The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


September 14, 2010

Midland Lutheran College to become Midland University

Midland Lutheran College will become Midland University Oct. 20, as part of an overall re-branding effort, school officials announced Sept. 13.

Midland also reported that for the Fall 2010 semester Midland's student body grew by more than 50 percent to 962 students. Part of that growth came from 321 students who had planned to attend the now defunct ELCA-affiliated Dana College, in nearby Blair, Neb. Midland is one of 26 ELCA-affiliated colleges and universities.

 On Sept. 13, Erik Soll, Megan Reed and Darienne Holley carry
On Sept. 13, Erik Soll, Megan Reed and Darienne Holley carry "See the new U" signs after Midland Lutheran College's announcement that it will become Midland University Oct. 20. Midland also received an influx of new students when Dana College in Blair, Neb. closed in July.
Midland's board of trustees voted unanimously Sept. 13 to approve the name change, Midland spokesman Jon Fredricks told The Lutheran. Issues around marketing the school to prospective students were a factor, Fredricks said. "Research shared with our board of trustees that helped shape their decision-making was that to a prospective student, ‘university' is synonymous with more opportunities than ‘college,'" Fredricks said. The university model, he added, "allows us to shape our academics in new ways, organizing structurally into colleges."

But why lose "Lutheran" from the institution's name? "We lost the Lutheran in our name only," Fredricks said. "The change in our name in no way lessens our connection to, or our commitment to the Lutheran Church."

'Difficult' decision

Nebraska Synod Bishop David deFreese and Midland President Benjamin E. Sasse co-authored a Sept. 14 letter that assures ELCA pastors and congregations in the synod of that commitment.

The name change was "a difficult and challenging decision to make, and was not taken lightly," deFreese and Sasse wrote. More than one-third of Midland's board members are ELCA clergy or lay leaders, the two wrote.

"It has been and will continue to be a privilege for this institution to remain steadfast to its heritage and core values in lifting up the benefits of Lutheran higher education. ...This change in name in no way minimizes Midland's connection to and commitment for Lutheran higher education. Our hope and prayer is that new branding and a university structure, along with many other upgrades underway at Midland, will have positive long-term effects. The changes being made will strengthen our ability to recruit high school students of all faith backgrounds. It will ultimately serve to both expand and strengthen the opportunity to share the benefits of Lutheran higher education."

Keeping Luther at the core

As Midland Lutheran College, "students who don't resonate with being Lutheran may not consider us for their college search," Fredricks told The Lutheran. "They may think, 'I'm not Lutheran, so that's not a place for me.' We want to assure students we have a lot to offer them academically."

Midland's "core college" of liberal arts and humanities "will keep the Lutheran connection and be called something like Luther College of Liberal Arts or Luther College of the Humanities," Fredricks said. Midland's "core values" statement will also continue to "speak to our Lutheran heritage," he added.

Rebranding-everything from moving to "colleges underneath a Midland University umbrella" to placing the new name and logo on all campus signs and institutional materials-will take 18 to 24 months, Fredricks said. A new website, www.midlandu.edu and "See the new U" signs and stickers are helping to introduce the new name to stakeholders. A new image for Midland's athletic mascot will be announced later this fall. Many changes, but "for the most part the response has been positive," Fredricks said.

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Embracing diversity