Case Study Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

The College of Aviation at Western Michigan University offers the only comprehensive aviation program at a public university in the state. With over 1,200 undergraduate students, it is the third largest collegiate aviation program in the nation. The program’s vision is to establish and maintain the most advanced training fleet and equipment available in collegiate aviation. Participants experience a world-class professional aviation program consistently viewed as one of the best in the world.


Battle Creek, Michigan

Project Specs

Higher Education
Building Size: 69,645 sq. ft.
Occupants: 2,500

Design Firm

Integrated Architecture

Dealer Partner

Michigan Office Environments

A Space for Attracting Students 

Industry-wide, there is a shortage of aviation pilots and mechanics. The WMU College of Aviation facility is designed to serve as the home of a sophisticated flight training program and act as a tool for attracting students to the field of aviation. 

A reception area hosted by student ambassadors offers a warm welcome to prospective students and their families during the recruitment process. Semi-private spaces with seating, tables, and monitors encourage potential students and their parents to talk with ambassadors about the aviation program. Current students use the space—with access to printers, office supplies, and height-adjustable desks—to do some of their course work. 

Inside the entry, graphic elements on the walls and floor convey the WMU Aviation story and generate a sense of excitement. The entire collegiate atmosphere is enhanced with a color palette that complements WMU’s school colors. High ceilings allow visibility throughout—from the café to the school store, up the massive staircase, and to the upper level where there are more social spaces for eating, relaxing, and connecting. Plus, a fire pit offers a warm gathering space outside the main entry. 

An Engaging Student Experience 

The College of Aviation at WMU, the third largest aviation training program in the country, resides on-site at the Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field in Michigan. Windows throughout the new and enhanced space offer views of the airfield and flight operations—giving students a continual view of the aviation world.

Support and proper applications for the specialty technology needed for aviation training encompass the university classroom design. A lab—built for six simulators and an observation platform—prepares pilots before they fly maneuvers outside. 

Special attention was given to feature comfortable seating to help students maintain focus. Classrooms, debriefing rooms, and common areas offer multiple seating options, including supportive chairs around conference tables. Height-adjustable tables allow students to work while standing and change postures throughout the day.

Timeless Quality Built to Last 

As a state school, the College of Aviation has a fiduciary duty to spend funds wisely. In the building of the new school, this became evident in many ways. 

The facility is designed for expansion to accommodate growth for the next 30 years. With the new space, the College is prepared for reaching its goal of 2,500 students. 

The College partnered with other entities, including the Battle Creek Community Foundation. By providing partners with meeting space for conferences and other events, the College of Aviation strengthens relationships within the community. 

The careful selection of seating and tables adds comfort, as well as timeless design, longevity, and flexibility. Caster enhancements allow tables and chairs to be easily moved as the school adapts to changing needs. Finishes and upholstery were selected for their ability to stand up to years of use and cleaning. For example, Brisa, a material that looks and feels like real leather, was used for some chairs. 

“Every flight begins with a briefing; every flight ends with a briefing; and for two hours in between you go fly an airplane. We needed a space and classroom equipment—desks, chairs, boards, and briefing things—everything designed to provide the best opportunity.”

Captain Dave Powell

Dean, WMU College of Aviation

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