Western Colorado University
|Campus||Rural, 350 acres|
|Colors||Crimson and Slate|
|Athletics||NCAA Division II – Rocky Mountain|
Western Colorado University, also known as Western, is a four-year public university offering a full complement of degrees, including those in the most quickly emerging technical fields of computer science and engineering. Located in Gunnison, Colorado, the campus is home to approximately 2,500 undergraduate and 400 graduate students, with more than 30 percent coming from out of state.
Western offers more than 90 areas of study for undergraduates and seven graduate programs. On Sept. 6, 2018, Western announced the development of the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering, made possible through an $80 million gift and a partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering & Applied Science.
- 1 History
- 2 Admissions
- 3 Academics
- 4 Campus
- 5 Athletics
- 6 Clubs and organizations
- 7 Culture
- 8 Western Colorado Foundation
- 9 Media
- 10 Notable alumni
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Western was established in 1901 and opened for classes in 1911 as the Colorado State Normal School, the first college on the Western Slope. This initial focus as a preparatory college for teachers resulted in a commitment to teacher preparation programs that continues to this day. In 1923 the college's name was changed to Western State College of Colorado in recognition of its expanding programs in the liberal arts at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The college continued to grow, particularly after World War II when returning veterans attended on the GI Bill, and academic and co-curricular programs capitalizing on the college's unique mountain setting were continually added. In 2012 the institution was renamed Western State Colorado University. In September 2018, the institution changed its name to Western Colorado University.
Undergraduate admission at Western is a holistic process where students' academic history, leadership potential, diversity of experience, depth of participation in extracurricular activities and overall interest in attending are taken into account. Every student who applies is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year (in-state) and $8,000-$10,000 (out-of-state) based on GPA and ACT/SAT scores.
Western accepted 86% of applicants for the class of 2021.
Western offers more than 90 areas of study for undergraduates and seven graduate programs with class sizes averaging 18 students.  Popular majors include Business Administration, Biology, Exercise & Sport Science, Environment & Sustainability, Recreation & Outdoor Education and Psychology. Western also offers many unique programs, including Petroleum Geology, Energy Management and High Altitude Exercise Physiology. By virtue of the school’s mountainous setting, professors in many departments are known for taking their classes into the “outdoor laboratory” that surrounds campus.
The Biology and Exercise & Sport Science departments are actively involved in research. The Thornton Biology Research Program has funded undergraduate research projects for the past 30 years. The Master of Science in High Altitude Exercise Physiology program is constantly conducting research and frequently involves undergraduate students as well.
High Altitude Performance Laboratory
The High Altitude Performance Lab (HAP Lab)—which sits at 7,750 feet above sea level—is a sport performance and exercise physiology facility equipped to assess the major fitness parameters. These parameters include: muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiopulmonary capacity, flexibility and body composition. The primary goal of the lab is to provide well rounded, applied experiences to Western undergraduate Exercise & Sport Science majors.
Rankings and Recognition
- Forbes ranked Western Colorado University as one of the top 100 institutions in the West in 2017. Western has received recognition from the magazine in 2016, 2015 and 2014 as well.
- Elevation Outdoors magazine named Western the "Top Adventure School in the West" for the third time in 2017.
- LendEDU lists Western as having among the lowest student-debt rates in the nation. The website also ranks Western as the 27th best college for study abroad.
- Powder magazine and Teton Gravity Research have called Western one of the best colleges for skiers and snowboarders.
- Western is considered an Arbor Day Tree Campus.
Professor of History Duane Vandenbusche is currently the longest serving active professor at any public higher education institution in Colorado. His tenure at Western began in 1962 at the age of 25. Vandenbusche also coached Western's cross country and track & field teams from 1971-2007.
In 2000, Biology professor Jessica Young helped discover the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. This was the first new avian species to be described in the United States since the 19th century. Young is currently the Global Coordinator for the School of Environment & Sustainability at Western.
The University Center is a primary center for student life at Western. It is home to the Rare Air Cafe and Mad Jack's Cafe dining facilities. It also houses several ballrooms and conference rooms, a movie theater, Wilderness Pursuits, LEAD & Orientation offices, the Multicultural Center, and the Residence Life offices.
Western has 10 on-campus residence halls. Five have traditional, two-person rooms, three are suite-style and two are apartments. All students are required to live on campus for their first two years. 
The Innovation + Creativity + Entrepreneurship (ICE) Lab is one of the newest additions to Western’s campus and partners with the Colorado Small Business Development Center. Although it occupies an older building on campus, the interior has been completely remodeled as collaborative and modular workspace to help promote economic development on the Western Slope of Colorado. The downstairs of the ICELab is now the Overlook Cafe.
Borick Business Building
The Borick Business Building is home to the School of Business, which encompasses the Business Administration, Accounting and Economics programs in addition to the nation's first Outdoor Industry MBA.
Taylor Hall was the first building on Western's campus. It's LEED-certified and houses Western's administrative offices as well as the Communication Arts, Languages & Literature Department, Welcome Center and KWSB radio station.
The Hurst Quad comprises Kelly, Hurst and Quigley Halls. Kelly Hall houses the Behavioral & Social Sciences and Environment & Sustainability departments. Hurst Hall houses the Natural & Environmental Sciences and Mathematics & Computer Science departments. Quigley Hall, which received significant renovations in 2016, is the center for the Art and Music departments.
Leslie J. Savage Library
Mountaineer Field House and Paul Wright Gym
The Mountaineer Field House opened on Western’s campus in March 2014. The 65,000-square-foot facility includes a 200-meter track, multi-purpose courts, workout rooms, climbing wall, and a trampoline and foam pit.
The Paul Wright Gym is attached to the Mountaineer Field House. At the north end of campus, this 1951 building is the world's highest collegiate gym. It seats 1,800 and various renovations have added Western's indoor pool, a wrestling room, locker rooms, the Hall of Fame trophy room and classrooms for Western's Recreation & Outdoor Education and Exercise & Sport Science departments. It's named for Paul W. Wright, who spent 38 years as a professor, coach and administrator at Western, as well serving as a judge and mayor of Gunnison.
The Western Colorado University Mountaineers compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) at the NCAA Division II level. Mountaineer teams compete in 11 sports: football, women's volleyball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's track & field (indoor and outdoor), women's soccer, men's and women's basketball, men's wrestling, women's swimming & diving. Facilities include Mountaineer Bowl (elevation 7,771 feet (2,369 m)) and Paul Wright Gym (elevation 7,723 feet (2,354 m)).
The Mountaineers have won 93 RMAC team titles and 15 team National Championships. Individually, Western has produced 990 All-Americans and 30 Academic All-American honors.
In 2016-17, Alicja Konieczek became the first Mountaineer to win four national track and field titles. She has since won four more national titles—the most by any female in Western's history.
Western Mountain Sports is an athletic program revolving around outdoor, mountain-based athletics. The program includes disciplines in Freeride (Big Mountain) skiing and snowboarding, Alpine ski racing, Nordic ski racing, Randonnée (SkiMo) racing, Mountain Biking, Road Cycling and Trail Running. There is also a media program, where students travel with the teams and document the trips and events through a variety of visual and written media.
The program differs from NCAA athletics in that Mountain Sports athletes don’t necessarily compete in intercollegiate competition and may carry sponsorships and accept prize money. While technically a club sport program, Mountain Sports distinguishes from club and intramural sports due to the abundance of funding for coaching, travel, equipment and overall popularity.
Club and Intramural Sports
Western's Club sports include: men’s baseball, men’s boxing, women’s boxing, men’s ice hockey, women’s ice hockey, men’s lacrosse, men’s rugby, women’s rugby, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and coed swimming.
Western's intramural sports are all coed and include: slow-pitch softball, flag football, ultimate, kickball, bubble ball soccer, indoor soccer, floor hockey, pickleball, inner-tube water polo, dodgeball, volleyball, basketball, table tennis/billiards and quiddich.
Clubs and organizations
Wilderness Pursuits, commonly referred to as simply “WP," provides Western students and visitors affordable gear rentals and opportunities for outdoor expeditions. WP hires students to guide and instruct courses, and puts on “Wilderness Based Orientation” before the start of each academic year. The most popular trips include whitewater rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, ice climbing, rock climbing and backpacking.
Mountain Rescue Team
The Western Mountain Rescue Team (WMRT) serves the Gunnison County region and is the only collegiate search-and-rescue team accredited by the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA). The team was first started in 1967 after a group of students banded together to search for a missing physics professor and has been MRA-certified since 1987.
The Multicultural Center celebrates the diversity of people in and around the Gunnison community and helps students develop culturally, personally and academically. The Multicultural Center advises five student organizations: Amigos, Asian Pacific Islanders Club, Black Student Alliance, Native America Student Council, and Polynesian Chant and Dance.
Western has one of the oldest collegiate radio stations in the state, student-operated KWSB 91.1 FM, which has been on the air since 1968.
Top o' the World Newspaper
“The Top” has been in print since 1921 and is entirely written and produced by Western students, with funding from student fees and advertising.
Organics Guild is a student-led initiative that promotes sustainable food systems on campus and around Gunnison. The group maintains two gardens on campus. Students and community members can pick vegetables, which are often sold at the Gunnison Farmers Market.
Sources of Strength
Western's Office of Student Health and Wellness implemented the nationally recognized Sources of Strength program in 2018. The program's mission is to provide evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training, supporting, and empowering peer leaders and adults to impact the campus through the power of connection, hope, help and strength. Western is the first university in Colorado and only the eighth in the nation to implement Sources of Strength. 
In 1994, the school commissioned Santa Fe sculptors Gene and Rebecca Tobey to create a new work for the campus. The result was Pathfinder, a six-foot-tall bronze grizzly bear, which students have a custom of kissing for good luck during exams. A bronze bull elk titled Wind River stands out by the skate park, also a Tobey work of art, as well as inside Leslie J. Savage Library, a small buffalo titled Wandering Star is on display.
Western Colorado Foundation
The Western Colorado University Foundation is a private nonprofit corporation founded in 1975. It is the primary depository of private gifts from alumni, friends, corporations and foundations used to advance the mission and goals of Western Colorado University. Each year, the Foundation gives more than $2 million to the university, with the greatest portion directed to scholarships.
Western is one of the settings in Eternal Starling, the first book of the Emblem of Eternity trilogy by Angela Corbett.
Western has a new name, a new program and a really large donation, according to the Crested Butte News.
Western's Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering expands access to top-tier computer degrees, according to University Business magazine.
Western’s Outdoor Industry MBA is the first of its kind in the country, according to The Denver Post.
The NFL's Los Angeles Chargers discovered something special in former Western running back Austin Ekeler, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Western announces historic gift for new Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering, according to the Gunnison Country Times.
This public university off the beaten path scored a huge gift for STEM, according to Inside Philanthropy.
Back to school: Chargers' Austin Ekeler returned to college to get his degree, according to ESPN.
Western is one of the fastest growing small universities in Colorado, according to the Crested Butte News.
D-II to NFL: How Western’s Austin Ekeler came to thrive for the Los Angeles Chargers, according to The Denver Post.
Western is home to the country’s premier outdoor industry business degree, according to Denver's 5280 magazine.
According to The Denver Post, the school has struggled financially and operated at a loss from 2011-2015s.
- Paul M. Rady - Chairman and CEO of Antero Resources
- Barry Clifford - Underwater archaeological explorer
- Dan Gibbs - Colorado legislator
- Elva Dryer - Long-distance runner
- Ila Mae McAfee - Artist
- Austin Ekeler - Running back for the Los Angeles Chargers
- Robert E. Blackburn - Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado
- Michael K. Davis - Chief justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court
- Jami Tobey - Contemporary painter
- Peter Barreca - Owner of Barreca Blacktop
- Jennifer Fielder - Montana State Senator
- Michael O. Johnson - Former CEO of Herbalife
- Shane Carwin - (environmental technology) wrestler; former mixed martial artist who won the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship
- Tyler Pennel - Long-distance runner
- Lauren Kleppin - Long-distance runner
- Seth Morrison - Big mountain skier
- Dave Wiens - Professional mountain biker
- Sam Seale - NFL player
- Rutherford George Montgomery - Children's book writer
- Josh Thompson - Biathlete, Winter Olympian, silver medalist at the 1987 Biathlon World Championships
- Kristal Reisinger - former student, teacher, and missing person in nearby Crestone, and subject of the podcast Up and Vanished's second season.
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- The Western 2017-18 Administration Annual Report. p. 19, The Western 2017-18 Administration Annual Report.
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- "In Colorado, an Unlikely Haven for Runners".
- "Hup-Hup! The Vandenbusche Years".
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- ""Sources of Strength" to Join Western State's Suicide Prevention Work".
- Tobey, Rebecca (2007). Partners in Art: Gene and Rebecca Tobey. Albuquerque: Fresco Fine Art Publications. ISBN 978-1-934491-02-7.
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