KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Hammocks are popping up across the Western Michigan University campus, cradling students swapping stories about lofting beds and getting selfies with Buster. Fall Welcome ambassadors have guided thousands of fresh faces through activities to get to know the lay of the land and make connections with their new community. The Student Recreation Center is abuzz with activity and the promise of a fresh start.
It's clear: Broncos are back. In fact, campus is bustling with one of the largest first-year classes in recent years following a record number of first-year applications for the second year in a row.
"It's been fun. I've met a lot of people and I've been busy, socializing like crazy," says Brandon Hardnett, a first-year student from Redford, Michigan. He joined thousands of Western community members at the epic return of Bronco Bash—an event that packed Sangren Plaza, offering opportunities to engage with more than 340 Registered Student Organizations, local businesses, University departments and resources.
"I'm looking forward to a healthier lifestyle and being more active than I was before," adds Robert Maddox, a first-year student from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan.
First-year enrollment is up about 25% over this time last year and both residence halls and on-campus apartments are near full capacity. There are a number of reasons Western is increasingly the university of choice for students.
"It was big enough but also small enough at the same time, where I can easily find my way around and meet a lot of new people," says first-year student Gabe Stacey of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan, who is also excited to continue to grow a clothing business he started in high school. "I'm looking forward to networking and making a lot of connections with people that I know will benefit me in the future."
"I have a couple friends who go here, so I've been up here to visit them. And that's kind of when I fell in love with the campus," adds Evan Gatz, a first-year student from Sawyer, Michigan, who is settling into on-campus living. "I knew I wanted to go here as soon as I came here."
Students are back on campus with an array of new support in scholarships and programming bolstered by the Empowering Futures Gift. This historic gift of $550 million, announced a little more than one year ago, led to the development of the Bronco Promise scholarship, which this year is providing a tuition-free education to nearly 400 students. Housing and Residence Life also welcomed students into the new Bronco Connect Living Learning Community, which incorporates enhanced opportunities to connect with campus and explore career and academic development resources.
"It's an exciting time," says Cheng Kidd Sun, Western Student Association president, offering advice to the newest members of Bronco nation. "Go out and try new things. I feel that Western is a place that creates a lot of possibilities for you."
New academic programming debuting in fall 2022 will give Broncos new opportunities and paths to career success. The bachelor's program in health administration—an interdisciplinary degree from the College of Health and Human Services designed in cooperation with the Haworth College of Business—will prepare students to meet the growing demand for managers and administrators in health-related organizations. The new kinetic imaging bachelor's program will allow students to focus on animation, game art or video art. There are also new master's programs in finance and ceramics as well as graduate certificates in addiction specialization, business analytics and renewable power systems.
"Students, we are so glad you are here," President Edward Montgomery said in a campus message kicking off the academic year. "We’re ready to teach you in ways that will excite your mind and spur your curiosity to learn more. We will challenge you to use your unique gifts to pursue your purpose and achieve your goals. And our campus resources, programs and talented community will support your holistic well-being."
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