Since its beginning in 1893, WWU has grown into a comprehensive university of approximately 11,470 (10,200 Full Time Equivalent) students according to 1997 fall enrollment figures. WWU is home to unique environmental and economic research programs, award-winning experimental vehicle design, and highly regarded manufacturing, plastics, and electrical engineering technology programs. Citizens of Bellingham enjoy access to Western's facilities and open space, including its acclaimed outdoor sculpture as well as popular offerings in theater, music and sports.
The Western Washington University Neighborhood contains open space, which is easily accessible to students, staff and visitors. Formal open spaces owned and operated by Western include the Old Main Quad, Red Square, the Fairhaven Courtyard, the Performing Arts Center Plaza, and the Haskell Plaza. Natural open spaces include the Outback Wetland south of Fairhaven College, Sehome Hill Arboretum, and the Bird Sanctuary knoll between Old Main and the Viking Union. Sehome Hill Arboretum provides areas for academic study, trails for recreation and commuting, and a major green/open space which serves the broader community. Active recreational and educational open spaces include numerous sports playfields, experimental gardens and environmental study areas. General open spaces include buffers and wooded hillsides throughout campus which are valuable for their informal/natural qualities, their buffering characteristics, and as green backdrops.