According to internal e-mails acquired by The Augusta Chronicle, GHSU President Ricardo Azziz was steering members of the “Branding Team” responsible for name selection away from names associated with cities.
“Ask yourself (and your committee) how are other R1 universities named in GA and in the US (e.g. how many top 50 comprehensive Universities are named for their city if less than 1 million population)?” Azziz wrote to Susan Barcus in a June 19 e-mail. “Why was UGA named so and not Univ. of Athens? Or Ga State not University of Atlanta (in fact all universities with Atlanta in their name are small and access), or UNC not University of Chapel Hill?”
Barcus, GHSU’s senior vice president of Advancement and Community Relations, was co-chairwoman of the Branding Team that narrowed the 1,200 suggested names down to a list of six that were announced on June 15. Among the list were three that included Augusta in the name: Augusta University, University of Augusta and Augusta Arsenal University.
Those six names were tested in a series of telephone and online surveys by Kennesaw State University’s A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service. GHSU paid $45,500 to the Burruss Institute to conduct a phone survey of 800 people nationally and 400 people in Georgia, and an Internet survey of 200 faculty members at other institutions.
Within a few days the Branding Team saw results from national surveys that indicated the “University of Augusta” name was polling strongest on the list. According to a June 18 e-mail from Terry Sloope, the assistant director for research with the Burruss Institute, University of Augusta and Augusta University were the only names in which a “majority of respondents” rated the name 4 or 5 on a scale in which 5 meant “liked very much.”
Azziz’s June 19 e-mail indicates he wasn’t enamored of names on the list.
“It isn’t true that your name doesn’t matter (witness the hoopla now) and that we make our own reputation,” he wrote. “You can deliberately make your name misleading and your road to broad relevance harder (witness the use of MCG, which made all med school alumni happy.... because it erroneously created the impression that the university was all about medicine... and nothing else).”
Within days, GHSU officials had sent the Burruss Institute an additional set of five names for polling, all of which included “Georgia.” On that list was Georgia Regents University.
THE NEW NAME appeared to be more in keeping with what Azziz had in mind. According to a June 21 e-mail to Barcus, Azziz wanted to ensure that the new name “works well with the health system… Georgia Regents Health System (GRHS) sounds ok. And abbreviates well (e.g. GRU).”
Despite polling that indicated it was less well received than three other titles that included the state – Georgia National University, Georgia Eastern University and Georgia United University – Georgia Regents University was picked for a second list of six names and then a final list of three sent to the Board of Regents for approval.
Dink NeSmith, the only regent to vote against Georgia Regents University, has said it was evident to him that Azziz favored that name in his presentations to regents before their Aug. 7 vote. NeSmith said Azziz thought the name had more “national and international potential.”
That aligns with the type of name Azziz said he wanted in his June 19 e-mail.
“Think big, comprehensive, and future-oriented. Most folk think small, only in their area of interest, and only into next year,” he wrote. “We need to be clear about what kind of institution we are intending to build (and so does the Governor, the Chancellor, and the BOR). What we do now will impact our future for generations to come.”