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Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 7:00am

Augusta Universities Mull New Name

The merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities will create a new institution. But it doesn’t yet have a name, and there's a lot riding on what it will be called.

Among the top choices are: Augusta University, Bartram University and George Walton University.

A re-branding panel has been at work since March. The group is looking for a short, global name that includes the word 'university.' The new name can't exceed three words.

Chris Lemley is a Georgia State University marketing professor. He says the panel needs to avoid certain pitfalls.

For example, he says a broader context is better than a narrower one. George Walton served as governor and signed the Declaration of Independence, but that may not resonate beyond Georgia.

“You’re putting a nomer out there on something that is new, something that hasn’t been," he said. "And the question is, how do you give it an advantage in the world? That’s always a tough question.”

Lemley also said there's long been an erroneous perception in academia that a college name including the word 'state,' as in Augusta State University, is less prestigious than a name that begins with 'the University of.'

Another pitfall, Lemley said, is making sure people know the institution in question, if it's called Augusta University, is in Augusta, Ga., not Augusta, Me.

Susan Barcus, the chief development officer of Georgia Health Sciences University and a member of the re-branding panel, says the group has used phone surveys and focus groups to get public feedback. The group has also polled 1,300 students, and it’s consulted with experts on university naming.

“We wanted to make sure that we were getting an appropriate name that’s forward-thinking, global, not just a regional school – we hope to be a global school. And one that’s going to be a top university,” she said.

One option off the table is to keep one of the original names. Barcus said a stipulation from the start, since the move is a consolidation and not a takeover, was to choose a new name for a new institution. She said the two schools' academic programs overlap very little.

The Board of Regents will choose the name in August. Six other state schools are also merging.

Georgia Regents University, Georgia National University and the University of Augusta are three other top contenders.

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