As the Mississippi University for Women continues to work toward a name change, the school’s athletics director believes it will be a step in the right direction for a department that recently implemented male sports.
During an interview on From D2 to D3, Jennifer Claybrook explained how a name change would be beneficial when it comes to not only recruiting athletes but also recruiting the average student.
“For me, the name change will just be about outwardly showing that we do empower, that we are inclusive, that we are forward-thinking, that we do appreciate the tradition,” Claybrook said. “I truly believe it will open more doors for us and more people will see what a gift The W is and will know that they are welcome at The W, and we do want them here.”
The Mississippi University for Women – also commonly referred to as “The W” – has leaned heavily into the nickname since it launched male sports in 2017, over three decades after the school initially began admitting male students after the U.S. Supreme Court demanded it start doing so.
The reliance on the nickname and the fact that the university has been coeducational since 1982 has led to discussions for a complete rebranding. A recent survey among faculty, alumni, current students, and community members showed a vested interest in renaming the school.
Of the 4,300 plus responses, the top vote-getters were the University of Northern Mississippi, Callaway State University, and Weathersby State University. Other ideas included the University of Central Mississippi and West Appalachia University.
As the university’s committee devoted to finding a new name continues to mull over the options at hand, leaders other than Claybrook have also made it clear that a new name could be exactly what the school needs as it struggles with a decline in enrollment.
“The ultimate goal is to boost enrollment by strategically showcasing the institution’s distinctive attributes and fostering a strong emotional connection with current and prospective students,” Mississippi University for Women President Nora Miller penned in a recent letter.
Enrollment at the Mississippi University for Women was largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the university points out that the declining trend started “long before the pandemic.” In 2016, MUW had close to 3,000 students. In 2022, that number had dropped down to less than 2,350.
Claybrook has full confidence in Miller and her team when it comes to selecting a new name for the university.
“I trust this leadership and us moving to a new name,” Claybrook continued. “I think it will be wonderful. I think it will have a really positive impact.”
Once a decision is made, the Mississippi Legislature will need to approve the name change considering the university is publicly funded. Officials believe they will have a name for lawmakers to approve come January.
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