NameCoach in the News
Check out articles about NameCoach and its impact on campuses across the country.
With the goal of creating a more inclusive campus community and classroom, NameCoach directly addressess the problem of name mispronunciation. Rather than repeatedly putting students on the spot or subjecting faculty to trial and error, students and faculty will have access to NameCoach in every Canvas course. Jaci Casazza, University Registrar, believes NameCoach will help bring a greater comfort level in faculty-student interactions.
Learning names at the beginning of the term has long been a challenge for instructors—especially when the names are ones professors have never encountered before. There are companies like NameCoach that give professors a way to hear and review the correct pronunciation before classes even begin.
Indian comedian Vir Das does this insanely funny bit about being an Indian in America and how teachers always butchered his, and his friends names. Although the bit is funny as heck, and the mispronunciation of student names isn’t typically intentional it can be embarrassing and disheartening, especially at an important event like commencement.
Praveen Shanbhag says no more. That’s why he created NameCoach.
Hundreds of schools in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have turned to NameCoach to solve commencement dilemmas.
Shanbhag, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, now living in Palo Alto, Calif., believes the future of NameCoach can stretch to various industries, including sales reps, customer service reps and even in the healthcare space, he said. Some of the improvements he is gearing toward is having a general pronunciation database as well as proving more data with the name badge, including country of origin, the story behind the name and the meaning of the name itself.
The first day of class usually comes with its inevitable stressors, but Stanford University is trying to ensure that for its nonbinary and gender-nonconforming students, anxiety over having to correct professors about their pronouns isn't one of them.
“We want to encourage a culture of respect on campus, and one of the best ways to convey respect to someone is to get their name right – and to get their pronouns right, too,” University Registrar Tom Black said.
Commencement can be a stressful time, and not only for soon-to-be graduates and their families. A recent survey found that hearing one’s name called over the public address system is overwhelmingly the most important issue for graduates and their families, well ahead of having a good speaker or good seating. Technology has simplified the process. Last year, Union was among the first schools to use the NameCoach app for commencement, which McCarty said has been “tremendously helpful.”
“Pronouncing a person’s name right is all about taking the time to respect someone’s sense of identity,” said Shanbhag, founder and CEO of NameCoach. “Academia is succeeding in creating a more diverse community and more diverse campuses and with that comes more diverse names. Respecting people’s identity is a core element of inclusion. Names are a core part of that, they’re a core element of who a person is and where they come from.”
There are many guides to making a first impression, networking, interviewing, and socializing, but most seem to start with what you are wearing and jump to what to talk about. What happens in between is the most simple yet most tricky aspect of all - how do you want others to pronounce your name?
The software from the Palo Alto-based company, which raised a $1 million seed round last year, has been or will be used by over 250 universities in commencement proceedings this spring, including New York University, Columbia University, and Stanford.
The last thing graduating collegians want to hear, after four years of hard work, and with bursting-with-pride relatives present at commencement ceremonies, is announcers butchering their names. Hamline University for decades saw this happen again and again, despite commencement organizers’ sincere efforts to get graduates’ name pronunciations right. This year, the St. Paul-based institution is tapping into tech to get this issue licked once and for all in time for graduation ceremonies.
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For many immigrant families, schools are the first places where they and their children experience the culture and values of their new home country. So it’s important that students feel respected and welcomed, and don’t feel alienated from their peers or teachers. Good intentions can quickly be overshadowed when a student’s name is mispronounced, and done so repeatedly by many people.
Praveen Shanbhag is a smart guy with a PhD in Philosophy. Like most philosophers, he spends time asking good questions. Questions like, "why can't universities (who employ really smart people) pronounce the names of their students correctly at graduation ceremonies?" Unlike most philosophers, Praveen went beyond asking; this son of Indian immigrants started a company to help us get each other's names right. We have a name for that: Genius!
Stanford University, whose students gave us the modern search engine, the modern sneaker company, and the modern method of money transfer, is finally tackling a native challenge: commencement. At graduation ceremonies over the past weekend, eight departments at the university used a web-based service that allows students to record their names before commencement for the benefit of whoever reads aloud the list of graduates.