Friday, July 21, 2017 This Week's Paper

What’s Right With Tacoma: Evergreen State College fair offers global, and intensely local

Students at Evergreen State College's Tacoma campus will add a dimension to the notion of a healthy community Saturday, May 17 when they host their annual Spring Fair from 1-4 p.m. They'll present 39 exhibits, all examining health from a different angle, all aimed at sharing their knowledge with the neighbors they consider partners in a world-wise education.

“In some colleges, there's a distinction between town and gown,” said faculty member Peter Bacho, who works with students on presenting the annual event.

Evergreen, plunked into an adapted building at 1210 Sixth Ave., defies that old-school thinking.

“This community gave birth to the institution,” Bacho said. “Dr. Maxine Mimms saw a need, a hunger, that wasn't satisfied. She started this college in her kitchen with the philosophy of an institution being an extension of the community's desires and aspirations. That has not left us.”

It's an academically delightful partnership in which the college has been a change agent in the community, and the community has helped guide the development of the curriculum. It works because students and faculty demand and deliver the skills to spot and remedy the ills they see around them – and likewise build on the strengths. The Spring Fair highlights that brand of practical academics. Launched in 1982, it hits one theme a year and challenges students in all disciplines to build exhibits around the concept.

Among this year's 39 booths, discussions, panels and films, look for “Pierce County's Killing Us. What We Can Do to Help,” “Green Living” and “Garden Brain” from Environmental Health students. Law, history and public policy majors will mount “Vote Your Interest, Not Your Ignorance,” and psychology students will tackle “Cluster Suicides in High Schools,” “Mental Health and Its Connection to Homelessness, Addiction and Incarceration,” and “Strategies for Mental Health Wellness with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Also on the agenda: meth, teeth, food sustainability, diabetes, andropause, asthma, domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences, human trafficking, venereal diseases, access to health care and getting kids off the computer and outside to play are all on the agenda.

Tough as some of those topics are, students have made them accessible, and accompanied a good many of them with resource materials. The idea, after all, is to share the knowledge with the community, said student coordinators Julia Brown and Rachel Murray-Hearn.

“It's a chance to give back to the community,” Brown said.

“It's presenting a doable act,” Murray-Hearn added. “We want to take what we've learned and share it.”

And, she said, they want to invite fairgoers to taste the energy, kindness and excitement they feel at Evergreen. “We are vibrant,” she said. “A life force.”

At 53 and 55 respectively, Murray-Hearn and Brown are proud to be part of a student body rich in every kind of diversity. They came with life experience and a service ethic that Mimms, the college's founding force, impresses on students with every visit.

“It's huge in the cultural explosion that goes on here,” Murray-Hearn said. “It changes people, and you get to watch.”

Prejudices fall in conversations where participants hold accountability as a primary value. Fears wither in an atmosphere that values collaboration over competition. Apathy dissolves when strengthened by the power of an Evergreen education.

All of that, they said, and the unique Tacoma flavor of their education will be on display behind the posters, exhibits and participation challenges from 1-4 p.m. Saturday.