Betsy Diffendal Oral History Interview


Betsy Diffendal Oral History Interview
5 August 2020
Betsy Diffendal
Anthony Zaragoza
extracted text
Elizabeth (Betsy) Diffendal
Interviewed by Anthony Zaragoza
The Evergreen State College oral history project
August 5, 2020
Edited by Diffendal, February 21, 2021
Zaragoza: I’m here with Betsy Diffendal on August 5, 2020. We’re here to do an oral history narrative
for the Oral History Project of Evergreen. Betsy, maybe you just want to start by telling us about your
early life—where you were born, what your early life was like.
Diffendal: I am now 77, so my early life seems long ago! I was born in 1943 in Dayton, Ohio. That was
in the middle of World War II. My father, Robert, who was a journalist, ceramic artist and photographer,
was a Photographer’s Mate in the Navy in the South Pacific when I
was born. My mother, Virginia, was an advertising copywriter, who
became the Fashion Advertising Manager, in a Dayton department
store where she worked with many artists who were my “aunts” as I
grew up. Both of my parents were born and raised in small Ohio
towns, both were only children, and both were college graduates
who loved to read and enjoy the outdoors. I was their only child,
born when they were 36 years old.
My Dad came home from the South
Pacific in 1945 when the war was over. He
had made me a book of his photos and a
story about the children of Guam, where he
had been stationed. Dad had blown up an
image of large cane toad that he named Bufo
(from its species name Bufo marinus), who
was leading us on the tour of the island and
telling the story of the lives of the children of Guam.
That book is such a powerful early memory for me. He’d written a story along the bottom of each page,
expressing his hope that I, as his daughter, would grow up as loving and caring as the children of Guam.

That early experience and my Dad’s lifelong interest in human cultures and the arts influenced me and
piqued my interest in the human species in all its diversity.
As a young man, just out of college, he
went to Texas to work with horses on a small
ranch. He got caught in a snow storm riding a
horse near Taos Pueblo in eastern New Mexico
and was rescued by two men from the Pueblo
with whom he developed a strong lifetime
friendship. Tony Mirabal and Tony Lujan stayed
with him and my grandparents in Dayton on
their way to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington D.C. in the 1930’s.
When I think back on my upbringing in terms of the cultural and racial diversity that I have so enjoyed in
my adult life, my childhood didn’t involve much direct experience with that diversity, but my parents
were always very interested in the larger world. For a few years Dad taught sculpture and ceramics at
the Dayton Art Institute. A memory that I have from that early period was going to a film called King
Solomon’s Mines with him in which the Watusi warriors in Africa were filmed doing their beautiful
athletic dances. My Dad loved their dance, their movements, their physicality, because he did a lot of
sculptures of the human body. My family’s respect for and interest in diverse cultures was a major
influence on my own world view and my career in cultural anthropology.
I grew up in a stable, white, middle class neighborhood in Dayton. My paternal grandparents
also lived in Dayton and I often spent time with them. My maternal grandparents died when I was fairly
young and I knew them less well. I went to local public schools from kindergarten through high school neighborhood schools with almost no racial diversity, a reflection of the housing segregation at the time.
In addition to Christian churches in the neighborhood there were two nearby synagogues with a large
Jewish community from whom I learned a lot about Judaism and the impacts of the Holocaust. My
parents were raised in the Methodist Church but were not active as adults. However, many of my
friends and I went to a local Methodist Church with an active youth program and choir which I joined in
high school. Because both of my parents worked, we had a live-in housekeeper who was a widow, a
Catholic woman who explained to me about the Saints and Holy Days in the Catholic Church and cooked
us fish on Fridays. Mrs. Seitz was a very calm and kind woman who had two grown daughters with
families in town. I loved her like my own grandmother.

A few years after WWII, and as a result of his war experience, my very creative and sensitive dad
began to drink heavily, lost his job and stayed at home. At the same time my mother’s mother
developed dementia and moved in with us. My optimistic, hard-working, creative and loving mother
and Mrs. Seitz were the calm and stable influences who kept me feeling secure even when my dad died
when I was 14 from lungs damaged during the war, made worse by smoking and alcohol.
I grew up in the 1950’s and had lots of neighborhood playmates. We rode our bikes, did all
kinds of outdoor play, wrote and put on plays in the driveway, read comic books and Nancy Drew
mysteries, belonged to Brownies and Girl Scouts, went to summer camp and loved going to school. We
were in the generation and neighborhood where our parents didn’t worry about our safety, so we would
hang out till dark and play. I collected insects, rocks, fossils and Indian arrowheads from a nearby stone
quarry. Once a year we would take a family vacation for a week or two, driving to the Smoky Mountains
or to a beautiful state park where we stayed in a cabin and hiked the hills. I chose to take accordion
lessons when I was about 10, with mixed results! I got to see Elvis Presley in person at a concert in
Cincinnati, Ohio, where my best friend nearly fainted from excitement. In the 7thgrade we all took
ballroom dancing lessons at the local Botts Dancing School, and I dated and went to dances throughout
high school. So, I would say I had a very exploratory, happy childhood and adolescence, despite the loss
of my father.
When it was time for me to go to college in the fall of 1961, I initially thought that I wanted to
prepare to be a doctor. I went to Ohio State University for a year because my friends were going there
and it was affordable. I took required courses and joined a sorority, which I didn’t know much about
since my mother had gone to Antioch College which had no such Greek clubs. As it turned out, I was
elected the president of my pledge class. As a part of the role of president, the members shared with
me the history of the sorority and the group’s criteria for accepting new members. People whose
mothers had been in the sorority were preferred. There was also a preference for members with high
GPA’s and they did not recruit any students of color nor Jewish students. I decided before I finished the
pledge training that didn’t want to belong to that kind of “exclusive” organization. After two quarters I
dropped out of Ohio State and started to think over what I wanted to do. By this time - it was mid-1962civil rights issues were coming to the fore and engaged my thinking.
My mother had gone to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She talked to me about the
difference that that college had made in her development because of its learning options e.g. students
were required to have six-month internships each year located in various cities around the country, and
the college offered broad liberal arts courses with an emphasis on social justice and community building.

I enrolled at Antioch in the fall of 1962. It was a wonderful choice, especially the internships, because I
tend to be a person who learns more from experience than through reading about something. My own
experience at non-traditional Antioch College made the new Evergreen State College a very appealing
employment choice for me later in my life.
Antioch had a “co-operative education” program, like Evergreen, although every one of
Antioch’s internships was paid. Had this not been the case, I could not have afforded to move for six
months to a new community and rent an apartment there. My first internship was at Filene’s
Department Store in Boston when I was 19. I lived in Cambridge not far from Harvard, with two other
Antiochians. The period I was in Boston was the time that President John F. Kennedy was killed. There
were pictures in all the downtown department store windows of Rose Kennedy, her family and of
President Kennedy. This event, which was played and replayed on television, made me much more
attentive to national politics. While I was living in Cambridge, I briefly dated a Harvard student from
Scotland whose father bought him a sailboat sales company to operate on the coast of Maine as
something to keep him busy while in college! He would drive to the coast on the weekends in his Austin
Healey with a wine-rack in its trunk filled with bottles of Chivas Regal. The class differences that were so
evident in Harvard’s student body were a startling discovery for me. I had never had experience with
the global economic “upper class” in such a direct and personal way. I felt viscerally uncomfortable
seeing young people my age with such privilege and sense of entitlement. At Thanksgiving, my Antioch
roommate invited a Harvard student she was dating to dinner with us. He was from a “main line
Philadelphia” family and was completing his degree in business so he could take over the family
company in South Africa. I was aware of my own good fortune, since my parents were well educated
and able to support our family. However, the level of privilege I encountered with Harvard students was
a confusing new experience for me. It was emotionally powerful in terms of shaping my thinking about
the lack of equity in the US and the ideas of Dr. King.
My second internship was at the University of Chicago Library on the South Side of the city. I
lived in a duplex on the Near North Side with a friend from Dayton working in Chicago. The South Side,
where the University was, was a predominantly African-American community, as it is today. On that
internship, too, I learned so much. As I rode the EL every day to and from the campus and walked the
neighborhood I saw parts of Chicago’s large Black community, including the high-rise public housing that
was plagued with gang violence in the 1960’s. I also noticed the separation between the community
and the world class University that was located there. Many foreign students were engaged in graduate


work there, yet I saw very few African American students on campus, despite the proximity of that large
I also remember a different, but related, experience that my sociology professor at Antioch gave
us. We were studying the U.S. census and how it was done. He took our whole class to Dayton, which
was where I grew up, but he took us to the African American community in Dayton. We were supposed
to be using the criteria that Federal decennial census takers use to identify “deteriorated and
dilapidated housing”. We walked the streets and looked at the census rules for assessing the state of
housing. I was really startled, knowing that I’d grown up in that city and had seen so little of the
physically segregated, low-income neighborhoods where Black people were living. The fact that it was
my hometown made it particularly salient. Years later I found a newspaper article in which I’d been
interviewed by the Dayton Daily News when I was in high school. I was a part of the Junior Council on
World Affairs, and someone interviewed me about housing segregation. “Red lining” had become a city
issue in Dayton when I was in high school. My response in the newspaper article was great surprise. I
had no idea that it was going on, and I thought, later when I found the article, that I had been pretty
naïve for a person who thought of themselves as a good student with broad interests. However, I hadn’t
been given any experience nor information in school that would have helped shape my understanding of
discrimination and structural inequality after the time of slavery. When I got to Antioch, those field
experiences and subsequent conversations made me value experiential learning and other hands-on
community-based assignments. They gave reading books and talking about them much more meaning.
Creating such opportunities for experiential learning and honestly exploring the cultural and class issues
in American life is what I carried through in my teaching at Evergreen.
I remember a cassette tape of a sociologist's lecture that I played for a class that I was teaching
many years later. It was titled, “Who You Are Is Where You Were When.” When I look back on my early
life, that is so evident. I was a white girl with socially liberal college educated parents who grew up
secure and confident in a modest middle-class home in a mid-sized Ohio town during the 1950’s. I
entered college as the Civil Rights Movement and the cultural revolution of the 1960’s were evolving.
When I left home I was fortunate to experience other American realities throughout college, including
my internships in Boston and Chicago, pledging a sorority, and having college faculty who created
experiences that expanded my world view and my understanding of my own privilege in America at that
time. My family background, my education and the historical times that I lived through as I was
choosing a life path, clearly shaped my perceptions, interests, understanding and actions. My
experiences in those years shaped how I came to see the world, what values were reinforced, my

awareness of American structural inequality, and my overall commitment to social justice and to
Zaragoza: Were there other classes or educators or educational practices that influenced you, or
influenced what you would go on to do in the classroom?
Diffendal: Those two teaching strategies stand out as the strongest influences on my own teaching
practices– internships and projects involving field work of some kind...experiential learning…followed by
an opportunity to debrief those experiences in a thoughtful way, preferably in a small group. My time at
Antioch was a powerful influence on my thinking about educational practices. I went there for two
years before I returned to Ohio State. We didn’t have a lot of money, so I couldn’t stay at Antioch for
the full five years. But I would say that the importance of experiential learning, the internships that I
had while I was a student there, were most influential. Going to Boston at 19, having to find an
apartment, learning how to get around town, then starting a job and getting to know people from
Harvard, from the neighborhoods of Boston, the East Coast was a real learning experience. Then I went
back to campus to study and to debrief with other students before I went out again to an internship in
Chicago, another big city to navigate and explore.
I recognized the power of having those experiences when I was young. Later at Evergreen I was
very supportive of internships for students and tried to create projects that involved students going into
the field to do research. Particularly in the early years of Evergreen, it was interesting because a lot of
the male faculty who had come to the college initially were more traditional academics and were
loading on piles of books. We would have friendly arguments about how many pages a week they
imagined a student would read! The ways that my background impacted what I brought to that
conversation was my emphasis on thinking of projects that would get students into the field, talking to
people, interviewing people, trying out their interpersonal skills in a context that may or may not have
been familiar or comfortable for them.
There were other college experiences that influenced my thinking about higher education. In
one of my classes at Ohio State, Psychological Anthropology, the female faculty approached me. “I have
a grant that needs staffing. I wonder if you would like to do some part-time work?” I was delighted
because it was an interesting project and I could use the money. I began to work in this little group of
primarily graduate students in Anthropology. There was one other undergraduate invited to do this
graduate level work and that was Lynn Patterson (aka Llyn DeDanaan). Lynn and I met when we were
20 years old at Ohio State. She was from near Dayton and had just returned from the first two years of
the Peace Corps, assigned to a village in British Borneo, now part of Malaysia. A decade later after

graduate school in Cultural Anthropology, Lynn joined Evergreen’s faculty in the college’s first year. So
now we’ve known each other for nearly 60 years, first as fellow students, then as professional
colleagues at Evergreen and as good friends and world travelers. We were two of the six
anthropologists hired as faculty at Evergreen in the first five years - Eric Larson, Mark Papworth, Peta
Henderson, Ida Daum, Lynn Patterson and me.
Lynn and I both worked on the Ohio State grant project in 1964. The topic was “Trance and
Spirit Possession in World Cultures.” One student was translating from the Russian about the trance
practices of shaman in Siberia and another was studying manuscripts on spirit possession in Haiti, Lynn
was reading SE Asian ethnographic material and I was reading African ethnographic studies. The team
shared findings in frequent meetings, so I had a really interesting, broad look at a range of ways that
humans experience the unknown and explain it.
That grant project got me very interested in the broad field of cultural anthropology. I recognized
the value of an undergraduate experience working on faculty research projects as a way of exploring the
potential applications of a field of study in the real world. This practice was introduced early at
Evergreen by Betty Kutter in the biological sciences. Luckily, there were a lot of anthropology and
related courses offered at Ohio State including classes in cultural geography, Ancient Middle Eastern
History and Culture, Ancient Egyptian Arts and Sciences.
Zaragoza: Betsy, I’m thinking of the story that you told about Dayton, and I’m thinking about the
geographic, the structural, the conceptual, the ideological barriers that lead us to what you called
naivete, which is, in some ways, a kind of manufactured ignorance.
Diffendal: I have come to think of “manufactured ignorance” as the oblivion of being in a majority
group. When you’re in any cultural majority, there is often an oblivion to the impact of the dominant
cultural values, traditions, histories, behavioral expectations and related implicit biases on others
outside your group. There is an oblivion to the experiences of those who are different from you.
Because you are not impeded by others...are privileged to be able to carry out your daily life and reap
social and economic benefits according to the mores of your dominant culture don’t need to
know about others’ experiences for your own survival nor do you have reason to imagine the structural
barriers that the dominant group imposes on others. When your formal education or experiences
growing up also don’t include exposure to the value of different cultural practices and to an awareness
of existing inequities in the dominant culture, it is easy to carry that majority world view into adulthood.


Zaragoza: I’m also struck by the role that education can play in overcoming those barriers, that oblivion.
I was just curious if you wanted to comment—while we’re in that area—on the role that education can
play in a multiracial society.
Diffendal: Absolutely. I look at the situation now, in 2020, with the white supremacy movement and
the seemingly non-negotiable societal splits over immigration, social safety nets, structural inequalities
in our society. After sixty years, since the 1960’s, we again have a movement, BLACK LIVES MATTER,
that focuses on the structural barriers and the racism still oppressing people of color in America. I think
that education can provide powerful experiences, both in the classroom - especially in diverse
classrooms with skilled faculty and students from diverse backgrounds - and with experiential
assignments that put students in situations that they may not have encountered before in a way that
can be talked about, can be useful, can be experienced and felt.
The question of what effective multicultural education is has been very powerful across my own
teaching life. In the 33 years that I taught at Evergreen I taught almost exclusively in culturally and
racially diverse faculty teams with racially diverse enrolled students. I taught in Native American
Studies, the Tacoma Program, on a faculty exchange at the University of Hawaii in Hilo with Hawaiian
Studies faculty, and eventually, in the Master in Teaching (MIT) program where we were preparing
teachers to go into diverse classrooms. As well, I was able to join Ratna Roy and other faculty on a
Summer Fulbright Grant to India where we met with women in Indian higher education institutions.
Many white women and fewer white men are still going into K-12 teaching, and relatively fewer
students of color are choosing to become teachers despite the country’s increasing cultural diversity.
The result is teachers who may not have had meaningful cross-cultural experiences themselves nor an
understanding of their culturally diverse students’ lives. This issue is reflected in such books as, You
Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know and Culturally Responsive Teaching. Evergreen’s MIT Program
worked very hard to recruit students of color, during a time when other occupations such as law and
computer science became appealing options for students of color who were graduate school bound. It
was very hard to recruit students of color into the MIT program. Of course, major issues, such as the
need to work full time, children and the expense of childcare, and the expense of both college and
graduate school, continue to prevent many women and men of color from attending college.
The impact of faculty of color and women during the early years of Evergreen was the subject of
my PhD project, which I completed in the 1986 while I was teaching. My dissertation title was,
Significant Differences: An Ethnographic Study of Women and Minority Faculty in the Development of an
Innovative Liberal Arts College. My question was, “What difference did it make, during the first five

years of Evergreen, that there were more women and faculty of color hired than there were in most
universities at that time?” I wanted to understand their influence on Evergreen’s curricular emphases
and student recruitment, as well as the difference that faculty and staff of color made on students’
experiences in those early years. Among the differences that Evergreen graduates noted from their
experiences with diverse faculty teams was an awareness, often for the first time, of the untold histories
of Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants and women in America. Also, for many, it was the
first time in their education that they had the perspective of a person of color who was their teacher.
Yes, I do think education is central to creating and sustaining a pluralistic democracy, and I think
that because of continuing neighborhood segregation, geographic isolation, and economic and cultural
separation in this country, what goes on in public and private schools and the universities is absolutely
critical to creating empathy and understanding and working toward structural changes that create an
equal footing for everyone.
I would say that my own education spoke to that, all the way along. For me experiential
learning opportunities were most powerful for my learning as a young person. When you’re young you
don’t have a large bank of experience, and informal experiential opportunities in communities or with
persons from unfamiliar backgrounds give you something that you can’t get by reading books only. If
you’ve never had to interact in settings where you are in the minority, where you are the listener, where
you have to think “let me understand what’s happening here” and how are these points of view
different from what I’m used to hearing, I don’t think you can really “get it”.
Zaragoza: Much appreciated. So, you go to Ohio State, Antioch, and then Ohio State. Where do you go
after Ohio State?
Diffendal: I wasn’t quite ready to move on, so I thought, I’d better get a job because I didn’t have my
part-time student jobs anymore. I was living in Columbus, Ohio, and I applied to the Franklin County
Welfare Department. I got a job as a Caseworker 1, a beginning caseworker. I was 21, white, right out
of college, and I was given a caseload of 70 primarily African American women and children receiving Aid
for Dependent Children, with a few older men who were on Aid for the Disabled.
This was another important experiential learning period for me because I had only my notebook
and my job was to go out to each home in my caseload and have a conversation with the clients. There
was nothing I could do for them beyond the small check that they were getting. I was just supposed to
check on them to see how they were doing.
My role was very ambiguous. I had an older African American woman supervisor, Gladys Mack,
who was firm about my responsibility. She told me I needed to go out to each one of my clients

regularly and assess how things were going. I didn’t know what I was assessing for, I have to confess,
and there was no training offered. As I think back, I had one young African American woman who had
four children, all under the age 10. She lived in a very small apartment and was getting a small public
assistance check. As I began to look at her situation and the other families in this caseload, I finally
decided that the best thing I could do was to let them know when I was coming and tell them I would
babysit for them if they needed to go out and do something, because I could not imagine living in that
apartment with four children under the age of 10, and having no way to get some time to myself.
Zaragoza: You did an assessment and granted those needs in an expert way! [laughter]
Diffendal: Childcare was the only thing useful that I could possibly do.
Zaragoza: You thought, I don’t have anything else to give but I can give time.
Diffendal: Yes, that’s it. I didn’t have much to give, and I didn’t know what to do with my notebook, but
I thought, okay, I can do this. So, I looked at my caseload and tried to identify a useful thing or two that I
might be able to do. There were many women with young children, so I did a lot of short-term
Then I got to my Aid for the Disabled clients, and these were primarily older men who didn’t
have anybody to talk to. There was a man who had his wife’s ashes in a jar on the mantel. Each time he
would talk to me about his wife. He had not moved a doily on any of the chair arms nor had he changed
a curtain since his wife died. He was at home, disabled and he didn’t have anyone to talk to. So, for the
Aid for the Disabled, I decided the best thing I could do was to listen. I listened, and asked questions,
and let them tell me about their lives.
Then there were some fellows who simply were bored, so I played gin rummy with them. They
would know when I was coming, and we would play a few hands of gin rummy and I’d check to be sure
that everything was okay.
Zaragoza: Was there money involved?
Diffendal: No money involved. Neither of us had any money, so it was not even a question at that
point. [laughing] There was no money involved, but we did have a good time playing gin rummy.
After about a year I realized that there was something wrong with this whole system. Nobody
was giving the clients, especially the young mothers, any way to change their circumstance. This would
have been late 1964-65. This was before LBJ’s War on Poverty really got off the ground. There were no
programs sending single mothers to college or giving them opportunities for employment with some
childcare support. I thought, this was not okay. I was not going to be complicit. If I was going to do
work like this, I needed to change the system, or help change the system, not just go babysitting.

I recall another event when one of my client’s apartment heat had been off for a couple of very
cold days and her young children, who had snuggled up to sleep with her, had soaked the mattress
overnight. When I got to her freezing apartment for my visit on a Friday afternoon, I learned that she
had no other family in town and no money to stay elsewhere. I called some of the non-profit charities
to see if I could get some clothes for the children, who had soaked theirs, and some emergency shelter.
None that I reached were able to help on a Friday afternoon as they were closing for the weekend. So, I
decided to phone another nearby client in my caseload who was a very mature young woman, with an
extra bedroom, to see if this family could spend the weekend with her until other services and the heat
in her apartment were available. She agreed and I drove the family to her home then I went to the local
thrift shop and bought some clothes for the kids. When I got back to the office and told my Supervisor
she warned me that what I did was completely inappropriate and if I did such a thing again, asking
another client for help or buying things with my own money, it would be grounds for termination. I was
shocked. I could not have left that family in the situation and I would not have cared if she had fired me
for the offense.
Years later I found a resignation letter I had written to the head of the Franklin County Welfare
Dept. I described the experience that I’d had; gave my critique of a program that was just giving a small
monthly check to young women with children and no other opportunities or support. I said that I’d
decided to go to graduate school, because I realized I needed more education to figure out how to have
an impact on the whole system. I ended with, “Doing this job is not something that I can justify.”
Meanwhile, I was applying to various graduate schools. This was the time of the NDEA—
National Defense Education Act—scholarships for people who wanted to go to graduate school in areas
relating to cultural studies and languages. Fortunately I got a full scholarship to go to UCLA, which had
the largest anthropology department in the country. At the same time, my friend, Lynn Patterson (aka
LLyn DeDanaan), had applied and was going to the University of Washington in the Department of
Anthropology. So, we drove across the country together – I went to Los Angeles and she went to
Seattle. We had been in touch all of this time because we had a lot of shared interests.
I got a tiny apartment on my own in LA and dove into yet a different group of experiences. I
lived near UCLA between Westwood and Santa Monica, and could hear traffic on the nearby freeways
all night long. Classes didn’t start for several weeks after I arrived. I think it can be a very confusing
period, when you’re just out of school and far from home after many years with familiar friends and
family. In this case I was just starting graduate school in a very big city where I knew no one. I found
that—as I think a lot of young people do—a really difficult time, perhaps because I had no idea what the

future would look like. My experience from this time taught me, when I was hired at Evergreen, to
spend time with Evergreen students who were about to graduate, talk with them about their interests
and help them think about next steps.
My experience at UCLA was wonderful. I met interesting fellow students and faculty and had
great classes and opportunities to learn. One opportunity—which was a part of getting an advanced
degree in anthropology—was a chance to do some summer cultural anthropology fieldwork. One of the
faculty had a Ford Foundation grant to do archaeology fieldwork in the Alaskan bush on the Kuskokwim
River. He was doing historic archaeology, looking for Russian artifacts from the period when Russia was
occupying Alaska. He had funds to supervise graduate students in the area while he did his own
excavations. I was interested to apply, along with some of my colleagues, to live in a small Yupik
community and study the roles of women. Eventually three male students and I were chosen to go.
Only one other woman had ever gone to do fieldwork in Alaska with that UCLA grant. As a result, when I
said, “I’d like to go to the field this summer,” I had some very strange interviews. I had to promise that I
would eventually be as good an anthropologist as Margaret Mead if I was allowed to go! I was asked if I
was sure I could do this work? Could I live alone in a little cabin out in the wilderness? Would I promise
not to get romantically involved with any local men? Yes, I thought I could do just fine. That was in the
summer of 1967.
We went in the late spring and stayed until the
early fall before the winter freeze-up came.
Wendell Oswalt, who was the faculty, found me
an empty cabin, owned by the former
postmistress, in a small Yup’ik village, Aniak, on
the Kuskokwim River. The village had an airstrip,
a roadhouse and a small supply store. The cabin
had a big old oil drum stove, moose horns over
the door and a moose-hide rug on the floor. We
landed in a bush plane. Oswalt and the other
students dropped me and my duffle bag off at my cabin door. My task was to figure out how to get to
know and spend time with the Yup’ik people who lived there. The community was living primarily on a
subsistence economy and I wanted to know what women’s work was like, what their lives were like.
I began by wandering around, making conversation with anyone I saw in this small village of
about 100 people. I met a woman who had 13 children, the youngest about 8 years old. She and her

husband and three of the children were getting ready to go out on the tundra berry picking. I wanted to
go with them, but needed to explain who I was - which made no sense at all, I’m sure. I was a college
student studying anthropology from Los Angeles. What is anthropology? Where is Los Angeles? What
was I doing there? It was very difficult. I had to figure out how to negotiate that. I asked them, could I
go with them to see what berry picking was like and to see how they processed salmon in their
smokehouse near their usual berry picking area. I wanted to understand. So, Mary Kameroff asked her
husband, Tim. He was a big, big man with a big smile... He said, “Yeah.” He, too, didn’t know who the
heck I was, or why I might be there, but I looked harmless!
Mary said I would need boots, so I went to the little store run by a couple from Florida. Mrs.
Grout, the wife of the manager, spent much of her time growing orchids indoors. I let them know, “I
need some boots,” and they sold me hip boots, which were huge. What I really needed were some
short boots to walk on the tundra. So-already a curiosity to everyone local-I spent the summer berry
picking in hip boots on the soggy tundra.
All of us slept in the family tent
pitched near the smokehouse at their fish
camp upriver. The smokehouse was filled
with salmon hanging from racks to dry.
That summer I learned to pick
salmonberries, blueberries and low bush
cranberries. My inexperience showed. I was
slower than the eight-year-old. I started out picking with the adults. When they had emptied their
baskets into a large bucket several times and I had only filled about half of my basket they tactfully
suggested I drop back and pick with the teenagers. When I couldn’t keep up with them, Mary suggested,
“Maybe you’d like to pick with the youngest, because he is picking by himself at the rear.” So, Timmy
and I picked berries together most days. Mid-day and evenings, when we all sat on a blanket drinking
coffee and eating smoked salmon and store-bought pilot bread, I talked to Mary and Tim about their
seasonal rounds, how the salmon were cut and cured, what they did to preserve the berries. Luckily for
me, the adults had learned to speak English in the mission schools, although they still spoke Yup’ik.
There were also still Russian Orthodox Churches along the Kuskokwim. A linguist from the
University of Chicago came there that summer, interested to visit the Russian Orthodox church services.
Oswalt had directed him to a village called Little Russian Mission. He listened to the service, conducted
by a Yup’ik village elder, as there were no longer Russian Orthodox priests to go around to every village.

As was the Orthodox tradition, the Yup’ik men were on one side and the women on the other side of the
sanctuary. The linguist said that there was not one entire complete phrase of Russian left in the service.
It was all a mixture of Russian phonemes, the sounds that people remembered, but they weren’t words
and phrases and stories anymore, they were simply Russian phonemes that were being repeated. He
was fascinated by what remained of the Russian cultural and linguistic influences in indigenous
I did lots of observation, lots of note taking, wrote down lots of stories. We would be in the
boat on the Kuskokwim and another Yup’ik group would come past. I could see them gesturing to Tim,
“Who is that woman in there?” And he would always put his hand up, as if he was giving himself a shot.
I realized he was saying that I was a public health nurse, because that’s the only familiar reason an
unknown white woman would be with the family in their boat.
By the time we got back to Aniak, the whole village had been waiting for Tim—the man who was
the head of his family and a community leader— because the Head Start program had just begun in
Washington, D.C., and a man had flown in to help the community get a program started. I thought to
myself, having known a little bit about what Head Start was going to do, that the Yup’ik children had
such astonishing skills at a young age that it would be interesting to see what a pre-designed Head Start
program might offer in a setting like that, because they already were so adept at managing their
My summer field work in Alaska was a profound experience for me in terms of developing selfconfidence in my ability to function outside of my own culture for a long period. It was educative in a
way that only being outside of your own culture can be. I gained confidence in my ability to understand
what anthropologists often call the “rules of the game” of a culture different from my own. How did
that culture work? What were the values? How is women’s and men’s work done and thought about?
What is their relationship to their natural environment? Their technology? How did they think about
life events? How were children raised?
Yup’ik culture made perfect sense. The villagers were well adapted to their circumpolar
environment. Children mastered skills for surviving in the environment very young—they were able to
read the river, navigate the river in boats, catch and cut fish for optimal preservation, hang them in the
smokehouse, harvest and preserve berries, trap small animals for food and follow the seasonal patterns
required to survive in this extreme environment. The stories told in the evenings were communicating
the values and emphasizing the traits that were respected in the community. There was nothing


“primitive” about this culture and their hospitality to “a stranger” was something that many in my own
culture could well emulate.
Zaragoza: Have you been back since?
Diffendal: I have not been back to that village, but I have been back to Alaska. I later went to
Anchorage and Juneau as a consultant doing program evaluation. I had maintained contact with one of
the young daughters in that family. She had gone to Anchorage, eventually married the head of a rock
band from Boston! The daughter and her children were living in a little apartment in Anchorage when I
went there. I met with them. They had very few resources, were very hungry. I supplied their
cupboards. None of us had much money at that point. I kept sending their family supplies after I was
there, to share with them what I did have. I sent them some tarps and ordered some food to be sent on
the barge that went to Aniak, sent some raincoats, things like that. I helped the daughter in Anchorage
as long as I could do that. I had so many other things going on because my own life was just evolving at
that point.
Thinking back to the end of summer, 1967, when I returned to UCLA from Alaska there was
another faculty member with a grant doing archaeology at a Paleolithic site from 15,000BC in southern
France. Dr. Sackett needed someone to come help him finish up the grant. I was done with all of my
coursework and my Master’s exams and thesis and was trying to decide whether to go on with my PhD
then, or get a full time job. I was interested in what was going on with the LBJ administration and the
War on Poverty… the “Poverty Program”. I knew that a lot of young people from Alaskan villages were
moving outside of their communities to cities. A lot of Native Americans from around the country were
moving to cities during the 1960’s as a result of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 (also known as the
Adult Vocational Training Program). That Act, which was part of the Indian termination policy that
terminated the tribal status of numerous small tribal groups, was intended to encourage Native
Americans to move off their reservations and traditional lands and to assimilate into the population of
urban areas. I was thinking about looking for work in the Pacific Northwest where I had some friends
and where some of these young people were moving.
However, I decided first to go to France with the faculty’s project for several months in the Fall
to help finish up the grant, before I moved to Seattle. It was hard to turn down a paid opportunity to go
to Europe for the first time and to visit France.
I thought I had learned to speak French pretty well in high school. However, there I was in
southern France, a region where a quite different patois of French was being spoken. Almost no one
spoke English in the village of Perigueux in the Dordogne region. Gratefully, Dr. Jim Sackett, the UCLA

faculty, did speak the patois beautifully. Every day another woman graduate student and I would go
shopping in the village of Mussidan and order all of our groceries in French. The tradespeople would
listen to my French and it was clear that I had not achieved mastery!
Over the months in southern France, I learned how it feels when the language you speak is not
understood and how frustrating it is when you don’t know how to speak the native language well. I
understood for the first time how difficult it is for
inexperienced second-language speakers. Thinking
about the United States, I could imagine how hard
that is when people with accents struggle to be
understood by some of our primarily monolingual
English speakers who can often be very impatient and
rude if they cannot easily understand a speaker. In
southern France the villagers were very gracious. It
was a rural community and they were generous with their patience, much more, I noticed than was true
in cosmopolitan Paris where my “fractured French” was usually responded to with English. I developed
increased empathy and respect for second language speakers from these experiences in France.
When I returned to the U.S. my friend, Lynn Patterson, was nearly done with her graduate work
at the Univ of Washington in Seattle, so I decided I would move to Seattle and stay with her until I could
find some work. I decided not to begin my PhD then, rather I wanted to dive into some of the culture
change projects that were going on by this time. I moved to Seattle in 1968. I was introduced to the
head of the Social Work Department at UW, Dr. Larry Northwood. He had a grant and he needed
someone to be a “gofer” for a while. It was a very progressive social work department at that time,
teaching social work as “advocacy. The grant was funding invitations to national speakers advocating
change. My job was to pick them up at the airport, take them to the hotel, and keep them company
until we got to the place where they were going to be speaking. I remember picking up Tom Hayden,
who was one of the Chicago Seven protesting the war in Vietnam...and later Jane Fonda’s husband.
That was a good introduction to Seattle, but I needed more work. At that point, Dr. Northwood
suggested I consider working for the Seattle-King County Economic Opportunity Board, which was the
Office of Economic Opportunity’s “poverty program” in Seattle. Northwood let me know, “There’s a job
open there for a Program Evaluator. I think you’d be good at doing that.” I applied and, fortunately, got
the job.


I really didn’t know all that program evaluation involved, so I read, read, read, everything I could
find about goal setting, qualitative measures, quantitative measures, formative assessments, summative
assessments. It was a time when there was a lot of federal government money supporting the
evaluation of new programs that were supposed to be community based: designed by and for
communities that would develop and manage their own service programs. My job was to see how the
programs were doing, and particularly, I decided after reading about evaluation, doing formative
evaluations for these new programs. I would go in early in the program’s history, take a look at how
they were setting the programs up, their goals, what kind of staff development they had, what
outcomes they were having and, in consultation with their staff, make recommendations for things that
they might want to do to strengthen these new programs.
There were many cultural aspects to these evaluative tasks. El Centro de la Raza was begun
during that period. The Seattle Indian Center, the first urban Indian support program in the country,
was started by Pearl Warren under the poverty program. The Central Area Motivation Program was
started in Seattle’s Black community during that period. Many community groups were funded to begin
programs that would help provide services to their members in the city of Seattle.
We were a small evaluation team - three or four of us. There were so many things that I had
never done before. I don’t know who would have had previous experience at that point because there
wasn’t much of that work being done. It was an opportunity to apply creativity and experimentation in
my work. Finding ways to evaluate and improve these efforts was an engaging challenge.
For those of us in the social sciences who were beginning our careers in the 1960’s there were
many new and unfamiliar jobs available under the aegis of the War on Poverty. There was funding for
new community-based programs approaching social problems and economic issues in new ways. There
were new programs to improve the economic and educational base for local communities of color who
had been barred from opportunities available to others.
It took time for community leaders to figure out how create effective programs to serve youth
or to provide educational opportunities and jobs to adults. One of the first things I had to evaluate was
a program run by a group of African American women in Seattle who developed what was called a
“Sister-nar”...a seminar for Black women. Black women were invited to a local hotel to talk with each
other about what their concerns were, what the community needed, how they thought changes could
be made. It was an exuberant event. There was singing, there was dancing, there were engaging topical
seminars. I simply was a fly on the wall. I asked the organizers, “May I just listen? I just want to hear
what the issues are, how you imagine addressing them and what results you hope to achieve.”

I essentially did fieldwork the entire time I worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity in
Seattle. I worked with many African Americans—particularly men at that point—who were heading the
Seattle-King County Economic Opportunity Board (SKCEOB) and many of whom were members of Mt.
Zion AME Church in Seattle. There were other community leaders Involved with the programs. I simply
listened, learned, would sit in meetings listening, learning. I was learning how the cultures worked—
what were the values, what were the goals, what were important things to the community, what were
the difficult things? What might be some ways to strengthen new or existing programs?
At one point, in 1969, there had been a racial incident in a Seattle public high school where
white students had ganged up on an African American student. Maxine Mimms, who was hired in 1972
as one of the early African American faculty at Evergreen, was working for Seattle Public Schools in the
district’s Intergroup Relations program. She and her husband had moved to Seattle from the East Coast.
She was one of the first Black teachers in Seattle in the ‘50s. By then—1969—she had been asked to go
to the other high schools in Seattle to talk to Black students about their concerns. Maxine was to hold
conversations with them about how they might approach racist experiences without damaging their
own school opportunities, and how they might want to protest in a way that wouldn’t undermine their
own education.
Maxine had been talking with Ulysses Rowell, the Director of SKCEOB, in his office before
coming over to our evaluation section. I had never met her before. She sat down at my desk and
started a conversation about our work and eventually asked me if I would like to evaluate her work as
she went to the schools to meet with Black students. With permission from Ulysses Rowell, I began
doing that as part of what I was doing at SKCEOB. From that point, in 1969, we have been close friends.
We have given each other honest “cultural feedback” in the many different contexts we have shared,
including working together at Evergreen. This cross-cultural friendship and honest feedback has been a
critically important factor in my own development. In 1969, I was 26 and she was 41. She had three
children ages 8 to 12 and was working full time in Seattle, and I was just trying to get my feet on the
ground and figure out what I was going to do with my graduate degree in cultural anthropology and in
this new job.
Shortly after that, the Nixon administration brought in as the Secretary of the Department of
Labor an African American man from Washington State who knew Maxine. He asked her if she would
like to work as the Assistant Director of the Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor, based in D.C.
He thought she would be very good addressing women’s employment issues. She accepted the job and
prepared to move her family to Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, the Board of Trustees at the Economic Opportunity Board in Seattle asked me to
recommend to them which programs should be “spun off” or defunded? If the community could pick up
the program costs themselves that was fine, if not they would shut down. They wanted to know which
ones I thought had the least possibility for success.
This was a real moral dilemma for me because all of them had just begun. I’d only done
formative evaluations of the programs. They were all just getting off the ground, figuring out how to
operate. There were many jobs at stake for all of the community people who had been hired to start
these programs.
I told the Board, “That’s not something that I feel is appropriate for me to do. At this point none
of the programs has had a long enough history. They are all doing important, good work. They’re
beginning to figure out with their communities what are the most needed things to be done. If spinning
off means stopping the program because there was no other money to support it, I am not going to
make those recommendations”. The Board of Trustees told me that if I didn’t get them a list of programs
that should be “spun off”, I would lose my job. I let them know that I was not going to give them that
list. They let me know that I was fired.
I think from that point, building on my awareness from my earlier job with the Welfare
Department, I understood that I would never be able to do work that I didn’t feel ethically committed
to. I didn’t care if I lost the job. I understood that I was privileged simply by being a white person with a
good education to be able to get another job of some kind; and that I would never put myself in a
position in a job where I was doing something that I didn’t feel was ethical.
I felt strongly about that, and I understood how a dominant culture could take advantage of
lower-income communities by offering some funding—something to build up the community—and then
pull the plug on it and say, “Okay, you’re on your own now.” I realized that none of us is on our own.
The Poverty Program didn’t teach community groups how to raise funds to keep their programs going.
The communities were just getting their programs started. There were a lot of ethical conundrums
around the Poverty Program that gave me insights into the complexity of “system change” which I
carried into my teaching.
Meanwhile, Maxine was on her way to Washington, D.C. I had lost my job, so she asked if I
could drive her car across the country and see what DC might have to offer. I agreed to go because I
was interested to talk to the head of Program Evaluation at OEO’s national headquarters about their
evaluation policies. I thought that the agency’s program “spin-off” approach, after such a short time,


was defeating their purpose and harming the communities. I was 26 at this point and thinking seriously
about these issues.
My mother came from Ohio and we drove across the country together in Maxine’s car, and
delivered her car to her in Washington, D.C. I stayed with Maxine and her three children in a home in
the middle of D.C. Nearly everyone living in the District of Columbia in 1970 were African American
families, many of them people working for the federal government. There were very few white people
living in the District at that point. Nearly every white person headed home to Maryland or Virginia after
work every day. I had many experiences, living with a Black family in the District of Columbia for two
years, that opened my eyes both to the strength, dignity and joy of Black culture, as well as to the many
ways that racism and discrimination impacted the community.
Soon after I arrived, I went to talk to the national Director of Evaluation at the Office of
Economic Opportunity. I gave him my perspective on what the Evaluation Specialists were being asked
to do Seattle and recommended that they develop a process for working with boards about the role of
evaluation and about the serious ethical questions related to spin-off. He was very engaged in this
conversation. He told me that he was overseeing a lot national grants that were being evaluated by
contractors based in D.C....might I like a job with one of them? I was glad to talk with them.
One of the consulting firms had a big grant to evaluate Rural Resource Mobilization Projects
around the country designed to help rural areas get out of poverty and they needed an Evaluation
Specialist. I was given a great team to work with - they’re still my friends today. We traveled all over the
country to Rural Resource Mobilization Projects and did formative evaluations of them. Among those I
was assigned was the Mingo County Moccasin Factory in a former coal mining community in rural West
Virginia and a commercial turkey farm in southern Ohio. Again, this was an opportunity to learn more
about American subcultures and about efforts at structural changes designed to alleviate poverty.
Meanwhile, I was living in D.C. and staying with Maxine and her kids. I worked in an office
downtown near the main government buildings. If I ever needed to take a cab home, I’d stand out on
the curb, put my hand up and a cab would stop in a minute or two. But when I would tell the driver
where I was going— up one of the main streets in the District, not far away - nearly inevitably the cab
driver would say, “No, I’m not taking you there. I thought you were going to Virginia or to Maryland. I
don’t go into that neighborhood.” I would say, “Well, I do go into that neighborhood and I need a ride
home.” The driver usually would reply, “The only way I’ll take you there is if you pay me upfront. I’ll
drive you there, and you get ready to open the door and jump out because I’m not going to stop. I don’t
want to pick anybody up.” So, I’d give him the money, and many a night I would get dropped off—in

two seconds—I would jump out the door and the cab would be gone. That was the way that the Black
community - at that point in D.C. - was “supported” by the taxi drivers.
It was also a new experience for Maxine’s three children, who had grown up in Bellevue, WA,
which, at that point, was very rural and where they had been one of the few Black families. They lived
on some acreage and at one point even had a horse. From there, they moved right into the middle of
Washington, D.C.’s African American community and schools. For them, as fairly sheltered, almost rural,
kids they were suddenly in the middle of a school culture with urban kids stealing lunch money and
playing craps during recess; doing things that Ted, Kathy and Kenneth were not familiar with. We would
have deep conversations at night about what was going on, and how could they cope. Occasionally I
would have to drive Ted to school, because his school was a little further away. He always wanted me to
be sure to stop on the corner, not anywhere near school, and drop him off so that other kids would not
see this white lady driving him to school. We all had many new experiences living in Washington, D.C.,
including being falsely arrested and accused of shoplifting a package of smoked lox in a grocery store in
a predominantly white neighborhood in Maryland and being stopped on suspicion of car theft when
Maxine was driving a friend’s BMW in the District.
Meanwhile, in Washington State, my friend LLyn De Danaan (aka Lynn Patterson) had been
hired to the faculty of Evergreen to begin teaching when the college opened for its first year.
She recommended Maxine as a person who would be an excellent addition to the faculty at
Evergreen. Merv Cadwallader, one of the first four Academic Deans from the faculty, came to
Washington, D.C., interviewed Maxine and offered her a job at Evergreen.
The consulting firm where I was working in DC in 1972 was thinking about opening a branch
office on the West Coast, since most of their contracts involved work in the western Federal Regions, as
well. They were at the point of hiring someone as the director and asked if I would like to join that
branch office to continue working on program evaluations. The timing was right, so both Maxine and I
moved back to the Pacific Northwest in 1972. We bought two small houses next door to each other in
Tacoma, where UNCO was opening its branch office and within easy driving distance for Maxine to
Olympia and Evergreen.
In the Fall of 1972 Maxine began teaching at Evergreen and I began working downtown in
Tacoma. With both Maxine and Lynn at Evergreen, I was hearing lots of stories about the college and
what it was like. My work was taking me all over Federal Region X – Washington, Oregon, Idaho and
Alaska - evaluating Head Start programs and other OEO programs, as well as Washington State human
service programs.

In 1973, I was 29 years old and pregnant. I decided not to get married but to continue
my work in Tacoma. In April, 1974, my son was born and I realized the amount of consulting that I was
doing that took me flying all over the west and back to Washington, D.C. was hard to manage with a
new baby, my son, Steven. I had someone come in to help occasionally and, finally, I found a wonderful
family daycare provider who I trusted because she had five children of her own, cared for foster
children, and loved spending time working with young children.
Occasionally I flew back to Washington, D.C. to the office of HEW—Health, Education and
Welfare - for contract meetings and I would take Steven with me. Staff there would find me child care. I
remember a wonderful woman from Peru who spoke only Spanish would take Steven on days I was
working there. He would have a wonderful day playing with her children. Eventually, I realized this job
required too much travel.
Maxine suggested that I should apply for a job at Evergreen. I’d been invited in by Richard
Alexander and other faculty to talk about my fieldwork in Alaska, qualitative research and evaluation,
and various cultural topics in their programs. At that point my broad experience seemed like it was a
good fit for Evergreen’s interdisciplinary philosophy.
The College also was trying to get more women and people of color hired as faculty because the
planning faculty of 12 were all white men, with the exception of one African American man, Rudy
Martin. With the first hires, they brought in women, Native Americans, and two more black men.
Increasing faculty diversity was a big issue. How are you going to create an alternative to a traditional
college - which was the reason that Evergreen was created - if the largest percentage of the faculty were
white men primarily trained in traditional institutions? How successful would the college be in
recruiting and retaining non-traditional students of color and working adults if they did not see
themselves among the faculty? This was a big issue in the first years of the college. LLyn De Danaan,
the first woman Academic Dean, and Rudy Martin, the only African American faculty among the
founders, were especially committed to trying to find women and people of color to recruit to the
college faculty at that point.
I was interviewed for the faculty position by one of the planning faculty and then dean, Charlie
Teske. At the time, I’d been doing a lot of work evaluating childcare centers and in-home care.
Charlie’s wife was going back to visit family in Germany, leaving their children with Charlie in Olympia
during her visit. I remember that a serious topic of conversation during our interview was whether I
thought they should make cassette tapes of his wife’s voice to play for his children while she was in
Germany? Would that be a good or a bad thing? I replied, “It would be a good thing if it makes you feel

better, and makes your wife feel better. It would be a bad thing if it makes you feel worse. No one
knows what the children are going to think about it.”
I started teaching at Evergreen when I was 31 and when my son was 16 months old, in the fall of
1975. I began my teaching in Olympia with faculty member Carol Spence, in a year-long program called
Caring for Children. We designed the program to attract students who were running daycare centers or
other children’s programs or who were thinking about going into teaching or other work with children.
We hoped to give them a strong background in child development, as well as an understanding of the
business of childcare which, at that point, people were trying hard to improve and expand to address
the increasing demand.
The college had been operating for nearly five years at that point. Nineteen seventy-five was a
big hiring year, and Virginia Ingersoll, Joye Hardiman, Susan Fiksdal, Duke Kuehn, and I were hired,
among others. A lot of the women who were hired in Evergreen’s early history had not come straight
from the academic world but had been working in community work of various kinds.
I would say that the men who were there—certainly the men who started the college—were
experienced faculty and administrators drawn straight from other colleges or, a few, just completing
graduate school. They all had finished their Ph.Ds. They’d all been teaching, some of them at Oberlin,
some from Reed, some from Santa Cruz. They were interested in creating a college with fewer
structural constraints - no tenure – just contracts renewable every three years; no status differences
which meant no Professors and Assistant Professors; no curriculum committees setting program
designs; no sports teams. They wanted to break away from many institutional constraints.
Many of the women faculty hired hadn’t completed our Ph.D.’s, in the early 1970’s. A lot of us
had stopped mid-course after the Master’s Degree because there were other things that we wanted or
needed to do. So, we had done a lot more community work than some of the men had. As a result, we
often had a really different experience base than the men. Of course, there were women who came
straight from an academic setting as well. Most all of the women faculty without a terminal degree
finished our doctorates while we were teaching at Evergreen, many, including LLyn de Danaan, Maxine
Mimms, Joye Hardiman and me, at The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, based in
Cincinnati, Ohio – a consortium of midwestern colleges founded to develop interdisciplinary doctorate
programs for place bound adults.
Overall, we were a diverse group of faculty. In general, those first few years, it was a small
enough college that everybody knew each other. The staff were very pivotal in our experience getting
the college going. We got to know each other and enjoyed each other’s company. Faculty and staff

often ate lunch together, always in the same cafeteria with the students. We made a conscious decision
not to have a separate Faculty Dining Room which we thought would create an unwanted separation
within the college community. The staff and faculty women had an annual baseball game for many
years and even took weekend excursions doing wild water rafting in Oregon and riding horses in Eastern
Washington. These women’s events were an important source of enjoyment and support that the
faculty and staff men were not a part of.
Zaragoza: What were your first impressions of how education was done at Evergreen?
Diffendal: I loved it. One of the major reasons that I applied to teach at Evergreen was because I love
working in teams. When I was doing program evaluations earlier, we worked together and talked things
through, bringing our different backgrounds and observations to the assessment. Teaching in an
interdisciplinary coordinated studies team was really appealing to me. I was impressed with the creative
themes and combinations of disciplines brought together in the programs I visited as a guest before
being hired. I thought it was a perfect way to teach, because both students and faculty get many
points of view on the topics discussed. It also allowed for the larger group to divide into smaller
discussion groups, the seminars, with individual faculty. I also quickly learned that as faculty planned
together collaboration helped us select books and articles for the students and each other to read that
enriched the exploration of the program theme.
that Another appeal of teaching at Evergreen was the opportunity for student Internships;
especially the opportunity to build internships into coordinated studies programs and then meet in
seminar with students to link their experiences to the program theme...what they had learned from that
experience. I would love to have had a seminar when I was on my Antioch internships and my
anthropology field work because discussing it would have enriched my learning from the experience.
From Evergreen’s beginning. Individual Contracts were appealing to many of the working adult
students and I was impressed with the Contract’s potential to reach students who could not otherwise
enroll in classes offered weekdays. The average age of Evergreen students at one point in the early
years was 35. These were adults who had busy, complex schedules. Most of them had jobs and children
and they were eager to improve their opportunities by completing college. They were a very different
group than 18-year-olds who were just beginning to explore college, live on campus and were available
for full-day programs.
A lot of the students who I saw in the early years were adult students on a career path, who
either needed other kinds of experiences, or wanted to do a project of some kind that would lead them


deeper into some area that they were working in. I thought that the Individual Contract was a creative
solution to meeting the specific needs of the student.
In my view, Evergreen was the most student-centered college possible, because – with all of the
learning modes - you had time to understand where students were in their thinking, and had the
opportunity to spend time with them to design learning experiences that were meaningful. The
programs were small - no one faculty would have 120 students, for example, all studying Biology 101.
We had 12 or 15 students in our individual seminars, for whom we would write quarterly evaluations. If
there was one of us who had better rapport with a particular student, we could change our group
around a little bit and make it a better fit for the students.
The college was very open to innovation, the structure was not constraining, there was no
curriculum committee nor constraints on pedagogical strategies. For example, when I met my first
teaching colleague, Carol Spence, we went hiking on Mount Rainier together while we were doing our
program planning for our year-long, two-person program, Caring for Children. She had a doctorate in
child development. I had done lots of assessments of community childcare programs - childcare centers,
smaller in-home settings and Head Start Early Childhood Education programs. Some of the people we
had as students were running childcare centers. Carol didn’t have experience with that aspect; I didn’t
know the literature on child development, so we worked out ways to get the coverage we wanted in the
program. I was especially interested in cross-cultural child rearing issues. The program was a good
opportunity to look at the lives of children through history and from diverse cultural backgrounds.
We divided our labor based on the things that we knew - what we each did best. Then we
created 20 hour per week internships within the program in the Spring Quarter. Each student worked in
a childcare center or with children in other settings, so they could see what that was like. Carol and I set
up those internships all over the county and would go observe our students and work and debrief with
them in weekly seminars.
So, in my first year, there were just two of us. It wasn’t a big faculty team. It gave me a chance
to get a feeling for how to begin to do planning with a colleague, how my skills could fit in with someone
else. My broad background of experience was helpful. Had I been straight out of college, my approach
would probably have been more traditional.
I had only ever taught once before, while I was doing consulting. I was hired to teach Anthro
101 at Bellevue Community College. I had never taught anthropology before and I believe that I taught
everything in that course that I had ever learned in the field of anthropology! The students just looked
stunned. Since college faculty are rarely trained in pedagogy, and the course requirements in

anthropology are rather broad, I began at the beginning and just kept on going! It was a very good first
teaching experience for me...if not for the students. I learned that you need to winnow what you know,
and figure out which concepts are most important to introduce students to the field of study or, in the
case of thematic interdisciplinary programs, what concepts were useful in exploring the problem at
hand. I was glad I had that teaching experience before I came to Evergreen because it gave me a more
informed place to start. Most important, I learned that “You teach who you are.” I discovered that my
varied experiences in diverse jobs and diverse communities, my fieldwork and overseas experiences,
combined with the influences of my family and childhood, affected everything that I taught and how I
saw students.


Betsy Diffendal
Interviewed by Anthony Zaragoza
The Evergreen State College oral history project
August 6, 2020
Edited DRAFT by Diffendal Part 2
July 4, 2021
Zaragoza: I’m back with Betsy Diffendal to talk about her teaching career at Evergreen. Betsy, would
you tell us a little bit about your second year at Evergreen, and your work with Mary Ellen Hillaire.
Diffendal: Mary Ellen Hillaire was the first female Native American faculty hired at Evergreen during the
initial group of faculty hires. When I arrived in 1975, she and three other Native American faculty –
Darrell Phare, Mary Nelson and Cruz Esquivel had been working on ways to recruit Native American
students to the college and to design programs that would engage them. A major part of Evergreen’s
mandate, as the first new state college in many years, was to attract non-traditional students who were
being under-served by the existing colleges. Among that population were the 35,000 Native Americans
living in Washington State.
During my first year at Evergreen Mary invited any faculty who were interested to meet with her
over several weeks to share her ideas for working with Native students at Evergreen. In these talks she
discussed the need to develop a “liberal arts” education based on the values, cultural traditions and
contemporary needs of local tribal communities. I liked her ideas. I came to Evergreen interested in its
mandate to attract non-traditional students including Native American, African American and Hispanic
students and older women who needed degrees to advance in the workplace but who weren’t enrolling
or completing degrees at other colleges. During the protests at the University of Washington in the 60’s,
one major issue was that the curriculum wasn’t hospitable to the cultural diversity of students who
should be served by Washington’s colleges.
After listening to her ideas, I asked Mary if I might join her in the next year’s Native American
Studies program. At that point, Evergreen’s four Native American faculty had decided to work
individually because they differed in their ideas about program design. Mary had chosen to take
Individual Contracts with geographically dispersed Native students who she was recruiting from local
reservations and cities. Tribal members were eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs tuition subsidies so
could afford to enroll. As her student numbers grew, the Deans became concerned that she had too
many students on contract for one faculty to manage. She felt that she was able to handle it. I thought


if there were a second faculty who joined her, it might relieve some of the pressure as she worked out
her curricular strategy. Mary agreed to let me join her in 1976-77.
A decade later, in the 1980s, I finished my PhD while I was an Academic Dean at Evergreen. My
dissertation topic was assessing the impact of faculty women and people of color on the curriculum and
the students in the first five years of Evergreen’s history. I interviewed faculty and surveyed by mail the
students who had attended the college during those first five years. Mary Hillaire was one of those
faculty. I have here her own description of what she had in mind for Native American Studies:
“It is a program designed by Indians for Indians. This is a different approach to an ethnic studies
program. The purpose of the program is to establish an educational service relevant to the needs of
Indian people. The self-determination of Native Americans in their own education was essential. It is
time for Indians to have an effect on their education, rather than education having an effect on Indians.
The ultimate goal of the program is for Native Americans to establish a discipline in higher education
designed from the values and established in the Native American proficiencies—music, art, talk and
The specific aims of the program are to encourage and assist Native American people to
translate life experiences into educational equivalencies, initiate community-based projects from which
students can establish a career goal as a means of obtaining college credits, and provide college
students with an appropriate model for understanding the Native American way of life, and establish a
means for Indian people to perpetuate the values of their culture in the state and national public
education systems. Essentially, the program is divided into two groups. One group centers its attention
on campus, the other is community based. We are striving to develop the growth of personal
consciousness of the individual student, and the development of communities. Faculty divide their time
three ways: we spend a third of our time on campus with students, a third communicating with Native
American communities, and a third on personal and professional growth. The program has two
emphases for students. One is the traditional sense of Indian values, and the other is the transitional
sense of the partnership of all people that is distinctive in a democracy. Democracy has not and will not
work unless we all work together. Two or more people must work together in order for democracy to
succeed, but Native Americans have not been actively involved in this process in America. We hope the
Native American Studies program is a step in the right direction for true and working democracy.”
Working from those concepts, Mary was very consistent in trying to develop this program. As
she would say to me, “Western culture has had since the time of the Greeks to figure out what ought to
be a ‘liberal arts education’ for Western people. I would like to have at least 20 years to figure out, with

local tribal communities, what is ‘higher education’ for Native Americans that is both traditional and will
serve them well in a transitional way within this larger democracy?” I knew that such a program could
be very important to Washington State’s under-served Native communities at a time when the Tribal
Councils and the state were working through the implications of the 1974 Boldt Decision expanding
Indian fishing rights in line with original treaty language and the 1975 federal Indian Self-Determination
and Education Assistance Act.
It is important to note here that in those early years, after the “founding fathers” were able to
agree upon Evergreen’s various learning modes—Coordinated Studies, Group Contracts, Individual
Contracts, Internships and credit for Prior Learning from Experience—most of the recruitment and
reaching out to under- served communities, using those modes, was done by the faculty of color and
women. They took advantage of Evergreen’s opportunities for curricular flexibility to reach those
students and to develop programs to engage them..
Mary Hillaire had conversations with Maxine Mimms, an African American faculty who had,
from the beginning of her tenure at Evergreen in 1972, thought about ways to get adult African
American students engaged with the college. Maxine encouraged Mary to have an on-campus section
of the program that would bring nearby Native American students to the campus, because much of
Mary’s work in the early years of the program did not have a regular on-campus component. Due to the
requirement, for example, for Veterans receiving tuition from the government to have a certain number
of “seat-time” hours with the faculty present, a weekly on-campus face-to-face opportunity where
students could get to know each other and expand their experiences with the College was valuable.
The year that I began teaching with her—the Fall of 1976—in a program called A Separate
Reality, we had a long Monday morning class session each week to which she extended an invitation to
elders from the various tribes around the state to come demonstrate traditional skills and to talk with
the students about what they were doing in their communities; what the issues were. She invited tribal
judges, traditional dancers, master basket-makers, activists, tribal council members and others. She
encouraged the visitors to talk about the community’s values and what they saw as important work to
be done.
My own role as a new faculty was challenging. I was, at that point, just shaping my own ideas
about how I would teach at Evergreen. This year was quite different from my first year, so I primarily
worked with the Individual Contract students who would come in or who we would meet with in local
tribal communities. I also was the program’s main contact with the college’s administration and


Admissions Office, who often would challenge the strength of a Native American applicant’s high school
transcript for college-level work.
Several days a week, I would drive down from Tacoma to Mary’s Olympia apartment; we would
take her car and go to reservations around the state. One day we would go west to Quinault, another
day we would go over to Colville in Eastern Washington, and another day up north to Lummi. We would
meet with individual enrolled students about their projects and talk to the Tribal Chair and others about
recruiting students to Evergreen.
Every experiment at the College had to have time to shake itself out. Each of the several years
that I taught with Mary she was experimenting with her approach. We recognized the need to add
faculty to the growing program and the college hired David Whitener, a Squaxin tribal member who had
been a teacher at Neah Bay and was the Squaxin Tribal Chairman. Soon the college hired Lloyd Colfax
who also was from a local tribe. One thing that Mary emphasized was that Native American faculty
teaching in the program should be from Washington State tribal communities and share the cultural
background of students from local groups.
By the second or third year I was in the program, Maxine Mimms joined us as did Lovern King, a
Native American educator and filmmaker from Oregon who had run adult education programs at the
Seattle Indian Center, and Russ Fox, an
urban planner on the faculty. Our larger
teams would work together on Mondays
and work individually on other days of the
week to meet the needs of the students
enrolled. Many times Mary would come in
on the weekends and sit in her office,
because she knew that Native students
would come and expect to find her there
whenever they were able to come. Many of them were working so they came on weekends. “My job is
to be available, to be here.”
In those early years, one of the issues that the Native American Studies program had was the
requirement to relocate faculty offices annually. Evergreen had an initial policy that in order for
everyone at Evergreen to get to know each other, and to be able to talk together in our teaching teams,
we all needed to move our offices every year. Instead of being housed in disciplinary groups, as you
would at a traditional college with departments, I might have an English faculty in the office next door

and a biologist on the other side because we were teaching together. Mary said, “That is not going to
work. The Native students need to know where I am, and I will not move my office.” This was a big deal
because everyone else had to move all of their books and belongings every year. When she refused to
move her office, some faculty protested. Her recognition of Indian ways of coming together was not
always accommodated easily. Eventually the whole faculty gave up on the annual move policy!
LLyn De Danaan, the first woman Academic Dean, was exceptionally creative and committed to
experimentation. In her weekly Dean’s group meetings she would encourage us to have conversations
about rich interdisciplinary topics or themes. She would put up a large paper in the hall of the Dean’s
area that she called the “Trial Balloon.” Anybody who had an idea for a really generative
interdisciplinary theme would write that theme up there and say, “This would be great with a biologist,
an anthropologist and an artist. I’d be willing to be the anthropologist if someone would join me.” The
trial balloons were always on the walls, and sometimes students would write “Ooh, I like this. I’d take
this one.” It was a very open and encouraging planning process for faculty to get to know each other
and to exchange ideas about how those disciplines could come together.
I became aware of something later, when I worked with Evergreen’s Washington Center for the
Improvement of Higher Education, developed by Barbara Smith and Jean MacGregor. They were
working with community college faculty around the state and country trying to help them get interested
in interdisciplinary teaching. We all learned quickly that once someone had been trained in a discipline,
they often had the sense that it must be delivered in full sequences, and there’s simply no way they
could leave out this out or that out. All of us teaching at Evergreen learned that when you’re teaching
around a theme in an interdisciplinary way, you really have to rethink your discipline and figure out
which parts of the field are informative and helpful to this particular problem to be solved, or this
particular theme. Those issues were challenging for some Evergreen faculty as well, especially in the
sciences e.g. “How could I possibly teach this if the students hadn’t had background in that first?”
Faculty and the Deans were working hard at the beginning of the college to make opportunities for
conversation about these interdisciplinary program concepts.
Working in the Native American Studies program removed me, to some degree, from the what
was going on more broadly in the college. Mary developed what she called the “diagnostic interview”
with each student each quarter as they put together their Individual Contracts. Those in-person
interviews were often hours long. She would talk with them and help them think through or discover
“what they did best”, and think about what opportunities they might take advantage of to develop
those talents and interests further. Were there things in their community that they might be able to

work with during an Internship to learn more? Perhaps they were interested in the laws that impacted
tribal communities. Could they work with a tribal judge and see what went on in tribal courts? Those
diagnostic interviews were her main avenue into student interests and abilities. It set the stage for the
quarter’s work, and everything that followed was about shaping that particular learning opportunity.
Their own Self-Evaluation was their opportunity for self-reflection on their learning at quarter’s end.
Zaragoza: Betsy, one of the things that you mentioned in conversation was that this was very
experimental, was within an experimental college, but there was a way in which that experimental
college put constraints on the experiments. I want to be sure that we capture that. I thought that was a
really important thing that you said yesterday, and I wanted to hear that again to make sure we have it.
Diffendal: In those early years, the idea of most of the planning faculty was that the coordinated
studies and group contract learning modes would involve substantial contact with faculty or “seat time”
every week if it was a full-time 16-credit program. How much time should be spent by students with
faculty every week was a continuing question.
In addition to various internal pressures, the Legislature was interested in what was going on at
Evergreen in those first years. They had agreed to fund this non-traditional college. Dan Evans, the
Governor, was very supportive of Evergreen’s development to serve the students in southwest
Washington, especially. But the local community and the legislators working in Olympia wanted to be
sure that “experimental” Evergreen was a legitimate endeavor. There were external pressures because
we were a state-funded college and were experimenting with higher education models. There were a
lot of people in the Legislature who weren’t really sure about Evergreen. They would make proposals
every year saying, “Let’s shut this down and use the facility for a minimum-security prison” or some
There were also questions about Evergreen’s transcripts. How were other colleges supposed to
evaluate transcripts for students trying to get into their graduate programs or transfer to other schools
when they had narrative evaluations and no grade point averages? How would they know whether
students had the required courses to enter when the “course equivalencies” awarded by Evergreen
faculty at the end of each quarter often had titles that were not comparable with traditional course
titles, like Psych 101. Colleges didn’t know what to do with our transcripts.
All of the unfamiliar externals that came from our experimentation raised questions. Graduate
admissions committees would write to our faculty and say, “If you did give grade point averages, what
grade point average would you give this person?” Faculty were challenged because we didn’t have such


a system, and it seemed unethical to begin translating our multi-faceted narrative evaluations into
This led us to look harder at the question of how we might name our course equivalencies. How
could we name courses so they’d be recognizable outside? Since every year we did something different
with a different team and different disciplines, it wasn’t an easy thing when you came to the end of the
quarter to say, “Okay, what do we call this material that we just covered? If I were teaching it another
format, what would this course be called?”
All of those issues, I would say, had a constraining effect. The external pressure on the college
came quite early, because as soon as our transcripts began to get out, as soon as students would
transfer to other schools or apply to graduate schools their Admissions Offices would see our lengthy
narrative evaluations and not know how they should be assessed in their admissions process.
I would say that especially the Native American curriculum experiment under Mary Hillaire got a
lot of scrutiny internally, and it made it very challenging. There were a lot of us—LLyn De Danaan, as a
dean, was certainly one of them—who, from the earliest days, said, “If this is an experimental college,
we have to be able to experiment, to fail or change or modify the experiments, but we do not need to
immediately give in to what concerns are externally. We’re going to have to get enough experience
ourselves with alternative ways of organizing a college that we are able to be confident about what
we’re doing and then refine our processes, for example, the course descriptions.”
Mary’s approach to writing Faculty Evaluations of students was different from the emerging
model. She would write one Faculty Evaluation, which was more of a Program Description, that was
given to each student. Then, because each student was doing very different things, she viewed their
own Student Self-Evaluations as more important reflections and assessments of their work than an
individually focused faculty evaluation.
There was criticism about the Faculty Evaluations not being specific nor evaluative enough. So,
we evolved a system in which the students would write and submit their self-evaluations before the
faculty wrote their evaluations. Then we would look at how they described and assessed their own
learning and would build that into the individual faculty evaluation for each student.
The narrative evaluation process for all of the college’s faculty has never been an easy one.
Writing lengthy evaluations for every student takes a lot of time at the end of each quarter, and there is
usually just a week between one quarter and the next for which faculty need to be planning for the
upcoming quarter. From the beginning, some of those technical parts of the way that we designed the
college have been challenging.

Zaragoza: Quick follow-up connected to that. Why do you think Dan Evans was so supportive of
Diffendal: Dan Evans was a very visionary governor- the only three-term Governor of Washington
State. Evergreen was proposed at the time when U C Berkeley student protests were ongoing, the
University of Washington students had blocked the freeways with their protests and the population of
Washington was growing. It was clear that there needed to be innovation in the state’s higher
education system. I think Governor Evans could see the challenge of getting the large land grant
colleges—like WSU and UW—that were huge university systems with everything in place, to be nimble
enough to make rapid curricular changes. When the proposal for a new and more experimental state
college to serve the needs of southwest Washington was proposed he was fully supportive. He later
showed that support by becoming the President of the college.
In those early years women faculty were especially sensitive to the opportunities that the
college’s flexible structure offered to engage non-traditional student groups. Maxine Mimms was
teaching and working in the College’s Learning Resource Center. She realized that there were a lot of
staff at Evergreen who hadn’t finished their degrees and thought there should be an opportunity for
them take advantage of Evergreen’s flexibility. She put together an academic program that met at
lunchtime. She invited faculty from various disciplines to meet with them and present a diverse
introduction to the liberal arts. She was able to get many staff enrolled who eventually completed their
degrees at Evergreen by her initiation of this program.
In another instance, an older woman student, returning to school after many years, told the
Deans that she thought there needed to be a program in the evenings or weekends for working women
returning to school who may lack confidence and would value other women to talk with. Their lives
were very full with work, children and so forth, yet they wanted to complete a degree. Several of
Evergreen’s women faculty, including Nancy Taylor, working with Academic Dean, Lynn De Danaan,
created such a program that successfully addressed the needs and interests of working women
returning to school in the evenings and on weekends. Eventually these women moved into other
evening/weekend programs to complete their degrees.
Faculty Member Margaret Gribskov started an evening program for State workers. The program
was built around the theme “management in the public interest”. The College recruited state and city
workers to attend the program in the evenings, supporting their work in public administration. That
program kept going and continued to draw from State workers for many years. Those students also fed


into the regular evening-weekend offerings, until they completed their degrees. After a few years the
college expanded its offerings to include a Master’s level program, Management in the Public Interest.
The various programs designed for non-traditional students in the early years were initiated by
Evergreen’s faculty women. Margaret Gribskov, herself, returned to graduate school and completed her
PhD after she had had a family, so she was very sensitive to the educational needs of working adults.
Mary Hillaire came to the college with the goal of addressing the needs of Native students.
Maxine Mimms, who had been teaching on the Olympia campus but lived in Tacoma, was
approached by African American women in Tacoma to offer something that would let them complete a
four-year degree for a reasonable cost. In Tacoma at that time, there were community colleges, and
then Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound, which were private schools and very
expensive. Many African American older students who had finished community college had nowhere
else that they could go to as working adults because there was no convenient state college where they
could finish the upper-division coursework. Maxine said, “Yes, I can do something here.” She began
taking students with two-year degrees on Individual Contracts. She would teach on the main campus
during the day, and have students come to her house either very early in the morning before they went
to work, or in the evenings, for their academic work.
This Tacoma upper division project began during that same early period, the mid 1970’s. At that
point, I, too, was living in Tacoma and Maxine and I were next door neighbors. As she got more
students, she convinced me that I might enjoy
meeting those students. I would go join her in
the evenings, with my son who was only 5 or 6
years old, after I had taught during the day in
Olympia. Among those first students were
women working in human service organizations,
and men who were retired veterans, many
working for the US Postal Service. Soon we
outgrew her living room. My living room was
right next door, so we would divide into two smaller seminar groups, and work with those students in
evening seminars.
It was a wonderful opportunity that soon outgrew our living rooms, and Maxine asked friends
who directed community organizations if we could use some of their spaces for our seminars. Among
the spaces we used in the evenings were those of the Tacoma Urban League, the Puyallup Tribe of

Indians, the Tacoma Colored Women’s Club, and the former OEO Program-funded Opportunities and
Industrialization Center. The Tacoma classes and seminars were not yet considered a formal off-campus
extension requiring approval by the State’s Higher Education Coordinating Board. This was another
early experiment in line with the college’s mission to serve non-traditional students. Maxine kept the
deans apprised of the project and, as it grew, proposed making it a more formal part of the college’s
offerings that could receive budgetary support for a more permanent space. That was the beginning of
what eventually has become the Tacoma Program.
In 1980 I applied for the position of Academic Dean and was appointed for an initial two-year
term beginning in 1981, as the Dean responsible for developing Evening and Part Time Programs and
Summer School. Given my experience in program evaluation, I could see that the rotating Dean’s
position was a particularly useful spot to get an overview of the experiments going on at the College.
At that point, all four Academic Deans were responsible for evaluating faculty for
reappointment, so each of the four deans were responsible for a quarter of the faculty. Our job
included visiting each faculty in their program to see how they were teaching, what they were doing,
and then to have evaluation conferences with them about their teaching, pedagogy, ideas for their next
teaching and so forth. We did this every year, and I found it very helpful when I was on the receiving
end of that as a faculty, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to see the breadth of what was
happening at Evergreen right then.
Meanwhile, Maxine was going forward with the Evergreen Tacoma Program in donated spaces.
She had recruited from the main campus—I forget how early—Richard Brian, who taught math, and
Joye Hardiman, who was in humanities, and Willie Parson, who was a microbiologist. They rotated to
Tacoma to join her in various quarters to offer breadth. Eventually, those three became permanent
faculty in the Tacoma Program.
The following quote is from an interview I had with Maxine in the middle-1980s when I was
working on my PhD and serving as an Academic Dean. I asked her what her concept was for the
development of the Tacoma Program. The quotation below is what Maxine had in mind for an upperdivision program that would serve experienced, African American adults who were working in their
communities. She was interested in students over 25. She wanted it to address the unmet needs of
African American urban adults. She did not recruit direct from high school, young people who had other
full-time options available. This was her conversation about what she had in mind for the experiment in


Most Black adults who are coming to school are already practicing paraprofessionals and
parents, and they are in positions to affect the “group,” the Black community. They have the potential
of having the greatest immediate impact on the community. My focus from the beginning has been on
the education of the Black family. I’m including family members in special college events, inviting them
to come to class, encouraging them to complete their education, talking about the family in class, and by
having students write a mandatory autobiography, I try to keep the black family at the center of the
educational experience.
The program, which is located in the community, is designed to teach a traditional, wellrounded liberal arts curriculum—humanities, natural and social sciences, and the arts. However, the
pedagogy comes from a Black worldview. Everyone is born with the potential for genius. The individual
has to be part of the group in order to succeed. Group and community involvement lets the individual
I don’t think that a person of color can afford to teach toward the goal of sending all students to
graduate school. For minorities, the graduate school, the source of advanced study, is the community.
The traditional education with an emphasis on advanced specialization, which leads to graduate school,
is not the only appropriate outcome for the college experience. Students need to return their skills to
the community.
That was her initial concept for the program. There are a lot of retired military living in
Lakewood and Tacoma. There were at that point, too, a lot of African American women working in
community organizations—in social work and other positions in the community—and few of them had
been able to complete their four-year degree to move up in the State system.
The retired military men often spent time at the NCO Club talking to each other, but they had
educational benefits that they weren’t using. The community colleges were asking them to come back
and take another two-year degree in some other content area. When they did that, they would use
their educational opportunities without getting a Bachelor’s degree. These were the people that she
was especially interested in getting in Tacoma in the early years. She would go to the Black churches on
the weekends. She would go to Fort Lewis to the NCO Club and talk to the guys about coming back to
college. She would invite them in. She would see people anywhere in her community work in general
and invite them in and recruit them to come and finish their degrees at Evergreen.
It was a wonderful group of students. The program grew steadily after the first few years.
Again, this was before the University of Washington-Tacoma had even been thought of, so this was
really the only State funded upper-division program in Pierce County. The program attracted many

African American adults and others, including Hispanic, Vietnamese, Native American and European
Americans who learned of it through word of mouth from their friends.
While I was a Dean, the question arose about the need for a more permanent facility to house the
program and a program budget. One of the challenges of the curricular experimentation at Evergreen
was how and when you decide to make the experiment a permanent part of the college’s offerings,
especially when are added costs involved. That was always an issue. Faculty would propose a nursing
program or a teacher education program. The founding faculty and administrators would say, “No, no,
no. Don’t tackle that yet. There is too much overhead to running a program like that.”
So, when the Tacoma program needed a permanent space; when it had outgrown its volunteer
spaces, Byron Youtz—who was the Provost at that time agreed to approach the Higher Education
Coordinating Board and to build into the budget some rental space in Tacoma. That finally did happen
in 1982 when it became a formal off-campus college program. It wasn’t named or wasn’t thought of at
that point as a “campus”. It was considered a program that needed physical space. That formal change
happened during the time that I was an Academic Dean and I was active in supporting the change.
Zaragoza: Betsy, you mentioned that before you became a dean, you taught in the Tacoma program for
a year. Can you talk about that year of teaching—what it was like, what experiences you had, what
kinds of things you were teaching, what it was like to work in the early days of Tacoma?
Diffendal: When I got out of my second term in the deanship in 1985, I taught in Tacoma pretty
regularly through 1995, so I’m having a little trouble remembering the first year, other than Maxine had
successfully recruited a lot of African American retired military men. It’s a long time ago and I can’t
remember the first year I taught there after it moved from our homes, to be honest with you. It was a
relatively small program still in 1980, so I think probably I’m remembering better the period right after I
was an Academic Dean in 1985, when we had a campus that was large enough on 10th and Pacific and
had a good number of students there. From the beginning, the program was designed so that it would
be accessible to working adults. There was a daytime thread...three afternoons a week, which those
folks who worked evenings or nights or did not have a job, attended. Then, there was an evening
thread...three evenings a week, which met the needs of those adults with daytime jobs or other
responsibilities during the day. We full time faculty taught in both threads. We would teach in the
afternoons and teach another group of students in the evening.
Among the most moving things that I experienced there were the African American men—many
of whom had been educated in the South, had served in the military and who were such gentlemen.


They were so thoughtful, they were so disciplined, they were so glad to have an opportunity to do the
work, to have someone interested in their lives.
Maxine and Joye Hardiman were insightful in having all the adult students write their
autobiographies as a part of their academic work. I would say that some of the most interesting things
that came out of those early programs were these autobiographies, especially of military men. I
remember several from the early years. The African American men at the end of World War II—some of
these men were considerably older—had been part of transportation units in Europe and were some of
the first to go to the concentration camps and had to deal with what they found there.
Zaragoza: My grandpa also. Once as a kid, I found a stack of pictures, and in the middle of those
pictures were emaciated bodies. It helped make sense of my grandfather in an incredible way.
Diffendal: Absolutely. We would read these autobiographies and there was suddenly a huge time gap
in the story. I remember one man especially, Mr. Roosevelt Mercer. I remember asking him,
“Roosevelt, tell me what happened here between this time you were doing military work here, and then
you move to a much later time in your story.” He said, “I can’t bring that back. I can’t talk about that.” I
said, “Where were you?” He said, “I was in Germany at the end of the war. We had to go to the camps,
and I can’t do that. I can’t bring that back.” There were other men who had had that experience and
were unable to talk about it.
The autobiographies were so powerful because they would talk about how much they learned
coming out of the South, being able to get into the military, having that training, getting to see other
parts of the world. Some of them got to go to Italy, others went to other parts of Europe and so forth.
And then there would be a part, for many of them, that just stopped. They were out of the military and
not much more was described in such detail.
I remember that it was so engaging for everyone. We would talk about those autobiographies.
We would talk about their lives and what they had learned. What we were trying to do was to let them
understand how much they already knew. These were not people who needed to be taught as if they
had no skills or a knowledge base. They had been writing reports, they’d been organizing things, they’d
been in command of various groups, they’d been responsible for all kinds of things. These
autobiographies were a way for them to see themselves as experienced and smart students.
They really were the center. We talk about student-centered programs—I would say that the
early Tacoma program was totally student centered. Faculty would consider the experiences in the lives
of the students who were there and build upon those experiences with a variety of subject matter that
offered both content and points of view from the sciences, social sciences and humanities.

I remember Benny Tate, another African American man who had retired from the Army. He was
in a segregated barracks in an Army base in Texas the year that Truman integrated the armed forces. He
remembers being awakened in the middle of the night. They said, “Get all your stuff. Pick all your stuff
up and carry it to this other barracks, because we’re integrating the barracks tonight because Truman is
coming tomorrow for an inspection.” Benny Tate moved all his things, and suddenly was in the midst of
a mixed barrack—which they had never had before—and he remembered acutely the integration of the
Hearing about experiences like these, especially those of us who were women and had not been
to war - we may have had fathers who had been in World War II - reading about these men’s lives was a
profound experience. It was a look at men, many of whom had had very difficult lives—many of them
beginning in the South— who were discriminated against, had grown up very poor and had seen a way
out of that circumstance by joining the Army, having a steady job, receiving training, gaining status
through their rank, and having new opportunities. That experience had a profound effect on their lives
and worldview. I think the women students in the program, as well as the women faculty, were
profoundly moved by these men’s stories. It’s a kind of experience that women in the U.S. rarely have.
At least at that point, there were fewer women in the military with those stories to tell.
Maxine would bring in various people from the community to give guest lectures, to talk about
various issues and how city and county government or non-profit organizations worked. They stimulated
students’ interest in the larger community. Richard Brian, a full time Evergreen faculty who was
recruited early to Tacoma to teach math had a wonderful approach. He did what he called “kitchen
table math.” He’d have them do things like take walks around the neighborhood to get a sense for the
geometry of city planning or have them measure various parts of their homes. If you were going
renovate something, how would you do the measurements for those kinds of things? Willie Parson, a
microbiologist, would assign students to test the water in their toilets at home, then they would do
studies of bacteria in class. Both of them got students engaged with very practical, hands-on
assignments. Richard and Willie would work together on developing skills that were functional, but also
got all the math and all the science involved integrated in a very practical way.
Willie would also talk about the experiences of African Americans in the Tuskegee experiment,
for example, and other biological experiments that doctors had done upon African Americans during the
Jim Crow and other periods of American history. There were things there that people had never heard.
None of us had read about that because it wasn’t part of any of our history books at that point. It was
an important introduction to the many omitted stories in African American history.

In my teaching there I tried to pick themes that provided different historical or cultural
perspectives on the human experience than students might have been exposed to. One class that was
engaging I called “Human Relationships with the Unknown” and looked at the many ways that human
groups have found to explain and understand things like where we humans came from, twin or triplet
births, where we go when we die, disabilities, mental illness. We looked at various indigenous beliefs,
world religions and cultural practices from around the world that answered these universal questions.
Another class I named, “Hidden Histories”. Each student had to research something they were curious
about in their own cultural history but hadn’t been taught in school. This was a rich topic in the 1980’s
because so much of the currently available Black and Native American history wasn’t as easily
accessible. Evergreen’s main campus librarians took turns coming to Tacoma to teach library reference
and research skills with us.
Dr. Mimms had known Martin Luther King. She herself was from Virginia, and she had gone to
school in Virginia and had lots of stories about the segregation—not being able to go into shoe stores
and try on shoes and having to have pictures drawn of their feet and take them into the shoe store. For
the students who were not African American, who hadn’t grown up in the South, or those even from the
North who may not have experienced that, it was very eye-opening. I would say, again, as the European
American students enrolled in the Native American Studies program found, those white students who
enrolled in the Evergreen Tacoma program learned so much from being the minority in a predominantly
African American student group and with predominantly African American faculty. Their eyes were
opened in a profound way to understanding the impact on real people—sitting with them as
classmates—of racial segregation and systemic racism.
After I was a Dean and returned to the Tacoma Program, I got some students there to do a
project with me - a mailed survey of the African American graduates from the Tacoma program since its
beginning. We sent it out to more than two hundred graduates after about five years of the program
and asked them what difference the program had made in their lives. Nearly all of them said it gave


them more self-confidence; a broader understanding of American history and African American history;
meaningful experiences getting to know colleagues from different cultural and racial backgrounds and
the experience of seeing culturally diverse faculty teach together; a chance for their families to come to
campus and experience what “college” was like. Both the Native American Studies students on the main
campus and the African American students in the Tacoma survey often commented on the impact of
their experiencing multicultural teaching teams.
The alumni in Tacoma had never had a college
program led by a person of color, nor had they
seen faculty teach together in multicultural
That survey demonstrated the power of
putting the students at the center of the
program and drawing the curriculum out, if you
would, from their lives. The autobiographical assignments and collaborative projects were very powerful
ways for students to get to know each other in ways that you sometimes don’t share with a peer unless
you are given an opportunity to do that. The same was true with the diverse faculty teams who would
often have different perspectives and emphases based on our life experiences.
Other Olympia faculty would be
invited to teach in Tacoma and add their
disciplines to the students’ education.
Charlie Teske came and taught about the
history of jazz. He was a jazz musician
himself. The students loved it! At the end of
every quarter, Maxine would invite families
and spouses to come, and we would have a
party to celebrate completing the quarter.
One of the students would coordinate cassette tapes for music if we didn’t have live music. Trumpeter
Charlie Teske’s jazz band came in in the quarter he taught.


The retired military men never let a woman sit on the side unasked to dance. It was a
memorable event when these older men,
who were excellent dancers, got everybody
going on the floor, and were wonderful
escorts for dancing through the evening. A
lot of those men would go to the PX and get
hams, wonderful salads, and all kinds of
good desserts. We would eat and dance
and celebrate the end of the quarter. They
would bring their children, they would bring
their spouses. Sometimes the spouses would enroll after coming and seeing the welcoming campus.
It was a very happy, a very safe place for everyone to be. The curriculum wasn’t radical for the
times. There wasn’t so much talking about social justice as performing it: listening to each other, caring
about what the stories were, thinking about what else was going on in our lives that might be impinging
on other people’s lives.
In many ways, it was very traditional because Maxine wanted them to get the most from the
experience—they worked on writing, they worked on math, they were doing science experiments and
exploring history and the social sciences. But the curriculum wasn’t separated from their lives, so it was
very meaningful. And yet, they were getting a traditional—in many respects—college education in
terms of the disciplinary competences that they were developing. Teaching in Tacoma was one of my
most enjoyable teaching experiences because it was so totally student centered and community based.
It was an outstanding educational design.
In 1986-87, when I was teaching in Tacoma, there were students from the community who
wanted to enter the program, but had not completed their 90 lower division credits required to transfer
in. Margaret Gribskov had been teaching in Tacoma for a quarter or two and Maxine asked her to
approach Tacoma Community College to see if they would be interested in forming a “Bridge Program”
with Evergreen in which one or two of their regular faculty would come to our campus to teach with one
of our Tacoma faculty in a program for lower division students with fewer than 90 credits. The students
would enroll at TCC and get TCC credits, but attend classes on our Tacoma Campus taught by a team of
combined faculty. When they completed their credits they could transfer into the upper division
program at Evergreen.


I was the first Evergreen faculty to teach in the Bridge program with two TCC faculty, an
historian and an English faculty. We had a good enrollment and the program worked perfectly as a
pipeline into Evergreen’s upper-division. The next year I taught in the growing Bridge Program with
three TCC faculty, an artist, a psychologist and an English faculty.

One of the dilemmas that the flexible rotation of faculty and administrators at Evergreen has
created from the start is how to sustain good ideas and keep them going from one generation of faculty
to the next. Those who were inspired to create these programs in the early years weren’t always sure
how to transfer that institutional culture to new faculty who came in at a different point in the history of
the college.
Many years ago Burton Clark wrote a book about what he called “the organizational saga” of
experimental colleges – he argued that these colleges had a somewhat romanticized version of the
concept that its founders had for the college in its early years. He queried whether it is possible to keep
that going when you bring on new people. At Evergreen the early faculty wrote extensive program
descriptions, program histories, took pictures, made videos, kept program and project assignments and,
of course, had all of the faculty evaluations of students and each other on the team and student selfevaluations reflecting on the program’s impact.
When I was a Dean I worked with Steve Hunter in Institutional Research to make video of
various seminars, lectures, projects and the weekly pattern of one interdisciplinary, team-taught CORE
program called “Ways Of Knowing” taught by an experienced Evergreen faculty team designed for
students new to the college. We showed this video and the program materials to an incoming group of
new faculty and met with them in small seminars to discuss it and to answer questions about various
strategies used in the program.
The experience of teaching in teams, as we did, meant planning together, talking together
about what resources to use, being in the room with each other as we each taught, giving each other

feedback in weekly faculty seminars. It takes a lot of time, but doing that kind of teaching, I think, really
enlivens your pedagogy, keeps you engaged with the enterprise of teaching, as well as keeps you
exploring your own field in new ways because a particular question or theme requires you to do some
new thinking about the potential of your own field. I think that teaching alone, while it may be easier
interpersonally —as we all discovered, it can be a challenge to teach with varied personalities who bring
different approaches to teaching—I think in the end it is a better experience for students and helps
faculty development. If we continue to do on-site, in-person teaching —whether it’s in Tacoma or in
Olympia—I think it is valuable to keep that theme-based, team model; important to encourage new
faculty to do this kind of intensive and creative team teaching. It is a major part of what has made
Evergreen a rewarding experience for students and faculty.
Maxine realized that at some point she was going to be retiring, so she sought out younger
African American faculty who might be interested to teach there and eventually take over the program.
Joye Hardiman had been working with her from very early and was interested to continue teaching in
the Tacoma Program so Maxine acted as her mentor who taught Joye about budgeting and other
administrative skills needed to run the program. This was a very effective strategy for assuring the
continuation of the program’s philosophical and community-based approach even when new faculty join
the team.
Zaragoza: Let me tell you where we’re at in Tacoma now in terms of teach teaching, the economic
situation with all the cuts that we’ve had. Our team teaching predominantly now is lyceum that we all
work together on, we all figure out. When I got to Tacoma 10 years ago, all the courses were team
taught in pairs, so we would have four, sometimes more, different courses that were all team taught.
Now, Betsy, because we’re so low in terms of the number of faculty—we have six faculty members now,
that’s what they’ve cut us to, that’s three courses in pairs—our students have to choose two of those
three, and we’re finding that there’s not enough selection, so we’ve had to split apart. This coming fall,
of the courses, only one is team taught, so there are four other courses, so students have some variety.
We’ve just been cut so much that we, by necessity—it’s not just that interpersonal, it’s all just in terms
of having more selection.
Diffendal: Yes, that’s a practical thing that has to be worked out every biennium with the State budget.
Evergreen now has those constraints due to fluctuation in student numbers. I’m not saying that it’s a
bad thing to abandon larger teams teaching together, but it is important, I think, to recognize the value
to students and faculty of thematically integrated explorations, using interdisciplinary approaches, with
as much joint planning and assessment as possible.

Zaragoza: I just wanted to give you a sense about where we were and how deeply these cuts are
impacting us.
Diffendal: Even when we were there, there were often only three or four faculty in Tacoma, and we
had at that point maybe 100-and-some students. We would often teach a little section by ourselves, but
we would then break up for seminars and have seminars together, or do other kinds of larger thematic
pieces, like your lyceum. I would say that there was always a great diversity of students and there were
lots of different interests. The relatively small Tacoma program can never deliver the range of
“emphasis areas” or “majors” that a full college faculty can, but it can teach vital intellectual and
practical skills in problem solving, research and broad literacy that a solid liberal arts curriculum should.
When I was teaching there in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, let’s say that Richard Brian was
teaching math. Maybe the larger concept or exploration in the program was the development of cities.
Richard might talk about architecture. Students would have to go out and photograph the architecture
in the city and study its geometry. I might be talking about the history of cities and the culture change
required by population growth over time as human groups moved from small village farming or herding
to larger groups in cities. The librarian would help the students understand what library resources were
available to students to research their individual topics related to urban development. There was always
a theme running through the individual strands that made the exploration interdisciplinary in terms of
the conceptual welding together of the program, so that the students had a sense of the integration of
subject matter—it wasn’t just a course in anthropology, a course in writing, a course in math—they
were all taught around a theme. That’s really where Evergreen started: thematic courses that would not
leave students just taking stand-alone classes unrelated to each other or any larger theme or problem.
I do wonder—I retired more than 10 years so I have no idea how well faculty know each other how much faculty still explore ideas together. I do know that in this period coming up, liberal arts
colleges are going to have to stay innovative to survive. I remember when we were thinking long ago
about doing online classes, nobody wanted to do it. Faculty thought it was a bad idea for Evergreen.
Jose Gomez, faculty with a background in law who had worked with Caesar Chavez in the 1960’s, was
willing to try it. He did a great on-line program on the American legal system that students loved and
thrived in. I think that Evergreen at this moment really has to take a look at its experimental roots and
figure out, what is going to keep students coming to this college. Aside from the COVID isolation and
increase in on-line communication, people are spread out and have competing responsibilities. They
can’t all come full time, daytime, and even attending a campus class several evenings a week or
weekends can be difficult.

I taught in the Masters of Teaching program in my last few years and we had student seminars
online because often, during the quarters when they’re student teaching, they’re spread out all over
Western Washington. They could come together online with faculty, they could come together in small
clusters, so that program has been experimenting with various parts online over the years. I think there
needs to be a real reimaging of what experimentation could look like at Evergreen now that will keep
the diversity of students coming, that will engage faculty, and that will remain a creative endeavor for
faculty and students.
In the early years, those of us who had children brought our kids with us sometimes when we
taught in the evenings. We allowed our students to bring their kids with them. At the Tacoma campus,
there was one young African American boy who came with both parents for the two years they were
there, and sat in the classroom and heard every single thing that his parents heard, and he was 10 years
old. I don’t have any doubt that he went on to college and was delighted.
Zaragoza: He might have gone to Evergreen in Tacoma, as a matter of fact!
Diffendal: Yes he might. It was fabulous!
Before we end, I want to talk about a few things while I was the Academic Dean. The idea of the
founding faculty was that it would be better for Evergreen not to hire permanent Academic Deans and
other higher administration positions who were no longer in the classroom, but that the faculty should
rotate into these positions and get an overview of the college and an understanding of the range of
ideas that their colleagues were exploring.
While it required a quick learning curve, I will say, to step into that position if you hadn’t been in
college administration, it was the most interesting job that I think I’ve ever had. Because I was
responsible for evaluating one-fourth of the faculty for every year, I had the opportunity to observe
those faculty teach—some in the arts, some in the sciences, some social sciences, some with studios,
some in the lab or field. I observed the kinds of student projects they were doing, the kinds of
assignments they were doing. It was a wonderful opportunity to see all sorts of pedagogical approaches
and to add to my own repertoire when I returned to the classroom.
I remember Stephanie Kozik was collecting assignments that people had given in various
programs over the years. There have been some of the most interesting, creative projects designed for
students, thought up by their teaching teams. Most of these assignments just disappeared into the endof-quarter paper shuffle and the program was never repeated again. Stephanie has a wonderful
collection—which I hope is in the Archives—of the kinds of projects that some of these interdisciplinary
programs assigned to students.

While I was a Dean observing programs, it gave me a chance to have great conversations with
faculty about their teaching. In my own experience, after faculty were given tenure – rather than
renewable three year contracts - by some requirement of the State higher education system, the
deans were no longer responsible for faculty evaluation or renewal of contracts. As a result, I think the
faculty has had fewer conversations about their own teaching, about they feel about it, and about what
other colleagues are doing—what I would call informal faculty development opportunities—than we
ever had in the beginning of the college. We talked about teaching all the time. We shared with each
other what we were doing. If we had a dilemma, we would talk to our colleagues.
As a Dean, it was so satisfying to be able to talk with faculty about their teaching. I might say, “I
was watching you teaching about such-and-such and I noticed that in your seminar …...” They’d say,
“You know, I’ve never been good at doing seminars.” And I’d say, “Have you ever talked to David Marr?
He has a really interesting approach to doing successful seminars. Why don’t you go talk to David and
maybe go sit in on one of his seminars to see what that looks like?” I would have a sense of what
various people were good at, or they might come up with something spontaneously that worked well
with a group of students, and I could suggest they have lunch with a colleague who might like to try
something like it.
Barbara Smith, as both the Curriculum Dean and Provost really made faculty development a
priority. She worked hard to get to know the faculty. She’d send us articles about something that she
knew we were interested in. Her attention to the faculty, who were putting so much energy and long
hours into our teaching, but were in some ways isolated from what others were doing was really
important. Over the years after Barbara’s work, there were fewer systematic conversations about
pedagogy, and about developing our teaching. Barbara would set up lunch conversations about ways to
run seminars. Susan Fiksdal got very interested in that when she was a Dean, studied seminar behavior
and identified strategies that worked well.
I was the Dean of Part-time Studies and Summer School when I first began in the position. The
programs were small in 1981 but some adjunct faculty/part time faculty taught regularly. Barbara Smith
didn’t feel that it was right that they had no benefits attached to their regular quarter or half time work.
This was the common situation for so many community college teachers. As a result, she set up a
system of benefits for adjuncts who taught regularly at Evergreen. I noticed that they also had no office
or single place they could go to receive college mail, meet students or other colleagues. I set up a
shared Adjunct Faculty Office in the Library Building so that there was a place where they could work
while on campus. I would invite them into my office for conversations about teaching, about what they

were concerned about. This was something that I was never sure was continued after I rotated out of
the position because the incoming deans didn’t have a detailed description of everything they might do.
This is an issue...the institutionalization of good practices...that can arise with a constantly rotating
group of administrators.
The same thing with Evergreen Tacoma and the Native American Studies program. Who’s
paying attention now to the fact that the faculty are aging both at the Tacoma Campus and Olympia,
and who is going to come behind?
This challenge of cultural transmission from one generation to another of Evergreen faculty is
something that I could see from my perch as a dean. As we would hire new faculty, where do you put
first-year faculty? What would be a program that would give them a really good picture of what’s
possible at Evergreen in an interdisciplinary program, for example? Who are faculty that you might like
them to have a conversation with? So, in addition to having a new faculty retreat, there’s ongoing work
that needs to help new faculty see the college and its potential if they’ve come from more traditional
programs or just arrived from graduate school.
With a rotating administration, and with faculty given the opportunity to rotate into different
academic programs in the college and other roles in and outside of the college, it can be difficult to
sustain a particular curricular thread that students may be very interested in. I was an Academic Dean
for four years, worked in the college’s Library for a quarter, spent a year working in Academic Advising,
and had a six-month faculty exchange at The University of Hawaii, Hilo. It is a complicated thing to
manage this rotation and flexibility, and to make sure that everything is paid attention to. It is especially
important that faculty, who work so hard, are seen, thought about and given meaningful feedback.
This idea of faculty team seminars, where you are honest with each other about your teaching,
was taken seriously in the early years. We would all make suggestions to our colleagues about things
that they might try. “I noticed in this project, they
had trouble understanding. I wonder if you did x,y
or z if that would help?” I don’t know to the degree
to which people do that anymore, or take that
seriously, but it is useful when you’re
experimenting with teaching modes to have
somebody who is there and seeing it give you some
feedback. At the Tacoma Campus we debriefed
weekly with our team over coffee at Browne’s Star Grill down the street.

Those were useful insights that I carried into the deanship. Also useful were the interinstitutional collaborations that we arranged. Barbara Smith developed a relationship with the
University of Washington School for International Studies that allowed our students to go there and take
advanced coursework if they were interested. I was able to set up something with South Puget Sound
Community College to let our students take some of their language courses when we couldn’t offer
stand-alone language courses in evenings and weekends in several languages. I worked with the dean
there to put things together so that our students, if there was space in the classes, could take a series of
their language courses. Some of the classes weren’t being filled, so they were glad for the arrangement.
Those kinds of inter-institutional arrangements like the Tacoma Community College Bridge
Program, the South Puget Sound course-sharing, and the University of Washington partnership let
Evergreen students have expanded opportunities. All of those agreements and those opportunities had
to be set up and communication sustained over time. This can be challenging when there are rotating
deanships and those relationships must be maintained.
Evergreen has now been operating for 50 years and should celebrate, while it considers what is
coming in higher education in the next 50 years. What does Evergreen need to do to be prepared for
that? I hope that conversation is robust at the college at this point.
Zaragoza: It definitely is, and it really is for us at Tacoma. During this period of remote learning in the
COVID pandemic, one of the things that we’re seeing at Tacoma, we developed a daytime curriculum
and an evening curriculum. We’re starting to see that when we come back onto campus, we’re going to
need a third track. We should have a remote learning track that is available to students.
Diffendal: Yes.
Zaragoza: So many students have commented that it makes it so much easier for them. Like evening
once made it easier for a group of students, we need a remote track also that will make it easier for
them. I do think that that is going to happen for us at Tacoma.
Diffendal: I will say one more note from my work as a Dean, and then I’ll stop. I learned a lot from my
responsibility for creating a self-supporting summer school at the college. Because so many students
look at the college year as from September to June, the campus tended to be fairly empty in the
summer. Not surprising since there is no State funding for faculty salaries to teach summer school. The
Provost and the administration were trying to get a robust summer school going that would make use of
the dorms and the campus in the summer. I thought that was very interesting project. They gave me
the responsibility to develop a self-supporting summer school.


I found ways to encourage faculty to think about teaching something in the summers that they
most loved to teach or were most interested in or thought Evergreen students or the community would
benefit from. I was able to bring Elderhostel to the campus and the enrollees were able to stay in the
dorms and use food service facilities. I got Evergreen faculty to teach them about mushrooms of the
Northwest. There were all kinds of offerings in the visual arts and Northwest natural history that
appealed to community members as well as students at Evergreen.
What I’ve thought about more recently is the value that high school students are finding now in
Running Start programs, where they’re able to get college credits for taking courses at the local
community colleges. It made me wonder—as we’re trying to find ways to get pipelines improved for
Evergreen, not so much Tacoma but the main campus, which has younger students—if there would be a
way to create something like Running Start programs that run in the summer for high school students so
that they could earn first- and second-year college level credits as a part of their high school experience
by setting up some arrangements with the high schools to let that be a part of Running Start.
They could have a college campus experience in the summer that would be more active than is
possible during the school year. There might be a field biology program, an organic farming program, all
kinds of things that that are harder for kids to do during the school year when they’re just stepping into
a community college class for an hour. They could do interesting, engaged programs for Running Start
in the summer at Evergreen. It also would get them acquainted with college and acquainted with the
While I was a Dean, I went to the Pacific Lutheran University campus for a meeting in the
summer. The campus was alive with students -they had several school band camps going there with the
kids staying in the dorms. Students were playing their instruments all over campus and taking different
specializations in music preparation. I think Evergreen has really not thought carefully enough about
ways that they could engage more students in the summer—in that down quarter—that would get them
prepared for the upcoming programs or introduce them to Evergreen. I’m sure Tacoma as well could
think of some way to engage particular groups of students to come to the Tacoma Campus for summer
that would feed them into the pipeline for continued enrollment.
The summer school at Evergreen was flourishing when I left the deanship. Summer was a good
time for certain occupational groups to be able to come for continuing education. I set up an
arrangement with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to offer continuing education courses
of types required for teacher recertification. Lovern King, faculty in Native American Studies, taught a
summer program for teachers called “Travel as Education,” so when teachers would be traveling, they

would be developing curriculum for their upcoming elementary or middle or high school classes that had
something to do with where they were traveling. If they were going to the East Coast and the historic
sites there, they would do reading, they would develop curriculum, and they’d have lessons ready for
their own curriculum in the fall.
They were always looking for continuing ed opportunities for public school teachers. For
example, a very diverse campus like Tacoma might be able to provide some interesting, culturally
diverse continuing education in the summer that they work out with the Superintendent of Public
Zaragoza: It’s interesting that you say that. In Tacoma, we now have a Dean of the Tacoma Program as
opposed to a “Director” Marcia Tate Arunga is doing exactly this this summer. She’s got five guest
lecture series that she’s using to do exactly what you’re talking about.
Diffendal: Great.
Zaragoza: The funny thing is I’ve also been working with Upward Bound this summer. You’re helping
me see that I need to invite those Upward Bound students to the lecture series, so I appreciate you
connecting those dots for me.
Diffendal: Yes, they could surely do that. I think using opportunities when the campus isn’t full of
regularly enrolled students to find interesting things to bring people in to discover the campus is so
That’s my thought. It’s been a wonderful 33 years. I taught for 30 years and then did a postretirement contract, which is another good thing, because it’s hard to just stop after you’ve been
working so hard for so long. I would never have stayed at a traditional college for all that time. I would
never have felt the satisfaction that I feel for having found a way to be creative, exploratory, to use my
experience as well as my discipline.
The generalist nature of who I am and what I like to do worked perfectly for me there, and it
was always interesting no matter what path I took. I am very grateful for the existence of Evergreen,
and I think the students are as well. I just wish it the very best.
Zaragoza: I have a question for you that I’ve been wondering about since we were talking yesterday.
Betsy, what was your experience as a woman throughout, but especially in the early days of the college?
I’m very curious about your experience as a woman faculty member.
Diffendal: I would say that from the beginning, women faculty and staff were very powerful.
Although we were fewer in number, we were hired in a few clusters at about the same time. We were
very supportive of each other and, I must say, both smart and fairly fearless. The fact that there was no

rank or tenure at the college mattered—if you were a woman a few years out of graduate school you
didn’t come in as an Associate Professor—we were equivalent peers to the older men who had taught
for years, and may have had full Professor status at another institution.
I think that made a difference, for one thing, in the beginning because we all came in essentially
equivalent. So, while men that were teaching with us would get reputations for being particularly bossy,
particularly disregarding, particularly whatever, I would say that the women found a lot of support in
each other and would laugh, like you might, over the puffery and arrogance.
I think that relative to what it might feel like going into a department in a big university, the fact
that we were all hired at the same time, that we were all equally engaged with everybody else in the
college with these experiments, that none of us, including the experienced guys, had taught these things
before—we weren’t just teaching a discipline—made it a more equivalent feel than I imagine it would
feel in a more traditional college.
I know that the men and women of color had an enormous burden. There was an attempt early
to recruit more men and women of color. When there was, for example, just Rudy Martin at the
beginning as the only African American male, they said, “We’ve got to have an ethnic studies program
and you’ve got to do it and find people.”
Well, that’s asking a lot. They had to recruit students in and around predominantly white
southwest Washington and find other faculty interested, as well. The same with Native American
faculty. Also, the faculty from other Evergreen programs would invite the faculty of color to come
lecture in their programs. I remember Joye Hardiman and Maxine saying, “Every time it’s Black History
Month, you’ve got to get 15 guest lectures because everybody wants you to come in and talk about
something Black, or talk about something whatever.” Joye said, “At some point, I wish that someone
would remember what my field is, which is medieval literature. No one has ever invited me to talk
about my field. They just invite me to talk about from the Black side.”
I know Darrell Phare was a Native American faculty early. He said, “Stop inviting me in to talk
about what ‘Indians’ think about this. I am one man from one tribe in one place, and I cannot tell you
what all the Native Americans in the world think about this thing, or how they do this thing.”
I would say that the greatest burden probably was on the women and men of color in terms of
the expectations that they would fulfill this role, which is true for every college, every school really,
when there’s a minority of minority faculty. They’ve got an extra burden.
I would say that LLyn De Danaan was an early very risky, very smart women dean. She was the
first woman dean. She was very young and made an enormous difference in the recruitment of women,

in the support of women. When Mary Hillaire and Maxine had their ideas for Native American Studies
and the Tacoma program she was very supportive, and also supportive when women students wanted
to have a program for women returning to school. She supported that. People felt that they could
come to her and talk about those issues.
While the men were, I would say, more traditional academics in many cases, their expectations
were reading 15 books a quarter and such. When I would have conversations with some of the older
men on the faculty—one guy was teaching American literature and there was not one book by a woman
in the entire syllabus—we had a long conversation about surely, out of all American literature, there are
some women that you could find for this list. What about people or color who were writers at the time?
It was good that women were always in the conversation and often on the faculty teaching
teams. I would say that women of color especially were particularly strong, and they were in those
conversations with those old guys that started the college, with the founding fathers. They were used to
older white men being bossy, and they got in there, I would say better than some of the younger white
As I was doing research for my PhD on women and people of color, there were a lot of
comments in the literature in the early ‘80s about the lack of a feminist spirit among a lot of faculty
women. They went through all the PhD rigamarole and were thoroughly indoctrinated in academia.
They tended to be more conservative than you might think they would be. They were just glad to have a
piece of the pie.
There were some women who, I would say, were more traditional in that they were not really
outspoken feminists, but there were other very active women who were thinking actively about
women’s roles, women in the curriculum, all of those things. Because we were teaching in teams, and
they were often male-female teams, there was often more of a women’s voice in a particular program
than you might get if you were taking a curriculum in another college. The fact that the number of
women who stayed at Evergreen, and who became deans, became Provost, were hired as President,
became leaders in various programs that they were creating and supporting, I think, speaks very well for
the college – and for the women we hired.
As for faculty of color, there were certainly more Black faculty in the earlier years than there
have been of late on the main campus. I think that Evergreen has always been viewed as “alternative”
and in early years, hippie-ish. There weren’t a lot of African American young students or families who
were particularly interested to have their kids go to Evergreen. In part, I think it was that if their kids
were going to go somewhere, it would be University of Washington or WSU. But Evergreen was a little

too hippie, a little too weird in some ways, so to recruit younger students to the main campus was very
hard in the early years, and the fact that Olympia was, at that point, a very white community, to get
local students of color was very hard.
Overall, though, I think that women saw the opportunity at Evergreen to be creative, use the
structural flexibility, and to create programs—they were courageous—they tried things. There were all
kinds of amazing programs in the early years that were women-initiated. We got together regularly.
We had women’s faculty and staff softball games. We went on trips together, down the Rogue River in
rubber boats. We went horseback riding over in Cle Elum. It was a very nice group of women who were
from different fields and were very close to the women on the staff. I would say, over the years, we
have stayed in touch with each other.
While I was still a dean, people were thinking about retiring—some of the older ones—and I was
looking into—they kept saying, “Don’t we need some kind of retirement group?” So, I called the
University of Washington and talked to them about what they do with retirees. Do they have a group
together? They do, but they have a much larger group of faculty retirees. Some Evergreen faculty
wanted to take over the Evergreen Childcare center and make it a place where retirees could meet and
have coffee. In the end, what I’ve learned myself after retiring, is that when you’ve worked somewhere
for 30-some years, you don’t really necessarily hang together with everybody that you did before, unless
they were real good friends that you’ve stayed in touch with. In the end, our faculty was so small and
the number of retirees per year relative to the University of Washington, that it wasn’t likely to be very
well sustained. I floated the possibility out there and everybody decided, well, maybe it’s not feasible.
I think in more recent years, when Evergreen began fielding student sports teams, there have
been more athletes of color on the main campus. Some of the issues on the main campus with race and
gender have been raised more often than in the early years. There was a DTF—Disappearing Task
Force—of faculty of color in the early years trying to figure out what would make their teaching life
better there.
I would say, in general, women have distributed ourselves pretty well across the curriculum in
all the areas, have participated in all the programs, have started most of the creative things with
nontraditional populations, and have fared very well. They have been deans, have been Provosts, have
been at all layers. I think that there have been—as there are nearly everywhere—fewer women of color
in the top of the administration than there should be. But there have certainly been women distributed
across the college over the years. I do think that it’s a very exciting place for women to teach, especially
if you’ve got ideas about how to better serve underserved communities. It’s great.

Zaragoza: Was there hostility or resistance from some of the white men to the efforts of women and
faculty of color early on?
Diffendal: I’m sure there was. I think that there were some pretty strong women who came in at
various points and had strong opinions—social justice opinions and feminist opinions—and they had
clashes, as people did in all kinds of ways.
The Native American Studies program, for example, I would say the more traditional men would
discount it as not being an academically solid program because they didn’t really understand it, they
didn’t understand what Mary was really trying to do, they didn’t understand the geographic spread at
that time of the state’s Native American community. To simply engage and interest non-traditional
students to come to college and to create a place that would be appealing was a huge challenge that
many colleges were trying to address at that point. UPS was trying hard to do that with Native American
students, and UW was trying to do that.
The fact that Evergreen faculty women were trying to do much of this experimentation, I think,
probably did lead to critique from white males. Certainly, in faculty meetings, there was plenty of
bluster. That was the white males’ arena for talking about the great ideas that they had. The women
often would roll our eyes and occasionally get a word in.
But I would say that women—as women often have done—would be nonplussed by that and
would go ahead and do pretty much what we were going to do anyway. [laughing] But I don’t know
that any woman has ever walked out of the college, was shooed out of the college, was threatened out
of the college, or made so uncomfortable that she resigned. There was a lot of support by other
Evergreen women in those early years.
By the fifth year of the college, I think about 25 percent of the faculty were women. In most
colleges at that time, it was something like 13 percent. So, there was a greater number of women on
the faculty from the start. There was a cohort of faculty, and a lot of the staff were women at that
point, and we were really close to, for example, the Program Secretaries because we were all working
out processes for getting narrative evaluations done. We needed to know how to set this internship up
and could they make a call?
We were real close to each other, and a lot of us had children at that point, so we were all
figuring out what to do about that. We were including the kids in our programs. We were all very
engaged with our teaching. The things that men presented were things that they’d pretty much present
wherever we might work. It wasn’t a hard place, in my view, for women.


Zaragoza: Betsy, as we wrap up, are there any final words, or things that we didn’t cover that you’d like
to discuss?
Diffendal: I can’t think at this point what it would be. You choose a thing at some point in your life that
is what you tend to spend a lot of time on, and I at this point—at 77—am so delighted it was Evergreen,
because I really can’t think of another thing I might have done that would have given me more joy, more
stimulation, and very little day to day repetition.
I learned more from the students, of course, than they learned from me, I’m sure. I’m still in
touch with so many of them online. They’ve gone on to work for the United Nations and have taught in
all kinds of situations or have worked thoughtfully in their communities. It’s been very gratifying, and I
would be willing to do whatever I might in the few years I have left to help Evergreen keep on going,
because it really needs to be an opportunity for students in this state.
Zaragoza: Thanks so much, Betsy. We especially appreciate all the wisdom, knowledge and experience
that you shared that may help us in those endeavors. Thank you for talking to us.
Diffendal: Thank you for talking and listening. I appreciate it.