Georgia Health Sciences University officials on Monday defended the process that resulted in selecting Georgia Regents University as the name of the new consolidated school.
GHSU President Ricardo Azziz posted on his blog praising the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ decision and urging the community to embrace the new institution along with its name.
Azziz acknowledged that not everyone was happy with the name Georgia Regents University, but he suggested that some dissatisfaction was inevitable.
“While I do respect that not all individuals agree or like the decision made by the BOR (with three possible choices there was bound to be disappointments regardless of the decision made), it is important to recognize the extensive and extraordinary amount of work carried out by the work team and Consolidation Work Group to arrive at their recommendations,” Azziz wrote.
Azziz and the Board of Regents have been criticized since the board chose last week to select Georgia Regents University over the local favorite – University of Augusta – as the name for the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.
The University of Augusta came out on top in a set of state and national surveys commissioned by a
consolidation committee for the two institutions. Fifty-seven percent of those polled ranked it 4 or 5 on a scale in which 5 meant “liked very much.” Less than one-third of those surveyed ranked Georgia Regents University with a 4 or 5, and it came in fourth out of seven names in the poll.
Despite these numbers, Azziz characterized the survey response to the Regents name as “neutral” in his blog.
“National and state-wide branding studies suggest that it is relatively neutral, allowing us to create our own brand,” he wrote.
Terry Sloope, the assistant director for research for the A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service and Research at Kennesaw State University, which conducted the naming survey, said the data show that University of Augusta was far and away the favorite among the almost 1,200 people polled. Sloope said he would characterize the survey results for the Georgia Regents name as “neutral to slightly negative.”
Complicating the results was that in the middle of the process, the naming committee asked them to stop and survey a second set of names.
This made the sample group of people who were asked about Georgia Regents University fairly small – only about 200, Sloope said.
David L. Brond, GHSU’s new senior vice president of communications and marketing, said the new set of names was introduced because there was some concern that none of the names on the original list of six had the word “Georgia” in them.
Brond said the thinking was that because the state’s other major research universities had the state’s name, it might also be a good idea for a new comprehensive university in Augusta.
“Internationally you have to make sure people know where you are located geographically,” Brond said.
At the same time, being too specific, such as associating the new university with a city, can limit your reach, he said. Because the school will have satellite campuses in Athens, Rome and Savannah, University of Augusta might be confusing, he said.
“How would the University of Augusta play when it was in Athens?” he said. “Our footprint is big.”
Brond said that although it might seem that new name ignores the research results, “you can’t depend 100 percent on objective data.” He said common sense has to be used in some cases to override market research.
“You have to think about how the name plays out in the big picture,” he said. “Having a name that has somewhat of a neutral connotation, you can build a brand off of that.”