User Stories: how Northwood Technical College is honoring graduates by getting their names right!
We often gloss over the simplicity of inclusion.
It’s all in the little things: the rituals we follow when interacting with friends and colleagues. Making someone feel included is in the details, and it starts from the second you meet: how you greet them, your tone of voice, and, naturally, how you pronounce their name.
Inclusion is a part of our needs as people: we want to feel like we’re a part of something greater than ourselves. It’s an integral part of our lives.
That’s why it’s so important that we’re taught its value early and frequently throughout our lives. We’ve written about inclusive education before, and we’ve since worked with several schools, colleges and universities to help make name pronunciation a part of their strategy.
As a part of our User Story series, we got to sit down with one of our most recent users, Northwood Technical College: a top-ranked college in Wisconsin that recently worked with NameShouts for their Class of 2022 Commencement Ceremony.
We spoke with Jade Peckels, Student Services Assistant at Northwood Technical College, who walked us through their journey with NameShouts.
Commencement is an emotional time. A celebration of achievement, but also a moment of reflection, a pause before the next step.
These make the stakes high for everyone: no event will ever go perfectly, but you do want to reflect the quality of your institution and showcase your commitment to their experience.
For the team behind the scenes, no detail is too small to consider. Jade reflects on how names
“You have two students walking across the stage that you've seen, but you haven't necessarily interacted enough with each of them to really learn their names. Then, of course, you factor in that you're in front of 400 people saying it. It ramps up the nervousness: who wants to mispronounce someone's name when their entire family and friends are there, you know?”
With all the details that come into play, it can be easy to overlook something like pronouncing the names of the students. But as student bodies become increasingly diverse, it’s important to remember that these are some of the most important details of the ceremony.
Northwood Tech was already aware of this issue, and had attempted to account for it by allowing students to submit the phonetic pronunciation of their names beforehand.
“It was always a mess. Speaking from experience. I could not spell my name phonetically to save my life. Like I have no idea… it's how it's written.”
Among all the other things to be sorted out as you approach graduation, this wasn’t something students needed to be responsible for as well.
That’s how Jade came across NameShouts. After Googling phonetic pronunciations and getting discouraged by the complexities of the International Phonetic Alphabet (what you might see on Wikipedia after a non-English word), Jade wasn’t sure how to proceed.
“There's no way that's gonna be on a card and we're gonna know what that means at a podium.I was looking for that read-it-as-it-sounds kind of spelling. And I came across your site and realized, ‘This is what we're looking for.’”
After finding his way to the NameShouts website and discovering our phonetic respellings, a plan began to form.
After working with NameShouts to develop a custom list in NameShouts 2.0, the Northwood team was able to print out that list, transfer the phonetic respellings to note cards, and have those approved by students before they walked into the ceremony.
On top of that, their podium speaker used the list to practice the name pronunciations a couple days in advance, helping her feel confident before the event:
“That was a crucial element as well. She was able to go through and listen to each of them, a couple days in advance. Just personally, I think it's a great concept.”
So how did it go?
“It went really well. We didn't have enough chairs for the faculty that showed up [laughing].”
Event planning is a stressful business, and as Jade mentions, sometimes you can really get stuck in the weeds.
That’s why it’s important to have the right tools on deck: anything that can make you feel more confident is critical to a smooth production.
With something like a graduation, you’re looking at a pivotal moment to showcase your commitment to student experience.
“We want students to feel supported when they come in here from, you know, the first step, all the way through walking stage of graduation”
Pronouncing their name right can mean all the difference in moments like that.
We were happy to help Northwood Tech and Jade out with this experience, and delighted to hear it went well. After all, many of our team has had that exact experience we’re describing here.
As for Jade:
“I can pretty much guarantee if I'm still in the position that I'm in come next graduation, I will be looking you up again.”
We’ll be here to help!
If you’re interested in setting up NameShouts for your organization, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.