I.T. to explore name change


To see why the University of Minnesota’s college of engineering, math and physical sciences — the Institute of Technology — is considering a new name, just try finding its website by entering “Minnesota + engineering” into Google .

The top results might include some I.T. departments, but it’ll take more digging to locate the college that houses them.

And as the college approaches its 75th anniversary in 2010, Dean Steven Crouch wants to change that: he’s looking to make the college more visible to potential students and employers with a name that better reflects its composition.

After years of fielding the question “where’s engineering at the U of M?” and once being introduced as “dean of information technology,” Crouch announced in a mid-December e-mail to faculty and staff that he would look at adopting a new name.

He has commissioned Carlson School of Management’s Brand Enterprise program to help the college capitalize on a change, if one is made, at a cost of $20,000 — the only cost associated with the change so far, Karen Wolterstorff , Crouch’s chief of staff, said.

Additional costs will depend on what I.T. wants to do for publicity, Crouch said, and added he expects to focus on sending out information to high schools, employers and other engineering colleges rather than “splashy” magazine or radio ads.

Because the change wouldn’t be implemented until July 2010, departments would have time to use up existing stationary, he said, preventing unnecessary costs.

Though Crouch said the problematic acronym I.T., understood by most as information technology, has been on his radar for years, this year his advisory board members indicated it should be a priority.

It wasn’t a new issue for the board either, Chairman Ron Christenson , who is also the Chief Technology Officer at Cargill , said.

The issue became more and more pressing, he said, as people began to lose the connection between I.T. and engineering at the University.

Though some board members were concerned about slighting graduates with an I.T. affiliation, he said the board favored it by a large majority.
University community feedback

Chemistry professor Wayland Noland said he wouldn’t be opposed to a more descriptive name, “if it isn’t too long.”

He said he felt a name like “science and engineering,” would suffice.

He hadn’t talked to anyone who was upset about the prospect, he said, and added his reaction was, “this is not a huge deal.”

Dick Sommerstad , director of the University’s Academic and Corporate Relations Center , said I.T.’s name exacerbates the challenges business face in finding the research, expertise or facility they’re seeking — especially on the engineering side.

He said he’d welcome a change if done properly, adding that those working on the name should consider all the research consortiums and resources in I.T. that businesses seek — not just the individual departments — when rebranding the college.

“I would certainly survey business,” he said, “I wouldn’t do it without a lot of outside input.”

That’s where David Hopkins , managing director of Carlson Brand Enterprise , and his team of MBA students come in. They’ll evaluate existing perceptions of the name, and if it’s evident a change is needed, they’ll help the college brand and market it.

Ultimately, the decision will be Crouch’s, with the consent of the provost and president, and subject to the approval of the Board of Regents.

Crouch said he doesn’t have a pet name in mind, but is looking for something that’s simple and reflects what the college is.

He added that though he’s not looking to name it after a major contributor, he’s not going to “close the door on it,” either.

Carlson Brand Enterprise will have a system for getting outside input, Crouch said, but he’s also invited e-mail responses — and heard from some respondents concerned about cost.

In response to those opposed to spending money during a budget crunch, Crouch said, “I have to take a long-term view. I’m looking at the second half of our sesquicentennial — we’ve got the first half coming up. I’m worried about the second.”