University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or University of Milwaukee?
A group of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Association Senators, Tyler Kristopeit, Matt Capristo, Anthony Dewees, Travis Romero-Boeck, and Jimmy Lemke will be proposing a bill at the March 29th Student Association Senate meeting to consider changing the university’s name from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to the University of Milwaukee.
Really though, does the name matter? Is this just some college students’ crazy idea? No, I don’t think so, because brand matters even to a university. This idea that brand and image matters came up a few years ago when a group pushed for a change to Wisconsin State University. This seemed like a move in the right direction but much like hyphenated schools “State” schools sometimes have a bit of a second class status as well. For example, to this day if I tell someone that I went to “Iowa State University” it turns into a ten minute discussion explaining “No, not the Hawkeyes,” with followup questions such as, “why didn’t you go to Iowa?” Don’t get me wrong I’ll always be a Cyclone and I am aware of a few high profile “State” schools, but my experience leads me to think that Wisconsin State University wouldn’t of been much an improvement over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Companies control their brand to increase sales and build loyalty. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee needs to consider the value of its brand for similar reasons, for recruitment and to strengthen its ties to the community. I know students are supposed to look at where they go to to college rationally by looking at which school best meet their requirements but I think it is fair to say this just isn’t always true. Further, it is possible that out of state students who aren’t all that familiar with the UW system overlook the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee because they think it is a technical school, or that it is a smaller branch of the University of Wisconsin.
I know to alumni this might sound like a challenge to their personal history and could in the short run weaken their connection to the university, but overtime this can be repaired. While the bigger picture is that this could be one of the steps, as well as the expanded research initiatives, that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee should make to improve its image in an attempt to recruit more students and possibly more qualified students. It might not be the game changer that significant expansion would be, but as part of a process of creating a new identity for the university, names matter.
That said, if they were to approve this name change I do wonder what they would do with UW-Tosa?