Adams State seeks university moniker

(08-26-2011)

The Board of Trustees for Adams State College voted 8-1 at its Aug. 26 meeting to initiate the process of changing the institution's name to Adams State University.

Trustee Ann Rice summarized the board's decision: "We've had a lot of conversation about this. I don't think the timing could be better. The reality is that younger people consider the university name to be important. We've reached a milestone with our campus renovations, and there's a new energy and vitality on campus. This is the perfect time to crown all that with a name that seems more current and applicable to the people who attend the institution."

The topic has been under discussion for some time, and last year the board requested the question be considered in an enrollment growth research project conducted by consulting firm Noel-Levitz. The study explored how Adams State is perceived by its various constituents and what impact the name change would have. Study results were presented to the board Thursday.

Noel-Levitz found the name change is supported by strong majorities of all constituent groups, including:

  • 72% of undergraduate students
  • 74% of graduate students
  • 65% faculty and staff
  • 80% of high school counselors
  • 74% of master's degree alumni

"Somewhere, Billy Adams and Dr. Ira Richardson (first president) are toasting ASC, along with our third president, Dr. Fred Plachy. Mr. Adams valued education above all things and worked his entire governmental career to bring a college not just to the San Luis Valley, but also to Greeley and Ft. Collins," said Adams State President David Svaldi. "Changing our name to university will better represent the high quality of Adams State's academic programs. We have very experienced and qualified professors, excellent new facilities, and a stellar record in sending graduates on to graduate school."

Founded in 1921 as Adams State Normal School, the adoption of Adams State University will be the institution's fifth name change.

Founded in 1921 as Adams State Normal School, the adoption of Adams State University will be the institution's fifth name change.

Student trustee Ken Scally, a nursing major, has discussed the matter with many students and said, "I have not heard one person who doesn't want to change to a university."

Trustee Charles Scoggin, M.D., made the official motion: "Given that Adams State is a community of teachers and scholars providing excellent quality of instruction and research in a variety of disciplines and granting certificates and degrees to students throughout Colorado, the United States, and the world, it is appropriate that its name reflect the depth and breadth of our graduate and undergraduate missions. I move that The Trustees of Adams State College direct and empower President David Svaldi to take necessary actions to change the name of 'Adams State College' to 'Adams State University.'"

Once the Colorado legislative session begins in January, State Senator Gail Schwartz and House Representative Ed Vigil will introduce a bill proposing the name change. The bill will then be voted on by the entire legislature and, if passed, signed into law by the governor. Vigil, a 1986 Adams State graduate, said: "I am proud to sponsor this bill. Adams State is a great institution, and I think changing the name to Adams State University reflects what it's already doing."

Eric Carpio, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management, noted that in many states where Adams State recruits (Arizona, Texas, Wyoming, Kansas, and California), all public institutions that award four-year degrees are called "universities," while in these and other states, "colleges" only award two-year degrees.

"Being called a university will clarify Adams State's four-year mission to prospective students and more accurately reflect our growing graduate and distance-education programs," he added.

Nationally, the number of public and private four-year institutions called universities has increased since 1990, while those called colleges have decreased.

Names changes reflect institutional growth

Founded 90 years ago to prepare public school teachers for rural Colorado, the institution opened in 1925 as Adams State Normal School. In 1929 the name was changed to Adams State Teachers College of Southern Colorado, then shortened in 1938 to Adams State Teachers College. The current name, Adams State College, was adopted in 1946 in recognition of the broader offering of undergraduate liberal arts programs and the expansion of graduate degree programs.

"It is a natural progression to change Adams State College to Adams State University," Svaldi said. "As Trustee LeRoy Salazar said, 'The citizens of Alamosa and the greater San Luis Valley deserve a university.' I am certain Mr. Adams, Dr. Richardson, and Dr. Plachy would agree. I only wish Mr. Adams was here to help us work the legislature to approve the necessary legislation to make this happen."

The trustees' lone dissenting vote came from board vice chair and Adams State alumnus Arnold Salazar, who said: "I think it's a change that's not necessary. The college is thriving incredibly, in spite of the fact that we don't have university distinction. The things we've done on campus have nothing to do with a name change. We are experiencing bigger growth than ever before. Being named a college is not precluding our enrollment growth."

The college has broken enrollment records for the third year in a row, increasing 9 percent over 2010, in part due to increased enrollment in graduate and online programs, according to Dr. Michael Mumper, senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Program Development. Adams State also set a new record for graduate student enrollment, now at 811.

"This is higher than the combined graduate enrollment at Colorado State University-Pueblo, Metro State, Mesa State, and Western State," Mumper noted. "Twenty-five percent of our enrollment is graduate students. This is third highest percentage in the state, behind only University of Colorado-Denver and Colorado School of Mines."

The Noel-Levitz study also found a large majority of students are "satisfied or "very satisfied" with their Adams State education: 87 percent of undergraduates and 85 percent of graduate students. Specifically, students value the academic quality of their programs and appreciate that professors are supportive and willing to work with them individually to help them succeed.

By Julie Waechter