Western Colorado University is a small, public liberal arts college in rural Gunnison, CO, designed to provide the exclusive liberal arts experience at an affordable cost. Founded in 1911 as a normal school (teacher’s college), Western gradually added more liberal arts and sciences programs until it reached the status of college, then grew further as veterans returning from WWII sought education with their GI Bill. Western reached full university status in 2012, with a name change to reflect the increased stature.
Academic ProgramsAcademics at Western center around education (its original mission), liberal arts, and professional programs. As Colorado’s leading public liberal arts institution, Western’s curriculum is designed for the kind of close, personal attention and mentorship that makes the liberal arts experience special. Class sizes average 18, and faculty work closely with students on research and academic projects. Western’s programs have won it recognition among the best regional universities in the west from U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review.
Western’s most exciting programs are unique to the university, and many are crafted around the rural, mountain setting. Graduate programs include a highly-respected low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing, a Master’s in Environmental Management, and a highly specialized MS in Exercise and Sport Science with concentration in High Altitude Exercise Physiology – making the most of the Rockies. Undergraduate programs in areas like Environment & Sustainability are very much in line with Colorado life, while Recreation & Outdoor Education puts Colorado’s idiosyncratic landscape first. Petroleum Geology, rare for a small liberal arts college, is also a highly-sought, well-funded new program.
Student LifeJust a quick glance through pictures of the Western Colorado University campus tells all some prospective students need to know about student life; situated in the Gunnison Valley of the Rocky Mountains, any direction shows a majestic view. Students are just minutes from world-class ski resorts, hiking, mountain biking, and all the extreme outdoor sports imaginable. Every year, the Center for Outdoor Leadership hosts the Gunnison River Festival, with rock climbing, kayaking, and a wealth of opportunities for students to try their mettle.
Of course, Mountaineer life is not all mountain biking and skiing. Dozens of students clubs and organizations offer creative opportunities like slam poetry and music, multi-cultural events, and networking with honor societies and professionals. Nearly 100% of first and second-year students live on campus, creating a lively community of like-minded but diverse young intellectuals, artists, and leaders.