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Apr 12, 2013

Rhode Island State University

Very few things are more annoying than frivolous renaming. They tend to have a tint of change without a substance. Yet in some cases, name changes are very helpful, for they signify real change.

RIC changed its name twice, from the Normal School to Rhode Island College of Education. The last change from RICE to RIC happened in 1959, and I have met people who graduated before that. The change of name recognized the fact that the College became a comprehensive institution, no longer focusing exclusively on teacher training. Now teacher preparation includes a relatively small minority of all students.

I think it is time for another renaming. The college has built significant number of graduate programs; it shares a Ph.D. program with URI, and may create one or more doctoral programs. There is a great variety of undergraduate programs, a much more robust scholarship record of faculty members, a sophisticated infrastructure, including a very good library. IN other words, the place has all the features normally associate with a university.

In the US, “college” only weakly connotes with a junior type of institution. However, this connotation is much stronger in other English-speaking countries and internationally. As RIC faculty participate more more in international organizations, and as we are trying to attract more foreign students, these semantics make a much larger difference.

Of course, RIC is a great short name, easy to remember and to pronounce. It has a comfort of familiarity; perhaps a bit too much familiarity? It brings up an image of a jovial local guy named Rick, a nice neighbor in a baseball hat. I am not sure though if this is the connotations and allusions we want. RISU or RIU are not as handy to say and to remember, but I am pretty sure the benefits would outweigh the cost.

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