So it's official: the Salt Lake Trib reports that UVSC's leadership is aiming for post-graduate degrees and the title of "university" — which will be a great boon to everyone in Utah Valley. There are plenty of reasons to cheer the decision, of course, but the issue that captures my imagination ( which is hardly surprising, considering the work I'm in ), is this: what will they call the new institution?
And my first reaction? ... Please — for the sake of all that's good in this world — don't call it "Utah Valley State University". Think of the children!
You see, names are powerful tools that organizations can leverage to broadcast their vision of who they are and where they're going... they inform the organizational discourse and encourage people to live up to the expectations set by the name. Moreover, names of large organizations reflect directly on the communities they serve.
So let me just say this: naming the school "Utah Valley" anything will do three things:
First, as a derivitive of its current name, any such moniker will only perpetuate the misconception that UVSC is a glorified second chance for high school drop-outs and people who didn't get into BYU. And that's not what UVSC is — at least, that's not what it is any more.
Second, place-named universities have a certain parochial or backwater air ( think "South Central Louisiana State University" of Adam Sandler's "The Water Boy" fame ). They smack of a last-ditch effort by exhausted and uninspired regents too busy or lazy to come up with a proper name.
Third, in a state dominated by the University of Utah and Utah State, Utah Valley State would just get lost in the confusion. I've lived in Utah for 13 years, and I still hesitate — albeit for only a split second — whenever someone says they go to Utah State... now, is that the one in Salt Lake or the one up in Logan?
UVSC deserves a name befitting the school that it's become: a school for young people with big plans and bright futures.
So what would I call it?
Well, on a short list of names that honor UVSC's history and locale — without being too literal or myopic — would be "Sorensen State", after the man who led the school over the course of five decades. Surnames, as any branding professional can tell you — and as you probably sense inately — have a certain gravity. And "Sorensen" is a strong name with both literal ties to the school's history, and to people of import in the community.
It's just a thought... but it's my personal nomination for a school that is so desperately deserving of its own second chance.