A New Name for an Expanding Department

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On January 1, 2009, the Department of Technical Communication (TC) rang in the new year with a new department name: Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE). The new name helps to highlight the expanding curriculum and research of a department that has been in the UW College of Engineering for over three decades.

A name change for the department has been brewing for some time but really began in fall 2008. Faculty and staff had small-group discussions over different words and phrases relating to the department’s curriculum and “Technical Communication.” Everyone was aware of the challenging task that naming such a long-standing, multidimensional department would be. As Assistant Professor Julie Kientz emphasized, the new name can’t just be the name of a specific research area, but needs to encompass the entire department and evoke the right imagery and ideas for current industry professionals and prospective students.

A small committee representing faculty, staff, students, and alumni was formed and members worked hard to find ideas, comments, and feedback. The committee spent hours exploring name ideas in a continuous process of contacting people from industry and colleges across and outside of the country.

Represented colleges include the University of California, Irvine; the University of Toronto; Carnegie Mellon; Georgia Tech; Penn State; the University of Texas; Michigan State; and many others. People were excited to hear about the change, and many professors and industry professionals found the prospect of a name change interesting and innovative. One professor from the University of Wisconsin wrote in an email, “What an interesting change, I like it!”
A wide variety of industry professionals were contacted in search of ideas and feedback on possible names. An email with possible name ideas was even sent out to over 1,000 Microsoft employees who work closely with communication and production experts. The committee received many valuable responses that helped them explore and finalize a new name.
The hundreds of emails, phone calls, and meetings resulted in a new name for our department that is both contemporary and representative of what we do. --by Sophia Fong