This post originally appeared in the Node 4 newsletter.
Namecoach, a web-based tool that allows users to record and share the pronunciations of their names with others, will be available at no cost to all University of Utah students, faculty and staff and University of Utah Health personnel in Canvas, one of the university’s learning management systems, on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.
With Namecoach, a user can record the pronunciation of their name, enter its phonetic spelling and designate their gender pronouns. The recorded pronunciation, or Namebadge, is then available as a link they can add to their email signature, social media sites or their instructor’s class roster in Canvas.
Dr. Deborah Keyek-Franssen, associate vice president and dean for University Connected Learning, said Namecoach helps cultivate an inclusive learning environment and forges respectful relationships.
“Pronouncing someone’s name correctly is a powerful way to communicate that you care about them and that they’re a valuable member of the campus community.”
— Dr. Deborah Keyek-Franssen, associate vice president and dean for University Connected Learning
“Pronouncing someone’s name correctly is a powerful way to communicate that you care about them and that they’re a valuable member of the campus community,” she said. “With Namecoach, prospective students will feel that they belong at the U and are respected from the very beginning, all the way to their commencement ceremony. I hope to see Namecoach widely adopted and couldn’t be more excited that we’re introducing it at the University of Utah.”
Namecoach, which is funded by the university’s central administration, will go live in Microsoft as an add-in for non-mobile Teams and Outlook clients, including Outlook Web Access (OWA), before the fall semester starts on Aug. 21, 2023, according to Roy Schulz, manager for the UIT UMail & Collaboration team.
The tool has two parts: Namecoach Recorder, which allows users to record their names in an audio file via phone, web recorder or file uploader, and NameCoach Roster, which allows students and instructors to listen to and learn the names of others in a Canvas course.
Instructions on how to use Namecoach in Canvas are available in this IT Knowledge Base article.
Dr. Anne Cook, director of the Martha Bradley Evans Center for Teaching Excellence (MBE-CTE) and professor in the College of Education called Namecoach an “important step in the right direction in supporting student diversity and belonging.”
“Like personal pronouns, the spelling and pronunciation of an individual’s name is an important reflection of their personal identity,” Cook said. “Integrating this kind of tool within Canvas will help us demonstrate better support and respect for all members of the campus community.”
Botching someone’s name has a cost. A 2021 Namecoach survey found that 74% of respondents said they struggle with name pronunciation at work while 44% of respondents said their names were flubbed in an interview, an experience that left them feeling annoyed, disrespected, alienated or unimportant. The study also revealed that correctly pronouncing a name establishes psychological safety, the belief that one can speak up without the risk of punishment or humiliation, something the Harvard Business Review called a “critical driver of high-quality decision making, healthy group dynamics and interpersonal relationships, greater innovation, and more effective execution in organizations.”
According to the vendor’s website, Namecoach is used by more than 300 clients, and the University of Utah is the seventh Pac-12 school to adopt it. Namecoach complies with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Visit the NameCoach Commitment to Accessibility page for information about the software’s accessibility evaluation.
If you have questions about the U’s instance of Namecoach, your local IT support staff may be able to assist, or you may contact your respective help desk at UIT Help Desk (801-581-4000) or ITS Service Desk (801-587-6000).