A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

From the Archives: What’s in a Name?

By Colleen Kearney Rich on April 17, 2012

These days you need a scorecard to keep up with the name changes taking place at George Mason University—and this is just the beginning. As new buildings come on line and the university continues to grow, many of your favorite campus spots or units may take on a new identity.

GMU to Mason
One of the changes is the move over the years away from the acronym “GMU” to the word “Mason.” Since President Alan Merten joined the university in 1996, the campus community has been encouraged to make “Mason” part of their lexicon.

What’s wrong with the acronym “GMU”? Well, nothing really. It’s just a little too close to the acronym for James Madison University, which is “JMU,” which led to a lot of confusion. It isn’t unusual for people to misspeak and confuse their g’s and j’s.

And “Mason” is preferred over “George Mason.” This preference actually plays a part in the issue of branding the university. Mason sits in an area crowded with “Georges”: George Washington University and Georgetown University, to name a few. So, the use of “Mason” is a way of separating ourselves.

Leading the way in this initiative has been the Office of Admissions, and if you talk to one of our current students, there is a good chance he or she will refer to the university as Mason.

Moving from an acronym to a name is a subtle, but important, change. Other name changes, particularly for buildings, are to honor people, such as the George W. Johnson Center. But namings can do more than honor people. Sometimes, a name change can mark a change in direction or the beginning of something new and wonderful.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2006 Mason Spirit.

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