A college by any other name ...

(09-24-2009)

Opinion by Dr. David Svaldi, president of Adams State College

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." A college that changes its name to university should remain fundamentally the same.

By now readers may know that after 60 years of being called Adams State College, the college community is considering the question: "Resolved: Adams State College should become Adams State University."

Adams State's name has actually been changed twice in its 85-year history. It was founded as Adams State Normal School in 1921; this wording remains on Richardson Hall. In 1930, the name was changed to Adams State Teachers College (since like you, folks were confused about what a "normal" school involved). Finally, in 1945, the named was changed to Adams State College.

Each change was intended to more clearly communicate the purpose and functions of the college. In the early years, two years of study could lead to a lifetime teaching license; there were no other major courses of study. But as secondary content areas for teachers were added (math, geography, social studies, etc.), the beginning of a liberal arts course of study was brought to the college. Recognition of this growth and expansion of academic disciplines prompted the last name change.

What has changed about ASC that engenders the discussion for this new change? Most obvious is the addition of graduate programs. The addition of graduate programs began in the 1950s, and new graduate programs have been added, while some were discontinued (a specialist degree created in the 1960's was discontinued sometime later). By Carnegie Classification (the leading framework for describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education for over 30 years), Adams State is a Masters I Comprehensive University. Eighty-four percent of Masters I Institutions across the country are called universities. In some sense, if we decide to change our name, we will be clarifying our role and function and aligning ourselves with a national classification. In many areas of the country, the term "college" denotes a two-year institution -- I have been asked on numerous occasions if Adams State College is a two-year or a four-year institution.

But we have not yet decided this question. I am not going to recommend changing Adams State's name after 64 years based upon a brief discussion and some evidence that the university name "markets" better.

We are gathering data and opinion by using blogs, surveys, electronic voting, interviewing, and by arguing with one another. One thing there is never a shortage of on a college (or a university!) campus is differing opinions. (We welcome input on our blog.)

I promise our students, staff, alumni, and community that whatever we ultimately call ourselves, Adams State will remain true to its values: small classes, instruction by tenured professors who care about their students (at the undergraduate and graduate level), a full liberal arts program of study, many co-curricular activities, a vibrant outdoor program, a great (and newly remodeled) residential campus, and the best value in four-year higher education in Colorado. We will still smell sweet.