Preferred Name Policy

What is a Preferred First Name?

Some Sonoma State University students are known by a first name that is different from their legal first name. In an effort to accommodate these students the University has created a preferred first name option for student information as it appears in select locations. While anyone is welcome to use a preferred first name, there are several groups of people for whom this option is invaluable. For example, some students are known by a middle name or a nickname and are hard to identify when their legal name is used. Additionally, this option will allow transgender students to use a preferred first name on campus prior to or without pursuing a legal change of their first name. Many international students may also find this option helpful if they use a nickname during their course of study in the States.

Currently enrolled students are now able to go to their MySSU Student Center and set a preferred first and/or middle name, defined as a name by which the student wishes to be commonly known if different from the student’s legal first/middle name. At this time, this preferred name will be seen in Canvas courses, on Class Rosters and Grade Rosters in Faculty Center, and you can obtain a new ID card (replacement charge applies). Over time, more systems will be adapted to display students’ preferred names.

The individual is free to determine the preferred name they want to be known by in the University's information systems. Establishing a preferred name does not automatically give the right to put the name on the SSU ID Card. Your SSU issued ID Card is your official university ID and is the property of Sonoma State University. SSU reserves the right to decline the ID holder’s request to print preferred name on the SSU ID Card if the name is deemed inappropriate. Inappropriate preferred names include but are not limited to those that avoid legal obligation, misrepresent, harass or threaten. In most cases, a preferred name should not be a message, company or group name, especially if it is for promotional purposes.

Some campus departments interact with, and send reports to federal, State and other government agencies that verify the identity of students using the legal name, in some cases Social Security Number, and other personal identifiable information which prohibits the use of preferred name.

Please be aware that inappropriate use of a preferred name may be a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and be referred to the Judicial Affairs Office. The University reserves the right to remove a preferred name if it is being used inappropriately or for misrepresentation or evading legal obligations.

In addition, indicating a preferred name will not change the student's e-mail address as it appears in the student’s record.

Important Notes

A student’s primary, or legal, name will continue to appear on diplomas, official and unofficial transcripts, and any documentation involving financial aid or student accounts. Students must also continue to use their primary names when conducting official University business. The primary name can only be changed by visiting the Office of the Registrar and filing a Personal Information Change Form. For more information see the How to Update Your Personal Information in Your MySSU FAQ


The University reserves the right to approve or disapprove preferred first name change requests.