Educator, activist, and entrepreneur Dr. Marcia Tate Arunga began her work on July 15, 2019 as the first-ever dean of Evergreen’s Tacoma program.
“Marcia’s proven leadership and breadth of experience will help us improve service to students and community at Evergreen’s Tacoma program,” said Evergreen President George Bridges. “I know she will bring energy and passion to this important work.”
Born and raised in the Seattle area to parents born in the South, she attended a small, all-girls high school that had a peace-centered curriculum. “It was a profound education,” she said, and it put her on track to study sociology at the University of Washington.
While in college, she worked with the Black Panther Party to bring breakfast programs to schools and medical care to the community. She also worked specifically with Carolyn Downs—who now has a medical center named after her in Seattle—to fight sickle cell anemia in children.
In 1982 Arunga moved to Kenya where she raised four children and continued her activism work, which included helping to organize the 1985 End of the Women’s Decade Conference in Nairobi. After ten years she returned to the U.S. and founded Seaweed International, an African clothing store in Seattle.
The store served as a launch pad for her next endeavor, the Cultural Reconnection Mission, through which she has led groups of African American women to Kenya to build what she called “an informal network of communication” between the two cultures and to help connect African Americans to their heritage.
She is also the author of Stolen Ones, a children’s book about a girl who was taken from her African home to serve in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and was missed by her family and village.
Arunga has served as an adjunct faculty member at Evergreen-Tacoma and received mentorship from Evergreen-Tacoma founder Dr. Maxine Mimms and Evergreen faculty member Dr. Joye Hardiman, who led the Tacoma program for 18 years. She is passionate about education for people of all ages and said one of her main functions as dean is to remove barriers to learning that many adults face.
The Evergreen Tacoma program remains a vital part of Tacoma’s historically-diverse Hilltop neighborhood and Arunga said she is excited to continue her work as dean. “It’s not just a school,” she said. “It’s the hub of a community.”
Arunga holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational change from Antioch University, a Master in Human Development with an emphasis in Adult Education and Human Services from Pacific Oaks College, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Washington.