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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Dixie no more: Utah Tech University unveils new branding

A rendering provided by Utah Tech University of what student gear would look like under the school's new name and brand.
Courtesy Utah Tech University
A rendering provided by Utah Tech University of what student gear would look like under the school's new name and brand.

After a contentious nearly two year effort to drop “Dixie” from its name, the rebranding of St. George’s public university is underway. Say hello to Utah Tech University. Officials say their new name is aligned with their long-term polytechnic vision — to be hands-on and career-focused.

“If you look, it's a strong name,” said Utah Tech President Richard Williams. “Every state has a tech university. What's so significant about the name is we're already doing this. So we started doing something and we found a name that depicts what we're doing.”

When the school became a university in 2013, Williams heard from local businesses that the area was working to become a STEM and health care hub. With local leaders working to grow the city’s tech scene, he wanted to have students be part of that future.

Whatever people study — be it science, English or dance — he said all are welcome at Utah Tech.

“When we say we're an open, inclusive, comprehensive polytechnic university, that differentiates us from the other universities in our community,” he said.

This is the institution’s eighth name change since it was established in 1911 as St. George Academy. The school has also dropped mascots and branding tied to the Confederacy in recent years. In 2016, they adopted the bison and Trailblazers mascot.

The university, which is trying to grow nationally and internationally, had outgrown its old name, said Jordon Sharp, the vice president of marketing and communication.

“It worked in Utah because we understood the cotton mission and we knew what happened in Utah, but there are some dark sides to the name Dixie, bottom line,” Sharp said. “This was necessary, it was difficult. But I think people will find that you can move forward and honor heritage at the same time.”

University trustees decided to pursue a name change in December 2020 after hearing from students that the name Dixie negatively impacted their post-graduate life. The Legislature passed HB 278 during the 2021 General Session allowing the school to further study a name change, with a deadline to present lawmakers with a new name later.

The Utah Tech name change finally passed the Legislature during a special session in November 2021. However, HB 2001 stipulated that the main campus would be called the “Dixie Campus” and $500,000 was set aside to form a Heritage Committee.

Since the process started, there have been vocal supporters of keeping Dixie. A group organized by local residents, Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition, has strongly opposed the change. They’re calling on residents to vote for candidates that support preserving the name during the upcoming Republican primary in June.

Williams said the Heritage Committee has met several times in recent weeks and is working to present its recommendations. He said they’re looking at making a documentary and archival display at the library about the significance the name “Dixie” has in the area, as well as a monument in the middle of campus celebrating the region’s history.

Williams also noted that the group’s work will help rebuild some relationships with community members, but there are some that will never be saved.

“There's just some strong feelings, once you have a 111-year-old brand, there are some people that just don't want to see this go away,” he said. “For us, we're not seeing it going away, we see it being built upon. We'll continue to celebrate our history, and continue to celebrate our future.”

The school started using Utah Tech over the weekend even though the name, according to state statute, won’t be official until July 1. Sharp said there are a number of “Easter eggs” in the new logo, including the state’s shape in Utah.

“Normally you need about a year for a rebrand of this nature, but we got the word in November and we knew our students were coming back in the fall,” he said. “So it was either move quickly and do it in four or five months or do it in a year and a half. We chose to just move.”

Williams estimates it will cost $3 million to completely rebrand the university.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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