What is an Evergreen Education Worth?
The Student and Alumni Perspective
BY SERENA IMANI KORN and AMANDA FRANK
The value of an Evergreen education rates differently on different scales. Some rank it as being worth more than you can study, and others say it’s a terrible return on investment. But Evergreen is such a unique educational institution that it can’t really be compared to other institutions. What most rating systems lack is the student perspective. Someone at Forbes might think it’s not worth the same as a Harvard law degree, but do students think their education is worth something? Do students think their education is worth something outside the community? When students enter the “real world,” will they feel confident in their education?
Over the last few weeks, we set out to find the voice of the people: What do you think an Evergreen education means outside the community?
Randy Engstrom is a 1999 Evergreen graduate who spoke on an alumni panel, also during the all-campus mentoring day. Engstrom currently works as the director of the arts and culture office for the mayor of Seattle.
“I think our dominate education model in this country was built during World War II to basically create factory workers. So, you take in information and then you regurgitate it and you learn how to exist in a command and control structure,” he said. “What I think is interesting about Evergreen is that by being integrated, by being experiential, by having the opportunity to design your own curriculum, it gives you so much more capacity to think critically, and I think that is a much more valuable skill in a 21st Century economy.”
Fian Grunwald is graduating in three weeks.
“I think that on a personal level, what makes Evergreen stronger is that you create a discovery of how to integrate the community that’s developed here with outside communities,” Grunwald said. “On an educational level, personally, I feel like a lot of my education I’m choosing to take with me. I see many ways in which if you were trying to go more traditionally forward—I’m not—that Evergreen would give you this very mixed response.”
Meski Johnson is also graduating.
“I think for me as a person of color, it’s really important to have that in our community because it’s not an institution that was created for us,” she said. “So, to achieve that, and to rise above all those odds in education, is really powerful and I feel good that I made it.”
Blaise Lamb is a junior.
“It’s definitely opened me up in a lot of different ways, and, I guess, even if I never get a job outside of this because of this, I’d still say it’s important.”
As students graduate and move on to various endeavors, there are at least two things most Greeners are better at doing than others: thinking critically and learning how to learn. Greeners can always argue that, with their Evergreen degree, they are able to think critically and consider all perspectives. By learning how to learn, Greeners can easily take new information and learn quickly. Greeners are independent and collaborative. We know how to learn on our own and take charge of our work. We know how to work with others and how we can change to be better for society.