Confronting the Past to Transform the Future - In Support of DSU’s Name Change
Beginning in 2020, Dixie State University (DSU) started the process of changing its name to the proposed name “Utah Tech University” after weighing feedback from students, faculty, and supporters about the potentially harmful implications of the word “Dixie” in the title. Approval for this name change is currently in the hands of the Utah State Legislature, who will vote on the proposed change. As DSU is a Pluralsight customer who is doing outstanding work to upskill the University, I want to voice my full support for this meaningful effort to transform DSU.
As I’ve learned in my time as a leader of a large organization, this level of transformation is rarely easy, but it is always important. Based on research conducted by DSU, the term “Dixie” “carries negative connotations of southern slavery for some” and also causes confusion about the location of Dixie State as some incorrectly assume it is located in the Southern states. Confronting the historical significance of its name is crucial in positioning DSU as the forward-thinking learning institution that so many students and alumni know it to be.
I see DSU’s proposed name change to Utah Tech University as a huge triumph for Utah’s burgeoning tech industry. In 2019, 1 in 7 job openings in Utah were within the tech industry, and that number has only continued to grow. In fact, Utah is currently facing a tech talent shortage. Many Silicon Slopes tech companies are actively recruiting out-of-state talent to fill their open positions. In the past several years, DSU has made significant changes to its curriculum to establish itself as a technology university, including the addition of 111 new programs, 85% of which are in STEM and Healthcare fields. Having a technology University within the state of Utah will significantly enrich our tech workforce.
DSU’s name change and positioning as a technology University also primes St. George, DSU’s hometown, to become a new tech hub within Utah. According to Utah Business, this is because DSU “is working toward becoming the first and only open, inclusive, comprehensive polytechnic university in the entire nation, DSU President Richard B. Williams anticipates that Southern Utah will see exponential growth over the next 10-15 years.”
It’s clear that DSU’s proposed name change will have real, material impact on the University’s community and the State of Utah at large. And DSU is not the only University to work towards a more inclusive name that reflects its true values. In recent years, many universities have cut ties with names that are connected to problematic historical connotations. As Universities and organizations across the U.S. continue to deepen their commitments to diversity and belonging, it’s natural that long standing traditions and titles must too evolve.
I am proud to work with DSU as a strategic partner in learning and development efforts, yet I’m even more proud to see the deep introspection and cultural sea change that DSU has undergone in the past few years. I believe that DSU is poised to create an inclusive and nurturing environment for the future tech leaders of Utah. As I previously mentioned, the Silicon Slopes community, and Utah at large, needs to invest in our home-grown tech talent to continue making Utah a worldwide tech-industry powerhouse. I believe DSU’s proposed name change is an important step in making that vision a reality.
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