Q: Why change, when Walla Walla College is doing well?
A: Adopting a university name appropriately describes what Walla Walla College is.
The term "university" applies to a wide spectrum of schools ranging from large research institutions to schools much smaller than Walla Walla College.
The Carnegie Basic Classification categorizes WWC among the Master's Colleges and Universities (medium program), based on our programs and our volume of master's degree production. Each year, approximately one third of WWC's graduates are graduating with a master's degree.
While the distinctions between a university and college may not be as formally defined in the minds of prospective students and other college constituents, the term university more accurately describes what WWC is: a comprehensive institution. Walla Walla College maintains a liberal arts core; however, approximately 70 percent of WWC students are enrolled in professional programs, typical of most universities.
Q: When will the new name be official?
A: Official adoption of the new name will be determined at a future date by the institution's administration and Board of Trustees.
Q: How will this change affect enrollment?
A: While WWC is open to students of all backgrounds, most of its students are Seventh-day Adventists from the United States. Walla Walla College and more than 10 other Adventist colleges and universities all vie for potential students who will choose an Adventist college or university. If a student has no prior connection to any institution, a name does influence impressions about a school.
In recent years other Adventist colleges have adopted a university name. While the differences between these institutions may be clear to those in higher education, they may not be to potential students searching for a college for the first time. Walla Walla College's name should reflect where it stands in comparison to other Adventist institutions.
Among the institutions that have adopted a university name, WWC meets or exceeds the number of academic programs offered. WWC has the largest graduate program of the four institutions that have changed to a university name. WWC has a higher enrollment as well.
Adopting a university name will open WWC to the segment of potential students who perceives a university education to be more prestigious, or may offer more appeal to future employers.
Q: Why would WWC wish to be perceived as university, when a college connotes personalized education?
A: One view of a university is of a place where impersonal undergraduate education is secondary to graduate programs and research. Conversely, colleges have traditionally been perceived to focus on the liberal arts, offering a more personal environment where professors, not graduate students, teach small classes.
The liberal arts core and other strengths associated with a college will always define WWC. However, as the marketplace changes, WWC must consider how the traditional perceptions of colleges and universities are evolving.
While some universities are focused on research, there also exist a number of "teaching universities" similar to WWC, where students are taught in fairly small classes, by professors who often know them by name. The faculty in these teaching universities often give attention to interdisciplinary initiatives, recognizing the relationships between content areas and drawing their students into wholistic ways of learning. "Teaching university" best describes the approach valued by the faculty of WWC.
In the Adventist arena these views have been influenced as colleges that fit the traditional description of a college have become universities. Within the general public, lines are being blurred with information produced by sources such as the U.S.News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges" publication. This source classifies WWC as a Top Tier Regional School in the university category. Among the 63 schools listed in this category, 57 are universities and six are colleges.
Q: What about the perceptions of foreign students?
A: Internationally, a college often refers to a secondary school, while a university refers to a post-secondary institution. Although WWC can continue to work at overcoming this difference, it continues to be a major hurdle in recruiting foreign students.
Some foreign governments award scholarships to their best students to attend universities in the United States. Furthermore, most of these governments do not recognize degrees from colleges as being equivalent in value to university degrees. For these very reasons, the students and faculty in our affiliation program with Hong Kong Adventist College, for example, have persistently requested that WWC be renamed as a university.
Adopting a university name will broaden this segment of the student market for WWC.
Q: Are there other advantages of changing the college name to reflect its university status?
A: Several additional advantages can be identified:
1. The name change helps to open the door for increasing the number of WWC's graduate programs, an area identified as presenting the most potential for growth.
2. Several faculty are becoming more interested in applying for research grants. With a name that reflects university status, the chances of being awarded such grants are likely to increase.
3. Graduate students have voiced the belief that prospective employers would be more attracted to "university" in the name of their degree-granting institution.
Q: What about the cost of such a significant change?
A: Changing the name of an institution requires a significant investment. A successful name change will require personnel time, new supplies and signage, communication material and many other costs. These expenses were weighed against the risks and potential cost of not implementing the change.
Q: What is the WWC constituency and how does its vote change our name?
A: The Walla Walla College constituency is comprised of delegates who represent the membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Of the more than 300 church members who are official delegates, 256 were present at the constituency meeting to vote on the name.
In addition to the appointed delegates who represent church membership, other delegates are “ex-officio” delegates who represent specific institutions or groups. For example, Walla Walla College had eight delegates representing the institution.
The constituency meeting is held every five years, to coincide with constituency meeting of the North Pacific Union Conference, the formal name for the regional church organization.
The purpose of the meeting is to review five-year progress reports and to elect officers, boards, and committees for the ensuing quinquennial period, and to transact other business.
The 26th constituency meeting, where the name change was decided, was held in Portland, Ore., on October 1.
Only the college constituency, in an official session, has the authority to legally change the institution’s name.
Q: How will this affect alumni?
A: Walla Walla College is fortunate to have a strong and loyal alumni base. The name of their alma mater is certainly an aspect of that affinity.
Among alumni, there is both agreement and disagreement with this decision, as well as among faculty, staff, and students, and others close to WWC. However, WWC must make its decision based on the long-term interest of the school. Informal inquiries among some of WWC's strongest and most involved supporters would suggest, at least among this group, that concern lies more with whether or not the name "Walla Walla" remained.