Western Colorado University

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Western Colorado University
Western State Colorado University logo.svg
Type Public
Established 1901
President Greg Salsbury
Academic staff
Undergraduates 2503
Postgraduates 408
Location Gunnison, Colorado, U.S.
38°32′56″N 106°55′12″W / 38.549°N 106.920°W / 38.549; -106.920Coordinates: 38°32′56″N 106°55′12″W / 38.549°N 106.920°W / 38.549; -106.920
Campus Rural, 350 acres
Colors Crimson and Slate[1]
Athletics NCAA Division IIRocky Mountain
Nickname Mountaineers
Website www.western.edu

Western Colorado University, also known as Western, is a four-year public liberal arts college located in Gunnison, Colorado. Approximately 2,500 undergraduate and 400 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 & Sport Science, Recreation & Outdoor Education, Environment & Sustainability and Psychology. Western also offers undergraduate programs in petroleum geology and energy management, both funded by donations through the Western 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.[citation needed] The college has the world's highest collegiate facilities,[citation needed] including Mountaineer Bowl at 7,769 feet (2,368 m) and Paul Wright Gym at 7,723 feet (2,354 m). On September 6th, 2018, Western announced the development of the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering,[2] made possible through an $80 million gift and a partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science.


The institution 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.[3][4] In September 2018, the institution changed its name to Western Colorado University.[2]

The Western campus as viewed from U.S. 50 East.
The Western campus as viewed from U.S. 50 East.


Western’s 228-acre campus has 25 buildings and is located less than one mile from Gunnison’s Main Street.

Residence halls[edit]

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.

Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall[edit]

Taylor Hall was the first building on Western's campus. 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[edit]

Leslie J. Savage Library from Taylor Lawn
Leslie J. Savage Library seen from Taylor Lawn

The Leslie J. Savage Library's West Wing was designed by Temple Buell.[5]

Hurst Quad[edit]

The Hurst Quad comprises Kelly, Hurst and Quigley Halls. Kelly Hall houses the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Environment & Sustainability departments. Hurst Hall houses the Natural & Environmental Sciences and Mathematics & Computer Science departments. Quigley Hall is the center for the Art and Music departments, and includes the John & Georgie Kincaid Concert Hall.

Borick Business Building[edit]

Borick Business Building
Borick Business Building

Borick Business Building was built in 2005.

University Center[edit]

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[edit]

The Mountaineer Field House opened on Western’s campus in March 2014. The 65,000-square-foot facility includes am exercise and wellness facility.[6]

Indoor track at the Mountaineer Field House
Indoor track at the Mountaineer Field House

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.[7]


The Innovation + Creativity + Entrepreneurship (ICE) Lab is the newest addition to Western’s campus and is in partnership with Western and the Colorado Small Business Development Center.[8][9] 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.[10]


Western offers a liberal arts education with more than 90 areas of study for undergraduates and seven graduate programs.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[14] High Altitude Performance Laboratory

The HAP Lab
The HAP Lab

High Altitude Performance Laboratory[edit]

The High Altitude Performance Lab (HAPLab)—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.[14]

Rankings and Recognition[edit]

  • 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.[15]
  • Elevation Outdoors Magazine named Western the ‘Top Adventure School in the West’ for the third time in 2017.[16]
  • LendEdu lists Western as having among the lowest student-debt rates in the nation.[17] The website also ranks Western as the 27th best college for study abroad.[18]
  • Teton Gravity Research called Western one of the best colleges for skiers and snowboarders.
  • Western is considered an Arbor Day Tree Campus.[19]


Western has 166 faculty as of the 2016-2017 school year. The student-faculty ratio is 18:1 and the average class size is 16 students.[20]

The majority of faculty at Western are full-time and carry a terminal degree.[21]

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.[22] Young is currently the Global Coordinator for the Center of Environment and Sustainability at Western.[23]

Clubs and organizations[edit]

Wilderness Pursuits[edit]

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.[24]

Mountain Rescue[edit]

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).[25] 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.[26]

Organics Guild[edit]

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.[27]

Multicultural Center[edit]

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.[28]

KWSB Radio[edit]

Western has one of the oldest collegiate radio stations in the state, 91.1 KWSB, which has been on the air since 1968.[29]

Top o' the World Student Newspaper[edit]

“The Top” has been in print since 1921 and is entirely written and produced by Western students, with funding from student fees and advertising.[30]


Mountaineer Bowl (elevation 7,769 ft.) is the highest collegiate track and football field in the world.
Mountaineer Bowl (elevation 7,769 ft.) is the highest collegiate track and football field in the world.


The Western 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.[31]

In 2016-17, Alicja Konieczek became the first Mountaineer to win four national track and field titles.[32]

Mountain Sports athletes in 2014
Mountain Sports athletes in 2014

Mountain Sports[edit]

Western 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.[33]

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.

Western has had three freeride skiing athletes qualify for the Freeride World Tour.[34][35][36]

Club and Intramural Sports[edit]

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.


Pathfinder, a bronze grizzly bear by Gene and Rebecca Tobey

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.[37]

Western Colorado Foundation[edit]

The Western 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 Colorado University. Each year, the Foundation gives more than $2 million to the University, with the greatest portion directed to scholarships.[3]


In books[edit]

Western Colorado University is one of the settings in Eternal Starling, the first book of the Emblem of Eternity trilogy by Angela Corbett.[38]

In News

According to the Denver Post, the school has struggled financially and operated at a loss from 2011-2015s.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.western.edu/sites/default/files/media/raw/Western_Brand_Identity_Guidelines_083013.pdf
  2. ^ a b Nettles, Katherine (2018-09-26). "Western gets a new name, a new program, and a really large donation". Crested Butte News. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  3. ^ a b "2013–2014 University Catalog" (PDF). Western State Colorado University. Retrieved 2014-10-20.
  4. ^ Fay, Abbott (1968). Mountain Academia: A History of Western State College of Colorado. Boulder: Pruett Press.
  5. ^ "Leslie J. Savage Library | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  6. ^ "Mountaineer Field House | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  7. ^ "Paul Wright Gymnasium and Athletic Fields | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  8. ^ "Home - ICELab @ Western". ICELab @ Western. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  9. ^ "ICELab". www.westernsbdc.org. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  10. ^ "ICELab Cafe - ICELab @ Western". ICELab @ Western. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
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  12. ^ "Graduate Programs at Western | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  13. ^ "Thornton Biology Research Program | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  14. ^ a b "High Altitude Performance Lab (HAP Lab) | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  15. ^ "Western Colorado University". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  16. ^ "School of Rocks - Elevation Outdoors Magazine". Elevation Outdoors Magazine. 2017-06-26. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  17. ^ "Student Loan Debt Rankings – School Level | 2017 - LendEDU". LendEDU. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  18. ^ "LendEDU's College Risk-Reward (CRRI) Indicator 2017 - LendEDU". LendEDU. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  19. ^ "Tree Campus USA Schools". www.arborday.org. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  20. ^ "U.S. News and World Report".
  21. ^ "Western Colorado University Faculty Composition". College Factual. 2013-02-20. Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  22. ^ Young, Jessica R.; Braun, Clait E.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Hupp, Jerry W.; Quinn, Tom W. (2000-12-01). "A new species of sage-grouse (phasianidae: centrocercus) from southwestern colorado". The Wilson Bulletin. 112 (4): 445–453. doi:10.1676/0043-5643(2000)112[0445:ANSOSG]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0043-5643.
  23. ^ "Dr. Jessica Young | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  24. ^ "Wilderness Pursuits | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  25. ^ "All MRA Teams | Mountain Rescue Association". mra.org. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  26. ^ "About Us - WMRT | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  27. ^ "Organics Guild | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  28. ^ "Multicultural Center | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  29. ^ "KWSB 91.1FM | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  30. ^ "Top o' the World | Western Colorado University". www.western.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  31. ^ "Western Colorado University - Western Colorado University". www.gomountaineers.com. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  32. ^ "Alicja Konieczek - 2016-17 Track & Field". Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  33. ^ "Western Mountain Sports | Competition Elevated". wscumountainsports.com. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  34. ^ "Max Durtschi - Ambassador | K2 Skis 2017-18". www.k2skis.com. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  35. ^ "How to Make the Most of It". POWDER Magazine. 2017-05-22. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  36. ^ "Grifen Moller Earns Spot on 2018 Freeride World Tour - West Elk ProjectWest Elk Project". www.westelkproject.com. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  37. ^ Tobey, Rebecca (2007). Partners in Art: Gene and Rebecca Tobey. Albuquerque: Fresco Fine Art Publications. ISBN 978-1-934491-02-7.
  38. ^ "Home of Angela Corbett". www.angelacorbett.com. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  39. ^ "Shane Carwin UFC Bio". Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  40. ^ "Runaway Champion: Exclusive Interview With Tyler Pennel". Competitor.com.
  41. ^ Lieber, Jill (27 January 1988). "Targeting The Top". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  42. ^ "Austin Ekeler". Los Angeles Chargers. Retrieved 2017-10-06.

External links[edit]