UW announces preferred names in 2016

Last updated: July 5, 2021

NOTE: On September 28, 2016, the following email was sent to the UW community. The content of the email has been copied onto this webpage (with updated links), to commemorate the occasion and provide for enhanced content accessibility.

From: Philip J. Reid, Vice Provost, Academic and Student Affairs
Subject: Student preferred names in UW systems

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

Names matter. And there are many reasons why some of our students may use names that differ from their legal names. Some students prefer to use a middle or nickname. Some students may choose a name that aligns with their gender identity. International students may adopt “Western” names. Other reasons may include a pending divorce or identity-related safety concerns. Whatever the reason, it’s important that the University of Washington respect students’ wishes. Our student leaders have asked us to update our systems to use preferred names, and our commitment to equity compels us to respond.

I’m pleased to announce that, starting autumn 2016, the University of Washington is offering students at all three campuses the opportunity to have their preferred names appear on class and photo rosters, in the UW Directory and on Grade Page, a system through which faculty enter grades. In winter quarter 2017, we will be able to add more options, with preferred names appearing on Canvas, MyPlan, MyGradProgram, EARS, DARS and Panopto. Legal names will continue to appear on official documents such as transcripts, diplomas, financial aid and immigration records.

This change sounds simple, but is the result of five years of substantial research and infrastructure engineering by UW-IT and the Office of the University Registrar to update relevant systems as part of the Preferred Names Project. This work supports the University’s commitment to value and honor diverse experiences and perspectives, and to create a welcoming and respectful learning environment, promote access, opportunity, and justice for all.  In making this change, we join a host of peer institutions, such as University of Michigan and UC Berkeley, in using the names student prefer.

The tools at Identity.UW.edu help students add a preferred name at any time during the quarter. Instructions prompt students to notify their professors and teaching assistants when a name change has been made to facilitate a smooth transition across applications.

See the Preferred Names website for more information, or contact the Office of the University Registrar at RegOff@uw.edu.


Philip J. Reid
Vice Provost, Academic and Student Affairs
Professor, Chemistry
Deputy CIO and Associate Vice Provost, Academic Services, UW-IT