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CSUN promotes equity with recorded name pronunciations

As diversity increases on campus, faculty use NameCoach Connect to correctly say students’ names from the start
University Business, October 2018

More than half of the 40,000 students at California State University, Northridge, are first-generation. Three thousand are international. And every one of them belongs, says Paul Schantz, director of web and technology services in the Division of Student Affairs for CSUN. “We want students to feel like CSUN is their home,” Schantz says. “And if you’re going to have any kind of relationship with somebody, you should know their name, and you should get their name right. That’s the first step in establishing trust with somebody.”

To help foster that trust—as well as inclusion and equity in the increasingly diverse school—the university implemented NameCoach Connect, which makes student-recorded name pronunciations available to faculty and classmates.

Faculty embraced the program from the start, Schantz says, by not only recording their own names, but encouraging their students to do so, too.

Easy integrations

At CSUN, a Hispanic-serving institution in the San Fernando Valley, NameCoach integrates with the school’s student information system. Students simply visit their myCSUN profile, click on a link and record their name using their computer or smartphone microphone. NameCoach also integrates with the university’s learning management system, which generates class rosters that include recordings from students or faculty members.

“We have just short of 8,200 recorded names, primarily from students,” Schantz says. “We had over 3,000 students record their names in the first three weeks, which is stunning, especially because it’s not mandatory.” The system went live in fall 2017 to help all students feel welcome from the first time they enter a classroom. “It demonstrates that we care,” Schantz says.

Spreading the word

To boost participation, the service is being introduced at orientation, with school ambassadors encouraging new students to pull out their phones, log in to the school website and record their names during breaks. Emails also promote name recordings, which are stored by NameCoach.

The popularity of the name recordings—and the message of equity and inclusion that they send—has led Schantz and his peers to consider expanding the service to other departments, such as campus directory, outreach and recruitment, advising, and advancement.

“Obviously, you want to get a potential donor’s name right when you address them,” Schantz says.

Schantz says he looks forward to a continued relationship with NameCoach, which also allows students to provide pronouns and gender identity information. “It was the easiest implementation from an external vendor in the more than 10 years that I’ve worked here,” Schantz says. “I wish every vendor was like NameCoach in terms of availability and willingness to work with us.”

To schedule a personal tour of NameCoach, please visit calendly.com/jon-153