraduate work.
Evergreen has worked hard to improve the access to and broad provision of general education in response to its own felt need and the urgings of the commission. Since the interim report, the college has expanded support services to students and programs in mathematics and sciences, developed summer training and planning institutes for faculty, hired more faculty with quantitative skills, and provided more courses in support of mathematics. The emphasis on faculty and academic advising in assisting students to see the need for breadth as well as depth in their education has paid off in terms of numbers of students showing work in these areas. At the same time the college has continued strong work in humanities, social sciences, information technology literacy, writing, reading, and critical thinking. The college’s commitment to Writing Across the Curriculum has made writing and writing instruction ubiquitous.
The Library and Information Services area of the college has fully committed networking and digital resources. This commitment has helped bring about access to extraordinary library resources through consortial agreements regarding periodicals and catalog integration and borrowing. Staff from across the area have reconceptualized and reorganized their work in support of these changes. The library and media services have a longstanding commitment to teaching and the integration of computer services has extended a complex cross-curricular teaching relationship with a very wide range of academic programs across the campus. The renovation of the library B and C wings has allowed the virtual library to have a physical presence that embodies the integration of library, media, and computer services while providing greatly enhanced study areas and facilities. All areas in Library and Information Services have taken the provision of support to off-campus sites very seriously and the virtual library provides significant support to diversity by providing a strong virtual presence for the reservation-based and Tacoma programs.
The college has developed a strong strategic recruiting policy and has succeeded in maintaining and expanding enrollments in the face of growing competition from private for- profit colleges, and the development of branch campuses by the University of Washington in Tacoma and Bothell and by Washington State University in Vancouver.
In support of its mission, the college has made significant physical improvements to the campus over the past decade. The $110 million appropriated for campus facilities has enhanced the teaching and learning environment. Work on the library renovations has supported the development of the conceptual integration of library, media, and computer services. Renovated laboratories have strengthened the capacity of the college to support laboratory-based teaching. Seminar II is the first major new building that has been designed and organized to facilitate program activities through collaborative team teaching and the integration of sophisticated computer and media capacities. Building Seminar II has effectively used a process of staff, faculty, and student collaboration along with professional architects and engineers to help design Washington’s first LEED Gold Certified Building. The collaboration between Facilities, Academics, and students in the building design has helped to improve the usability of the spaces and supported the college’s emphasis on sustainability. The inclusion of teaching gardens into the facility and its surroundings further integrates natural history learning with the built environment.
The new campus master plan, developed with significant input from across the community, provides a structure for campus development to the year 2020. The facilities area has continued to develop a collaborative relationship with academics. This work has emphasized sustainability and has helped Evergreen become a leader in sustainable facilities management.
The implementation of the 1995 Long Range Curriculum Report and the recommendations of the General Education DTF have led to the development of two- and one-quarter programs and often smaller programs at Evergreen. This change coupled with the 2001 policy decision to allow students to register for as much as twenty quarter-hours credit has led to a significant proliferation and growth in the number of courses. The important benefits of these processes is the reduction of contracts undertaken by poorly prepared students and the opportunity for many students to take prerequisite courses and conduct work that supports breadth in their study particularly in art, mathematics, psychology, and languages. (Curriculum Enrollment Detail AY 2006-07) The increase in the number of single-faculty, single-quarter programs and the growing number of individual pieces for which students register all reflect a change from the original model of multi-faculty, yearlong coordinated studies. The tension that has existed from the earliest years of the college between the sustained inquiry in full-time, yearlong coordinated study and the flexibility, intensive focus, and distributive depth offered by shorter and smaller pieces of study has important implications for our assumptions about advising, coherence, and breadth and depth in student experience. The proliferation of pieces and the increasing array of options, especially course options, raises important questions about the role of advising by both faculty members and Student and Academic Support Services.
Developing and reinvigorating the interdisciplinary curriculum of the college has emerged from the work of the faculty’s Curricular Visions process in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years. This work reflects the longstanding tension between interdisciplinary and disciplinary study at the college. Questions about, and support for, the central role of the planning units as the primary engines of curriculum and hiring were raised. One issue that appears to need attention is finding planning structures to strengthen inter-divisional work. The movement in the Curricular Visions process of forming thematic groups and fields of study pose possible alternatives to the current organization of planning units. Indeed, thinking about different structures that might support interdisciplinary and inter-area work raises the opportunity for a discussion of the meaning and importance of the concept of interdisciplinarity for the college.
The nature and function of first-year work is also a major issue for the college. In the beginning of the review period 1997-98, 71% of all first-year seats were in Core programs. By 1998-99, the figure was 84%. Since then, the proportion of Core seats has fallen to the point where only 40% of first-year seats are in Core, 47% are in all-level programs, and 14% are in lower division programs in 2006-07. This shifting structure of first-year offerings, coupled with the concerns raised in the First-Year Experience DTF, raise questions about how we can support first-year students' continued work on general education and improve retention.
The strategic initiatives identified in the strategic plan are ultimately of great benefit to the college. The identification of these priorities, and the recognition that such priorities will demand significant engagement on the part of faculty and staff, is an important step in developing thinking about the interaction of academic, physical support, and financial support. The emphasis on continuing the Curricular Visions process and the interesting way that inter-divisional collaboration is emerging around the sustainability goal provide useful models of how to include broad interaction with the development of specific plans. The initiative around diversity and equity has the potential to provide an important opportunity for linking theory to practices of social justice.
The implementation of the new administrative information system (Banner), while not glamorous, has been successful and significant. Conversion to Banner Information Systems has resulted in more accurate and timely service to students, communication with prospective students, registration, advising, and notification of awards of financial aid, billing, and student accounts. This conversion has produced greater efficiency of value. Greater volumes of students have been accommodated while staffing has remained stable. These efficiencies have also streamlined the interface with academic program services, especially enrollment, and the processing of evaluations.
More than seventy faculty have retired or resigned and more than one hundred new faculty have been hired in the past ten years. Thus the college has simultaneously lost a great deal of expertise in the organization and teaching of complex interdisciplinary programs and gained new energy and enthusiasm for teaching such programs. The first generation of teachers created the college de novo and most believed that taking the risk of being a co-learner with their students was critical. Many of those faculty members recognized their expertise as partial, and taught in order to learn and reshape their own and their students’ knowledge, not primarily to impart fully formed understandings. New faculty members coming to Evergreen bring real excitement and desire for change, but the reality is that they come to an institution a bit stuck in the past. Finding ways to impart to new faculty the best and most exciting practices of the past, while at the same time allowing the flexibility and opportunity to form their own plans, commitments, and structures is a central challenge for the college. This process must allow new faculty to explore the curriculum, meet other faculty members, and feel free to take risks in their teaching. Evergreen now brings people here because we know we want their expertise in the curriculum, but the college needs to encourage new faculty members to define and help direct the expression of that expertise in programs and advanced work. New faculty and old share a need to learn from each other and to use this time to explore, take risks, and define the college as it goes forward. Creating a broad sense of possibility for new faculty in a world constructed in large measure by planning units is a challenge. More generally, finding ways to provide support for exciting work within planning units and between them is a crucial part of continuing the opportunity for students and faculty to experience transformative, reflexive learning. Finding time, energy, and locations for this work is an ongoing issue. At the same time the college looks forward to replacing a similar number of faculty over the next ten years. Clearly this will be a challenge.
Evergreen exists within a web of tensions that structures the opportunities, limits the possibilities, and creates the challenges the college faces. Among these tensions, which underlie Evergreen’s work, are public accountability versus educational autonomy; disciplinary study versus interdisciplinary inquiry; liberal arts versus professional training; internal language and practices versus external understanding and expectations; and community versus autonomy. These tensions arise from the intersection of the college and the public world within which it exists, from the internal dynamics of its development and growth, and from the transformation of its personnel and culture as the college ages. Many if not all of the tensions experienced have been with the college, in one form or another, for its entire history. They are not likely to go away. The issue for the institution is not to eliminate these tensions, but to reflect on how they are currently manifested, and ask how the college should manage these tensions in the present environment. Thinking of these tensions as a web is useful, as many of the elements interact not simply between two broadly held values, e.g., community and autonomy, but carry implications for such issues as the conception of interdisciplinary work, the relations of staff and faculty, or the size of our programs. Changes in one aspect of the college ramify throughout the institution. This self-study illuminates two primary dimensions of concern: Evergreen’s role as a public institution and the internal tensions between individual autonomy and community as central values. These tensions constrain and direct any attempt to bring about change at Evergreen.
Public Education: Meanings of Accountability
The issues surrounding Evergreen's founding have not disappeared. Today as then the complex questions of diversity, war, class, gender, ecological sustainability, the privatization of knowledge, globalization, race, and more raise questions about the role and place of public education in the lives of citizens. Not surprisingly, these issues continue to shape the pressures on Evergreen and the questions engaged in the classroom.
At the heart of Evergreen’s response to these issues is Evergreen’s role as a public liberal arts college. Two dimensions of public accountability stand out: accountability as concerned responsible civil engagement and participation in the determination of collective life on the one hand, and public accountability as fiscal and economic responsibility on the other. Clearly both have real claims and substantive demands. As the preceding discussion of goals, collaboration, difference, reflection, engaged participation, the linking of theory and practice, and academic programs as communities embedded in a world of experience has made clear, the creation of persons with an active, engaged, general intelligence and participation in collective life has been at the center of the Evergreen experience. The role of graduates in state and local governments and politics, in social, political, and artistic movements, social justice work, environmental integrity, and public education demonstrates the ways in which Evergreen has enhanced citizenship and public life. The liberal arts tradition from which Evergreen grew, the Experimental College of Alexander Meiklejohn at the University of Wisconsin, had at its core the idea of educating a general capacity or intelligence, a sense of personal power and responsibility, and a connection to the common good. For Evergreen, the primary understanding of public accountability has been that of creating effective, engaged persons.
Public accountability as fiscal responsibility demands that the college should be a good steward of the resources and privileges granted to it. At the most basic level this is simply honesty and financial responsibility. In a more complex sense accountability requires us to use the resources granted to the institution as a trust for the citizen. The college’s job is to do as well as possible with the resources to devise and deliver an education that prepares students to participate in, critique, imagine, and create a more free, democratic, sustainable, and prosperous society. These views, while they are in tension, are not necessarily incompatible. Evergreen and the public liberal arts tradition have sought to overcome this contradiction by arguing that the provision of persons in a variety of walks of life capable of participating well in democracy is a central task for which they should be accountable. The difficulty with this formulation of a resolution arises when the state wants the college to produce, for economic growth, particular types of people with particular forms of training. When the state requires that college provide persons trained to exercise particular talents within a state economy, when education is seen primarily as investment in the making of workers, economic accountability can come into tension with the educational choices, values, and cherished autonomy of the college.
Thus Evergreen, like every other public college or university in the country, is caught up in a long series of arguments about the relationship of education to economic productivity, about the efficiency of instruction, and about the value of education in fundamentally economic terms. This is nothing new. Education has been seen as an engine of economic growth worthy of public investment since at least 1862, with the original founding of land grant colleges. What is new is the intensity, the pressure to justify, measure, and define the value of education in such terms, coupled with more detailed legislative prescription for higher education over the past ten years. This economic model of education as an investment with measurable and distinctly specifiable, predictable outcomes differs from Evergreen’s emphasis on an education that produces qualities of mind, capacities for engagement, and independence of judgment. The college faces constant pressure to explain itself in a language that is quite foreign to its internal dialogue. Because of Evergreen’s location in Olympia and its unique emphasis on liberal arts undergraduate education, Evergreen plays a disproportionate role in making the case for undergraduate liberal arts in state policy and helps define the metrics used to assess programs.
Major efforts illustrate both the effort and rewards of making this translation between external metrics and internal values and practices. One example is the Master in Teaching program’s work to demonstrate its extraordinary success to the State of Washington Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) during its fall 2007 accreditation visit. The tension between external and internal ways of understanding the college's function is not trivial. It is simultaneously a matter of translation and a matter of the substantive direction of the college. This tension confronts the college as it devises its student recruitment plans, identifies faculty-hiring priorities, and plans for growth. For example, when the college attempts to communicate with potential students, it must both convey what is substantively different about the college and assure potential students that focused disciplinary work, a marketable degree, and a job can also be products of an Evergreen education. To some degree, this is simply an act of translating from Evergreen parlance to more conventional language. Yet, it has the effect of making the issue of disciplines, pathways, and career preparation an important driver in the choices of what is taught and ultimately, who is hired.
It is the case that the college is overwhelmingly dependent on state funding. It is also the case that the citizens of the state have a right to know what sort of work we do here and what sort of graduates the college helps create. And it is furthermore the case that the college — like its students, their parents, and employers — wants graduates to take a role in the economy and communities. The role that the college would like its students to play emerges from their inquiries into the world. Much of the liberal arts work of the undergraduate curriculum is focused on the intersection of knowledge, theory, and application. Programs do include a great deal of the subject matter of a repeatable, predictable, disciplinary professional curriculum, but they do this in the context of asking how this inquiry relates broadly to human experience, values, and possibilities, not simply to technical capacities. Evergreen’s attempts to identify emergent tendencies, to anticipate public issues, and to prepare people with self confidence and holistic vision to help identify and define public issues through public interdisciplinary inquiry-based study sometimes leads the college to speak a quite different language and see quite different issues than those identified by professionalized disciplines and training. The freedom to shift focus, to innovate, to create new programs around new issues and drop older issues is part of a real tension between professional programs and many parts of the undergraduate curriculum at the college.
The pressure of state-defined goals for undergraduate education pushes the college toward patterns of growth that reflect public need as framed in state and national policy. The controversy over college growth hires in 2005-06 reflects among other things a continuing conflict between felt need to support state mandates and a set of proposals that emerged from faculty priorities. (Report of the Enrollment Growth DTF 2005). The controversy continued in the 2006-07 cycle as we attempted to develop hires in such a way as to meet state funding priorities. How the college responds to pressures for growth in enrollment, for accountability measures, and performance agreements is a major issue for the faculty and the administration of the college. External pressures are framed in a different language than much of the internal dialogue and demand response in time frames that are much shorter than the broadly consultative governance processes at the college. The size of the college, the increased pressure for quick responses, and the need for faculty voice, suggest faculty governance is an issue to be rethought.
Community and Autonomy
Community and autonomy pose a fundamental tension at Evergreen that operates at the level of student experience, of faculty teaching experience, of educational program design, and of governance and control of the institution. The tension is a necessary one and will only disappear when Evergreen has ceased to be relevant. The autonomy that has been granted students to chart their own educational course through the offerings of Evergreen and to create their own educational options through contracts and internships creates one of the fundamental educational experiences and fundamental lessons of the college. Students are in large measure responsible for their choices and the learning those choices entail. At the same time, the education we offer hinges in its most powerful form on the experience of a community of learners (faculty included), who collaboratively explore an issue, discipline, or question over time. Student experience in a fast-paced, highly mediated world is often at odds with the slower processes of community, academic reading, thinking, and writing. The potential contradiction between the student’s individual desires and the direction of the program stand in tension. Students are always tempted to ask: Is this what I really want? If it is so hard, why must I persist? If I don’t like a subject, why should I take it? Acting on these questions, leaving a program, dropping out part way through, has little overt consequence for the student in the short run. But it does have consequence for the program, the community of inquiry that loses the participation of the community member. In the longer run, switching allows the student to avoid the learning that comes when one persists through the hard work and confusion. Constant avoidance of difficult work can lead to a shallow, widely-scattered education. On the other hand, staying when there is no connection to the community or issues does not do any good for either the student or the community. Resolving this tension for the individual student demands, and can help create, a capacity for mature judgment about what he or she really wants and will work for. Helping students develop a sense of their work, persistence, and commitment to that work is the basic function of faculty advising. Finding a way to encourage persistence, to fight the metaphor of student as consumer, and to reinforce the metaphor of student as builder/maker/creator is crucial for the college.
At the institutional level, as faculty attempt to accommodate perceived student demand by increasing the number and decreasing the size and duration of choices offered to students, the nature of student commitments to programs changes and the balance between community and autonomy shifts. The expectations of what students can learn in a program, the pace of the learning, the possibilities for reflection, and the kinds of assignments, advice, and support faculty can give to students within and beyond the duration of the program change.
At the social level, tensions within programs, the necessary experience of being public with one’s learning and growth, which is exciting for some students, poses real challenges for many. Reading a paper out loud to a group of student respondents, speaking and questioning in seminar, or working on a collaborative project and presenting results to the class are all necessary experiences of presenting one's self as a public learner. The re-acculturation that Evergreen requires with its demand to take responsibility for one's own work and at the same time to share, collaborate, and become colleagues with classmates makes for a new and often difficult balance for students.
Autonomy and community also pose a major tension for faculty members individually and for groups of faculty as they undertake their primary governance work at the college: the creation of a coherent curriculum and experience for students. Individually, faculty members at Evergreen experience a constant tension between the demands of the immediate work of teaching and learning and the processes of planning for the future work and participating in a demanding set of expectations for governance of the institution. Planning future work can easily involve faculty working to collaboratively plan work for the next quarter, work for the next academic year, work for the spring quarter of the next academic year, and work and catalog copy for programs two years hence. The planning two years hence involves not merely deciding what one wants to teach, but locating a faculty team, agreeing on a theme, and coordinating with the planning unit the faculty member is a part of or potentially multiple areas when the design is for an inter-area program. Constant program planning puts a faculty member into a wide array of obligations to different collectivities and elements of community: present colleagues, future colleagues, planning units, and ultimately, to Evergreen and its curriculum as a whole.
Beyond teaching, faculty have artistic and scholarly work of their own that often draws them away from collaboration and stands in significant tension with the obligations and needs of the community. Yet, in the longer run, faculty often need just such intense personal work. An opportunity to look deeply into issues and work extensively on their own endeavors is often necessary in order for faculty members to function as effective teachers and learners with their students.
At the level of defining and developing a more or less regularly structured curriculum for students, faculty autonomy is constantly at odds with the perceived need for system and regularity. Such demands vary widely from planning unit to planning unit, yet even in the most dispersed, Culture, Text and Language, the unit needs to be able to specify repeating work in languages, participation in Core and inter-area programs, and interesting advanced work. In Scientific Inquiry, such patterns of repeating programs are much more clearly delineated and organized. Faculty are expected, but cannot be required, to participate in the teaching rotation. The autonomy of the faculty is the underlying condition that supports both the development of inter-area and Core teaching. It supports faculty in their choice to risk teaching in new areas and helps faculty members take risks as learners. At the same time, it offers faculty a chance to take leave to support their own work. Faculty individual autonomy underlies the ability of Evergreen to imagine itself in a new and different configuration with different emphases.
The tension that exists about the individual faculty member’s participation in the primary governance work in teaching and learning is exacerbated when we look to the major secondary work of faculty in college-wide governance. Active participation by the faculty in governance is expected at Evergreen. The relatively flat organization structure, the ethos of participation in Evergreen as a community, and the sense of empowerment that the faculty as a whole often feels, all support a sense of obligation for many faculty to participate deeply and widely in the development of policies, the hiring and review of personnel, and the determination of the college’s academic agenda. The culture of evaluation and the creative restlessness that external reviewers note drives a constant sense of a need for faculty to take part. Yet the immediate payoff of such work is minimal and is often rewarded with further assignments, as one is perceived to be effective at such endeavors. Furthermore, there is little penalty for not participating. As the institution grows, the capacity for faculty to know each other, to make policy that effectively accounts for the whole college, and to know the whole array of issues becomes more and more difficult. Scale is a crucial issue in all of this, as policies come to replace face-to-face consultation and the sheer numbers of people potentially involved in decisions grows. Most of the governance institutions have been in place for fifteen years or more while the institution has grown and will continue to grow both in size and complexity. Growth in scale makes the community-based collaborative decision making of the Faculty Meeting as a whole much more difficult, especially as obligations of faculty to assist the college in other ways expand.
Finally, the college is structured in such a way that participation in a program with one or two colleagues is intense and extraordinarily engaging while one is teaching. But between the level of the program and the level of the college faculty as a whole, there is very little structure. Planning units can serve as meaningful intermediate structures, especially in Scientific Inquiry and Environmental Studies, but their function as a source of social and collaborative work is much weaker in Culture, Text and Language; Society, Politics, Behavior and Change; and Expressive Arts. This reality makes the absolutely necessary function of the socialization of a new generation of faculty to Evergreen difficult and imposes a significant burden on the academic dean in charge of faculty development.
Evergreen has refined and implemented its mission as a public interdisciplinary liberal arts college. Evergreen’s belief in public liberal arts education as a democratizing agency is at the heart of its mission and its practice. The college has remained close to its founding ideals and has provided a powerful model of an alternative way of conceiving how public higher education can be understood and taught.
Evergreen creates powerfully engaged learning by requiring student autonomy in the choice of their work and by locating learning within learning communities. The lack of requirements, departments, and a set curriculum compel students and faculty to create current, compelling inquiry.
The college has worked hard to recruit a new generation of faculty as the early members of the college’s faculty retire. The success of this effort demonstrates that Evergreen is not dependent on its founders to continue its ideals and practices. The early ideals of equality of rank, lack of departments, and a continually changing curriculum have allowed new faculty to make their place in Evergreen. The development of explicit support for adapting to the college is an important piece of this success. It is incumbent on the college to support new faculty in sustaining their excitement and developing their pedagogy.
The development of a highly integrated teaching and learning centered Library, Media, and Information Services area has been a major accomplishment. The successful use of consortia to broaden collections, the creation of a strong sense of working with academic programs to teach skills and critical capacity seamlessly across the different areas, and the growing integration of services in the renovated facilities have allowed the library and information services to be a central teaching and learning resource across the college.
The building and renovation of major facilities over the past ten years has been a significant accomplishment. The renovation of the B and C wings of the Library building, the renovation of major laboratory spaces, the building of a new child care center, the renovation of dormitory spaces, the building of the major new Seminar II teaching and office spaces, and the creation and revision of the campus master plan all illustrate a strong collaboration between architects, facilities, staff, faculty, and students in creating new spaces that embody the values of the teaching and learning work of Evergreen.
Evergreen needs to reassess governance, particularly, but not exclusively, faculty governance. Governance has been based on a broadly consultative model. The scale of the college, the fact that external public bodies (the Washington State Legislature, the Washington State Office of the Governor, and the Higher Education Coordinating Board Board) are increasingly interested in what have been internal decisions, the speed with which decisions are made, the presence of the United Faculty of Evergreen and The Geoduck Student Union, and the perennial difficulty of recruiting faculty to general governance positions (such as the Agenda Committee, the Council of Faculty Representatives, and the Chair of the Faculty) suggest that reexamination of governance is a high priority. Finding a way to maintain an active faculty voice on long-range policy issues, such as institutional growth and high-demand hiring, is critical.
The faculty should continue to work toward examining and implementing the ideas initiated in the Curricular Visions process. The faculty should work to strengthen Core, inter-area, and interdisciplinary work generally across the college, and continue work with thematic planning. As a part of this work, strengthening the coordination of coursework and half-time programs with the Olympia undergraduate curriculum is a way to manage the number of course offerings.
Given the increasing size and number of offerings, the college needs to implement a more systematic faculty advising process. This process should support student choice making and be seen as a part of the teaching process, much as evaluations are currently. Provision for initial advising of both freshmen and transfer students should continue to be an important priority for retention and breadth.
Evergreen has made significant advances in the provision of general education. However, the college should continue to find ways to support the availability of opportunities for breadth and use the advising process to help ensure that students consider building a variety of experiences into their program of study.
The college needs to continue to work on fundraising as a critical priority. The probability that state revenue and tuition increases will not be adequate to cover the expenses of the college suggest that fundraising will be a critical revenue stream to support student scholarships, faculty development, and curricular improvement over the coming years.
While there is a need to begin a process to deal with governance issues, the collective bargaining process for the first contract between Evergreen and the United Faculty of Evergreen has not yet been completed. The implications of that contract for governance will need to be a significant part of any future arrangements. Thus, a review of past efforts in redefining governance and identifying issues is in order, but more substantive work should wait until Evergreen has some experience with the new contract.
The Curricular Visions process has been underway since the fall of 2005. It is the first major reconsideration of general curricular issues since the 1995 Long Range Curriculum DTF. Unlike that synoptic approach to curricular restructuring, this approach has been designed to be incremental, but responsive to faculty concerns. The process began by surfacing a wide range of issues through faculty governance groups (interdivisional subsections of the faculty meeting). The central issues that emerged dealt with the role of planning units, reinvigorating inter-divisional work, and finding ways to deal with issues of workload.
Over the summer of 2006, considerable effort was made to define further curricular issues. That fall, the provost and Agenda Committee jointly charged a DTF to review proposals dealing with thematic planning units focused on issues (e.g., Sustainability and Social Justice). In fall 2007, a faculty cohort to work on developing shared curricular ideas for Core programs, and a proposal to determine “fields of study” that would identify and support study in a particular area, were developed and presented to the faculty. A number of other proposals dealing with the academic calendar and upper and lower division studies were left for future consideration. Work on these proposals has been low key, but important, and promises to continue in the summer of 2008. The DTF concluded its recommendations by calling for continued work. “This process of reexamining how to best fulfill our responsibilities as a public interdisciplinary liberal arts college, however, is far from finished. Fundamental issues about how students can gain a whole liberal arts education and how faculty can develop a shared academic life remain. The faculty must continue to work on these questions.” (Interim Report to the Faculty May 2007)
Advising is an issue that will need academic leadership and collaboration with Student Affairs to develop, but there is a reasonably broad sense across the faculty that there is a need to do more work on advising. The major issue here is not disagreement with the need, but questions of workload. Reformulating the question of advising so that it is understood as a piece of the teaching work that substitutes for some piece of regular program work may help to identify a procedure and practice for advising over the coming year.
Issues surrounding general education include continued effort to support teaching through summer work, team planning, and subject matter pedagogy institutes, as well as support for academic tutoring and classroom support services for mathematics and sciences. The deans need to continue and strengthen support for coursework that allows students to acquire prerequisites for work in mathematics and language study.
Fundraising is a critical element of the strategic plan. The work identified in the plan for developing supplemental revenue streams to support student scholarships, faculty development, and curricular improvement is basic to the long term health of Evergreen.