Mississippi University for Women
Former names
Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls of Mississippi (1884–1920)
Mississippi State College for Women (1920–1974)
TypePublic liberal arts college
EstablishedMarch 12, 1884; 140 years ago (1884-03-12)
Parent institution
Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning[1]
Academic affiliations
Endowment$43.8 million (2017)
PresidentNora Miller
ProvostScott Tollison
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students2,339 (Fall 2022)[2]
Location, ,
United States

33°29′35″N 88°25′7″W / 33.49306°N 88.41861°W / 33.49306; -88.41861
CampusRemote town[3], 114 acres (0.46 km2)
Other campusesTupelo
NewspaperMUW Spectator
ColorsW blue and welty blue[4]
Sporting affiliations
MascotOdy the Owl
Front view of the campus

Mississippi University for Women (MUW or "The W") is a coeducational public university in Columbus, Mississippi. It was formerly named the Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls[5] and later the Mississippi State College for Women. Men have been admitted to MUW since 1982[6] and as of 2022 made up 23 percent of the student body.[2] As a public liberal arts college, MUW is one of just 30 universities in the United States and Canada to be selected for membership in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

Looking north on Serenade Drive
Physical distance sign behind Callaway Hall


The institution, initially named the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls, was created by an act of the Mississippi Legislature on March 12, 1884, for the dual purposes of providing a liberal arts education for white women and preparing them for employment.[7] The Industrial Institute and College (II&C) was cofounded through the efforts of three Mississippi women – Sallie Eola Reneau, Annie Coleman Peyton, and Olivia Valentine Hastings.[7] Upon its establishment, the II&C was the first public women's college in the United States. The II&C was located in Columbus on a campus formerly occupied by the Columbus Female Institute, a private college founded in 1847. The II&C's first session began on October 22, 1885,[7] with an enrollment of approximately 250 students. Richard Watson Jones was selected by the State Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees as the university's first president. President Jones also taught physics and chemistry at the institute, and he was joined that first year by 17 additional faculty members.[7]

The name of the institution changed to Mississippi State College for Women in 1920 to reflect an emphasis on collegiate, rather than vocational, education.

In 1966, three local women from Hunt High School became the first black undergraduates at MSCW. They lived off campus, as the dormitories remained segregated until 1968. At the same time, three teachers from Hunt became the first graduate students at the school. The students were known collectively as The Fabulous Six.[8][9]

In 1974, the name was changed to the Mississippi University for Women to reflect the expanded academic programs, including graduate studies. All other Mississippi state colleges were also designated universities at this time.

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan that the nursing school's single-sex admissions policies were in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Following this decision, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning ordered the university to change its policies to allow the admission of qualified men into all university programs. In 1988, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed the mission of MUW as an institution providing quality academic programs for all qualified students, with emphasis on distinctive opportunities for women.

In a 1997 article in Innovative Higher Education, Dale Thorn described MUW's successful attempt to avoid a merger with another institution and to remain a separate entity.[10]

In 2009, President Claudia Limbert announced the possibility of changing the university's name to "Reneau University". The Mississippi State legislature did not approve the change.[11]

On February 1, 2019, Nora Roberts Miller was inaugurated as the first alumna president of Mississippi University for Women.[12] She was named the 15th president on September 15, 2018, by the State Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees.[13]

On January 8, 2024, the university announced a proposal to change its name to Mississippi Brightwell University. This proposal, which would not be made official until July 1, 2024, will require approval from Mississippi lawmakers before taking effect. According to the school's president, Nora Miller, this name is in reference to several aspects of MUW culture and tradition stating “The rebrand is intended to better mirror the University’s current vision, mission and the dynamic times we are living in, providing a more apt representation of our diverse and vibrant student body”. The name also reflects the school’s motto “We study for light to bless with light” which Miller states is indicative of school culture stating “Our motto epitomizes the enduring essence of a supportive, inclusive and empowered community. Our distinguished faculty – beacons of enlightenment and a wellspring of knowledge – collaborate with each of our students one-on-one.” The name also serves as a reference to the university’s honor societies, Torch and Lantern, and references a tradition in which nursing graduates would light a lantern at their pinning ceremony as a “source of reliability, goodwill and warmth”.[14] After backlash from alumni and local residents, Miller announced that the naming task force would reconvene to choose another name.[15]

On February 13, 2024, Miller announced via livestream from the front steps of Poindexter Hall that the task force had selected a new name: Wynbridge State University of Mississippi. However, on February 21, Miller released a statement on the university's website announcing that the name change initiative had been halted, stating in part, "While we remain committed to a future name change, we will regroup and re-examine our processes, ways of engaging with our alumni base, and the many needs surrounding finding a name that captures the unique history as well as the contemporary qualities of our university."


In 2022, U.S. News & World Report ranked The W 15th as a best value among public Southern regional universities and 18th among the top public schools. The university also lands in the top 10 on the social mobility scale.[16]


The MUW athletic teams are called the Owls (formerly known as the Blues). The university is a member in the NCAA Division III ranks, primarily competing in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) since the 2022–23 academic year. The Owls are also a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA). The program competed as an NCAA D-III Independent from 2019–20 to 2021–22. Previously, the teams participated in the NCAA Division II ranks, primarily competing in the Gulf South Conference (GSC), from 1993–94 to 2002–03. At the end of that school year, the university dropped its athletics program.

MUW competes in 15 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball.


Originally a women's institution, it became a co-educational university in 1982, but men's sports were not introduced until the 2017–18 school year (when the school re-instated its athletic program and joined the USCAA) with baseball, cross country, and soccer; basketball, golf, and tennis began the following year, and track and field the year after.

The damage from a November 10, 2002, F3 tornado caused MUW to cancel athletic programs until 2017. The tornado ripped through the MUW campus, particularly on the southern half of campus. Nearly half (26 of 60) buildings on campus were damaged, some heavily; the Edna Pohl gymnasium was leveled.

In June 2021, MUW was admitted to the SLIAC as a full member to begin play during the 2022–23 academic year.[17] MUW became an active Division III member that year.


MUW (then known as Mississippi State College for Women) won the 1971 national championship in women's basketball, defeating West Chester State, 57–55. In the 1972 AIAW National Basketball Championship, MSCW finished fourth, losing in the semifinals to the legendary Immaculata team.

In 1971, Mississippi State College for Women won the intercollegiate women's basketball national championship (the third ever held).[18] In March 2019, the women's basketball team won the USCAA National Championship after defeating the University of Maine at Fort Kent.[19]

Notable alumni

Notable MUW alumni include:

See also


  1. ^ "IHL System - About".
  2. ^ a b "Mississippi University for Women". Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  3. ^ "IPEDS-Mississippi University for Women".
  4. ^ "Official Colors".
  5. ^ "For The Education of White Girls - In Their Footsteps: Desegregation of The W". MUW. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  6. ^ "COURT SAYS SCHOOL CANNOT BAR MEN". The New York Times. July 2, 1982. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d Pieschel, Bridget Smith. "The History of Mississippi University for Women". Mississippi Historical Society. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  8. ^ "Barbara Turner Bankhead and Laverne Greene Leech". Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "Desegregation 2016: 50th Anniversary of the Desegregation of The W". Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  10. ^ Thorn, J. Dale (1997). "When a Trial Threatens to Merge Small Universities: The Role of Litigation Public Relations in a Federal Desegregation Case". Innovative Higher Education. 22 (2): 101–115. doi:10.1023/A:1025193323375. eISSN 1573-1758.
  11. ^ "MUW name change: Research sheds new light on Reneau's history". Cdispatch.com. July 11, 2009. Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  12. ^ "MUW installs first graduate as president". The Clarion Ledger.
  13. ^ "Trustees name Nora Miller named 15th president of MUW". The Clarion Ledger.
  15. ^ Blake, Jessica (January 30, 2024). "A Rebrand Gone Awry Prompts a Redo". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  16. ^ "Mississippi University for Women Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  17. ^ "SLIAC Accepts MUW as Member" (Press release). Saint Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. June 17, 2021. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  18. ^ "Pre-NCAA Statistical Leaders and AIAW Results" (PDF). NCAA. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  19. ^ Robb, Courtney (March 9, 2019). MUW Women’s Basketball Wins USCAA National Championship WCBI Retrieved August 15. 2021
  20. ^ "CNN/AllPolitics.com - Election 2000 - The Democratic National Convention". Archived from the original on December 22, 2006.
  21. ^ Kizer, Monica (September 15, 2016). "'Those Who Dared' honors desegregation anniversary, first African-American students". MUW Spectator. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  22. ^ "Hall of Fame Inventor Profile, Elizabeth Lee Hazen". Archived from the original on March 15, 2009.
  23. ^ "Valerie Jaudon on artnet".
  24. ^ Rodriguez, Fred H. (June 2009). "Emma Sadler Moss, MD: The First Woman Director of the Department of Pathology at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and the First Woman President of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists". Laboratory Medicine. 40 (6): 377–378. doi:10.1309/LMIO8Q47EDQBNUZD.
  25. ^ "Chief Justice Lenore Prather Supreme Court of Mississippi".
  26. ^ Levine, Sara. "Star-a-Day: Linkie Marais". Food Network. Retrieved September 19, 2021.