Bellingham, Washington Western Washington University


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Western Washington University (WWU or Western) is a public university in Bellingham, Washington. It is the northernmost university in the contiguous United States and was founded as the state-funded New Whatcom Normal School in 1893, succeeding a private school of teaching for women founded in 1886.
WWU offers a variety of bachelor's and master's degrees. In 2018, there were 16,121 students, 15,170 of whom were undergraduate students, and 639 faculty. Its athletic teams are known as the Vikings, which compete in division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.


Old Main

from Wikipedia by Bobak Ha'Eri CC BY 3.0

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), Governor John McGraw signed legislation establishing the New Whatcom Normal School on February 24, 1893. 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 Sciences & Technology (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). During the 1999–2000 school year, Western celebrated its centennial anniversary.
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

from Wikipedia by Nick Kelly / Faithlife Corporation CC BY-SA 4.0

WWU is located in Bellingham, a city of about 90,000 people, overlooking Bellingham Bay and many of the San Juan Islands. The university is 90mi north of Seattle, 55mi south of Vancouver, British Columbia, and an hour's drive from 10778ft Mount Baker. The university is located close to Interstate 5.
The campus is 215acre, including the 38acre 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.

Public sculpture collection

Scepter (1966) by Steve Tibbetts

from Wikipedia by GeorgeLouis CC BY-SA 3.0

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: Founded in 1960, 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

Chemistry Building

from Wikipedia by Evanseric15 Public domain

Western offers bachelor's degrees and the degrees of Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Education, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Business Administration, Master of Professional Accounting, Master of Music and Doctor of Audiology. The university is composed of the following colleges and their respective programs:

  • College of Business and Economics

    • Accounting

    • Decision Sciences

    • Economics

    • Finance and Marketing

    • Management

    • Supply Chain Management

  • College of Fine and Performing Arts

    • Dance

    • Design

    • Music

    • Theatre Arts

    • Visual Arts

  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences

    • Social and Behavioral Sciences

    • *Anthropology

    • *Behavioral Neuroscience

    • *Communication Sciences and Disorders

    • *Community Health

    • *Physical Education, Health and Recreation

    • *Political Science

    • *Psychology

    • *Sociology

    • Humanities

    • *Communication

    • *English

    • *History

    • *Journalism

    • *Liberal Studies

    • *Linguistics

    • *Modern and Classical Languages

    • *Philosophy

  • College of Science and Engineering

    • Advanced Materials Science and Engineering

    • Biology

    • Chemistry

    • Computer Science

    • Engineering and Design

    • Geology

    • Mathematics

    • Physics and Astronomy

    • Science, Math and Technology Education

  • Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies

    • American Cultural Studies

    • Law, Diversity and Justice

  • Graduate School

  • Huxley College of the Environment

    • Environmental Science

    • Environmental Studies

  • Woodring College of Education

    • Educational Leadership

    • Elementary and Secondary Education

    • Human Services and Rehabilitation

    • Special Education

  • Independent programs

    • Canadian–American Studies

    • East Asian Studies

    • Energy Studies

    • Honors Program

    • International Studies

    • Marine Science


The university is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; National Association of Schools of Music; National Recreation and Parks Association; American Speech and Hearing Association; National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education; Computing Sciences Accreditation Board; Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology; American Chemical Society; Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Planning Accreditation Board


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. Western Washington University's Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) strives to offer the best total car design curriculum in the world. 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.

  • Huxley College of the Environment, founded in 1969, was the first College dedicated to the study of environmental science and policy in the nation.

Research institutes and laboratories

College of Business and Economics

  • Center for Economics and Business Research

  • Center for Economic & Financial Education

  • Center for Excellence in Management Education

  • Center for International Business

  • Small Business Development Center

  • Manufacturing Supply Chain Management

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Border Policy Research Institute

  • Center for Cross-Cultural Research

  • Center for Pacific Northwest Studies

  • Center for Performance Excellence

  • Critical Junctures Institute

  • Demographics Research Laboratory

  • Institute for Literary Sciences

  • Karen W. Morse Institute of Leadership

College of Science and Engineering

  • Advanced Material Science and Engineering Center

  • Internet Studies Center

  • Vehicle Research Institute

Huxley College of the Environment

  • Institute for Watershed Studies

  • Institute for Spatial Information and Analysis

  • Institute of Environmental Toxicology

  • The Resilience Institute


  • Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment

  • Shannon Point Marine Center

  • BRAIN Behavioral Neuroscience program

  • Institute for Energy Studies

  • Center for Continuing Education and Rehabilitation (with University of Washington)

  • Center for Education Data and Research (with University of Washington)


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 2009–10 and 10th in 2008–09. 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.

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.

Club sports

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

  • Baseball

  • Rowing (Men's)

  • Climbing

  • Cycling

  • Equestrian

  • Fencing

  • Figure Skating

  • Golf

  • Hockey

  • Judo

  • Lacrosse (Men's and Women's)

  • Rugby (Men's and Women's)

  • Sailing

  • Swimming

  • Tennis

  • Ultimate (Men's and Women's)

  • Volleyball (Men's and Women's)

  • Wakeboarding

  • Water Polo (Men's and Women's)

  • Water Skiing

  • Wrestling


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.


Notable faculty

  • James Bertolino, English

  • Jeff Carroll, Psychology

  • Suzanne Paola, English

  • Richard Purtill, Philosophy (emeritus)

  • Ada Swineford, Geologist

  • Edward Vajda, Modern & Classical Languages

  • Christopher Wise, English

Notable alumni

  • Robert Angel, creator of Pictionary

  • Richard Barlow, intelligence analyst

  • Carrie Brownstein, member of the band Sleater-Kinney, star and co-creator of comedy television series Portlandia.

  • Ryan Couture (2004), professional Mixed Martial Artist formerly competing in the UFC, and son of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture

  • Sarah Crouch, long-distance runner

  • Mike Duncan (2002), podcaster and author best known for The History of Rome and Revolutions

  • Darril Fosty (1992), author and documentarian

  • Ben Gibbard (1998), lead vocalist and guitarist of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service

  • Agnes Martin, minimalist artist

  • TJ Martin, Oscar winner of Best Feature Documentary for Undefeated, 2012

  • Douglas Massey (1974), sociologist working as a professor at Princeton University and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania

  • Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight (2012), creators of electronic dance duo ODESZA

  • Heather Purser, Seattle LGBT rights activist and Native American advocate

  • Hiro Yamamoto, founding member and bassist of the rock band Soundgarden

  • Ijeoma Oluo, author and writer



Western Washington University