Naming Process

Message from President Nora Miller

Some of you may have heard recent discussions regarding the possibility of changing our institutional name. If you have been at the university for a while, you know these discussions have transpired for many years; nonetheless, we have begun more formal preparations to determine if now is the time to make this change.

In May, I received a letter from our Dean's Council, acknowledging the challenges that our name presents and advocating that we pursue a name that is inclusive for all students. Countless others have likewise shared concerns and challenges that exist under our current name. However, I would like to clarify that although there are calls for a more inclusive name, we are not considering a change in our mission. I assure you, no matter what happens, we maintain our historic commitment to academic and leadership development for women, forever embracing our status as the first state-supported college for women in the United States.

As our first alumni president, I too feel the urgency to do all we can to honor our history while clearing barriers to our future. I acknowledge that should a new name be recommended, it will be an emotional issue for some; however, it is imperative that we sincerely consider all opportunities that will strengthen our position and allow us to better fulfill our mission. Looking back at our history, we have had a name change every 35 to 55 years:

  1. Columbus Female Institute 1847
  2. Industrial Institute and College 1884
  3. Mississippi State College for Women 1920
  4. Mississippi University for Women 1974

We are on year 48 with our current name, although we have been coeducational for 40 years. Consequently, the time may be right to take this next step.

In that spirit of progress, I have appointed a task force to take a deeper dive into this issue and see if now is the time to recommend a more inclusive name.  This task force is chaired by the Dean of Library Services, Amanda Clay Powers, and includes our deans, Provost, former Provost Tom Richardson, Executive Director of University Relations, Executive Director of Alumni and Development, General Counsel, and representatives of our Faculty Senate, Staff Council, Student Government Association, Alumni Association, and the Foundation Board.

We will begin holding listening sessions soon to gather information about your thoughts and concerns on this issue. These sessions will be for faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other stakeholders. There is also an email account set up for you to share your thoughts: namechange@muw.edu. We value your input and appreciate the passion you have for The W.

We ask for mutual respect as we exchange differing viewpoints and work toward growing our enrollment and creating the best possible opportunities and outcomes for our students and alumni. Thank you for all you do, and we will continue to communicate with you throughout the process.

Nora Miller
President

President Nora Miller

Tentative Timeline

Aerial view of Callaway Hall
  • May 24: President receives letter from Dean’s Council in support of a name change process.
  • August 10: President announces at convocation the need to remove known enrollment barriers.
  • August 18: President meets with IHL Board regarding a potential name change process.
  • August 22: President meets with Student Government Association regarding a potential name change process.
  • August 24: President meets with the faculty senate president regarding potential name change process.
  • August 30: President meets with Dean’s Council regarding their letter.
  • September 8: President meets with the chair of the Director’s Council.
  • September 13: President meets via Zoom with the Foundation Board to discuss potential name change process.
  • September 14: President creates Naming Task Force and the group meets to discuss name process. 
  • September 15: President meets with Alumni Board to discuss potential name change process.
  • September 27: 18,000+ emails go out to campus, students, and alumni regarding the potential of a name change process and soliciting feedback. 100+ responses come back with 80% in favor of a change.
  • September 28: President meets via Zoom with MUWAA past presidents regarding the name change process.
  • October 5 – 10: Listening tours
    • Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 4-5 p.m.- Faculty/Staff (In-person)/ Gail P. Gunter Multi-Purpose Room
    • Thursday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.- Students (In-person)/ Gail P. Gunter Multi-Purpose Room
    • Friday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. – Open Zoom Session
    • Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. – Open Zoom Session
    • Monday, Oct. 10 at 5: 30 – Alumni & Community (in-person)/ Gail P. Gunter Multi-Purpose Room
  • Oct. 5 – 19: Create and finalize survey
  • Oct. 20 - 30: Distribute survey
  • Nov. 3 – 11: Facilitate focus groups from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community
  • Nov. 21: Task Force meets to review all data and move toward consensus
  • Nov. 22 – 30: Additional focus groups as needed for additional input
  • December: Finalize report

Naming Task Force

Brian Anderson,
Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Symone Bounds,
Alumni Association President

Marty Brock,
Dean, College of Business & Professional Studies

David Brooking,
Director, Student Success Center

Marty Hatton,
Dean, School of Education

Brandy Larmon,
Dean, College of Nursing & Health Sciences

Jenny Katool,
Foundation President

Holly Krogh,
Faculty Senate President

Rachael Damms,
Staff Council President

Mackenzie Pearce,
Student Government Association President

Karen Clay,
University General Counsel

Anika Perkins,
Executive Director of University Relations

Amanda Clay Powers, Chair
Dean, Fant Memorial Library

Andrea Stevens,
Executive Director of Alumni & Development

Tom Richardson,
Former Provost and Dean, Professor and Eudora Welty Chair

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

How much will a rebrand cost?

We are gathering information and will respond as soon as we can, but we don’t have a final answer yet. We have looked at the benefits and costs of a potential rebrand. We are confident that any costs for the rebrand will be minor when compared to the potential benefits. Past data proves the name is impacting enrollment in a negative way; 54% of the budget comes from tuition.

Do you have a name picked out already?

No. Many names have been provided by many people, but we are continuing to gather more information through listening sessions, focus groups, and surveys. We want to consider all naming options, themes, and ideas. We need more input and are excited to work with everyone. This is a fluid process. We thank everyone for their patience.

We have tried this in the past and it failed. What is different this time?

Enrollment and financial stability are key to our strategic plan and our success. We feel at this time there is more support than in the past and the business necessity for change is clearer. Also, the desire to become more inclusive is higher than ever before. 

What names are being considered?

Names for universities are limited. Generally, there are academic mission names, geographical names, and historical names. The names we are hearing in large part are tied to our state, region, alumni, and founders.

What is the timeline on this?

This depends on the information we receive and how quickly the committee can work through the many options and considerations. However, it is possible that this will be reviewed during the upcoming legislative session.

Will the mascot and colors be changing?

No, Ody Owl will remain a part of our rich traditions and we will keep our current colors.

How will this impact diplomas and transcripts for those currently at the institution?

We are still working through the options for that, but it is our intention to provide as much flexibility as we can.

Will this impact our mission?

No. We are determined to maintain and support our current mission. We will continue to honor our history and status as the first state-supported college for women in the United States.

Survey Questions

Is the survey meant to be a vote for the name of the University?

No. The survey is meant to get feedback on the names already suggested through the Naming Task Force’s Listening Sessions, emails, and in-person suggestions. We are still in the process of gathering name suggestions using the survey.

Why do I have to answer all the questions in the survey?

The survey was designed to get feedback on the geographic and historical names that have been suggested through the listening sessions, emails, and in person, as well as to find additional names to be researched and vetted by the Naming Task Force.  The survey is designed to evaluate all the names that have come through that process, so we ask for your input on all the names.  We place a high value on your opinion, and we hope you will complete the survey and note your feedback in the section provided for alternate names and other responses. 

Love Communications, the market research firm that designed the survey with the Naming Task Force, will be randomly selecting individuals to participate in focus groups from those who have indicated they would like to continue to help in this important process. 

Only the data from completed surveys will be used. The data from the survey will be compiled into a report by Love Communications, the market research firm who designed the survey in conjunction with the Naming Task Force.  This report will be posted on https://www.muw.edu/name, and it will be used by the Naming Task Force and Love Communications to develop questions for the focus groups.  Volunteering for a focus group at the end of the survey will add you to the database that Love Communications will use to select participants.

Where did the names come from that are on the survey?

The names on the survey came directly from the Naming Task Force’s Open Listening Sessions, emails, and in-person suggestions from students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the community.  Each name suggested was vetted by the Naming Task Force, and the names on the survey came from that process.  The Naming Task Force hopes to gather additional names for consideration through participation in the survey.