There’s nothing quite like taking a trip straight down memory lane, which is what I did a few weeks ago with some fellow educational consultants when I visited a campus I’d once toured as a prospective undergraduate student. But more than just taking a trip through my own past, I also walked in my mother’s shoes for a bit as we headed to our second tour stop of the day, Western Michigan University, home of the Broncos and my mom’s alma mater.
WMU is a mid-sized public research university of nearly 24,000 students (that’s the graduate and undergraduate populations combined) and a breadth and depth to its programs that almost give it a liberal arts feel. (That’s a compliment coming from me, by the way.) In addition to the broad scope of the majors it offers (no seriously – check out the list here), which includes the research university standards of a business program (The Haworth College of Business, to be specific) and a Department of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies (that’s for you, future teachers), as well as nursing (through the Bronson School of Nursing) and pre-law preparation, WMU also boasts three programs worth particular note for some prospective students:
- Engineering. That’s right – you can look at all of the bells and whistles available at the most famous engineering schools in the country (and the price tags that are affiliated with their names) and I don’t know that you’ll find an engineering program with more heart and soul than the one at WMU. The engineering campus is separate from main campus (about a five minute drive away with regular shuttles between campuses) and boasts a wealth of space and tools (as well as ample faculty support!) to help students pursue their interests. The three main engineering majors for undergraduate students are a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Design Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management Technology, and a Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering Technology. The students we met were hard at work in one lab on the solar car that will represent WMU at the American Solar Challenge and in another lab on a gas-powered bicycle (don’t ask) that will be involved in a separate competition this spring and the passion they had for the work they were doing was contagious.
- Theatre and Dance. Close proximity to Chicago and a strong arts community within greater Kalamazoo give WMU the opportunity and support to have assembled incredible and rigorous fine arts programs on campus. How rigorous? Consider that the dance program holds auditions for available freshman places each year and only selects 15 men and 15 women to fill them. (Because WMU is one of the few programs that offers three-pronged teaching for all dance students in the areas of ballet, jazz, and modern, demand is high.) And theatre? Actors and hopeful theatre technicians come to WMU for the opportunity to work in its expansive facilities and from the master instructors brought in to shape their creative careers. It works too – a good friend of mine is a WMU alum who finished her MFA at a little school called Yale and is now the in-house lighting technician for a major theatre company.
- Aviation. Yep, you read that correctly. If you seek a career as a pilot or in aviation management or as a flight technician, WMU has a place for you. In fact, it’s one of the university’s flagship programs, with roots going back as far as 1939 (though the School of Aviation was formalized in the 1990s). With flight simulators and a fleet of three airplanes, plus its home teaching base in nearby Battle Creek at the W.K. Kellogg Airport (yes, that Kellogg), students have a wealth of hands-on learning opportunities available to them.
And equestrians need not fear that their riding careers will end should they choose to attend WMU; the school’s IHSA hunt seat team is well-established under the guidance of coach Rob Stewart in nearby Hickory Corners, Michigan. (He’s been their coach since 1993 – how’s that for tenure?) The team even snagged their first-ever regional championship win last spring.