The protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked conversations about social justice across the country, including at Utah’s southernmost university.
“This is not a new conversation at Dixie State University. We were the Dixie Rebels, so we changed our mascot. We had the Confederate flag (so) we changed that,” said DSU President Richard Williams. “You can look back 30, 40, 50 years, and we kept having different conversations about removing certain Confederate war symbols from our name.”
“A young boy coming out (of college) and interviewing for a job doesn’t want to spend most of his interview explaining the name,” Williams said.
As more students began speaking out against the nickname, the university realized it had a problem on its hands, leading it to partner with Cicero Group to conduct a study. in depth on the impact of the name on students and the university as a whole.
This study found that “Dixie” impacted all facets of the university, from recruiting students, faculty, and staff to marketing, where some providers would not carry the DSU brand due to connotations associated with “Dixie “.
“So we decided that, yes, moving forward, we had to have a new name,” Williams said. “We went through the legislative process and the state legislature changed our name.”
On July 1, what was once Dixie State University will officially be known as Utah Tech University.
To prepare for the transition, Dixie State University released its new logos and branding on Sunday.
“Complementing the polytechnic orientation of the university, the modern design of the logo reflects the future-oriented mission of the institution. Additionally, the logo features both the shape and acronym of the state of Utah, and the colors pay homage to the red rocks and blue skies of southern Utah while representing northern Utah’s cooler weather and southern Utah’s warmer climate,” the university said in a statement. .
After the need for a name change became apparent, the next step was to assess options for the university’s new name.
“It was probably, arguably, one of the biggest name studies ever done,” said Jordon Sharp, DSU’s vice president of marketing and communications.
Through the study, the university refined six themes, which it narrowed throughout the process by receiving feedback from its “audience,” which included alumni, current students, prospective students, parents students and more.
“We made sure we heard from all of these people,” Sharp said. ” What does this mean to you ? Would you like this on a shirt? Would you be proud to buy this? Is this something you would want in your degree? »
In the end, DSU had conducted three major studies, “hours and hours” of interviews, surveys and focus groups that encompassed the feelings of approximately 20,000 different participants.
Three themes emerged during the process, which the university used to create its new name: Utah, Technology, and University.
What’s in a name?
One of the reasons DSU felt it was so important to incorporate Utah into the new name was because of the confusion caused by “Dixie,” Sharp said, which he called “geographically confusing.” “because of its connotation with the southern United States.
“I tell people, it’s kind of like starting a new school in Wyoming and calling it the University of Vermont — you wouldn’t do that,” Sharp said.
He said they also heard “loud and loud,” not to drop the term “university” from their name.
“Don’t change it to an institute, don’t change it to any other name because we worked hard for university status,” Sharp said.
Another important factor in crafting the new name was recognizing the role of technology in the university and addressing its status as a polytechnic university.
“A lot of people think we’re embracing the name and now we’re going to embrace the technology, but it’s actually the opposite,” Williams said.
Wiliams said when DSU became a university in 2013, it sought to determine how it could serve its local community and define what it was going to be as a university. What DSU found was that St. George and Washington County were really STEM-focused and attracting tech companies from Silicon Slopes to Tech Ridge.
So the university began to examine technology-focused state institutions, and in doing so discovered a “huge gaping hole” in the western United States.
“St. George, Utah was right in the middle of that hole, so we knew we were onto something with a technology focus,” Williams said.
Since 2015, DSU has built over 160 new academic programs, 81% of which are STEM-focused.
In addition to the emphasis on STEM, the university’s overall mission includes consideration of “arts, education, music” and an emphasis on an active learning experience, regardless of or the university program.
“When we say Utah Tech University, that really made a lot of sense to us because we have this polytechnic focus where it’s hands-on, you’re going to be career-ready,” Williams said.
Even though DSU is transitioning to a more inclusive name that better encompasses the university’s mission and focus, Sharp insisted the name change is “in no way” designed to erase the ‘story.
“We are confident that we can honor all those who have gone before us, building on their great work, changing a name that best reflects and is inclusive for everyone and we can still honor the great heritage of the region” , said Sharp. “It doesn’t have to be either-or.”
Williams said they decided to rebrand after realizing they were unable to offer what they needed to offer students and the university wanted to ensure that every student had the opportunity to flourish.
“With this Utah Tech University, we want to shout from the rooftops that this is our mission,” Williams said. “That we’re an open and inclusive polytechnic university (and) that when you come to Utah Tech University, you’re going to have this hands-on learning experience, that you’re going to be able to be career-ready, that you can enter the labor market and be prepared.”
He also highlighted the growth of St. George – the fastest growing metro in the United States – and Washington County, as well as the university’s responsibility to educate an influx of students and provide a labor for the region.
“Moving forward, we believe we’re going to be the producer of the future of the workforce in Washington County and we take that very seriously,” Williams said.
When asked if he thought the name change would appeal to a wider audience in southern Utah, Williams’ answer was simple.
“We know it will be,” he said.
“With this new name and brand, we’re not only going to be known in our state and regionally, but we’re going to be known nationally and internationally.”