As the country moves toward reanalyzing historical figures, stories, and symbols through the lens of equity and inclusion, one topic has become a public debate: the name of RVU-SU’s neighboring school. Dixie State University, founded in 1911, was named for the region of Utah in which it is located and was associated with the early pioneers. However, many have argued that “Dixie” has negative connotations with regard to the Civil War Confederacy and alumni have stated their discomfort in stating the name of their alma mater. “If the name on alumni’s diplomas is presenting a barrier to their success in any way, we owe it to them to remove this obstacle,” the DSU website states.
Elizabeth Dahlberg, Clinical Rotations Liaison, was involved in and spoke on behalf of the Dixie State University name change process last year. Here, she explains the process, as well as its far-reaching impact.
For several years now, there has been talk of changing the name of Dixie State University. It became increasingly important in recent years, especially as the school transitioned into D1 athletics. As an institution for higher learning which typically attracted first-generation students from low-income and underserved communities, the school saw a need to move to a more inclusive name; this would give graduates a higher chance of success once they entered the workforce. They also wanted a name that reflected the school’s new status as a technical university.
The name change bill, HB0278, was announced in February of 2021. At this time, I was contacted by Dixie State Administration to speak in support of the bill during the first Senate Education Committee hearing. After some revisions, the bill made it past the House and moved to the Senate. I was invited on behalf of Dixie State once more to return to the State Capitol and speak at the hearing.
Busloads of Southern Utah residents with strong opposition to the bill unloaded and packed the hearing room in a final push to keep the name. Many leaders from local healthcare organizations and tech companies came to support the name change. The hearing was heated and emotional; I never realized how much a name meant to members of the Southern Utah community—when it meant something much different outside the State of Utah. The Bill passed favorably.
Being an alumnus from DSU, I am extremely proud to have been part of such a monumental change in the school’s history—one that will kick-start a more inclusive culture and benefit other alumni entering the workforce or applying to graduate programs. You can read the bill and amendments here: https://le.utah.gov/~2021/bills/static/HB0278.html.