Denny Wilkins

Denny WilkinsEducation

B.S., University of Massachusetts
M.E.S., The Evergreen State College, 1990
Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder


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Biographical Note

Dr. Denny Wilkins professes journalism at a small, private university in the Northeast. He has climbed, hiked, kayaked, photographed, skied, and otherwise meandered aimlessly throughout the American West for decades. He has degrees in geology, environmental studies, and communication — and has tried to make use of them as a co-founder of the progressive cultural blog He’s broadly interested in how the world works and why it works that way. He hates writing, although he does like having written well.

book coverPublication Type


Latest Publication Title

mapping Utah: love and war in the wilderness, January 25, 2014

Publication Excerpt

Kara had driven to Portland Friday night and stayed in a small motel off Burnside Avenue. She made the six-hour drive at least once a month. Dad the Engineer had preached that change is as good as a rest — when needed and appropriate. So she escaped Seattle — let’s be honest, I got away from him, too — for the freedom of solitude in Portland. She loved her Saturdays in the stacks at Powell’s. She had money — she worked long hours and invested much of her income with great care — to flee Seattle and buy books. Lots of books. She’d wandered through the bookstore and added several books for the growing stack on her night stand. Having books unread meant tasks to be completed. Always have a project, Dad the Engineer had cautioned, so Kara read voraciously.

Walking through the little room with the travel books, she had found a folded Rand McNally highway map on the floor. Something about the map kept her from returning it to the display. The title read “West Central United States.” Odd. She’d seen Rand McNallys that covered several states but never a region carved out of the middle of the far West like that. The map rested warmly in her hand. It was silent but oddly communicative and irresistible, so she bought it. Nothing had been irresistible for a long time. In Seattle, the relationship had lost its fervor, its energy, its compelling newness. Hasn’t it?

Kara had left Powell’s and walked down East Burnside and up 9th Avenue to the welcoming red façade of Fuller’s, a diner where she’d parked. She’d sat in front of a cheese omelet that had grown cold as she examined the map. It covered a region south and east of Portland, east and north of Los Angeles, north and west of Four Corners in Utah, and south and west of Billings, Montana. She’d dwelled on Oregon, looking at the blue, red, and light brown highways and the gray “unimproved or dirt roads” and the green forests and the bright blue sea and lakes and the thin blue rivers and the pink borders around national forests and the cities in a big bold font and the nowheres in a tiny lightface font. She needed a holiday. From him. From everything. All those colors ought to be explored. She asked herself, Where would you like to go today?

Sitting in the car, Kara had thought of work, of living together, of being apart, of being together again for the sake of a needed togetherness in her life. Was this love? Is this what love became when it fell silent, when it became only rituals and routines? Options had been reviewed. Dad the Engineer had always insisted on having Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D if Plan A, the preferred option, hadn’t worked. It was early Saturday afternoon. She had time. Tuesday’s deadline could wait. I can do that work anywhere. Her wireless MiFi and her iPhone and satellite phone could send her productivity anywhere from anywhere. Kara hated radio shadows, the tunnels and valleys and repeaterless landscapes of so much of the West that left a cell phone addict inventing profanities. Always the Girl Scout. Semper paratis. Kara had booted her Mac, guessed at the URL for Rand McNally’s home page, and typed:

It’d worked. She’d searched the catalogue but could find no listing for a “West Central United States” map. That had mystified her. The map did not exist. But it did! It sat in her lap. She’d fingered the paper. The map was tangible.

When she climbed into her Subaru, she hadn’t really decided anything. It just kind of happened. She’d driven up Burnside, and without thinking about it, turned south on 405. She’d refused to consider consequences as she followed I-5 south. At a rest area south of Portland, she’d opened the map and looked at Oregon, then Nevada, then Utah. She’d pursed her lips, grabbed her iPad, and quickly touch-typed an e-mail, which she preferred over texting. Typing with thumbs never made sense to her.

How Did Evergreen Help You in Your Career?

As a journalist (and now a journalism professor), the ability to observe — to see patterns where others do not and breaks in patterns where others do not — is paramount. Evergreen, notably through John Perkins and Ralph Murphy of the MES program and my classmates — taught me to see better, to look where I had not before, to imagine what I had not. I am grateful.