November 17, 2019
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Maine university considers changing its name

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A woman walks across the University of Southern Maine Portland campus in this Oct. 6, 2014, file photo.

The University of Southern Maine is considering a name change.

The second-largest school in the University of Maine System is looking at rebranding as a way to burnish its reputation and help attract new students.

“I have been thinking a lot about whether a new name for our university might better extend our geographic reach, and enhance our reputation and appeal among college-bound students here in Maine and beyond,” USM President Glenn Cummings wrote in a Wednesday email to alumni.

The potential change comes as USM is enrolling more out-of-state students, adding academic offerings and looking to expand facilities — four years after deep financial troubles forced the school to lay off faculty and eliminate programs of study.

Cummings stressed that the idea is, for now, just exploratory. An eventual name change would require a “long and deliberative process” including the UMaine System board of trustees and the Legislature weighing in, he warned.

Before any of that happens, the university will work with branding and marketing firms to better understand how people see USM, which enrolls 10,000 students spread across its campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston.

It will seek to gauge how potential students, their parents and guidance counselors view the university, and “whether a name change would enhance people’s interest” in attending, Cummings said.

USM will also weigh the opinions of current students, alumni and staff and “test” alternative names. But it’s too early to know what monickers will be tested, according to USM spokesman Bob Stein.

“One option might be something like University of Maine Portland, but honestly we’re just getting started in this process,” Stein said.

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