FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Award-winning research by a Marshall University doctoral student shows that from 1996 to 2005, West Virginia had the largest percentage of “college-to-university” rebrandings of any state or U.S. territory.
“Survival of the Fittest? The Rebranding of Higher Education in West Virginia” explores the name-change phenomenon in the Mountain State. The findings, by Dr. James M. Owston, a 2007 graduate of Marshall University’s Leadership Studies program, have garnered both national and international praise.
“A recurring reason for the name-change phenomenon was to gain notoriety and prestige and to increase the number of students in attendance as well as to raise money more easily,” said Owston. “What I discovered is that although some schools did have terrific growth after changing their brands, most did not. In most cases, enrollment slowed and, while the schools still experienced a yearly growth in enrollment, the rate of growth that they experienced was certainly not as great as they had before the name change.”
“By and far, changing names was not the panacea the institutions thought it was going to be,” said Owston, who is Senior Academic Officer for Instructional Technology for Mountain State University in Beckley, W.Va. MSU was formerly The College of West Virginia. It underwent a name change in 2001.
His adviser at Marshall, Dr. Barbara Nicholson, nominated Owston’s work for the 2009 Alice L. Beeman Dissertation Award for Outstanding Research in Communications and Marketing for Educational Advancement from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education as well as the 2008 Leo and Margaret Goodman-Malamuth Outstanding Dissertation Award for Research in Higher Education Administration from the American Association of University Administrators. “Survival of the Fittest” came away with top honors both times.
“I've worked with doctoral students for 18 years now, but have never nominated a dissertation for national consideration,” Nicholson said. “Jim’s work was different though, primarily because of its unique format. It also focused on a subject that’s both contemporary and relevant in higher education, so I thought it had an excellent chance of being recognized.”
Owston’s research is nationwide in scope, but the focus is on West Virginia, including those institutions that have undergone names changes including:
For more information or to read the dissertation in its entirety, go to http://www.newriver.net/.
The Marshall University Leadership Studies program is offered on the South Charleston campus.