Program History

Dr. Maxine Mimms

Dr. Maxine Mimms returned to the Tacoma campus she co-founded in 1972 to share the history of the program and words of motivation with students.

Embedded in Tacoma’s Urban Landscape

In 1972, longtime Tacoma resident and Evergreen faculty member Dr. Maxine Mimms overheard locals talking about that "new college in Olympia." They thought it was just for kids in the forest, that it couldn't meet the needs of adults in the city.

She and her neighbor, Dr. Betsy Diffendal, took that as a challenge. They began the Tacoma Program with just a handful of students meeting in the two women's homes in the Hilltop neighborhood. The program was formally established at 12th and MLK in 1982.

As word spread and more students and faculty joined, the program continued to outgrow one location after another. In 2001, the program found its permanent home on 6th Avenue.

The building mural

Student Engagement Drives Program Success

Students have played a critical role from the program's beginning. The current space's design was a student project. Over the course of a year, students researched emerging needs and building design. They created details to foster a productive learning environment, including the innovative commons space where weekly Lyceum is held.

The building's distinctive mural was also a student project. Students researched the history of the neighborhood and developed symbols of the many communities that have thrived there. They worked with faculty member Dr. Joye Hardiman and members of a South African community where public art is a cultural tradition of history and resistance. Together, they integrated the symbols into a traditionally designed mural. The students and artists then painted the mural together. Learn more about the mural's symbolism.

Student projects continue to be embedded in the community. Each year, students take on multi-quarter research projects. They each identify a problem, conduct research, and determine strategies to address it. In the spring, they present their results as "doable acts" at a fair open to the public. In this way, their work moves forward into action and identifiable improvements.