Experiencing the Evergreen Kindness

The Washington Center was pleased to host Wajeehah Aayeshah as our Winter Visiting Scholar. Learn more about Wajeehah’s background and research here.

From left to right: Timothy Corvidae, Jaime O’Connor, Emily Johnston, Wajeehah Aayesha, JuliA Metzker

Hello, I am Wajeehah Aayeshah and I have had the honour of being the winter quarter visiting scholar at the Washington Centre. It has been such a pleasure!

My Evergreen journey started in mid-January, around the same time you were meant to experience once in a decade snowstorm. I am researching kindness in higher education, but I didn’t expect my visit to be engulfed with kindness. It feels like I entered a parallel reality. A place where education is being facilitated in a holistic way, engaging with the community, creatively developing skills, while offering students and faculty an agency over their learning and teaching journey. I don’t know many places that do this or are able to do this.

I had a bit of academic fan girl experience with Julia Metzker, who very kindly invited me and made me feel like I was a part of the team. I would like to offer special thanks to Jaime O Connor, who went above and beyond organising my visit and connecting me with the right people. Also, for all the rides back home with Sean.

Shout out to everybody at the Washington Centre, Emily Johnston who patiently supported my requests for administrative stuff. Timothy Corvidae and Julie Russo, with whom I had numerous conversations around creativity, curriculum design, and collaboration.

Throughout my four weeks, I was given time, energy, and insights by the lovely Greeners. There are far too many conversations I had that inspired me. Lovely people like Emily Pieper, Jazmyne Kozak, Arita Balaram, Frederica Bowcutt, Greg Mullins, Penelope Partridge, and Leah Cover, walking me through their work and giving me feedback on mine. Carolyn Prouty and Catherine Peterson invited me into their classrooms and allowed me to conduct workshops with students. Catherine along with rest of the MiT team Sara Sunshine Campbell, Grace Huerta, Leslie Flemmer, and Jon Davies, invited me to observe their team meeting.

Ellen Shortt Sanchez spent an hour talking about CBLA and graciously shared her insights again for an interview. Sonja Wiedenhaupt, whose phrase “Take a pause wherever you are” I take back with me. Dawn Barron, who candidly discussed everything from her practice, educational experiences, and Native Pathways to her family and travels. Kyle Pittman, who chipped in his experiences and approaches and a first nations student and teacher. Jamyang Tsultrim generously shared his practices and experiences of kindness. Cholee Gladney’s calming energy grounded me. Leticia Nieto talked to me about healing and trauma, and dance. Even the provost, David McAvity, made time to offer his insights from a leadership perspective.

The student bodies whom I got to co-run focus groups with Jaime, The Writing Centre Tutors and Ansley Clark, the Bliss students and Michael Rupp-Talamantez, I appreciate your energy, strength, and the clarity with which you see the world. People at the library, bookshop, and the Greenery, whose name I asked but very rudely have forgotten because I did not note them down.

There are some moments that are very vivid in my mind. Talking about the challenges of debilitating empathy in Tamsin Foucrier’s cosiest office. A walk around the campus with Abir Biswas, patiently listening to me babbling about my framework of kindness and offering his feedback. Experiencing Mukti Khanna’s holistic ways of embedding practices of creating mindful awareness, connecting body, mind, and emotions. Steven Nina’s campus tour and knowledge about the land of Squaxin people and Puyallup tribe of the Stehless chase people, as well as, his experiences teaching international politics and relations, and Palestine.

Speaking of Palestine, it filled my heart with warmth and gratitude to see the support offered at Evergreen by students and staff. I thought about Rachel Corrie a lot and ended up getting her play. I was also lucky enough to attend a session on Palestine organised by Therese Saliba, and later to get a taste of home cooked meals and walking as she and her husband Tom welcomed me in their family space.

To each and every one of you, thank you for sharing your beautiful practices and your precious insights. I am grateful for you indulging me, for supporting my work, for encouraging my framework of kindness. I carry your conversations with me. And by that, I mean I literally have them on my phone and in my secure cloud, and not just in my heart.  😊 I hope we continue with these beautiful relationships that have been built in these four weeks.

I will miss the beautiful campus, the lush forest, and wildlife. (I let out a silent scream witnessing a herd of deer on campus.) I hope that Evergreen continues to be green forever. For my research on kindness in higher education, I don’t think I would have found a better place. Evergreen has its own unique challenges, lack of kindness isn’t one of them.

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