A Mississippi university proposes dropping ‘Women’ from its name after decades of also enrolling men

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Mississippi University for Women banners decorate the Columbus, Miss., campus, Oct. 23, 2023. The university announced a proposal Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, to change its name to Mississippi Brightwell University, with officials saying the new name is supposed to reflect the diversity of the public institution that has been enrolling men since 1982. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi University for Women announced a proposal Monday to rebrand as Mississippi Brightwell University, with officials saying the new name is supposed to reflect the diversity of the public institution that has been enrolling men since 1982.

Men make up about 22% of 2,230 students at MUW — a school nicknamed “The W.” President Nora Miller announced in 2022 a university a task force to examine a name change, months after the university’s Deans Council sent her a letter saying the current name presents “challenges.”

Miller said in a news release Monday that the new name was inspired by the university’s motto, “We study for light to bless with light.”

If legislators approve the change, it would take effect July 1.

University leaders have met with students, faculty, alumni and others to gather ideas about a name change.

“The collective wisdom and diverse perspectives have been invaluable, enriching the rebranding process and ensuring the revised brand resonates with every segment of our university family,” Miller said.

Previous attempts to remove “women” from the name, including the most recent one in 2009, have brought strong backlash from alumni.

The president of MUW in 2009, Claudia Limbert, proposed changing the name to Reneau University to honor Sallie Reneau, who wrote to the Mississippi governor in the mid-19th century to propose a public college for women. That renaming effort fizzled amid opposition from outspoken graduates.

The school was chartered in 1884 as Industrial Institute and College and was on the campus of an existing private school, Columbus Female Institute. The original mission of the college was to provide higher education and and vocational training for women.

In 1920, the name changed to Mississippi State College for Women, and in 1974 it became Mississippi University for Women.

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Jan 8, 2024 3:37 PM – 299 words

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