Why Utah Tech University and what does this mean for students?

ST. GEORGE — After the Dixie State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of changing the school’s name to “Utah Tech University,” trustees, students and local community members were left to grapple with the name’s implications and the university’s future.

A rendering of possible apparel options showing off the proposed name replacing Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, image undated | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

David Clark, chair of the board of trustees, said he was hopeful that the Utah State Board of Higher Education will approve the proposed name, despite his love for the term “Dixie.”

“We have done our work, and it’s now with the state board,” Clark said. “If they co-sign too, and I’m optimistic they will, they’ll pass it on to the Legislature. We have consciously tried to keep all of our state legislators informed, so they’re pretty up to date except for the name which was disclosed today.”

Clark said he supported the name change because of the impact it will have on students’ futures, and he hopes that the legacy of Utah’s “Dixie” will be preserved.

“If I say Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech – in my mind and in my heart come prestigious schools,” Clark said. “I think the opportunity for us to have that same prestige going forward, I’m excited for that to happen.”

Cory O’Bray, vice-president of marketing for the student association, said it took him some time to adjust during the name change process, especially when the discussion began to center on the use of “tech” in the university’s name. As a student enrolled in a non-STEM major, he said his involvement in focus groups and other student organizations contributed to changing his opinion.

Student representatives surround Trustee Penny Mills, including Cory O’Bray pictured here embracing Mills, St. George, Utah, June 29, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

“My initial gut reaction was, ‘No!’ but after educating myself and being educated by others, I’m now fully in support,” O’Bray said. “I am excited and optimistic about the future of the university and the name, Utah Tech University.”

O’Bray acknowledged that some of his peers would be frustrated with this outcome, including those who want to keep the name “Dixie” and those who would have preferred an alternative to Utah Tech.

One such student is Quinton Read, who helped organize and lead a protest against the name change process on June 23.

“I’m trying to get into the nursing program here at Dixie State, and I don’t want to get into a nursing program at a tech school,” Read said. “I would prefer a name that our humanities majors, business majors and medical majors can stand behind – that isn’t just for technical degrees.”

According to a press release published by the University Marketing and Communication Office, the proposed name highlights the university’s polytechnic mission, which means the institution focuses on active learning experiences and dives deeper into STEM, business and healthcare fields. 

Vice-chair Tiffany Wilson of the Dixie State Board of Trustees addresses reporters following the vote to recommend Utah Tech University, St. George, Utah, June 29, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Dixie State has added 111 academic programs in the last five years, 85% of which are in STEM fields.

During the course of Tuesday’s meeting of the board of trustees, several members of the board brought up the instruction they received from the Legislature, that the new name reflected the local region, allowed the university to compete at the national level and represented the university’s mission.

Tiffany Wilson, vice-chair of the board of trustees, said, “Based on state mandate, we needed to include ‘tech.’ I really had someone give me some enlightenment and remind me that tech is not only part of a vocational tech school: our whole world has become tech-oriented and everything is tech.”

Wilson said the name change would benefit current students and the children and grandchildren of community members that would someday attend the university. While the division the name change process has created is regrettable, Wilson’s hope is that the community will embrace the institution’s new name and its continuing mission.

“The benefit for our students is that it gives them the leg up as they go out into the world with some extra tech education under any major that they have,” Wilson said. “What we’re going to be able to give them at Utah Tech University is going to be beyond any education that any of us ever had when we attended Dixie College or even Dixie State University.”

Renderings of athletic uniforms bearing the proposed name, “Utah Tech University,” St. George, Utah, image undated | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

Members of the name recommendation committee were also invited to voice their thoughts at the meeting, and Skywest CEO Russell “Chip” Childs shared his perspective as a businessman and local employer.

“We need talent: really good, specific talent,” Childs said. “The world we live in today, your number one asset has to be adaptability. We have a tremendous respect for this institution, but we mostly have a tremendous respect for what it can be.”

In the meantime, the proposed name of Utah Tech University will be under review by the state board of higher education, and, if approved, the state Legislature and governor.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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