October 18, 2021

What’s in a name? Wayne State expands preferred pronouns options

Preferred pronouns are used to help ensure you are referring to someone accurately without using their name.

This fall, Wayne State University has added an option for students, faculty and staff to update their identifying pronouns in their university profiles. The new functionality is the result of cross-campus collaboration to foster an inclusive and welcoming community.

Preferred pronouns are used to help ensure you are referring to someone accurately without using their name. While the most common pronouns are she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs, there are other options that more accurately represent the diverse and fluid nature of gender and identity.

The new functionality is intended to foster a community of respect and help avoid assumptions. If you opt to add pronouns to your WSU Profile, they will appear parenthetically following your name — i.e., “Alyssa Jones (she/her)” — on a variety of platforms, including advising systems, class lists, Canvas, STARS, Degreeworks and more. Pronouns can be updated as often as necessary, or opted out of entirely. While displaying pronouns is optional, it is becoming increasingly commonplace. Many people on campus and beyond have provided their identifying pronouns in email signatures, virtual meeting names, on social media, or in conversation.

“Enabling individuals to share their preferred pronouns is another way that WSU can help people feel more welcomed,” said Kurt Kruschinska, university registrar. “Adding this option helps our community avoid mistakes in identifying one another, and it also helps create meaningful teaching moments when there are mistakes. No one wants to be misgendered or misidentified, or to misgender or misidentify someone else. This option is a tool in helping us learn and grow together.”

Individuals can update their pronouns using the same simple process designed to accommodate legal name changes, preferred name changes and address changes. Once updated, preferred pronouns will appear consistently across WSU’s various platforms.

“If you have the technical capabilities to make people feel more comfortable and welcomed, there’s no good reason not to,” said Nathan Chavez, associate director of academic applications in Computing & Information Technology. “Our hope is that the system is easy to use and efficient, so that all students, faculty and staff can update their pronouns and profiles.”

The desire on campus for such functionality became apparent after WSU rolled out a similar option for the campus community to update their preferred name. Following ongoing questions and requests for such a feature, the Personal Pronouns Tech Committee was formed, including representatives from across campus. Within a matter of weeks, the group had formulated a plan and put it to action.

“Someone’s name and pronouns are deeply personal,” said Kristin Johnston, student engagement advisor in the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement (OMSE). “Our team worked with urgency to address this need on campus, and we’re excited to be able to offer this capability while also sparking important awareness and potential dialogue about identity.”

WSU offers more information and about pronouns, including common questions and resources, on its WSU Pride website.

Instructions to add or update your preferred pronouns are available online. If your preferred pronoun is not listed as an option, please email pride@wayne.edu.  

Personal Pronouns Tech Committee Members

  • Nathan Chavez, associate director of academic applications, Computing & Information Technology
  • Kurt Kruschinska, university registrar, Office of the Registrar
  • Simone Chess, associate professor of English, director of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Michael Schmidt, academic services officer, student engagement coordinator and adjunct lecturer, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program, department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Cynthia Aguirre-Gutierrez, enterprise IT relationship manager, Computing & Information Technology
  • Danishi Bedi, student majoring in public health in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, director of student services, Student Senate
  • Huan Yan, senior director of enterprise applications, Computing & Information Technology
  • Ken Smith, business process and intelligence specialist, Student Success
  • Stephanie Hawkes, assistant director for the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement
  • Tonya Whitehead, associate director of the Office for Teaching and Learning
  • Kristin Johnston, advisor for student engagement, Office of Multicultural Student Engagement
  • Brandon Shamoun, coordinator of student engagement, Dean of Students Office
  • Liza Lagman-Sperl, registration manager, Office of the Registrar

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