Michigan is known for many things — Detroit Zoo, Ludington State Park Beach, Boyne Mountain Resort, Motown Museum, Grand Traverse Bay, Mackinac Island, Michigan’s Adventure, and much more. Throughout this great state, another noteworthy claim to fame includes universities with a rich background of academic excellence, especially when it comes to the history of Western Michigan University located in the city of Kalamazoo.

The foundation of WMU can be traced back to 1903 when Gov. Aaron Bliss signed a bill establishing the fourth teacher-training facility in the state that offered a two-year training program. When Western State Normal School held its first class in 1904 at the site now known as East Campus, enrollment was 107 students. Interestingly, because it was located on steep elevation (a 150-step climb), the Western State Normal Railroad was built in 1907 to transport students up and down the hill. The railroad stopped operating in 1949 due to the popularity of cars.

A series of name changes occurred over the first five decades before the name Western Michigan University was officially settled in 1957 — Western State Teachers College (1927), Michigan College of Education (1941), and Western Michigan College (1955). Among the many significant academic contributions WMU is known for, 1939 was a banner year when aviation maintenance was added to the curriculum that has since grown to become the third-largest aviation collegiate program in the nation.

Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how WMU has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world:

  • More than 21,000 students attend WMU.
  • Students have the option to choose from 250 degree programs with a plethora of options for undergraduate and graduate study, and one specialist’s degree program.
  • WMU consists of 1,200 acres with 150 buildings and is divided into five campuses in and around Kalamazoo — West Campus, East Campus, Oakland Drive Campus, Parkview Campus, and the College of Aviation located in Battle Creek. 
  • Nearly 600 students participate annually in more than 90 study abroad programs available in 40 countries.
  • 96 countries are represented by nearly 2,000 international students.

And here’s a fun fact about WMU: According to the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges guidebook, it ranks in the top 11% of universities nationwide and is in the top 100 for seven of their grad programs.

WMU also has a stand-out list of notable names who have called the Kalamazoo campus home, including, athletes, singers, celebrities, etc. — Terry Crews, Brooke Elliott, Tim Allen, Luther Vandross, Corey Davis, and Rashida Tlaib, just to name a few.

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