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General Questions

Why is this project happening?  

In 2018, the University established the Gender Queer, Non-Binary and Trans (GQNBT) Task Force, which was co-sponsored by The Office of the Provost, Student Affairs and Human Resources. The Task Force was charged to assess the current landscape at Northwestern to identify gaps in policies and resources, and to recommend gender inclusive strategies that will facilitate a more accessible, safer, and welcoming campus environment for gender expansive students, faculty, and staff at Northwestern.

One of the critical priority areas of the Task Force was “Respecting and Affirming Names and Identity” and they recommended Northwestern create a centralized, “one-stop” identity management system that would feed into all other systems. The name and pronouns project is an effort to realize this recommendation.

What is a display name and why would I use it?

Many people use a name that is different than their legal name (e.g., preferred name, nickname, professional name). A display name is designed to allow people to choose which name they would like to be displayed throughout Northwestern university systems.    

What’s the difference between the legal name, display name and professional name fields? 

  • Legal name is typically your name given at birth and recorded on your birth certificate or the name used to identify you for legal, administrative or official purposes.  
  • Display name is your name as you would like it to appear in university systems (if different from your legal name). We are educating our Northwestern community to use display name in interactions with each other.
  • Professional name is your name as you would like to use it for professional purposes (e.g., publishing). Many staff already use the professional name field. The display name field will now replace the professional name field.
Note: A select few Northwestern staff members are required as part of their job responsibilities to have access to the legal name field (i.e., for insurance purposes).

Will anyone still see my legal name?

MyHR is the system of record for all Northwestern community members who receive payments via Human Resources. Those receiving payments include staff and faculty, graduate students and student scholarship recipients, as well as student, work-study, and non-student temporary workers.  


Because payments must be submitted and paid using legal name due to benefits processing and federal and state reporting, your legal name will remain viewable in myHR to authorized colleagues who process payments for their areas as well as to central Human Resources staff.   


Although the legal name field will remain available, your display name is now the default name appearing on the majority of myHR pages. Staff with myHR access are requested to use display name for all interactions with community members.

What if I already use a Professional or Preferred name?

Updating your information in NUValidate replaces the former editing methods that were in CAESAR and myHR. For those who already have Professional (HR) or Preferred (CAESAR) names, those will be migrated to the new system. 

Do I have to enter a display name? 

No. If you use your legal name in everyday life and would like to be referred to by that name, you do not need to enter a display name. The system will default to your legal name if no display name is entered

Who can I talk to if I need support or want more information?

  • For technology-related issues, contact the Northwestern IT Service Desk at or 847-491-4357 (1-HELP).  
  • For questions about the System Updates project, email 
  • For more specific assistance, explore the resources at the bottom of our System Updates for Names and Pronouns page.  

About Pronouns

What are pronouns?

Pronouns are a way for other people to refer to you without using your name (e.g., she/her or they/them).

Why would I list my pronouns, or need to know someone else’s pronouns? 

The pronouns someone uses do not always align with their gender identity or gender expression, so it’s important not to assume someone’s pronouns. Someone may use more than one pronoun set (e.g., zir/he) and the pronouns someone uses can change over time. If you’re unsure of someone’s pronouns, it’s best to ask (i.e., “What pronouns do you use?”).

How was this list of pronouns created? 

Staff members from the Women’s Center and the Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion compiled an extensive list of pronoun sets based on best practices and current information. That list was shared with key stakeholders across Northwestern for feedback and then updated.  

Why can’t I select more than one option for pronouns? 

Currently, we are only able to offer the drop-down feature to select one option and we cannot offer a write-in option. We have included some multi-set pronouns in the list for selection (i.e., he/she/they).

What if my pronouns are not in this list? 

There are some combinations of pronouns that are not listed due to character limits within pronoun sets. If you use pronouns that are not included in this list, email the Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (OIDI) at to request to add your pronouns to the system. We will revisit the list periodically to make updates. 

Do I have to enter pronouns? 

No. You are not required to enter pronouns.

Can I change my pronouns? 

Yes. You can change your pronouns at any time or opt out of providing your pronouns altogether.