In 1902, when it was founded, Northwestern College was Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School.
Soon the private Christian college will have another name. Starting July 1 it will be the University of Northwestern-St. Paul.
The new name better reflects the school’s growing graduate offerings, President Alan Cureton said, and aligns with the world’s definition of “university.” In many cultures, “college” refers to the equivalent of high school or community college.
“If we’re going to operate on a global scale, we need to use the jargon of the world,” Cureton said.
The school tested four other names with alumni and others. Two added “international” or “Christian,” while another, Graham University, referred to Northwestern’s most famous leader — the Rev. Billy Graham, who was president from 1948 to 1952. (Then, the school was Northwestern Bible College.)
But “none of the four resonated,” Cureton said, so leaders went with a fifth: University of Northwestern-St. Paul. “There was overwhelming support to keep the name Northwestern.”
In recent years, a wave of colleges have branded themselves as universities. The College of St. Catherine became St. Catherine University in 2009, citing the Carnegie Foundation’s description of the college as offering a range of undergraduate and master’s degrees.
Carnegie describes Northwestern as a “baccalaureate college” with “very high undergraduate” enrollment. The school has 3,100 undergrads and just 180 graduate students in five degree programs. But Cureton expects growth. The soon-to-be university plans to launch its sixth graduate program — a master’s in business administration.
There’s a demand for advanced study rooted in “our conservative, faith-based approach,” he said.
This spring’s graduates will see “Northwestern College” on their diplomas, but the campus is phasing out its “college” merchandise. Sweatshirts, Cureton noted, are “on sale at a very reduced price.”