As the rain falls down on to Western Michigan University’s campus, you can hear the raindrops falling into the water fountain in front of Waldo library. The rain drips off the statue of a wind-blown professor in front of the chemistry building and gives a sculptured whale on campus the wet feel of an ocean as a springtime fragrance sweeps through the flowers and trees.
Campus beautification is a continual project evident not only through plants and trees on Western’s campus, but also in the current architectural projects and other artistic endeavors like the campus sculpture tour.
According to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 62 percent of prospective students attend colleges based on the appearance of the grounds and buildings.
WMU’s Landscape Services Department works on several campus beautification projects with the assistance of departments and organizations on campus.
The pedestrian mall, being built as part of the new Sangren Hall construction, is a project that will be starting this summer. According to Facilities Management, the pedestrian mall will include more green space for outdoor activities, wider walkways and a water feature. The areas around McCracken Hall and Kanley Chapel will see new trees and other native plants that will be coordinated with existing trees and plants.
“With the Sangren Hall landscaping, what that does is it will be melded into the entire landscape with that area,” said Director of Landscape Services Tim Holysz. “From this point on [will be] all brand new landscape, and we need to tie it together to flow easy.”
Additionally, the Student Garden Organization and the Office For Sustainability are helping the Landscape Services Department in campus beautification projects such as grass conversion to native species. In addition to enhancing the landscape, these new species of grass require less water and fertilizer and will support transplanting seeds of native species into the landscape at Western.
Residents at the Gibbs House, a housing option for students interested in developing sustainability initiatives, transformed the property so that there are vegetable gardens and other of forms of vegetation.
“We’ve developed at the Gibbs House about 12,000 square feet of native species landscapes,” said William Derouin, Student Garden Organization president and founder and Office For Sustainability Wesustain intern.
Future projects sponsored by the Office For Sustainability include the enhancement of the Gibbs House by planting apple trees, blueberry and strawberry plants and transforming the property so it is more environmentally friendly, Derouin said.
The Projects and Construction Division has taken into account the placement of the new pedestrian mall so that it will beautify the campus by reducing the amount of vehicular traffic in the Sangren Hall area and making it more conducive to outdoor enjoyment.
“Part of the mall is we wanted a large green space where students could go outside and find a place to relax outside of the classroom,” said Douglas Lloyd, architect at Western Michigan University. “It provides a large area for people to gather in an outside environment without any conflicts of automobiles or service trucks.”
The School of Art at WMU also has undertaken campus beautification projects by placing art in the permanent collection and also through the sculpture tour.
The sculpture tour is a program that borrows large-scale art from artists around the world to be seen on campus for two years at a time and creates a stimulating environment that alters space around campus and adds an intimacy with design. Depending on the piece, the Landscape Services Department places it where it will flow well with the rest of the campus and not block any operations.
“[The sculptures] stimulate poetic meaning, they create contemplative places, they create place and story, and I think all of that is aesthetically pleasing,” said John Running-Johnson, co-director of the sculpture tour.
The School of Art also got involved with the Sangren Hall renovation by creating murals to hide construction and motivate observers with positive quotes about education.
Karen Bondarchuk, Foundation art area coordinator for the School of Art, was responsible for the mural project that was used not only for the Sangren Hall project but also the Brown Hall renovation project.
The mural project enlisted the services of students to paint and cover 2,400 square feet of fence with images of famous people with quotes that would have a positive influence on the campus community.
Panels used for the mural project as well as building materials were recycled and repurposed for future use.
Many of these campus beautification projects are environmentally friendly by reusing and recycling materials for future use.
Construction materials used in the new Sangren Hall are also being reused so that materials can have a second life and be put to further use instead of buying all new materials.
Additionally, Landscaping Services takes trees and replants them so that they are out of the way for new construction endeavors and moved to areas with similar trees. For every one tree cut down, two are planted in its place making Western Michigan University one of two tree campuses in Michigan.
The Tree Campus USA recognition is a program established by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota to promote tree awareness. To attain recognition campuses have to meet five core standards.
“We have a tree policy here on campus as part of the Tree Campus USA,” Holysz said. “We plant two trees for every one that was taken down in the landscape area.”