Western Michigan reveals its new ‘Big Idea’

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The “Big Idea” announcement that Western Michigan University leaders have been hyping for several weeks was revealed at a town hall meeting late Monday afternoon.

WMU spokesman Tony Proudfoot read the idea aloud during the presentation: “Those who are masters of their fate and captains of their soul change the world.”

“It’s a way of being at Western and our way of being is putting the care of our students front and center always,” Proudfoot continued. “Constantly focused on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being in everything that we do.”

More than 5,500 people from the campus community provided input on the Think Big Idea, along with about 700 students.

Leaders described their new approach as, “Not one program or a thing.” They plan to implement it in a variety of ways that includes giving students more options, providing them with opportunities to connect with career professionals early on and strengthening mental health programs.

One example may be the creation of meta-majors or packaged classes that allow students greater flexibility to change their major.  

“As they find their purpose and as they find what they want to do, they can take any number of paths and it’s much easier for them to change course,” Proudfoot said.

Part of the plan would help improve mental health programs with student advising by bringing the two areas together.

“What we found is they aren’t sufficiently integrated,” Proudfoot said.

The university is hoping the Think Big initiative will help the university reverse declining enrollment. Between the fall of 2001 and the fall of 2019, the total undergraduate enrollment at WMU has dropped about 26%. The university says the decline is reflective of population changes resulting in fewer high school graduates. It expects the number of high school graduates will drop 14% between 2018 and 2031.

Think Big will also involve a new advertising and marketing campaign. Proudfoot says it will be incorporated into everything on campus in some form over the next 12 to 18 months.

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