Western State Colorado University
|Location||Gunnison, Colorado, United States
|Campus||Rural, 350 acres|
|Colors||Crimson and Slate
|Athletics||NCAA Division II – Rocky Mountain|
Western State Colorado University, also known as Western, is a four-year public liberal arts college located in Gunnison, Colorado. Approximately 2,400 undergraduate and 350 graduate students attend Western, with more than 30 percent coming from out of state. Of the 23 undergraduate majors, the most popular are business administration, biology, exercise and sport science, recreation and outdoor education, and psychology. Western also offers undergraduate programs in petroleum geology and energy management, both funded by donations through the Western State Colorado University Foundation. Further, it offers graduate programs in environmental management, high altitude exercise physiology creative writing, education and gallery management. The college has one of the oldest collegiate radio stations in the state, 91.1 KWSB, which has been on the air since 1968.
- 1 History
- 2 Campus
- 3 Academics
- 4 Clubs and Organizations
- 5 Athletics
- 6 Culture
- 7 Western State Colorado Foundation
- 8 Media
- 9 Notable alumni
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The institution was established in 1901 and opened for classes in 1911 as the Colorado State Normal School, the first college on Colorado's Western Slope. This initial focus as a preparatory college for teachers resulted in a commitment to teacher preparation programs that continues to today. 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.
Western’s 228-acre campus has 25 buildings and is located less than one mile from Gunnison’s Main Street, and because so, many students and professors ride their bike around town instead of driving. Students often form trails through the snow-covered fields to get across campus faster during the winter months.
Western has 10 on-campus residence halls. Five have traditional, two-person rooms with storage closets and communal bathrooms, three are suite-style and two are apartments. The on-campus apartments are reserved for sophomores and older. The Escalante complex on upper campus have Plexiglas that connect the four halls and the recently developed “ICELab”. This allows students to pass between halls on cold days without having to put on warm gear. Freshman residence halls are arranged in “Living Learning Communities”, which group students with similar interests together.
Taylor Hall was the first building on Western's campus. It recently received considerable updates and renovations, particularly to the interior. It is LEED-certified and houses Western's administrative offices, communication arts, language, and literature courses. It also houses the Welcome Center, KWSB Radio and the studio theatre.
Leslie J. Savage Library
This particular building's artistry and character arises from the fact that its West Wing was designed by Temple Buell of the Buell Theatre in Denver. Its vaulted ceilings and general uniformity in the West Wing Quiet Room creates a formal yet relaxed atmosphere branding it with a rather East Coast impression. Along with its display of unique architecture, Western's library offers an abundance of computer labs and study rooms suitable for individual academics or a group of them. The Leslie J. Savage Library is more than just a fixture of Western but a symbol of academic integrity.
The Hurst Quad comprises Kelly, Hurst and Quigley Halls. Kelly Hall houses the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Environment & Sustainability departments and is currently undergoing an expansion to better accommodate the Master in Environmental Management program. Hurst Hall houses the Natural & Environmental Sciences and Mathematics & Computer Science departments. Quigley Hall is the center for the Art and Music departments. Quigley Hall also recently received an extensive renovation, which included the addition of the highly-esteemed John & Georgie Kincaid Concert Hall which hosts numerous concerts displaying both internal and external talent. Further attesting to Quigley Hall's hospitable character is its exceptional art gallery and outdoor bandshell suitable for concerts or outdoor symposiums.
Borick Business Building
Build in 2005 through the support of many donors, Borick is one of the newest buildings on campus. It houses the aggregate of business-centric courses such as resource management, accounting, finance, and marketing—all of which are now part of the new School of Business. The LEED-certified building features an open foyer area, patio, tiered classrooms, various study areas and an executive boardroom.
The University Center is a primary center for student life at Western. It is home to the Rare Air Cafe and Mad Jack's dining facilities. It also houses several ballrooms and conference rooms, a movie theatre, Wilderness Pursuits, LEAD & Orientation offices, the Multicultural Center, and the Residence Life offices.
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 plays host to orientation events, camps for various sports, practices for various teams/clubs and labs for high-altitude research. The Field House also serves as a state-of-the-art exercise and wellness facility for Western students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Gunnison community at large.
The Paul Wright Gym has been attached to the Mountaineer Field House since the construction of 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 is 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 Innovation + Creativity + Entrepreneurship (ICE) Lab is the newest addition to Western’s campus and is in partnership with Western State Colorado University and 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 a café and bar.
Western offers a liberal arts education with more than 75 areas of study for undergraduates and 19 graduate programs. By virtue of the school’s remote and mountainous setting, professors are known for taking their classes into the “outdoor laboratory” that surrounds campus. The most popular majors are Business Administration, Biology, Exercise & Sport Science, Environment & Sustainability, Recreation & Outdoor Education and Psychology. It is also very common for students to enroll as an undeclared major. Western also offers many unique programs, including Petroleum Geology, Energy Management and High Altitude Exercise Physiology.
Despite being a teaching university, 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 addition of a High Altitude Performance (HAP) Lab along with the High Altitude Exercise Physiology master’s program is constantly conducting research and frequently involve undergraduate students as well. High Altitude Performance Laboratory
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 (ESS) majors.
Rankings and Recognition
- Forbes ranked Western State 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.
- Teton Gravity Research called Western one of the best colleges for skiers and snowboarders.
- Western is considered an Arbor Day Tree Campus.
Western has 166 faculty as of the 2016-2017 school year. The student-faculty ratio is 19:1 and the average class size is 16 students.
The majority of faculty at Western are full-time and carry a terminal degree.
In 2000, Biology professor Jessica Young helped discover the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. This was the first new avian species to be described in the USA since the 19th century. Young is currently the Global Coordinator for the Center of Environment and Sustainability at Western.
Clubs and Organizations
Wilderness Pursuits, commonly referred to as simply “WP”, provides Western students and visitors 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.
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.
Organics Guild is a student-led initiative that promotes more 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.
The Multicultural Center at Western 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, 91.1 KWSB, which has been on the air since 1968.
Top o' the World Student 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.
The Western State Colorado University Mountaineers compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) at the NCAA Division II level. Mountaineer teams compete in 13 sports: football, volleyball, men's cross country, women's cross country, women's soccer, men's basketball, women's basketball, wrestling, men's indoor track and field, women's indoor track and field, women's swimming and diving, men's outdoor track and field, and women's outdoor track and field. Facilities include Mountaineer Bowl (elevation 7,769 feet (2,368 m)) and Paul Wright Gym (elevation 7,723 feet (2,354 m)), which are both the highest collegiate facilities in the world.
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.
Western State Colorado University Mountain Sports is an athletic program revolving around outdoor, mountain-based athletics. The program includes disciplines (all coed) 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 mediums.
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 sorts 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 frisbee, kickball, bubble ball soccer, indoor soccer, floor hockey, pickleball, inner-tube water polo, dodgeball, volleyball, basketball, pingpong/billiards and quiddich.
Western has a community focused culture. It is a small mountain town that is welcoming despite the cold winters. Classes are small and the professors are focused on the student and their goals more than their own personal research. This is where the "private institution a public school price" valuation statement comes from.
Western is a destination college and students choose the university in part because of the amazing recreational opportunities in the surrounding areas. Some of which include world class mountain biking, skiing, climbing, kayak, fishing, and elk hunting.
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 State Colorado Foundation
The Western State Colorado University Foundation is a private non-profit 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 State Colorado University. Each year, the Foundation gives more than $2 million to the University, with the greatest portion directed to scholarships.
Western State Colorado University is one of the settings in Eternal Starling, the first book of the Emblem of Eternity trilogy by Angela Corbett.
According to the Denver Post, the school has struggled financially and operated at a loss from 2011-2015s.
- 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
- Ila Mae McAfee – artist
- Seth Morrison – Big Mountain Skier
- Elva Dryer – long-distance runner
- Dave Wiens – former professional mountain biker
- Dan Gibbs – Colorado Legislator
- Sam Seale – NFL Player
- Josh Thompson, biathlete, Winter Olympian, silver medallist at the 1987 Biathlon World Championships
- Christopher Hughes - Director of Bands at Ithaca College School of Music
- Austin Ekeler - Running Back for the Los Angeles Chargers
- Paul Rady - Chairman and CEO of Antero Resources
- Sasha Rearick - head coach of men's U.S. Ski Team.
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