The University of Kansas City?



Chartered in 1929, the University of Kansas City switched to UMKC when it joined the UM System in July 1963.

Now the word is spreading that the University may change its name again – back to the original UKC.

“It’s not really clear who first may have proposed the idea,” said John Martellaro, director of media relations.

The first major mention to the public came May 8, when The Kansas City Star ran an article about the name change.

The article quoted Chancellor Leo Morton, who said it is time to act on the “long-percolating idea” of the name change, which he hopes could end UMKC’s stigma as an offshoot of the Columbia campus.

In order for a name change to happen, the University must submit a proposal to the UM Board of Curators. The Curators would take a vote, and, if the proposal were to pass, establish an effective date for the change.

Martellaro said the name change would not affect the University’s affiliations within the UM System.

“Our commitment to the UM System and to the state of Missouri has never been stronger,” he said. “Our only goal would be to create an even stronger System component in Kansas City. The stronger our university becomes, the more we can contribute to the System and to the state.”

As of yet, no proposal has been submitted to the Curators.

“We are still in the research stage,” Martellaro said. “Much research must be done before we can have confidence that a name change will have the intended impact: identifying this university more clearly and closely as ‘Kansas City’s university.’”

The monetary cost of a name change would be covered by private donations, not taxpayer funds or tuition, according to Martellaro. In 2007, when the former University of Missouri – Rolla proposed a switch to the current Missouri University of Science and Technology, the cost estimate was about $500,000.

“The most important reason to explore a name change at any time is to enhance an entity’s ability to execute its vision, mission and strategy,” Martellaro said.

Martellaro is hopeful about what the results of the switch back to UKC could bring the University.

“When a great city and a great university share a name, it can generate powerful benefits and synergies for both,” he said. “We would be in the good company of other accomplished urban universities in major U.S. cities, such as the University of Cincinnati, University of Pittsburgh, University of Houston and the University of Memphis.”

SGA conducts name change poll

On May 25, the Student Government Association (SGA) posted a poll through RooGroups to survey student opinions about the name change.

The first page of the poll says, “So what are your thoughts on changing the name of the University of Missouri – Kansas City? Let your voice be heard!”

The first and only poll question gives students a preference option for a name change – Kansas City University, University of Kansas City, undecided, other or no change.

Students can vote by visiting Voting closes at 11:15 a.m. July 31.Counseling psychology Ph.D. student Jon Grant disagrees with what he views is an “unnecessary change.”

“I’m all about necessary changes or beneficial changes,” he said. “Is the name change going to make my degree have more clout? Is the name change going to reduce the amount I must pay in tuition and fees every year? Probably not, on both

Joseph Froeschl, counseling and guidance graduate student, disagrees with a name change.

“It has taken a long time to develop the identity [the university] has,” he said, “and to change the name, it might lose that identity.”

Junior Kathryn Schanzmeyer said she likes the name the way it is.

“I think the name that it has now emphasizes it as part of the UM System, and I have always liked that,” she said. “I like the ring ‘UMKC’ has to it.”

SGA President Danny Riffel had no comment on the issue.

Junior Kira Cooper said it is “sketchy” that the name change is being researched during the summer, a time when the majority of students are not in school and “are trying not to think about school.” She also noted the effects of a name change for alumni of the University.

“Everything they own will say UMKC,” she said, “everything in scrapbooks or memory books, their old T-shirts – everything will no longer support the school they graduated from because the name changed.”

SGA Comptroller Katherine Carlino is currently undecided.

“I think that if the majority of the students, staff, alumni and community members are in support of the name change that it should be seriously considered,” she said. “Without the support of the students, however, I feel like the name should remain the same.”

Sophomore Linnaia McKenzie, SGA executive vice president, is also somewhat undecided.

“A new name for the University could be a step into the future or a step on the past,” she said. “What will solidify my opinion will be to see the opinions of other students at UMKC. This decision could bring the much needed unity to our campus.”

Eric Grospitch, assistant dean of students, supports becoming UKC.

“Specifically, I like how it ties us so directly to the community we serve and the areas we want to make our greatest impacts,” he said. “All in all, I think it would be a good idea.”

Grospitch said there has been an initial outreach to the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and multiple community and alumni groups.

“There will be additional opportunities for input from all stakeholders, but we are so early in the process that the form those opportunities will take has not yet been determined,” he said.

Angela Cottrell, director of student life, is also in favor of the name change.

“What better way to show how our institution is fully engaged by reflecting that in our name and our branding?” she said. “Through a name change, as an institution there would be a greater opportunity to define our niche and our strengths while decreasing the stigma of being a branch campus of the UM-Columbia campus.”

Cottrell also acknowledges a possible downside.

“A drawback to the change is that some alumns (and current students) might feel a connection and relationship to UMKC,” she said. “Thus, it will be really important to seek out their feedback.”

For information about why the University became UMKC in 1963, see the April 4, 2011 U-News article by Jacquelyn Hoermann, “Campus History: How UKC became UMKC.”

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