Activist brings decades of experience to EWU students


Jace Bylenga has been hired as EWU’s Activist in Residence. Before working for EWU, Bylenga worked to stop the use of oil trains in the state of Washington | Photo courtesy of Sherri Urann

By Josh Fletcher, News Editor

“Changing people’s minds isn’t easy,” Jace Bylenga said.  If anybody would know how to affect change it would be Bylenga, who is EWU’s newest Activist in Residence.

Bylenga is the first male to hold the position when he was hired earlier this month, and brings a career in activism with him.

“The moment when I kind of understood what activism is and that you can really affect change on a decision maker, was when we [the Sierra Club] visited then-Representative Jay Inslee in his office,” said Bylenga. “That moment it just felt like, ‘oh my gosh’ we can make a difference just by showing up.”

Bylenga has worked for organizations such as: the Sierra Club, Fuse, Power Past Coal Coalition, Waterkeeper Alliance and Jay Inslee for Washington.

The main focus of Bylenga’s activism has been on the environment. Whether it is educating neighbors about the dangers of oil trains going through their town, or fighting for clean water. Bylenga is committed to nature.

One memory Bylenga remembers vividly of his childhood were the frogs in his neighborhood.

The sound of chirping frogs were normal, and when they were no longer prevalent at Bylengas house, he began to question why. It wasn’t until Bylenga went to school and learned about  environmental biology, that he could finally piece together what happened to the frogs outside his house.

The reason, he finally learned, was from all the years his dad emptied the heavily chlorinated pool and it drained into the frog swamp.

It was moments like this that pushed Bylenga towards a life of activism and education.

“Maybe they just need to understand more,” Bylenga said, when he recalled that memory.

He said his dad had no idea what he was doing was the wrong thing, he was just doing what the people at the pool place told him he had to do.

After going to school and learning about various types of sciences, Bylenga thought he could use his knowledge and degree in a different way to help people.

“I’d rather talk to people about science than sit in a lab and meticulously put things in tiny beakers,” said Bylenga. “I never really was seeking out activism, it really found me.”

Bylenga will hold workshops Wednesdays in Monroe Hall 207 to teach students how to get involved with activism, but also skills they can use in any work environment.

“Whatever profession you are in you might need to stand up to more powerful people than you,” said Bylenga. “It’s kind of an essential skill to have as a member of society, but I dont think it’s shared enough.”

Whether it is trying to get a raise or fighting for something you believe in at your work, the skills taught in activism can help you convey your message.

Getting involved, no matter how big or small, is the starting point to affecting change on any level Bylenga says.

But motivating people to change can be hard and it is not typically done by showing them a spreadsheet.

“What motivates people to change and act is not numbers,” said Bylenga. “They remember emotions, your personal story.”