Why + How

Rethinking the University Experience

The higher education landscape is changing rapidly. Students face new pressures and challenges that affect the way they choose a university and engage with their campus communities. While financial resources are often limited, options for how they learn, play and connect with others are virtually infinite.

Donors increasingly want to give to causes that have a clear impact. And increasingly scarce research funding is driving the need to express much greater value and demonstrated expertise in order to attract investment.

Meanwhile, existing industries are evolving and new fields of expertise are emerging quickly.

We want to be at the forefront of creating an exceptional and valuable student experience and driving innovative research that advances the frontiers of knowledge.

Western Michigan University is truly excellent

Tens of thousands of students, faculty, staff, donors, alumni, community members commit to us every year in ways big and small. We all take pride in our strong University for good reason.

Consider this...

Students choose us
Thousands of students choose to come here each year.
We deliver
90% of our graduates get jobs they like in their fields soon after graduation.
We’re a good investment
We raise tens of millions of dollars each year.

And also consider this...

By the year 2030, the pool of Michigan high school graduates will be 14% smaller than it is today. The vast majority of our students come from Michigan today.
The cost to attend a Michigan public university has increased 30% over the last decade.The world of work is changing—85% of the jobs that will exist when today’s kindergartners enter WMU do not yet exist..
Our world has changed around us and we must respond. To thrive in the future, we must offer something special to the world. It must be bold and distinctive.
woman marking notes with a pen ona table with a couple people watching

Participants work together to create ideas for WMU's future.

Real. Relevant. Rare.

When we think of a big idea, we think of the three Rs: Real, relevant, and rare. In the end, we want our big ideas to be authentic to the University, to differentiate WMU from other universities.

This project will be highly visible over the next year. Community-wide design sessions will generate ideas that will be refined and tested, so that together we can craft a new promise for WMU.

On this site, you’ll be able to see the process as it evolves. Access original graphics of group designs, news and all other communications related to the Think Big Initiative.

The offices of Academic Affairs, Marketing and Strategic Communications and Student Affair will continue to engage the University community through future town hall-style brainstorms, with the participation and support from President Edward Montgomery, the President’s Cabinet, the provost council and WMU faculty and staff.

We are hosting numerous engagements throughout this process—find out where we are now.


Dr. Jennifer Bott
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Tony Proudfoot
Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communication

Dr. Diane Anderson
Vice President for Student Affairs

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  • student in a striped shirt placing post-it notes on a wall
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  • people sitting at round tables in a large room while people in the back are placing concepts on the wall
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  • people sitting around a round table discussing the many colored post-it notes on the table
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  • people sitting at round tables in a large room