Western Launches ‘Building Washington’s Future’ campaign; Project to Expand Western’s Capacity in Critical STEM Areas

Each year, the state of Washington needs thousands more people prepared for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) than our state’s universities can produce. Western Washington University is addressing this need by expanding specialized programs in key STEM fields.

Students in Western’s computer science, electrical engineering, and energy science and technology programs are being prepared to tackle the most pressing technology challenges of our time. They are equipped with the expertise to improve cyber security, engineer smart grids and buildings, create the energy systems of the future, and develop safe, autonomous modes of transportation. But current space constraints on Western campus limit the number of students who can graduate from these programs with the skills to enter jobs in our region’s key industries: aerospace, technology, energy, and transportation.

“Two of the most important goals in Western’s strategic plan are advancing inclusive student success and increasing Western’s impact in Washington,” said Western President Sabah Randhawa. “Preparing more graduates for successful careers in the state’s high-need STEM fields satisfies both objectives at once, and demonstrates our commitment to serving the needs of the state, our students, and the public good.”

In response to student and industry demand, Western Washington University is partnering with the Western Washington University Foundation to construct a new facility to house growing programs in electrical engineering, computer science and engineering, and energy science and technology. The $20 million “Building Washington’s Future” capital campaign will help fund a new building to provide increased capacity for more classes, more labs, and more faculty, creating a smoother path to graduation and quicker transition into the workforce.

The new Advanced Technology Engineering and Computer Science building will be on Western’s Bellingham campus and will represent Western’s focused and accelerated expansion of the infrastructure needed to increase capacity in STEM fields. The space in the new building will reduce bottlenecks in programs and help Western meet the increasing workforce demand for people with advanced skills in systems engineering and computer science.

The building will be designed as a hub for collaboration and connection with industry partners and will include spaces that foster innovation, investigation and inspiration. Designed with physical and cultural accessibility and inclusion in mind, the building will foster learning and the exchange of ideas among an increasingly diverse population of students and faculty.

“It is a dynamic and exciting time at Western as we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in student interest and enrollment in our STEM programs during a time when the need for home-grown talent is the greatest it’s ever been,” said Brad Johnson, dean of Western’s College of Science and Engineering. “Our emphasis on hands-on, authentic learning experiences provides unique opportunities for students and for impact on the region we serve. We look forward to developing the new and existing partnerships resulting from the ‘Building Washington’s Future’ campaign.”

The Washington State Legislature has committed $2 million for design-related expenses and plans to allocate $46 million for design and construction in the 2021-2023 biennium - contingent upon Western’s ability to secure private funding.

It is a dynamic and exciting time at Western as we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in student interest and enrollment in our STEM programs during a time when the need for home-grown talent is the greatest it’s ever been.

In order to meet the private funding requirement, the Western Washington University Foundation hopes to secure $20 million in private pledges by September 2020.

The volunteer chair of the Building Washington’s Future campaign is Warren Michelsen, vice president and general manager for Trane in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Alaska regions. Michelsen is a founding member of Western’s Institute for Energy Studies advisory board and states, “Trane invested in the development of Western’s energy program because we believe in the value of the education and the impact the program has on the future workforce. Graduates from Western continue to be among the most highly talented students who immediately make an impact at our company and on the sustainability of our communities because of their STEM education. We are honored to be part of the Western’s STEM expansion program and look forward to the next phase of the university’s development efforts.”

The Western Washington University Foundation is accepting donations and pledges, and will work with donors to identify meaningful ways to honor gifts, including named spaces within the building. For more information, please contact Manca Valum at Manca.valum@wwu.edu or (360)-650-6542, or visit this website: wwu.edu/build.

Illustration of the building's interior