Western Washington University
Former names
Northwest Normal School (1886–1893)
New Whatcom Normal School (1893–1901)
State Normal School at Whatcom
Washington State Normal School at Bellingham (1901–1904)
Western Washington College of Education (1904–1937)
Western Washington State College (1937–1977)
Motto"Make Waves"[1]
TypePublic university
EstablishedFebruary 24, 1893; 131 years ago (1893-02-24)
Academic affiliation
Endowment$109.8 million (2022)[3]
PresidentSabah Randhawa
ProvostBrad Johnson[4]
Academic staff
684 full time (2022)[5]
Administrative staff
1,437 (2018)[6]
Students14,747 (2022)[5]
Undergraduates13,801 (2022)[5]
Postgraduates947 (2022)[5]
Location, ,
United States

48°44′02″N 122°29′10″W / 48.734°N 122.486°W / 48.734; -122.486
CampusSmall city[7], 215 acres (87 ha)
Other campuses[8]
NewspaperThe Western Front
ColorsBlue, light blue, gray, black, and white[9]
Sporting affiliations
MascotVictor E. Viking[10]
Western Washington University is located in Washington (state)
Western Washington University
Location in Washington

Western Washington University (WWU or Western) is a public university in Bellingham, Washington. The northernmost university in the contiguous United States, WWU was founded in 1893 as the state-funded New Whatcom Normal School, succeeding a private school of teaching for women founded in 1886. The university adopted its present name in 1977.

WWU offers a variety of bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as limited doctorates. In 2022, there were 14,747 students, 13,801 of whom were undergraduate students, and 664 full time faculty.[5] Its athletic teams are known as the Vikings, which compete in Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The main campus is located on 215 acres in Bellingham[11][12] with a branch campus marine center in Anacortes.[13] The university is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Additional accreditation is held by individual colleges.


Old Main

Western was established as the Northwest Normal School, a teachers' school predominantly for women although men also enrolled, by Phoebe Judson in Lynden, Washington, in 1886.[14] Eventually the school moved to Bellingham (then "New Whatcom"), and through the efforts of William R. Moultray and George Judson (Phoebe's son).[15] Governor John McGraw signed legislation establishing the New Whatcom Normal School on February 24, 1893. In November 1895, construction began on a permanent school building, now known as Old Main, the current administration building. Designed by prominent Seattle architects Warren Skillings & James Corner, it was completed by early 1897 but could not be opened to students until funds could be secured to install heating, lighting, and to do general grounds maintenance, which were not included in the original contract.[16] The first official class entered in 1899, composed of 88 students.

The institution that is now Western Washington University underwent several name changes. In 1901, the school's name was changed to State Normal School at Whatcom to reflect New Whatcom's name change. In 1904, the name was changed to Washington State Normal School at Bellingham when the townships of Whatcom and Fairhaven joined, and again in 1937, to Western Washington College of Education when it became a four-year college. Twenty-four years later it became Western Washington State College and finally, in 1977, the institution gained university status and changed to its present name.

The 1960s was a period of especially rapid growth for Western, as its enrollment increased from 3,000 students to over 10,000 during the decade. Also during this time, the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies was founded (1967), with non-traditional education methods that would serve as a model for Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Two years later, the College of the Environment, the nation's first dedicated environmental science college, was founded, continuing Western's trend toward "cluster" colleges. That same year, on a spring afternoon, students gained headlines by blocking Interstate 5 to protest the Vietnam War. Also in 1969, the College of Ethnic Studies was established; however, after being met with significant resistance, it was dismantled in 1975.[17]

Since this period, the College of Arts and Sciences was founded (1973) and divided into the College of Humanities & Social Sciences and the College of Science & Engineering (2003); the College of Fine and Performing Arts was formed from several art departments (1975); and the College of Business and Economics was established (1976).

Today, WWU has a student body that currently consists of over 16,000 students. The university is the third largest in Washington after Washington State University and the University of Washington.


Campus, Looking North to Downtown Bellingham
Fisher Fountain

WWU is located in Bellingham, a city of about 95,000 people, overlooking Bellingham Bay and many of the San Juan Islands. The university is 90 miles (140 km) north of Seattle, 55 miles (89 km) south of Vancouver, British Columbia, and an hour's drive from 10,778-foot (3,285 m) Mount Baker. The university is located close to Interstate 5.

Wilson Library

The campus is 215 acres (87 ha), including the 38-acre (15 ha) Sehome Hill Arboretum, operated jointly with the City of Bellingham. Campus facilities include an electronic music studio, an air pollution lab, a motor vehicle research lab, a marine research lab, a wind tunnel, and two electron microscopes. Western's Vehicle Research Institute has led Automobile Magazine to describe Western as "very possibly the best school in the country for total car design."[18] Western also has off-campus facilities at Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, Washington; Lakewood, a 15-acre (6.1 ha) student-university facility at nearby Lake Whatcom; and Whatcom County property used for environmental and aquatic analyses.

Public sculpture collection

Main article: Western Washington University Public Sculpture Collection

Scepter (1966) by Steve Tibbetts

WWU's prized collection of outdoor and indoor public art sculptures is a major presence on its campus. The collection, funded by the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and private donations, includes 36 works:[19] Founded in 1960,[20] the collection includes large-scale works by James FitzGerald, Isamu Noguchi, Robert Morris, Mark di Suvero, Anthony Caro, Nancy Holt, Beverly Pepper, Richard Serra, Donald Judd and Bruce Nauman, among others.


Academic organization

Western offers multiple bachelor's degrees, as well as the degrees of Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Education, Master in Teaching, Master of Business Administration, Master of Professional Accounting, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Music, Clinical Doctorate in Audiology, and Doctor of Education.[21] The university is also authorized to award honorary degrees.[22] The university is composed of the following colleges:

Chemistry Building
Parks Hall, Home of the College of Business and Economics


The university is accredited by the following:


The undergraduate honors program offers merit scholarships worth up to $5,000. These scholarships are awarded to successful applicants to the honors program. No separate application is necessary.[30] High-achieving freshmen from colleges in other western states can enroll at Western at a reduced tuition level that is equivalent to a $30,000 four-year scholarship.[31]


In 2022-23, U.S. News ranked Western as the top public master's granting university in the Pacific Northwest, while placing 14th overall in the West (both public and private).[32] Western was one of only two public schools ranked among the top 25 Master's-Granting Universities (West) category. The universities found in this ranking are schools that lack doctoral programs but still retain master's programs. The institution has a 93% acceptance rate.[33]

Western Washington University ranked first among the top medium-sized colleges and universities with alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers in 2013 and 2014.[34]

Notable degree programs

Research institutes and laboratories

College of Business and Economics

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

College of Science and Engineering

College of the Environment



Main article: Western Washington Vikings

See also: Western Washington Vikings women's rowing

WWU is an official member of NCAA Division II,[62] having joined in September 1998. In 2011–12, approximately 350 students are participating in 15 varsity sports at Western, six for men and nine for women. In 2010–11, WWU placed seventh among 310 NCAA Division II schools in the Sports Director's Cup national all-sports standings, the second-highest finish in school history. The Vikings were sixth in 2009–2010 and tenth in 2008–2009. WWU has had eight straight Top 50 finishes and been among the Top 100 in each of its first 13 seasons as an NCAA II member.

In 2010–11, Western won its third straight and seventh overall Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Sports championship, taking league titles in volleyball, men's golf and women's golf, and the regular-season crown in women's basketball. The Vikings, who won the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference championship, placed second in men's and women's cross country, men's and women's outdoor track, men's indoor track and softball.

The Vikings have won an NAIA national championship in softball (1998) and NCAA Division II national championships in women's rowing (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2017),[63] men's basketball (2012)[64] and women's soccer (2016).[65] WWU athletes have also won individual national championships in track and field.[66]

Varsity sports

The Vikings field varsity teams for men and women in cross country, soccer, golf, basketball, and track & field. Women's teams compete in volleyball, softball, and rowing. Between 1903 and 2008 WWU fielded a football team but folded it in hopes of saving money to keep other WWU teams competitive.[67]

Club sports

In addition to its varsity sports programs, WWU also has a number of student-run club sports teams:[68][69]


A total of 16,121 students were in attendance at Western Washington University in the 2018–19 academic year.[5] 92 percent of students are under 25 years of age, and 84 percent are from Washington State.

Many students at Western Washington University participate in organized student government. The Associated Students of Western Washington University (ASWWU) is "an organization designed and run by Western students, the Associated Students (AS) seeks to ensure a fulfilling college and academic experience for all university students through the many services, facilities and programs it offers."[70] Within ASWWU, there are five main areas of focus: clubs, activities, programs, facilities & services, and governance.

The AS aims to provide "funding, space and services" to students "uniting around common interests."[70] The AS staff assist student development of clubs and provide advising, "continuity, referral and record keeping" throughout the entire process. Currently there are over two hundred student clubs in the following categories: Arts and Music, Cultural, Political, Special Interest, Gaming, Social Issues, Departmental, Limited Membership, Service, Religious, and Recreational.[70]

In the 2021–22 school year, the music department has a new course for music education majors called K-12 Classroom Accompanying Pedagogy (MUS 262.)[71] A new course in Music and Sustainability (MUS 397E) is available to all Western students.

The History Department offers HIST 390 which is a special topics class with in-depth readings of primary and secondary sources. In Spring of 2023, a HIST 390 on Indigenous History of North America was offered. The class covers the formation of the Iroquois confederacy, Mississippian chiefdoms, the Illinois people, Caddo people, and more.[72]

Students who desire to set up a table in Red Square to promote their club need to sign up for a space through the university. A blue board at the West side of Red Square has general university policy on freedom of speech and also guidelines for using chalk on the bricks.

There is a livestream of Red Square filmed from the top of Bond Hall.[73]

KUGS radio station accepts albums from students to air. KUGS also has a large library of vinyl records that can be listened to in the studio.


There are multiple news outlets associated with the university.

Student publications

Student-run publications at WWU include:

The Student Publications Office of the university publishes the Front, Klipsun, Occam's Razor, and the Planet, as well as Jeopardy.[86] The Associated Students of Western Washington University also operates media services, including Wavelength, a weekly online and printed alternative news source.[87]

Official publications

An official source of news is WWU News (formerly Western Today), a source for official campus news operated by the Office of University Communications.[88]


A WWUPD car in downtown Bellingham

The Western Washington University Police Department (abbreviated WWUPD) are a university police force at the university. The police chief of the department is Katryne "Katy" Potts,[89] who was sworn into the position in January 2023.[90] The department also has a staff of "Green Coats" under their public safety branch, who offer "safety escorts on campus, event security staffing and building access services for current students."[91]


Notable faculty

Notable alumni

See also


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