"We are UWTacoma" storytelling

November 1, 2019

UW Tacoma: The Transformation of a Campus

Evelyn Shankus (Evy) currently teaches 300 and 400-level Business Management courses as a Senior Lecturer in the Milgard School of Business. But she also takes students on Global Study Abroad trips, oversees the business interns, and works with the Academic Policy and Curriculum Committee. She was initially hired in March 1995 to teach 300 and 400-level business classes through a unique program known as the “2+2 Program,” which came about through a partnership between the University of Washington Tacoma and Olympic College as a way to offer UW courses in Kitsap County. After only two quarters of teaching in the 2+2, Shankus was brought in to teach those same classes at UW Tacoma.

 Not many of us remember the beginning years before campus was built and classes were taught in the nearby Perkins Building, but Shankus experienced those years first hand. 

“We would teach in offices. It was just a handful of students, and it was literally an office. It was so weird. It felt more like campfire stories. There was no chalkboard, there wasn’t a projector. It was just people, not many people in a room.” 

Within the span of a few years the campus experienced dramatic changes that Shankus was fortunate enough to experience. 

During the interview, we asked Shankus to describe UW Tacoma in one word, and the word she chose was transformational. “In a million years, you would have never imagined how transformative this campus has been to this region and this area. I love that it just created this whole beautiful opportunity to grow small businesses, and be a place where people gather, and just watching the old buildings come back to life, one at a time, I mean, what more can you ask–to have that kind of profound effect on an area.” 

For Shankus, one of the things that sets UW Tacoma apart from other universities is how much it has changed from its early beginnings. “It was very much populated by homeless people. The Mission was downtown, and it was a troubling sort of place.” She remembers it as an area where you couldn’t walk to your car alone, and she recalled finding syringes on campus because of the profound drug problems in the area. 

Beyond the physical and community changes over the last two plus decades, there have also been changes to the academic programs since Shankus was hired, particularly in the Milgard program. “It wasn’t Milgard for quite a while, so I remember that as a big transition too. That’s probably been about 15 years now. It’s grown a lot, but I think it has stayed true to its original vision. It’s always been very grounded in the management of people, and that hasn’t changed; the school has changed, but it hasn’t.” This idea is something we have heard on numerous occasions over the course of the project – continuity in the face of change. 

Towards the end of the interview, we deviated from the theme of transformation and change, and shifted towards the attitude and atmosphere of our campus: 

“The University is truly a reflection of the community in which it does its work. This isn’t an Ivory Tower – this is a place where people come together, that they see themselves everywhere they look. It’s an extremely diverse, and welcoming, and kind, and safe place. And I love that about here. I just feel like everybody is here, on the same page, for the same reason – it’s to help each other. You don’t get that everywhere, and that’s why I’ve stayed all this time. Something that’s never changed is everybody is here because they really believe in what we are doing. The students are one of us, they are very much the core of why we’re here, and they’re just like us. We are very inclusive, very reflective, and very egalitarian in the sense that everybody is welcomed.” 

Sometimes it’s hard for us to imagine the roots of our campus and really understand where we come from as a campus community; not every campus or every university has had such a profound impact on the surrounding area and culture, but UW Tacoma has. Evelyn Shankus has had the incredible opportunity to not only see those roots first hand, but also see many of the changes that have made this campus what it is today. “I feel very fortunate to have been part of that evolution,” she added. “The macro-level evolution is my favorite memory of UW Tacoma.”