University naming panel's leaders talk process

Helen Hendee (left) and Susan Barcus talk about the naming process for the consolidated university. Augusta University and University of Augusta were among the most popular suggestions for the new university's name.

For months it has been how Susan Barcus and Helen Hendee have been greeted by colleagues at Georgia Health Sciences and Augusta State universities.


“When we go into a meeting, it is the first question,” Barcus said.

“What is the name?” Hendee said.

Since March, Barcus, the chief development officer for GHSU, and Hendee, the vice president for development and alumni relations at ASU, have led a group charged with combing through 1,200 suggestions for the new name for the consolidated university and coming up with a short list of five or six. They did exhaustive research on how names are selected, looked at other examples from university mergers – good and bad – and even looked at corporate name changes. The short list of names was revealed on Friday:

• Arsenal University

• Augusta Arsenal University

• Augusta University

• Bartram University

• Noble University

• University of Augusta

Voting by staff, faculty and the public began almost immediately on the consolidation Web site: Results will be gathered through Friday. A marketing group is also testing the names nationally and in Georgia, and those results will be considered with the surveys when the Consolidation Working Group meets June 27 to forward three names for consideration to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. The new name could be chosen by the Regents in August and would take effect in January.

After the list was revealed, the co-chairwomen sat down with The Augusta Chronicle to talk about how they got there.


Q: How many of those names could you say, “that’s not a real suggestion”?

Barcus: There were a number of those, but we did not go that direction. We let our team cull through the names that had duplications and then came up with a list. If it had off-color language or it was more than our prescribed three words, it was just cycled off. But I will tell you that our group looked at every single name.

Hendee: We did. And talked about each one.


Q: To get down to the six, how many serious considerations did you have?

Barcus: We didn’t go about it that way. What we did was put it into buckets of work based on (a D.F,) Treadwell (study on how people react to institution names) on how you look at university namings and namings at all. What those three were …

Hendee: Aspirational, geographical and proper name. That made it easier.

Barcus: And then we voted it down to 10. And then we voted it down to six. And those went to Dr. (Ricardo) Azziz (GHSU President).


Q: Which was harder, getting to 10 or getting to six?

Barcus: Getting to 10. Getting to 10 was hard.

Hendee: It was helpful that Dr. Azziz had those few points, such as (no more) than three (words), (we) don’t want health or medical in it, and it had to have university. That cut some out.

Barcus: We had 10 per category, so we had 10 proper, 10 geographical and 10 aspirational. That was the hard thing.

Hendee: That really was.


Q: Among these you have two that are pretty obvious, Augusta University and University of Augusta. Those are obviously the geographical. The Arsenal and Augusta Arsenal are a nod to Augusta State and the old Arsenal.

Hendee: And to the city of Augusta because it wasn’t always on Walton Way. When we first talked about that we thought that was related to ASU but, no, it is much broader than that.

Barcus: The two naming opportunities, Bartram and Noble university, are really rooted in the contributions of historical figures of significance to the area. One was Noble Jones, a physician and carpenter. He was one of the original Georgia colonists and the first Colonial surveyor. We thought that was important and had an aspirational feel to it. Then William Bartram was a prominent naturalist, and he is one who is well-documented and we thought was important to the area. We have 38 miles of Bartram Trail through Georgia, so this was in his honor.


Q: Those are pretty ancient names that go way back. Do you think most Augustans know those names?

Hendee: Probably Bartram.

Barcus: Most Augustans may not know those two names. But what we feel is the next step of this, once the Regents have picked the name, will be the backstory and how we use this for our branding. We feel that all of these names can be branded significantly.


Q: To go back to the first two, Augusta University and University of Augusta, having known a couple of people who are Augusta State alumni, they really wanted the big A to be in the new name because a lot of Augusta State stuff has the big A on it. Was that a consideration?

Barcus: Not really.

Hendee: No.

Barcus: As we move forward, we are a new university. There is a nod to everything that has come before, and there will be ways for us to appropriately recognize that. But what we did is look at the suggestions that we got. Augusta University and University of Augusta were just overwhelmingly there.

Hendee: They were.

Barcus: Those were two that we also felt would brand us as an important top-50 university.


Q: To go back to the Arsenal name, old Augusta people know the Arsenal and the history. But the newer ones may not know it. So why is Arsenal important?

Barcus: We felt that “arsenal” is a symbol of strength. And it also is a symbol of our history. We felt that this was something we could have a very strong branding campaign around. That was one of the components that we measured: Can we move this forward and differentiate our name?

Hendee: It was really around strength, more than thinking of arsenal and guns and things like that. It was strength.


Q: You mentioned research on certain principles of naming that you wanted to adhere to. Were there other consultants or sources you went to? You mentioned strength with Arsenal, Bartram with natural history, Noble as a physician.

Hendee: We reviewed several colleges and universities who had gone through mergers and paid attention to processes that they used in renaming.

Barcus: We did a literature search on the strength of names and also the ability to change your name. We took all of that as very important research, and we did that early on. Yes, we looked at Treadwell. We looked at even corporate name changes and methods that have been used. Then we looked at universities as a sign of what we might not want to do and what we thought led to some strong names.


Q: Aspirational names. How is a university name inspiring to people?

Barcus: We did talk about what aspirational would be. It really is about the backstory and how we can brand our name (so that) it has a synonymous feeling with excellence, forward-thinking, research, the many things we are the day we open up as New U.

Q: In addition to the new name, you have school colors to pick, you have a new logo to design. Will the name then drive the colors, for instance?

Hendee: It can. But you know a decision was made about the Jaguar (retained as mascot for the merged university). And someone even asked well, since we’ve done the Jaguar, can we make a decision on the color (retaining blue and white as ASU had). And there was a reluctance with that because it could be impacted by the name. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to totally change.

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