Owning your identity

February 27, 2017

MacEwan University rolls out preferred name and gender identity options


Many people at MacEwan University identify themselves in a way that differs from their legal identity. Some like to be called by a first or last name other than their given name—a nickname, an anglicized version of a name or a step-parent’s last name. For others, their gender identity doesn’t match what’s on their birth certificate. Up until now, however, the university’s systems have only kept legal names and gender on file. This has led to some frustration and confusion as class rosters, email address books and directories have identified people in a way that contradicts their preference.

That’s about to change. Effective immediately, students, staff and faculty will have the option of identifying a preferred name in university systems, and students will have the option of changing their identified gender as well, empowering each person to define their own identity.

According to Michelle Plouffe, vice-president, general counsel and compliance officer, the change is part of a larger effort to bring the university to a place of greater inclusion. “It came about as part of some initiatives we’re working on to support gender and sexual minorities, though it will benefit people who want to use a preferred name for other reasons as well,” she explains. “Some students had raised concerns that the system made it difficult to change to their preferred name or gender marker. Their legal name would follow them throughout the system. So we’re making changes that allow people to be who they are. As an institution it’s a priority to support students in this way.”

The university is proud to have taken this step, though Michelle sees it as only the beginning of a major shift toward a more inclusive environment. “This is just the start. We still have far to go,” she says. “I think we’re getting the word out to our community that this is a safe and inclusive space, but we can’t stop here. We have to keep moving forward because this is what our students want and it’s what our university community wants.”

Here is everything you need to know about updating your preferred name or gender.

What you can change

Students, staff and faculty can update your preferred first and/or last name to any name you prefer—that could be a nickname, a middle name or something completely different from what appears on your legal identification.

Students can also update their gender identity to either male, female or gender minority. “We’d prefer to have a blank space for people to fill in how they identify, but currently our system just doesn’t allow us to do that,” explains Michelle. “So our Gender and Sexual Minority Working Group landed on ‘gender minority’ as a recommendation because it was more inclusive and open than just male or female.”

Where your preferred name and gender will appear

“We’ve worked to make sure our internal systems talk to each other, so now when you go in to change your name or gender, it’s automatic that all systems will update,” says Michelle.

Your preferred name will appear in the following places:

  • Blackboard
  • myStudentSystem
  • Class/grade rosters
  • Library/university ID card (replacement card must be requested at the library)
  • GroupWise address book
  • Faculty members’ preferred names will appear in class search results

Please note, your legal name will still be used on any legal documentation, such as tax receipts, transcripts, university credentials, T4 or record of employment.

How to update preferred name or gender

Please visit the Office of the University Registrar website for complete instructions on updating your preferred name and gender identity.

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