On May 27, 1903, Michigan Governor Aaron T. Bliss signed a Michigan Legislature bill authorizing the creation of the State's fourth teacher-training facility or "Normal School". The three other Normal Schools were in Ypsilanti (Eastern), Mount Pleasant (Central), and Marquette (Northern).
The location for the new school was to be determined by the State Board of Education. Among the cities considered were Allegan, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Decatur, Three Oaks, Hastings, and Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo was chosen as the new school's location on August 28, 1903.
The State Board was also responsible for selecting the specific site for the school. City and community leaders initially presented twentyfour sites for consideration. After narrowing the selection down to four sites, the State Board hired a nationally known landscape architecture firm, the Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, to make a recommendation. The firm's representative recommended the site known as "Prospect Hill", which was subsequently approved by the Board on November 27, 1903. The Olmsted Brothers also prepared a complete landscape plan for the 20-acre site. A modified landscape plan was eventually used, as the complete plan proved too expensive.
Architect E. W. Arnold of Battle Creek, Michigan, was hired to design the first building. His early submittal of a campus master plan is shown below. The first building, the Administration Building, was started May 16, 1904, and occupied September 1, 1905. In its first year the school enrolled 107 students.