Colorado Mesa University selected winner in college name game.

What’s in a name?

A lot, according to trustees who voted unanimously to change Mesa State College to Colorado Mesa University.

Trustees say the new name communicates a brand identify and geographic location that will help in recruiting students, but also preserves the heritage of the Grand Junction-based institution.

“We have literally transformed this institution, and our new name helps recognize the strides we’ve made and positions us for future success,” said Charlie Monfort, chairman of the Mesa State Collage Bord of Trustees.

Lena Elliott, vice chairman of the board, said, “Keeping Mesa in our name honors our heritage and recognizes the unique role we play in Colorado and beyond.”

The proposed name change still must be approved by the State Legislature and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The April 26 vote by trustees to change the name followed years of discussion about seeking university status for Mesa State. The change also follows a more recent process to gather comments from students, faculty and staff as well as alumni and others. That process included 30 focus groups, a telephone town hall with more than 3,000 alumni and two surveys.

“As the trustees weighed all of the input we’ve received about the need to preserve our heritage as well as clearly communicate our brand identity and our geographic location, Colorado Mesa University quickly rose to the top,” said Mesa State President Tim Foster.

More than 80 percent of those responding to the first survey favored changing the college to a university to better reflect the addition of graduate programs.

But the downside of the Mesa name is people outside Colorado have difficulty identifying where the institution is located. A survey of potential students and their parents revealed the further away from Grand Junction they live, the less likely they were to know where Mesa State is located. While about 98 percent of students in Western Colorado know about Mesa State and where it’s located, about 77 percent of Coloradans outside the Western Slope don’t know the college is located in Grand Junction. In Utah, only 19 percent of potential students could name the location. California was next at 8 percent and just 2 percent of students in Texas could name the location.

More than 60 potential names were suggested and the list subsequently was reduced to 20. Responses to an online survey about the 20 names were used to further narrow the choices to eight finalists. The final eight names included various combinations of such geographic descriptions as Colorado or Western Colorado as well as the name Mesa and university.

Foster said the combination Colorado Mesa Unversity offers the best choice. “I strongly believe this new name will position our institution for future success while recognizing our strong history and commitment to excellence.”