Nickname Message – January 2014
January 28, 2014
Dear students, faculty, staff, alums and friends of UIS:
You may be aware that the UIS campus has been engaged in discussions for several months regarding the university’s nickname – the Prairie Stars. This has been a student-led initiative and the Student Government Association, via a task force that included representatives from the student body, faculty, staff, UIS Athletics and alumni, has thoughtfully considered the question of whether or not the university’s nickname should be changed. As part of its work, the task force used surveys, public forums and social media to obtain input from the campus, alumni and the community. A consultant with expertise in sports brand identity development has also provided advice and recommendations. The task force provided me with a final report at the end of the Fall 2013 semester.
I have very much appreciated the able leadership that SGA President Aaron Mulvey has provided for these discussions and I am particularly grateful for the many thoughts on this issue conveyed by so many current students, staff and alums of the university. In addition to reviewing the task force report, I have met with the UIS Alumni Advisory Board and with representatives of a substantial group of relatively recent UIS alums who presented a petition with nearly 500 signatures advising that the Prairie Stars nickname be retained.
Though the final report of the task force does not offer a consensus on a single recommendation, the collective input that has been provided has led me to a conclusion that I am confident is in the best interests of our campus now and in the years ahead. That conclusion is that the name Prairie Stars is more than an athletics team name. It is also an important part of campus identity at this relatively young university. It is a name that was chosen in part because it provides a sense of place and it resonates deeply with many of our 33,000+ alumni regardless of whether they graduated with Sangamon State University or the University of Illinois on their diploma. It is a name that is part of our heritage, a heritage that includes a reputation that continues to grow in positive ways along with the increasing size of our university community. It is a name worth keeping … and embracing.
A strong campus identity is very important. Along with excellent academic programs, it helps attract new students -including student-athletes. It fosters involvement in campus activities and it contributes to campus pride. I’m confident that our campus marketing team and UIS Athletics will develop new and creative opportunities that will refresh and strengthen our Prairie Stars name at the same time they retain its proud heritage.
Thank you to all who participated in this vibrant dialogue. I appreciate the loyalty that you have for our university and I hope that you will continue your interest and support in the coming months and years. Go STARS!
P.S. The task force report is posted on the SGA website. (pdf)