Preferred Name

The University of Wisconsin-Madison began a phased implementation of the Preferred Name Policy in Fall 2013. The goal of the Preferred Name policy is a consistent preferred name experience across University systems and use of one's preferred name wherever legal name is not absolutely necessary. The University of Wisconsin infrastructure is multi-faceted and complex, and while many systems already reflect a person's preferred name, there are still many other systems where the implementation of preferred name is forthcoming. 

Preferred First and Middle Name Background

In September 2013, the University established a preferred first and/or middle name policy that allows eligible students, faculty and staff to indicate their preferred first name to the university community regardless of whether they have legally changed their name.

In March 2015, the University implemented additional enhancements to allow the campus community to customize the way their last names appear in several university applications, including the Outlook Web App in Office 365. 


It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin – Madison that any faculty, staff, or student may choose to identify themselves within the university community with a preferred first and/or middle name that differs from their legal name.

As long as the use of the preferred first and/or middle name is not for the purpose of misrepresentation, it will appear instead of the person’s legal name in university related systems and documents except where the use of the legal name is required by university business or legal need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to enter a preferred name?

No you do not have to enter a preferred name. This is there as a service for people who wish to be known by something other than their primary/legal name. \ If you regularly use your primary/legal name then please do not enter a preferred name. If you enter a preferred name that matches your primary/legal name the preferred name will not be displayed.

How do I set a preferred name?

If you are a student and an employee you can enter your preferred name in either portlet and it will be used in all participating campus systems.  It is not necessary to enter it in both portlets.

Can I use my preferred name for everything at the University?

  • Preferred name will only be used in cases where legal name is not absolutely necessary. Examples of where your primary/legal name are necessary include, but are not limited to, financial aid documents, payroll, official transcripts, diplomas, and federal immigration documents. In some cases if you indicate a preferred name, it may be necessary to clarify that your preferred name is different that your legal/primary name. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, official interactions with police, security, and/or law enforcement, and verification of medical records. 
  • The University's phased implementation of preferred name began in Fall 2013 and will occur over time. In some cases like class rosters, your preferred name may appear alongside your legal/primary name. This is to ensure that professors and instructors can verify attendance and record grades accurately. The goal of the phased implementation is a consistent name experience across University systems and the use of preferred name everywhere, except when legally necessary. Full implementation of the Preferred Name Policy will take time. There are many different information systems across campus, it is the responsibility of the system owner to update their system to use preferred name.

When will my preferred name show up on my class roster?

  • The University uses several different types of class rosters. Preferred name will begin to appear in September 2013 on rosters that are produced directly through the SIS student records system.  Due to the phased implementation, preferred name will not be available on all types of rosters immediately.

My Preferred Name appears in the directory, but no where else, how do I fix that?

The phased implementation of preferred name, which began in Fall 2013, will include listings in the directory for current faculty, staff, and students. As systems throughout the University adopt the use of preferred name, it will appear in more places. The goal of the phased implementation is a consistent name experience across University systems and the use of preferred name everywhere, except when legally necessary.

Will my preferred name appear in the UW Directory?

Yes, your preferred name, once it is changed via My UW, will appear in the directory along with your primary/legal name.  You do have the option to hide your primary/legal name in the directory. Please note, if you hide your primary/legal name in the directory, people will only be able to search for you in the directory by your preferred name, not your primary/legal name.

If I indicate a preferred name, am I able to hide my primary/legal name in the directory?

  • If for example, Buckingham Badger changed their preferred name to Bucky Badger, and indicated that they would like to hide their primary/legal name, they will only be findable by searching "Bucky" and not "Buckingham".
  •  To “hide” your primary/legal name from the University directory, please email Please note that it may take up to 24 hours for this change to take effect.  Please send the email from your email account and include your primary/legal name and CampusID.
  • If you have any concerns about your primary/legal name appearing alongside your preferred name, please contact the Preferred Name Team before entering your preferred name in the MyUW portal.  We would like to provide you with information about the use of preferred and primary/legal name on campus and what you can expect should you decide it is necessary to hide your primary/legal name in the University directory.  If you are fine with preferred and primary/legal name appearing together on your directory entry please feel free to enter your preferred name and then email

How many times can I change my preferred name?

Changing your primary/legal name in University systems to a preferred name can have ripple effects throughout your day-to-day experiences. Changing your preferred name more than once can lead to confusion regarding your identity, challenges in customer service, and/or the interruption of your ability to access some University systems.

Can I change my preferred name to whatever I want?

Preferred names are limited to alphabetical characters (A-Z and a-z), a space or hyphen (-). Your preferred name will appear exactly as you enter it in the portal.

It is a violation of the UW-Madison Preferred Name Policy to indicate a preferred name for the purposes of misrepresentation or fraud. Fraud and misrepresentation may also violate UWS Student Nonacademic Misconduct Chapter 17.09.09, 17.09.10, and/or 17.09.11.

Once entered, a user's preferred name may take up to 48 hours to reach affected systems. New preferred names are reviewed each weekday by a member of the Preferred Name Team. 

What happens if someone enters an inappropriate preferred name?

Any preferred names that may be deemed by a reasonable person to be an attempt at misrepresentation, fraud, or interpreted as offensive will be removed by a member of the Preferred Name Team. As a result of the removal of the potentially inappropriate preferred name:

  • A user's primary/legal name will return as the default name displayed on affected University systems.
  • The Wiscard Office will be notified of the removed name.

Should a Wiscard have already been issued displaying the inappropriate preferred name:

  • Wiscard services connected to the Wiscard with the inappropriate preferred name will be suspended and the card invalidated.
  • The cardholder will be asked to surrender the invalid Wiscard.
  • A new Wiscard will be issued to the cardholder at their own cost (replacement Wiscards cost $25).
  • For students, refusal to surrender the invalid card may be violation of UWS 17 and cases may be forwarded to the Dean of Students Office.
  • Cases of misuse and refusal to surrender invalid Wiscards by faculty or staff will be forwarded to the appropriate human resources representative in their respective school, college, or department.
  • The above process will be facilitated by a member of the Preferred Name Team.


Can I change my NetID if I use a preferred name?

No, NetID is determined by an algorithm based on your primary/legal name and is not impacted by a preferred name.

Can any member of the UW community indicate a preferred name?

Current UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff who have an active NetID may indicate a preferred name in My UW.

Will my preferred name appear on my Wiscard?

Beginning in June 2014, your preferred name may appear on your Wiscard. In order for your name to appear on your Wiscard, you must have already indicated your preferred name in myUW. Not that this change may take up to 48 hours to take full effect. 

If your preferred name has been properly entered via myUW, then you may requesrt a Wiscard with your preferred name indicated on the front face. Your primary/legal name will appear on the back side for purposes of identity verification.

If you already have a Wiscard and wish to have a new Wiscard with your preferred name, you will be asked to surrender your old Wiscard. Replacement Wiscards are provided free of charge with the surrender of your old Wiscard.


How do I delete my preferred name?

If you have entered a preferred name and later decide that you would prefer to use your primary/legal name everywhere on campus, simply go to the MyUW portlet and click the delete button. Note: it may take up to 24 hours for the change to be registered in all campus systems.

I have more questions about my preferred name and/ or the Preferred Name Policy, who can I contact?

  • If you have other questions about the policy, or would like to talk with someone to find out if indicating a preferred name would meet your needs, please email

How do I correct or change my legal name at the University?

Students: You can correct or change your legal name by filling out the Office of the Registrar name change form ( and supplying a legal ID or documentation that references your new name. Examples of documentation are Driver’s License, Birth Certificate, Passport, court or other legal document.

Employees: Employees should contact the Office of Human Resources for information about changing your legal name.

How does the preferred name policy affect F-1 & J-1 visa students?

Preferred name is for use within the university community. International students may feel free to select a preferred name for on-campus use. However, this does not apply in situations where one's legal name is required to be used. For the purpose of F-1 or J-1 student visa status, the legal name must be used on I-20s and DS-2019s. An individual's legal name is what appears in the passport.

The university began the phased implementation of preferred names across University systems just recently, so that places where your preferred name will appear may be, at first, limited. Places where you may already be able to see your preferred name reflected include some class rosters, your myUW portal, and the directory. Expect more university systems to reflect your preferred name as the year progresses. Questions regarding the use of preferred name and the preferred name policy can be sent here:




University of Wisconsin-Madison
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333 East Campus Mall #10101
Madison, WI 53715-1384
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