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New Name Touts College’s Upgraded Status

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

Columbia Union College (CUC) will soon adopt a new name to reflect its new university status. The name Washington Adventist University was recently voted when nearly 90 delegates gathered at Sligo church in Takoma Park, Md., for the college’s Mid-Term Constituency Session. 

The idea to upgrade CUC’s educational status grew out of strategic planning efforts several years ago. Upon taking the helm in January 2008, Weymouth Spence and his team brought momentum to the effort, engaging faculty, staff, students, and alumni in the process, and seeking the multi-level approval of the Maryland Higher Education Council. “We are more than qualified to become a university,” Spence told delegates. “While schools with only two graduate degrees are at university status, CUC offers six.” Additional reasons cited for making CUC a university include potential for academic and enrollment growth, greater financial stability, the ability to attract international students, and the impressive qualifications of the school’s faculty and administrators, many of whom already have doctorates or terminal degrees.

With preliminary approval from the state, the college was informed that the next step is to rename the institution reflecting its higher status. From a taskforce that winnowed 100 potential names to 50, to a CUC Board of Trustees-appointed subcommittee that narrowed the field to four, the decision was then put in the hands of the full board. Their recommendation, which needed to be ratified by attendees to the constituency session, was tweaked to capitalize on the college’s location, a major attraction for many students. After an hour or so of discussion, constituents voted to rename the college Washington Adventist University subject to legal review.

“It’s easy to market, draws on our heritage, and proudly identifies who we are---Seventh-day Adventists,” said Jim Greene, vice president for administration of the New Jersey Conference, summarizing the overwhelming sentiment of constituents.

“It’s time we capitalize on the good name that the Adventist Church has in the greater Washington area and beyond,” added Rob Vandeman, Chesapeake Conference president.

Next Steps

With clear and almost unanimous support from session delegates, a group which includes CUC Board members, as well as some faculty, staff, and alumni, Spence and his team are moving forward. “We must now communicate with the accrediting agencies, make plans to implement the new name, and begin the involved task of rebranding the college,” he said.

College Name History

Washington Training College – 1904
Washington Foreign Mission Seminary – 1907
Washington Missionary College – 1914
Columbia Union College – 1961
Washington Adventist University – 2009