ACADEMICS – Rich in Research

The Evergreen State College

Olympia, Washington

To many people, the Grand Canyon is one of those iconic American places that makes an obligatory appearance in the family photo album alongside Yellowstone National Park and Disneyland. For some Evergreen students, however, the awe-inspiring gash in the earth is a classroom. Each year, students enrolled in Geology of the Grand Canyon spend the entire spring quarter floating down the Colorado River, exploring the landscape. “Faculty [members] don’t want to teach the same lecture every year to a class of students that is disengaged, sitting in a lecture hall,” says Doug Scrima, Evergreen’s director of admissions. So Evergreen integrates research into almost all of its courses.

Yearly percentage of Evergreen grads who get into one of their top two choices for graduate school: eighty-five.

Students working in the school’s Phage Laboratory, for example, found a naturally occurring bacteriophage (a cell that attacks bacteria) that destroys E. coli. Even better, they figured out how to suspend it in a liquid so that when, say, Southern California farmers wash their spinach crops after harvest, the cells can destroy a bacteria that could make consumers sick. “So much of what we do is hands-on,” says senior Ashley Jamison, who is focusing her course work on evolutionary biology. “It’s helpful to go out into the field and gain experience instead of just starting a job not knowing about the tools you are using or how to use them.” It’s also a pretty good way to assure yourself a spot in graduate school: Forty-seven percent of recent Evergreen alums have gone on to graduate programs, and about 85 percent of them get into their first or second choices, according to Scrima. “We actually have faculty from different graduate programs calling and asking for more of our students,” he says.

Central Washington University

Ellensburg, Washington

Primates who communicate via sign language aren’t just characters in movies like 1987’s Project X. They’re real. And they’re at Central Washington University. In fact, they’re pretty much only at Central Washington: The school’s Chimpanzee-Human Communication Institute is one of the few programs in the world that teaches sign language to primates. Students can gain practical experience through one of the institute’s summer apprenticeships, in which undergraduates clean cages, prepare meals for the chimps, and observe them at play.

University of Washington

Seattle

That one school could bring us both the Stardust Project (NASA’s successful effort to collect comet dust) and Pepper Schwartz (the sociology professor whose research has resulted in 14 books, several appearances on Oprah’s couch as a relationship expert, and the establishment of dating site Perfectmatch.com) is a testament to how much intellectual freedom the University of Washington gives its professors. In 2007, the Huskies ranked 12th in the nation among all colleges for research, according to the Arizona-based Center for Measuring University Performance, which looks at everything from research funding to the number of doctorates awarded. Thanks to the $1 billion in research funding the university scored in 2007, we’re guessing the Huskies will now rank a little higher in the pack.