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The W Proposes Swapping ‘Women’ for ‘Wynbridge’

Mississippi University for Women President Nora Miller speaks at the podium. A sign beside her reads The W. Wynbridge State University of Mississippi
Wynbridge State University is the new proposed name for the Mississippi University for Women, President Nora Miller, pictured, announced on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Photo by Heather Harrison

COLUMBUS, Miss.—Students, alumni, staff and attendees clapped as Mississippi University for Women President Nora Miller announced the school’s new proposed name: Wynbridge State University of Mississippi.

“The first part of the name, Wyn, is old English for the letter W. And the latter part, bridge, connects the past to the future, connects our alumni to our students and connects our campus to the community,” she told the crowd of people gathered on the MUW campus outside Poindexter Hall on Tuesday afternoon. “… After all, the W bridges us together.”

Many alumni suggested the name Wynbridge State University following a survey, the president said.

Miller previously announced Brightwell University as MUW’s proposed new name on Jan. 8, but after a flurry of backlash from students and alumni, the Naming Task Force went back to the drawing board to pick a new one. One of the chief complaints many made against “Brightwell” was that it did not start with a W, negating the school’s moniker, “The W.”

“We listened to what alumni and others were saying of the importance of having a W name,” Miller told the Mississippi Free Press on Tuesday.

‘Always Be The W’

President Miller said a task force has spent more than 18 months searching for the school’s new name. Those involved wanted the Mississippi University for Women’s new name to reflect its diverse student body and alumni network while showcasing the W’s rich history, she said.

On Jan. 26, after leaders dismissed the name Brightwell University, the task force sent a survey to alumni and Columbus residents that offered the names Wynbridge University, Welbright University and Wynbright University along with explanations of their meanings. The task force used the suggestions to finalize their decision to rename MUW as Wynbridge State University of Mississippi.

Student Government Association President Sam Garrie speaks at the podium
Student Government Association President Sam Garrie, pictured, said Wynbridge State University of Mississippi will better represent the W’s students and alumni than the school’s current name, Mississippi University for Women. Photo by Heather Harrison

Student Government Association President Sam Garrie, a male member of the task force, said that while he feels included in MUW’s current name, renaming the institution will communicate inclusion for current and prospective students.

“I think this name will just further represent the future of our students and be reflective of our student body,” Garrie told the Mississippi Free Press on Tuesday.

MUW was the first publicly funded women’s college in the U.S., and it only accepted white students for 82 years. The university began as the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls in 1884, giving white women higher education in the arts and skills deemed practical for women at the time; Black women were not accepted until 1966. In 1920, the name changed to Mississippi State College for Women and then to Mississippi University for Women in 1974. The university officially became coeducational after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting men from enrolling in a publicly funded university violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Mississippi University for Women can only change its official name if the Legislature drafts and passes a bill for Gov. Tate Reeves to sign into law. The deadline for lawmakers to introduce new bills is Monday, Feb. 19.

“Regardless of the name, it’ll always be the W,” Columbus, Miss., Mayor Keith Gaskin told the crowd on Tuesday.

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