The survey is available at http://surveys.western.edu/s3/name-change. The potential names include a variation of the words “Western,” “Colorado” and “University.”
The name change process is in the exploratory, information-gathering phase. Campus-wide discussions on the name change started in September, which included forums for faculty, staff and students, as well as an email to alumni. This survey is a continuation of the open dialogue among the College’s constituents to provide input to the WSC board of trustees. Based on the College’s findings and constituent feedback, the board of trustees will make a decision whether or not to pursue a legislative bill that could grant Western the authority to change names. Final approval for a name change is made by Colorado’s state legislators.
Why Pursue a Name Change?
As Western wraps up its yearlong Heritage to Horizon 100-year celebration of the College’s opening, the question on the campus community’s mind is, “Where do we go from here?”
Exploring the possibility of a name change to include university is part of Western’s strategy as it moves into its next century of service. The administration has made it clear pursuing university status is not a “silver bullet” to bolster recruitment and retention. Rather, it is a natural progression for the college that has evolved from being the Colorado State Normal School when it first opened in 1911, to Western State College of Colorado in 1923 when it expanded its program offerings as a liberal arts and sciences institution. Today, Western has added graduate programs to its academic offerings, reinstated the Summer Teacher Institute, and is establishing several centers for professional development.
In addition, a move to university status may more accurately reflect the changing demographics of Western’s students. More than 50 percent of Western’s students who have declared a major are currently enrolled in a professional degree program. This is a demographic more reflective of university students than those enrolled at exclusively liberal arts colleges, noted WSC President Jay Helman. However, if approved as a university, Western will not stray from its core values of offering a comprehensive, liberal arts education.
One of the most commonly asked questions during name change discussions is whether or not Western is a “university” by traditional definition. Today, the word “university” no longer exclusively means a research institution. Rather, it has become a common designation used by many small, public and private higher education institutions in the nation. Furthermore, the term “college” is associated by today’s undergraduates, including international students, as being a two-year or technical institution. Just as the term “normal school” is dated to the early 20th century, the word “college” carries a connotation that no longer accurately describes institutions of higher education in the 21st century.
As the administration and the board of trustees consider the impacts of university status and a name change, President Helman maintains that such a move is “not sufficient without attention to what such a designation means to the academic expectations of entering students, to the qualifications and activities of the faculty, and to faculty teaching loads and service expectations.” Faculty and staff are currently conducting a self-study as part of the 10-year accreditation process, which presents opportunities to identify what Western could and should look like academically at the end of the next decade, and to chart a successful path to the institution’s continued evolution.