Naming Process

Frequently Asked Questions Naming Process Questions

Why is Mississippi University for Women changing its name?

For 40 years, we have been co-educational. Today, we are facing increased competition for enrollment, and we need to remove any barriers to expanding enrollment. Marketing to some male students, as well as female students, is a challenge, because our name doesn’t reflect who we are. To read more about the need for a name change, please visit:

Our freshmen classes were consistently well over 200 students (sometimes over 300 students) from 1985 until 2009. Since then, we have seen a steady decrease in the size of the incoming freshmen class, with the smallest freshmen class in recent memory in the fall of 2022 (120). More information on enrollment trends at the university is available here:

May 24, 2022: President Nora Miller received a letter authored and signed by Deans making a recommendation to take the actions necessary to identify a new name for the institution. The detailed letter can be found here:

How did the university reach the decision to use a concept name?

In September 2023, the Naming Task Force completed 15 months of work and recommended the new name. The group included eight alumni and one soon-to-be. The university employees on this taskforce represented a total of 290 years of service to this institution. Throughout this process, the university sought and received feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and community members. Transparency, inclusiveness, and consensus have served as the guiding principles for this taskforce.

The taskforce included Deans, Provost, former Provost, Executive Directors of Alumni and Development, University Relations, Enrollment Management, Associate VP for Academic Affairs and Director of Honors College, the Chair of the Dept. of Business and Professor of Marketing, along with General Counsel, Presidents of the Student Government Association, Staff Council, Faculty Senate, and Alumni Association, the Chair of the Foundation, and the Director of the Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.

The September 28th meeting of that taskforce was lengthy, with much discussion on each of the names that made it to the final vetting. Going into that meeting, the Task Force had already made some key decisions based on information discovered throughout the process.

  • Not to use compass points, alumni and our faculty feel very strongly that these types of names do not reflect our unique qualities and the personal relationships that we have with our students. A directional name could also easily be confused with surrounding and competing community colleges.

  • Not to use a family or historic name. Institutions are going away from this, and there's a risk of going back in history or forward to future generations.

  • Not to use a W. We were founded as the first state-supported college for women in this country, and for us, our W will stand for WOMEN. The university will not diminish that historic founding by grasping for another W word.

  • Draw on our history, mission, traditions, and what came through during the focus group sessions.

On January 8th, the University announced the propsed name Mississippi Brightwell University which was inspired by the university's motto: "we study for light to bless with light." Founded on the principles of innovation and equality, our university represents the visionaries who dared to illuminate the possibilities derived from equitable education.

After the announcement of the proposed name, Mississippi Brightwell University, the university implemented a pause in its name change process to reflect on the feedback that we are receiving. As part of the pause, the university is listening to our constituents and has reconvened the Naming Task Force to build on the work that we have already done and reconisder the importance of "The W" brand to us all.

The taskforce invited suggestions for names from all constituencies, including alumni, faculty, staff, and students, in addition to working with the communications agency Chernoff Newman. The Task Force is exploring three "W" names and will use our beloved "The W" brand to bridge generations of "W" students who have graduated from MSCW and MUW.

The suggested names, including those received from Chernoff Newman, are available to view at This fresh look at names builds on 18 months of work with these groups, including surveys, listening sessions, focus groups, and a brand audit. Names were suggested through January 24th by emailing the Naming Task Force Co-Chair Amanda Clay Power . After considering archival and historical research, as well as survey data, the taskforce did not consider historical or geographic/directional names.

The taskforce’s review of names is ongoing and on January 25th, the taskforce met and chose three names to go forward. These names were included in a survey released on January 26th and ending on January 29th. This survey will help gain impressions from The W’s constituents of the suggested names. An analysis of the survey results and the naming process will be completed by the taskforce and presented to President Miller on or before February 8th. The new name will be announced by President Miller before February 14th, when the bill is due to be submitted for consideration in this legislative session.

What will the survey entail? Will there be a vote?

The survey will include the Naming Task Force's top 3 choices names for consideration. This survey will not offer a vote for the name change, rather will be a survey focused on sentimental analysis. This survey is meant to gather both analytical and emotional behavior around the top three potential names, i.e. how it represents historical significance and how it stands the test of time.

Will the survey results be shared with the public?

We will share the results from the survey directly on this Name Change webpage. Please continue to look back here for updates throughout the process.

The taskforce will meet to review and analyze the survey data for each of the top 3 choices and deliver a report to President Nora Miller

How will the final name choice be selected and what supporting resources will be a part of this decision?

President Miller will receive the Naming Task Force's top three name choices, a full report that includes survey data, a trademark lawyer report, and task force analysis. President Miller will determine the final name.

What happens to the nickname “The W”?

Our beloved alma mater will always be The W. Each of these names will enable us to carry forward “The W” as a recognizable brand. We are committed to continuing and marketing The W brand that is so strongly supported by our alumni and friends.

What is the next step toward making the proposed name official?

The university will announce the newly selected name no later than February 14, 2024, and we will submit it to the Mississippi Legislature for their approval. It is anticipated that the new name will be effective July 1, 2024.