Mississippi university slows down name change process, postpones decision until 2024

Published 8:30 am Sunday, December 18, 2022

Officials at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus have decided to slow down efforts to change the name of the university, to be more inclusive of its student body — both male and female.

Instead of proposing a name change in 2023, officials have postponed any name change until at least 2024.

President Nora Miller provided an update on the name change on the university’s website, which is printed in its entirety below:

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As we are winding things up for 2022, I want to give you an update on where we are in the Name Change process. In late October-early November we sent out over 39,000 invitations to participate in our survey. These went out to alumni, students, faculty, staff, prospective students, business leaders and others in our community. Over 4,000 responses were verified, and over 600 people indicated that they would be willing to participate in focus group discussions if their name were chosen in a random sample selection. 543 were invited to participate in 11 focus groups. 94 people took part in these focus groups. As they were held in late November and early December, final exams and holiday preparations seem to have limited participation. We will post a report that summarizes the survey results and what we have learned from the focus group discussions.

Throughout this process, we have heard concerns that we were moving faster than some of our constituents were comfortable with.  Respondents favored historic names, and those require genealogical review and vetting that takes time.  Being a state supported institution, and with a name change requiring legislative action, it will be important to recognize our public status in that name. Grappling with a name that is not inclusive of our current and prospective students on a daily basis sparks the urgency that I feel regarding a name change.  Choosing a permanent name for our university and building the support for that name is a momentous task and will take time.  Because of this, we will wait until the 2024 legislative session to bring a name change to the table.  We will continue to inform you about this process and continue to seek your input.

Meanwhile, we have started our work with Ruffalo Noel Levitz with training for our admissions and financial aid counselors and staff. We will be working with their team to more than double our pool of prospective students, and to build out our Slate customer relationship management system for tracking and communicating with those prospective students.  We will use the data collected and analyzed to inform our recruiting processes.  While most of this will be focused on the fall 2024 recruitment, we will be able to impact our ongoing recruitment for fall 2023.
As we begin 2023, we will explore ways that we can continue to live our historic mission of serving underserved populations and advancing education and leadership opportunities for women and will be exploring funding opportunities to strengthen programming in that area.

I am looking forward to what the New Year holds for The W!  Wishing you all the best for a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!

Nora Miller