How Do I Set Up a Preferred or Chosen Name?

Many members of the Sierra College community use names other than their legal given names. A preferred (or chosen) name is a name that someone commonly uses that is different from their legal given name. 

Although Sierra College uses the phrase “preferred name,” for many people, this name is not simply a preference: it is the only name they use and it is central to their identity. For this reason, the following communication also uses the phrase “chosen name.”

Why is it important to use someone’s preferred/chosen name?

Names are an important part of who we are. When someone’s name is mispronounced or misused, it can make them feel disrespected, invisible and/or dismissed. Research shows that when the preferred/chosen name of people who are trans is used consistently, for example, it both affirms their gender identity and reduces mental health risks.  It also allows members of the campus community to use a preferred/chosen first name on campus without pursuing a legal change of their first name.

Inclusion is an essential component of well-being and having a sense of belonging. Using someone’s preferred/chosen name: 

  • validates their identity
  • helps make them feel like they belong to the space 
  • signals to them that you can be a supportive contact on campus 

It also sends a message of inclusion to all students, staff and faculty in the district (including when attending classes, eating on campus or borrowing library books).

At Sierra, we are moving the campus culture to one where students are known by their preferred/chosen name. A preferred name is about what students want to be called, not what other people prefer to call them. Students should indicate a preferred name only if they want staff and faculty to refer to them by a name that is different from their legal name. 

In order to help build a culture of inclusion at Sierra College, staff and faculty are strongly encouraged to respect and properly pronounce the name that students use, whether it is their legal name or not.

Who might use a preferred/chosen name?

  • Students, staff and faculty who have a given name they are commonly known by (e.g., Bill for William; DJ for Donna Jo).
  • Students, staff and faculty who have a given name that is commonly mispronounced (e.g., Andrew Siobhan instead of Andrzej Siobhan).*
  • Students, staff and faculty who use an anglicized or westernized given name (e.g., Emily instead of Xinlan; Freddie instead of Farrokh).
  • Students, faculty and staff who self-identify as transgender, Two-spirit, and gender-nonconforming who choose a name that reflects their gender identity or expression (e.g., Yasmin instead of Ashkan; Jo instead of Josephine).
  • International students who have preferred/chosen to use a nickname during their course of study in the US.

Please note: Many people with given names that are unfamiliar or harder to pronounce to English speakers want to use their legal name. In order to help build a culture of inclusion at Sierra, staff, faculty and students are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with names that are new to them.

Where can a preferred/chosen name be used at Sierra? Where must a legal name be used at Sierra?

Where will my preferred/chosen name be used?

If a student has entered a preferred name when applying to Sierra College via CCC Apply, they can expect to see this name used in the following places:
  • Canvas
  • Student ID Card (Coming Soon)
  • Library systems (Coming Soon)
  • Class Rosters 
  • Degree Works (Coming Soon)
  • District approved online coursework discussion groups
  • SARS/Counseling Center
  • Sierra Connect as well as other scheduling and student support/retention software
  • Diplomas
  • Student email account
  • Health Center Check In
Where will my legal name be used?

Your legal name will be used in business and other processes that require use of a legal name. These include:

  • Academic Certifications
  • Cashier's Office Documentation
  • Campus Security 
  • Federal and State Requests for Information
  • Financial Aid
  • International Student Documentation (SEVIS, USCIS)
  • National Student Clearinghouse
  • NCAA specific Athletics Rosters
  • Official and Unofficial Transcripts
  • Paychecks and pay stubs
  • Student Employment 
  • Tax documents
  • Human Resources Records
  • Any off-campus communications (such as any letter sent to a permanent address, communication with emergency personnel, licensing boards)

Please note: We make every effort to work with our technology vendors to use the preferred/chosen name, but it’s not always possible. At this time, a preferred/chosen name may not appear on all Sierra systems and services since not all Sierra systems are centralized. If you encounter inconsistent information related this topic on other Sierra College webpages, or if you find yourself in a situation where Sierra’s policies are not being followed, please contact the Student Engagement Centers or Admissions and Records. Any changes may take 48 hours to take effect.

How do I request a preferred/chosen name?

Students may request a preferred/chosen first name by submitting a Preferred/Chosen Name form in person at Admissions and Records.

Please note:

  • All requests are reviewed and processed within 3-5 business days.  
  • A student can make one legal name change request per academic year.   
  • If the preferred/chosen name form is submitted after the beginning of the semester, the student must inform their instructors of the change since instructors print their rosters before the semester begins.    

Disclaimer: The district acknowledges that as long as the use of a preferred/chosen name is not for the purpose of misrepresentation, the preferred/chosen name should be used whenever possible in the course of district business and education.  

It is further understood that the student's preferred/chosen name should be used in district communications and reporting, except where the use of the legal name is necessitated by legal requirement.  Abuse of the name change policy (i.e., names containing profanity, abusive, or vulgar content) is in violation of the student code of conduct and may result in disciplinary action. 

How do I update my preferred/chosen name?

Students may go to Admissions and Records or the Student Engagement Center to submit a Preferred/Chosen Name form

Disclaimer: Sierra College acknowledges the limitations of our software system which defaults to the language "preferred name change."  We recognize, "preferred name" is not representative to our transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary students.  The intent of this policy is to streamline the process for students to have reflected the name that reflects their identity.  As explained in district policy (updated version coming Spring 2020), there are cases in which a legal name change is required but, where, possible Sierra College will honor a student's preferred/chosen name.

Are there any preferred/chosen name restrictions?

Preferred/chosen names may not be used for purposes of fraud or misrepresentation. The district reserves the right to remove a preferred/chosen name if it contains inappropriate or offensive language.

Does a preferred/chosen first name affect my legal name?

No. An approved preferred/chosen name does not change your legal name.

What can students do if their preferred/chosen name is not being used properly?

Make sure to be familiar with instances where chosen/preferred names can and cannot be used at Sierra College.

Students might still see their legal name, rather than preferred/chosen name, in some online systems and communications. This is due to the complexity of Sierra’s information systems and the inability of some systems to share information. 

Sierra is working to create a more unified experience that would only display legal given name when legally required.

Students can discuss instances when their preferred/chosen name is not being used with their counselor, or the professional staff in the Student Engagement Centers or with the Office of Student Equity and Engagement.

What impact can a preferred/chosen name have after graduation?

While Sierra College allows students to indicate a preferred/chosen name without changing their legal name(s), it is important to think about possible impacts after graduation, such as:

  • Official documents. These are often used to verify one’s identity when applying for work, or additional education. Some employers, licensing bodies, or other educational institutions may question the use of a preferred/chosen name in daily or informal correspondence. This discrepancy happens when institutions rely on legal names to be used consistently.
  • Someone is using a preferred name consistently. This may cause some confusion in situations where official documents have to be provided. For example, employers might be confused about a Sierra College student portfolio that uses a preferred name while the transcripts use a legal name.

Legally changing a name is the best way to avoid confusion and ensure that someone is consistently addressed using the name that best reflects how they want to be known on campus and beyond. 


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Article ID: 85135
Mon 8/19/19 11:20 AM
Wed 3/15/23 1:01 PM