The name “Dixie” lives on at St. George’s in a second school

St George • A name change last summer may have relegated Dixie State University to the history books, but “Dixie” and higher education still endure in southern Utah’s largest city.

Nearly seven months ago, on July 1, Dixie State was renamed Utah Tech University, a move that roiled some longtime Washington County residents, who accused state lawmakers who ordered the name change and university officials of “woke up.” to be.

But 2½ miles west of Utah Tech, on Tech Ridge on the site of the old St. George Airport, Dixie lives on — not only in the large block letter D that adorns the side of the ridge, but also on the mesa, where Dixie technical college is located.

Apparently that’s fine with most school administrators, students and residents in the St. George area, who told The Tribune this week they don’t give the matter much thought. Unlike the situation at Utah Tech, Dixie Technical College’s name is certainly not a bone of contention in the community between different camps wishing to keep it or change it.

“I don’t think about it,” admitted Collin McCoy, a student from nearby Santa Clara who is majoring in information technology. “Maybe that’s because I just grew up with the name.”

Added Kaden Mertz, a Crimson Cliff High School senior who is studying app development in college:

“I don’t think the school is big enough to be controversial,” said the St. George teenager. “It’s not big enough for people to care about his name.”

(Dixie Technical College) An electrical class at Dixie Technical College in St. George.

What was then Dixie Applied Technology College was established by the Legislature in September 2001 and began with a meager 26 students enrolled in three programs – office management, diesel technology and construction technology. But it has since grown to nearly 1,500 students who can now choose from a menu of 25 accredited programs.

Additionally, the 2017 name change to Dixie Technical College was accompanied by a move earlier this year to its current location on a 30-acre campus on the site of the former airport. The campus included two new buildings constructed at a total cost of $32 million totaling 162,000 square feet. A third building totaling 11,580 square feet was renovated for college use.

This growth and the increasing choice and quality of programs are important to School President Jordan Rushton.

“I’m not so much concerned with the name as with making sure students have a quality experience here,” said Rushton, who was named the college’s third president in September, succeeding Kelle Stephens, who served as president from 2012-2012 was 2022.

“I do not understand [the name] change,” added Rushton. “I don’t think there has been any real impetus to change it. I don’t even know if there’s been a lot of talk about it.”

If college administrators and students haven’t given it much thought, some state legislatures and education officials have given at least a little thought.

Miles Kelly, the former Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill renaming Dixie State University Utah Tech, said that keeping Dixie Technical College’s name was a reflection of the fact that it was more of a local college.

“Dixie State had become a regional university, attracting students from abroad and placing students in graduate and professional programs at other universities. It had a wider national reach than Dixie Technical College,” said Kelly, who lost his re-election bid for House District 11 to Katy Hall in the GOP primary in June.

Dixie State University’s name became a hot topic in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd and with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Proponents of the name change argued that the word “Dixie” evoked images of Confederacy and white supremacy. Opponents claimed to leave “Dixie” in the title to honor the region’s heritage.

In 1861, early Mormon pioneer leader Brigham Young sent the 309 families south to settle what would become St. George and establish a cotton mission, dubbed the “Utah’s was named Dixie.

Utah Higher Education Commissioner Dave Woolstenhulme said Dixie State University’s name had become an issue for graduates as they applied for jobs out of state. While Utahns understand the origins of the name, he added, potential employers out of state would not appreciate the name.

“The students had to spend a lot of time explaining the name Dixie,” the commissioner said. “The reason for the name Dixie Technical College was not an issue [state education officials] is that these students tend to stay in the region. So “Dixie” doesn’t become a complication for them because the people of Utah know the history and what this name means. They don’t have to defend their name when applying for a job.”

(Dixie Technical College) A precision machining class at Dixie Technical College in St. Geoge.

Nursing student Alyssa Humpherys isn’t too concerned about the college’s name, but says the “tech” in the names of the two colleges at St. George causes some people to confuse the two or think they’re one and the same are the same.

For her part, Mikayla Sondrup thinks a new name for the college is in order.

“They should change it because the term ‘Dixie’ can be offensive,” said Sondrup, who is from Richfield and studies app development.

Count Santa Clara resident Carol Jean Nobis in the opposite camp. She said renaming the college something without “Dixie” would upset many old-timers in the community.

“It wouldn’t fly,” she said. “I’ve lived here so long that Dixie flows through my veins. The people who have lived here a long time don’t want anything to do with any name other than Dixie.” The name “Dixie” lives on at St. George’s in a second school

Justin Scacco

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