What Western Washington University is doing to attract new students

BELLINGHAM -- Western Washington University is working to ignite local kids’ interest in STEM careers.

“Our state lags behind in the number of kids with bachelor degrees, in the stem fields, and just generally in higher education.” Paul Cocke, Director of Communication WWU explained.

WWU is working to bring students in Whatcom County above those statistics, using their own Environmental Sciences lobby as a sort of museum to attract students of all ages to learn on their turf.

“We have a great place to study geology with active volcanism, we have glaciers here, lots of things.”

Ben Paulson of the WWU Geology said with a smile. “There’s something to be said - especially in the sciences - about getting your hands on and you’re actually doing it so it’s active learning.”

From wooly mammoth tusks, to mineral specimens, to artifacts of dinosaur descendants to the latest technology, there’s something for everyone to get their hands on.

“Even when it’s just a small child and you’re playing with the sand they are seeing this contour lines something that they’re not even realizing but they’re learning passively as they’re playing actively, “ Paulson added. “It’s a good way of the geology department to do some outreach with the local K-12. Plant that seed, get kids excited about science and maybe that will help bring them into the STEM field when they’re adults.”

WWU outreach to local kids goes much further. The ‘compass to campus’ program in its ninth year, pairs WWU students with students from traditionally underrepresented and diverse backgrounds in Whatcom and Skagit counties

“They go as mentors out into the community, helping kids as role models, with their homework..” Cocke explained proudly. “To encourage women that they can be computer science people, they can be geologist, they can be environmental scientist, they can be whatever they want. What we’re doing is we’re encouraging a better future for people.”

The fifth graders in the Compass To Campus program culminates each year with a trip to WWU where the students explore their career field of choice and get to experience a university – for many of them for the very first time.