As the iconic UMUC sign that dominates the skyline along I-95 in Largo begins to come down, it is the most visible signal to the region—and to the rest of the world—that University of Maryland University College has a new name. Taking its place will be an equally illuminating sign that proudly says: University of Maryland Global Campus.
Governor Larry Hogan signed the law officially changing the university’s name back in April. The name change went into effect on July 1.
The new sign is just one small step in the gargantuan task that has been taking place to change the thousands of references to the old name and its acronym, UMUC, to University of Maryland Global Campus.
According to Erika Orris, senior vice president and chief enrollment and marketing officer, who has headed the institution’s name-change efforts, University of Maryland Global Campus will not be shortened to an acronym. In most references—other than the URL address and some areas where the full name will not fit—University of Maryland Global Campus will appear.
The old acronym, UMUC, was used only because University of Maryland University College did not resonate and seemed redundant, Orris said. “With the new name, people understand what you are talking about. University of Maryland is right up front identifying us as part of the University System of Maryland and Global Campus is us. We have 140 locations all over the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. No other university can make that claim.”
A major advertising campaign will begin to introduce the new name to the public. Television stations in Baltimore will show an ad with average citizens—not actors—being asked about the UMUC name and the change to Global Campus. Their puzzlement over UMUC and their acceptance of Global Campus says it all (See VIDEO).
Orris was one of the driving forces to change the name, which dates back 60 years to when the school was a subsidiary of the University of Maryland. “University College” was a British term that described a multiple degree-granting college inside another university that offered its classes outside of the traditional campus. The name stuck when UMUC became a separate university within the Maryland University System in 1970, but it had never been popular.
When she took over her position in March 2016, Orris said she was puzzled by the name. And if she were puzzled, wouldn’t the general public be confused, too? Her research found that the public perception of the name was worse than she thought. No one knew what a University College was.
“Even locally, people weren’t sure that we were a state institution,” she said. “They thought we were trying to pretend that we were the University of Maryland, College Park.”
With the university’s historic mission of serving adult and military students and its ambitions to expand its reach nationally, she knew the UMUC name was a barrier. What was surprising, she said, was how receptive the state legislature and the governor were to changing the university’s name once the idea was raised. In a matter of months, the name change was signed into law on April 19, thanks to the efforts of the university president’s chief of staff, Frank Principe, who shepherded the bill through the legislative process, as well as Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Maggie McIntosh, the bill sponsors in the respective chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.
The name-change effort, however, is not your typical marketing campaign, Orris said. Before the new name could be trumpeted to the outside world, a lot had to happen. Every department within the university had to be involved, from IT to the legal department, to the facilities department.
All consumer-facing materials for prospective students had to change before the marketing and advertising campaigns could be launched.
Upon the law’s passage, Orris immediately put together strategic project teams consisting of leaders who met every Tuesday morning and another that met every Tuesday afternoon to work out the details and keep on a schedule to be ready for the Sept. 30 launch.
Because the new name was established by law, the university’s legal office had to sign off on changes. Even before the university could get a new URL for its website, the university’s accreditors, The Middle States Commission, had to officially include the name on its website. All the university’s licensing agreements had to be amended and every procurement contract changed.
“The teamwork was extraordinary to get us to this point,” Orris said. “And the work is not done. Emails and certain websites will not change until January.”
During the transition, anyone seeking UMUC’s website will automatically be redirected to the site displaying the new name. So that those attempting to reach the university are not confused, every University of Maryland Global Campus web page will have a notation under the new name saying “formerly UMUC.”
Meanwhile, at the Largo campus, a time-lapse camera has been set up on the roof of the university’s building aimed at the large iconic sign, recording frame-by-frame the transition as UMUC disappears and University of Maryland Global Campus is, literally, raised to the sky.
More than any other change, that will be a visible, historical record of the day a new university name was born.