Xavier University: People’s Names are a Central Part of Their Identity

As told to NameCoach by David Mengel, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Xavier University

Xavier University works hard to create a community of individual learners. Our mission is to care for students as multifaceted individuals. Our challenge is making all of our students feel welcome, secure in their individual differences and effective in living and learning together as a community. Again and again we’re reminded that people’s names are a central part of an individual’s identity.

For a few years now, I’ve read student names at commencement. One name every 2.7 seconds. I’ve found that students care deeply if you say their name correctly. Many will come up and tell you if you don’t.

We tried a number of different homegrown solutions before we implemented NameCoach. For our honors class ceremony, the person reading the name would read through the list, flag names they were unsure about and have someone reach out to the student’s professor about how to say their name correctly. This was extremely time consuming. For undergraduate commencement, we were using a system with barcodes and pieces of paper with phonetic spellings to make sure we were reading the right student’s name. In previous years, we had someone who set up a voicemail system for students to record their names. He’d then manually put those into a spreadsheet and we could listen to it. That system worked okay, but made everyone work too hard to be a long term solution. Also, it wasn’t accessible to any other student system.

NameCoach is a simple-to-use tool that helps us do exactly what we need to do.

When you are admitted to Xavier, you get an account in a custom social media environment that we built. That introduces you to our community. It lets students meet one another, explore common interests, use it to learn about practical things like finding a roommate, signing up for a dorm or placement tests. It also now includes asking for a recording of your name because we care how you want your name pronounced.

Last year, more than 70% of our incoming freshmen recorded their names, using a seamless embedding of the NameCoach system.

People who have access to that pronunciation include their admissions counselors, orientation leaders, and, of course, professors. NameCoach audio is built into every class audio roster that has their name and integrated into our Learning Management System (Canvas). It’s also on our student directory online. We even use it for the faculty and staff directory. We don’t require it, but as you can imagine, those who get tired of having their names mispronounced like to record theirs. And, of course, commencement. Once they’ve recorded their name, it’s linked into all of those places. Most of the places where there’s a digital representation of a student, we have a recording.

Feature image by Jon Tyson on Unsplash