Greener Scientists: Vinson Doyle ’04

Vinson Doyle ’04 recalls exactly when he realized he was going to be a Mycologist. Until winter 2004, just two quarters before graduation, Doyle had studied Botany and Organic Chemistry, but Fungal Kingdom was the “class that changed my life”. Doyle went on to earn a Ph.D at the City University of New York (CUNY) in 2012, and is already on a tenure track at Louisiana State University as an Assistant Professor of Mycology with a research emphasis on the biodiversity of fungi. Continue reading

Taylor Rose Nations ’12: Greener on Mars?

Taylor Rose Nations '12

Taylor Rose Nations ’12

Taylor Rose Nations ’12 is one of 663 finalists in consideration to colonize Mars. The search, which began in 2013, started with over 200,000 applicants. The mission, which aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars, is called Mars One. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024. Continue reading

Evergreen Students Take Eighth Place in National Cyber Security Competition

Last weekend, a team of four computer science students from The Evergreen State College traveled to New York, where they participated in the annual Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) at New York University’s (NYU) Polytechnic School of Engineering. The team, GNU E-Ducks, named for the Evergreen mascot, the Geoduck, and the GNU open source software movement, became Top-15 finalists in a pool of 300 college teams. The top 15 teams met in Brooklyn Thursday, November 13 through Saturday, November 15, and solved numerous cyber security puzzles, from reverse engineering to cryptography, in a game of virtual “Capture the Flag.” The Evergreen team took eighth place in the national competition, dubbed the world’s biggest student cyber security contest. Continue reading

Greener Scientists: Mike Hickerson ’93

Mike Hickerson spoke with me on the phone from his lab in New York on September 10th. This is the first installment in a series called Greener Scientists.


Mike Hickerson

Mike Hickerson

Mike Hickerson ’93 didn’t always want to be a scientist.
At various points in his life, he’s wanted to be a hobo (many of us can relate) or a sustainable designer. After delivering pizzas and living out of his station wagon, he jumped into the only interesting program he could get into as a new Evergreen student, Great Books, and studied classic works of Western Civilization before taking the plunge into Molecule to Organism and Individual Learning Contacts (ILCs) with Steve Herman and Betty Kutter. While he recalls many of his classmates wanted to become doctors, he was motivated “less by fixing what didn’t work and more by wanting to know how things did work.” Continue reading

Todd Slind ’92: Global Entrepreneur

Todd SlindTodd Slind ’92 is a Northwestern family man.  He has been sighted taxiing his children around Ballard on his bicycle/pedi-cab and loves sailing and snowboarding in his spare time. But when Todd discovered that a friend and colleague from Trinidad had been killed last fall in the Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Nairobi, he related, “I’d always identified myself as someone from the Northwest, a native and very rooted here, but I realize that I feel like a global community member since I got that news.”

Although he treasures his time at home and is an active member of his local community, Todd spends a lot of time traveling the world for SpatialDev, his geospatial analysis business. From Seattle to India, Todd has developed apps and programs that help governments, organizations and people.  At Evergreen, Todd says that he learned to be a self-directed social problem solver and how to focus on details while keeping the big picture in context.  In his work, he often uses and expands on these skills.  For example, a mobile app he helped develop provides information on local invasive species while one of his programs provides web mapping of continuously updated agricultural survey information on farmers in India.

During Todd’s recent trip to Burkina Faso, a west-central African country with a large rural population, he had another awakening.  With the mindset of a western man from a “developed” country, he was expecting to discover a depressed and impoverished population hungry for commercial development.  Instead, he found a largely rural population that appears to be satisfied with the sustenance they provide for themselves and the little luxuries gained from sales of their modest harvests.  He was also impressed by their adoption of International Women’s Day as a national holiday.  From his original skepticism, Todd has become a Burkina Faso fan.

Evergreen is well represented by this smart and flexible global-community Northwest native alumnus.

CommitChange Aims to Transform Non-Profit Fundraising

Roderick Campbell and Jay Bolton

Jay Bolton (left) and Roderick Campbell (right)

Roderick Campbell ’10 and Jay Bolton ’11 never crossed paths while at Evergreen, but with more than $700,000 in seed investment from the likes of Mark Cuban and Tim Draper, this odd couple has taken internet startup CommitChange to the Major Leagues of Silicon Valley.

Roderick described the way he came to partner with Jay as an “arranged marriage” by Merchant OS, now a part of LightSpeed Retail.  Merchant OS was a client of Roderick’s small web development business, which helped Campbell pay for school. Fatefully, Jay was an intern with the company at the same time. To this day, Roderick and Jay still remember the offer of a year’s salary to do whatever they wanted, as long as it was with each other, as the most bizarre offer they’ve ever received. But that’s when the seed of CommitChange was born.

While Roderick and Jay are business partners now, they took vastly different paths to where they are today. Roderick was a theatre student at Evergreen, studying with faculty like Sean Williams, a big influence for Roderick. While a student, Roderick was the Assistant Director of local theatre fixture Harlequin Productions. Roderick took advantage of travel opportunities while he had them, traveling to 32 countries, and spending two to three months abroad every year since high school.

Meanwhile, Roderick describes Jay as “the smartest guy he’s ever met,” even in the one of the world’s leading hubs for high tech innovation and development. Jay studied computer science at Evergreen, and Roderick described him as a person who can “learn a new computer programming language in a weekend; someone who can build anything.”

When they started working together, under contract with the booming Merchant OS, they keyed in on an app which allowed consumers to pay rent online. Several months into their work, they had something of an ‘aha’ moment and went back to the drawing board. Their goal: a billion dollar company that could help a billion people. Otherwise, they might as well work for Google, Campbell conceded.

They came up with an idea for supporting non-profit philanthropy efforts. The reason: Roderick estimates that over 2 billion people on the planet are directly impacted by non-profits. When they performed an environmental scan of the products and services available for non-profit development, Campbell described an industry stuck using old technology and widespread lack of innovation. With the fees companies levy on non-profits for online fundraising, Roderick discovered it is often less efficient than using direct mail! CommitChange aspires to develop a product for non-profit philanthropy in the way that Linkedin is the product for professional networking. With the right technology and product at the right price, they believe non-profits will move more of their fundraising efforts online.

While Roderick and Jay are far from where they were when they first started CommitChange on the top floor of the Evergreen Plaza Building in downtown Olympia, Roderick insists Evergreen is “the most underrated school in the country” and is hopeful to hire Evergreen students as his company grows in the years ahead. Roderick Campbell and Jay Bolton are definitely two young alumni worth watching for.

Read more about Roderick and Jay in The Olympian, linked here.

“Terry Oliver ’73: Saving the World One Kilowatt Hour at a Time”

Photo Credit- BPA

Photo Credit- BPA

Winning the “Oscars of Bonneville Power Administration (BPA),” officially known as the Administrator’s Excellence Awards Program, is a big deal at the Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit federal agency. BPA is in the energy marketing business, and Terry Oliver ’73 has been leading and directing research and development there for decades. Receiving the Administrator’s Meritorious Service Award is an acknowledgment of a career built on Oliver’s mantra: “Saving the world one kilowatt hour at a time.”

After trying everything from grassroots organizing with the now-defunct Citizens for Solar Washington to land-use planning and even working in a Minute-Mart, Terry Oliver has worked for BPA since 1981. He also took “maybe the world’s longest period of leave without pay” from BPA (from 1992 to 2000), during which he served as the Managing Director of the International Institute for Energy Conservation in Bangkok, Thailand, and worked on sustainable energy issues in the Middle East, South Africa, and throughout Asia.

Oliver studied International Relations at Evergreen, a school he chose as a community college transfer student because of its coordinated studies, and he heard it was a place to “combine things into interesting puzzles.” Evergreen was where he “learned how to learn,” which Oliver calls “the key theme” of his career. Of his “leave-without-pay” experience, Oliver recounts that he “picked up some of what I learned from a U.S. context and something from Evergreen… [getting] to recombine things in an interesting way.” When he started at BPA, managing programs like the Hood River Conservation Project was only going to be a three-year job. But with groundbreaking success on a global scale, even when Oliver returned from leave, coming back to work at BPA “was like putting a familiar shoe right back on. It was a good fit.”

In 2005, completing the circle, Terry Oliver was named BPA’s first Chief Technology Innovation Officer, responsible for energizing, focusing, and managing BPA’s research portfolio. Since then, he has restarted the BPA’s R&D program and created a publicly articulated research agenda, shifting its philosophy to “Copy people like Apple or Boeing who do R&D, not because it’s a hobby, but because it’s vital to their business.” When asked if he’s figured out the formula for success, Oliver laughs, replying, “That’s what they finally wrote up the award for!”

With such honors as this award and being named a Fellow by the Portland International Center of the Management of Engineering and Technology, Terry Oliver is able to confidently say his work “has actually delivered value to BPA.” In the R&D world, that is “a really big deal.”

Spring Lecture Series Draws Notable Alumni in Tech World

The annual spring PLATO Lecture Series, which highlights innovation in computing and technology, owes its origin to the work of John Aikin and Evergreen Students in the early 1980s. One of those students, Greg Starling ’78, went on to form Starling Consulting Inc., a technology consulting firm in Olympia. Aikin endowed royalties from the computer aided instruction (CAI) courses developed by himself and his students around 1985 to fund the PLATO Lecture Series and PLATO Technology Grants in perpetuity.

Disney Pixar Monsters University

Disney Pixar Monsters University

Also called the Cutting Edge Symposium, the lecture series is coordinated by different faculty members every year. This year’s theme is “Greeners on the Cutting Edge,” featuring an extraordinary cast of Evergreen alumni involved with interesting and innovative technology research and development. Organized by faculty members Judy Cushing, Richard Weiss, Paul Pham, Rik Smoody, Sheryl Shulman, and Neal Nelson, the planning for this spring’s lecture series started over a year ago. Judy Cushing, currently offering “Student Originated Software” and “Undergraduate Research in Scientific Inquiry”, remarked that “people don’t think of Evergreen as a hot spot for technological innovation,” and that with this year’s alumni panel “we are hoping to change that perception”.

With a small annual budget to work with, panelists traditionally don’t receive an honorarium and often the speakers or their companies pay for travel. In addition, this year’s speakers aren’t coming to Evergreen’s Olympia campus simply to give a lecture; they provide reading for students in partnering academic programs and visiting their classrooms to participate in seminar or give a talk. After their lectures, many of this year’s speakers will stay on campus to work with students. Dylan Sisson ’94 from Pixar worked with students in the CCAM (Center for Creative and Applied Media) after his lecture on April 14. Select students have also had the opportunity to join the speakers and organizing faculty members for dinner after each lecture.

Notable speakers for the rest of the 2014 lecture series include Moishe Lettvin ‘03, an engineering manager at Etsy, and Lynda Weinman ‘76, Co-Founder and Executive Chair of

More information on the lecture series, speakers, and abstract materials can be found on Evergreen Lecture’s Blog.

Evergreen Provost Champions Liberal Arts Education

Zimmerman Michael-photo

Evergreen Provost Michael Zimmerman

Note: Provost Michael Zimmerman and Arts Advisor Pablo Schugurensky ’84 will facilitate an Evergreen Traveling Seminar in Seattle on March 14, titled Pushing Back Against the “STEM” Tide: The Value of A Liberal Arts Education. If you are in area and wish to attend, reserve your seats soon. Participation is limited to 25.  

‘Long before Michael Zimmerman joined Evergreen as Provost, he was a nationally respected voice in the often strident conversation about the value of a liberal arts education in an increasingly technology-driven world. Michael chairs the Washington Consortium for the Liberal Arts, a role that allows him to champion the restructuring of the conversation from the oppositional – liberal arts versus STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) – to a nuanced discussion of curricular balance on a continuum of knowledge. It starts with a respectful insistence on accurate definitions. Continue reading

Luke Bradford ’02 – Making His Mark on the Washington Wine Scene


Luke Bradford, ’02, owner of Cor Cellars winery in south-central Washington.

Luke Bradford, ’02, owner of Cor Cellars winery in south-central Washington.

Nestled in south-central Washington near the Oregon border, Cor Cellars winery, owned by Luke Bradford ’02, has been named Winery of the Year by the’s  “Blue Collar Wine Guy.”

The writer traces Luke’s story from his early years growing up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, to his high school years in Park City, Utah, then to Evergreen. Mid-way through his college career, Luke traveled to Italy where he fell in love with wine and viticulture. His final years at Evergreen focused on chemistry and business, preparing him for his career as a maker of outstanding wines. Read the full article at