In 2004, through a very competitive process, Western Michigan University (WMU) was awarded a STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) grant from the National Science Foundation to implement "Student and Faculty Learning Communities to Increase Graduation Rates in STEM Disciplines" (award #0336581). The goal of the 2004 STEP grant is to assist first-time first-year students majoring in STEM make a successful transition from high school to college. The strategies included placing students in a learning community in which they take the same 3-to-5 courses together. Having the same course schedule within a learning community allowed students to form study groups, and each learning community was mentored by a faculty and an upper-division student. The STEP grant has resulted in 39% increase in the retention of seniors in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS).
In 2006, the Engineering House/Bigelow Hall was created through a partnership between the Division of Student Affairs (DOSA) and CEAS to support students inside and outside of the classroom. Recognizing that the cognitive and affective development of students are intertwined and that students spend a significant amount of time outside of the classroom, CEAS and DOSA collaborated and was awarded a second NSF STEP grant in 2010 titled "Effective Academic and Student Affairs Collaboration to Enhance Student Success in Engineering and Applied Sciences" (award #0969287).