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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Dunn Says Boost In Foreign Students At WMU Good For Everyone


Western Michigan University President John Dunn says he’s proud of the increase in international students during his tenure. He says growing from 967 to nearly 1,900 international students over ten years is very positive for students who come here from other countries. But he says it’s also beneficial for students who get to learn more about the rest of the world. 

Dunn issued a statement on Monday regarding President Trump’s executive order, which bans immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations. In his message, Dunn said the order left many students, faculty and staff feeling fearful, threatened and unwelcome. Dunn sat down with WMUK’s Gordon Evans and Battle Creek Enquirer Education reporter Noe Hernandezto discuss that and other issues.


Dunn says WMU’s Haenicke institute for Global Education is working with students that could be affected by the travel ban. He says Western has nearly 100 students from the countries named in the executive order, most of them from Iraq. Dunn says students are being advised to monitor travel activity. But he says Western also recruits faculty from some of those countries. Dunn says there is an offer out to a potential faculty member from Iraq that’s in limbo right now because it’s not clear he would be able to come to the United States.

Asked about providing information regarding students and their immigration status, Dunn says Western believes in following the federal Cleary Act, which protects student privacy. But he says if there is a mandate from the federal government to turn over student records, “we’re going to have to think that through very very carefully.” 

"You'd have to be pretty hard-hearted not to understand what some of the challenges are"

Dunn says he recently spoke with Congressman Fred Upton about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students. Western’s president says many of those students are doing “really, really well” at WMU. Dunn says “If any elected official could sit and talk with some of the students… you’d have to be pretty hard-hearted not to understand what some of the challenges are, and how well some of the young people have performed.”


Asked about the cost of a more high profile sports program, Dunn says Western had a great football seasons this year, but did so within the “reasonably narrow bandwidth” of what all Mid-American schools spend on sports. He says the MAC athletic budgets fall between about $22-million to $30-million. But he says in larger conferences like the Big Ten there’s a much greater disparity in what schools spend on athletics.

The Broncos had to hire a new coach after the football season when P.J. Fleck took the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota. Dunn says he had not met Western’s new head coach Tim Lester until he interviewed for the job. Dunn says he was very impressed. He says Lester showed has a good mind, and understanding of what it takes to sustain success on the football field.

Dunn says he doesn’t know where talks are regarding the “Row the Boat” slogan. Fleck used that as his mantra during his four years as the Broncos’ coach, although Western owns the trademark. Dunn says “Row the Boat” has personal value for Fleck. But he says finding another phrase could help rally people to the football team again. 

"I don"t know that we'll ever get this totally the way we want it."

Communication Safety

A Committee has developed a series of recommendations for communicating information about public safety. Dunn says the committee did a good job of seeking student input, and weighing several factors. He says the university is trying to keep people informed, but not to create panic or misinformation.

But Dunn says “I don’t know that we’ll ever get this totally the way we want it.” He says it’s an ongoing process in part because new systems of communication are being developed all the time.

Tuition Change

Western Michigan University’s Board of Trustees has approved a change in tuition for students from outside Michigan. The tuition for out of state students beginning in the fall will be 1.25% higher than for in-state students. Dunn says that allows Western to show case its programs to students in other states. He says it also reflects a decline in higher education spending from the state and can help address the long-term trend of smaller high school graduating classes in Michigan.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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