So long college, hello university
‘Western State Colorado University’ becomes official
Originally published 2012-08-02
Change is underway at the institution formerly known as Western State College, but it won’t be as easy as flipping a switch.
Wednesday marked the official change of the century-old establishment’s name to Western State Colorado University (WSCU).
There’s a long list of new signs that need to be installed, stationary to be ordered and habits to be broken. Some modifications have already been made. Others are in the works. And others still are months out.
The name-change concept was announced last year as part of a host of sweeping initiatives aimed at boosting Western’s less-than-booming enrollment and retention numbers in recent years.
Administrators conducted a poll early this year of five possible names. Two variations that included “Western,” “Colorado” and “University” rose to the top. However, leaders at Colorado Mesa University — which changed its name from Mesa State last year — vowed to fight the Gunnison institution pursuing those names.
As a result, leaders settled for Western State Colorado University earlier this year. The new name was included in a bill and signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in early June.
Western isn’t the first of its peers to pursue a name change. In addition to Mesa, colleges formerly known as Adams State and Metropolitan State also changed their names this year to include “university.”
Brad Baca, WSCU’s vice president for Finance and Administration, late last year produced an estimate for the cost of the name change, based largely on similar changes at other Colorado institutions of higher education.
Of the $250,000 identified by Baca, signage accounted for the largest expense ($85,000). Closely behind were costs associated with branding and marketing ($40,000) and new athletic uniforms ($38,000).
The WSCU Foundation has committed $100,000 to the price tag. About $20,000 is being split between in-kind work from the City of Gunnison (for signage at entrances to the city) and a private grant. The remainder — about $130,000 — is budgeted to come from institutional funding.
In May, a 14-member group consisting of faculty, staff and a student took a closer look at Baca’s list and brainstormed other changes, provided to administrators in a June report. The group also developed a recommended time line — extending to July 2013 — for making the changes.
The group’s cost estimate for the change came in slightly higher than Baca’s, at about $300,000.
“We turned everything over,” said Terri Wenzlaff, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, who chaired the group. That included off-campus signage, repainting the track, and repainting dumpsters across campus.
Still, it’s not a clear-cut process.
“There may be things that we haven’t even thought of yet, ” Wenzlaff added.
Priority driving campus-wide changes
Baca said that making all of the necessary modifications has largely been a process of prioritization.
Underlying many of the physical changes is a re-branding effort, for which the institution hired marketing firm BFT International of Maine.
“That kind of drives everything else,” Baca said of branding.
The process began with a brand “audit” this past spring, in which consultants gauged the strength of the college’s former brand by speaking with students, alumni, faculty members, community members and competitors.
Certain commonalities emerged from those interviews — such as location being central to Western’s identity.
Logo ideas were developed, which administrators presented to the campus for feedback earlier this summer. A new logo rose to the top. It’s tag line is “Learning, elevated.”
This past week, Baca sent an e-mail to the campus that unveiled the final logo design, along with sub-brands for aspects of the campus such as athletics.
By Wednesday, main entry signs emblazoned with “Western State Colorado University” were completed and new web banners were up.
When school starts, Baca said that logos on all of the institution’s vehicles will have been changed.
Other signage and logos — such as the “W” on the gym floor — likely won’t change until next year at the earliest.
Sports uniforms expected to be a ‘mishmash’
As for athletic uniforms, Baca said it’s going to be a bit of a “mishmash” this coming academic year. Some fall sports teams had to order uniforms before the new logo was complete.
That means spectators are likely to see one of three things on new uniforms: “Western,” “WSCU” or “Western Colorado.”
Football coach Jas Bains reported this week that his team’s new uniforms will simply read “WESTERN” across the front.
Other sports teams may be constantly reminded of the institution’s former name.
Volleyball coach Katie Moskowitz said that budget restrictions have kept the team from ordering new uniforms this year.
Yet, there are other aspects of campus for which a needed modification may not be as apparent.
For instance, sidewalks between buildings are marked with “Western State College.” Signage for the new College Center will have to be changed to “University Center.”
Western State College memorabilia is still being sold at regular prices at the bookstore, said manager Teri Haus.
“There’s still a lot to be done and we never communicated to anybody that we’d flip a switch on Aug. 1 and it was all going to be done,” Baca explained. “It’s a process. It’s probably going to take a year if not longer to change out everything that has ‘Western State College’ on it.”
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)