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. In 1977, the university adopted its present name.
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. Eventually the school moved to Bellingham (then "New Whatcom"), and through the efforts of William R. Moultray and George Judson (Phoebe's son).GovernorJohn 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. 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 The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Two years later, the Huxley 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.
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).
The campus is 215 acres (87 ha), including the 38-acre (15 ha) Sehome 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, an electron microscope, and a neutron generator lab. 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." 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.
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. 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.
In 2013, US News ranked Western Washington University as the top public master's granting university in the Pacific Northwest, while placing 21st overall in the West (both public and private). 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. It has a 72% acceptance rate.
Western Washington University ranked first among the top medium-sized colleges and universities with alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers in 2013 and 2014.
Notable degree programs
The Philosophical Gourmet Report mentions Western as having one of the nation's best philosophy departments among colleges and universities that offer only a B.A. in the discipline. Western was among only seven public universities so honored.
BS in Industrial Technology, Vehicle Design at the Vehicle Research Institute. The program focuses on complete vehicle design and fabrication with special emphasis on: power plants, including alternative fuels; transmissions; chassis design; and component materials.
The Center for Canadian American Studies at Western Washington University is one of only two U.S. Department of Education designated National Resource Centers for the study of Canada in the United States.
The College of the Environment, founded in 1969, was the first College dedicated to the study of environmental science and policy in the nation.
Center for Education Data and Research (with University of Washington)
The Front (previously The Western Front) is the official student newspaper of WWU. The publication is staffed by students and overseen by a faculty advisor from the journalism department. The first issue was published in 1967. The paper was called "The Western Front" until June 2021 when it was changed to "The Front". In 2016, the publication was selected as the winner for Best All-Around Non-Daily Newspaper in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 10 Mark of Excellence Awards.
Klipsun Magazine is a quarterly student magazine that focuses on immersive reporting techniques and narrative storytelling.
The Planet is a quarterly environmental magazine created by students through the College of the Environment at WWU.
WWU is an official member of NCAA Division II, 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), men's basketball (2012) and women's soccer (2016). WWU athletes have also won individual national championships in track and field.
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.
In addition to its varsity sports programs, WWU also has a number of student-run club sports teams:
Lacrosse (Men's and Women's)
Rugby (Men's and Women's)
Ultimate (Men's and Women's)
Volleyball (Men's and Women's)
Water Polo (Men's and Women's)
A total of 16,121 students were in attendance at Western Washington University in the 2018–19 academic year. 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." 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." 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.
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.)  A new course in Music and Sustainability (MUS 397E) is available to all Western students.
Students who desire to set up a table in Red Square to promote their club need to sign up for a space thru 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.
KUGS radio station accepts albums from students to air. KUGS also has a large library of vinyls that can be listened to in the studio.