What's in a Name? Exploring Feds' Rebrand

Feds logo
Lisa Umholtz
Communications & Media Relations Specialist
Thu, 07/11/2019 - 11:30

In case you missed it, the Federation of Students will soon be known as the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association!

The name change is just one part of a larger organization rebrand. So... what exactly does that mean?

Why undergo a rebrand?

Don’t be afraid to admit it. Whether you’re brand new to the University of Waterloo or you’re practically poised to graduate, you’ve probably asked this question at some point: just what is Feds anyway?

As the undergraduate student association at the University of Waterloo, every undergraduate student is a member of Feds. So, if our members have to ask who we are and what we do, it's time for us to build a better, more solid relationship with our members. That's where the rebrand comes in.

It's more than a name change, or an updated logo. It's a shift in how we represent what we do and a focus on strengthening our relationship with you.

What is a rebrand, anyway?

Our rebrand will involve visual changes like a new name, logo, and marketing concept, but its purpose is to develop a new perception with our members that better represents who we are and what we do, thereby building a stronger relationship with our stakeholders (that's you!).

Internally, it means revisiting our reason for existence (also you!), reaffirming our commitment to students in our operations, and reexamining areas for improvement.

So although what we’re here to do won’t change - to represent and serve you - the goal of the rebrand is to better reflect what you can expect from us as your student representatives on campus.

What's in a name?

The Federation of Students, or Feds, was created over 50 years ago. The name was inspired by Canada's Centennial, according to founding members Richard Van Veldhuisen and Dr. Gerry Mueller.

“We didn't want to use ‘council’ because we had already had that, and this was going to be something different,” Mueller said. “Because it was Canada’s Centennial that year [1967], everyone's mind was on Confederation which lead to ‘Federation,’ so I think it also came from that.”

While the name held a special connection to the Centennial at the time, half a century has lost that context. 

The name still holds a lot of historical significance. We love the name Feds, and love our history. But operationally, we have struggled with the name resonating with students for years. Not only does this make communicating to our members difficult and vague, but it means that the very students who belong to Feds don’t know how being a member of Feds impacts them.

For example, when our promo team chats to students and say they are part of "Federation of Students" or "Feds," students often ask, "What's Feds?" 

Our explainer is "Feds is the undergraduate student association," so one purpose of the name change is to address this issue and make us easier to identify. 

But we're not getting rid of it entirely - Federation of Students will still be our legal name and in policies and legal documents, so it will always remain a part of our history.

Why 'Waterloo Undergradute Student Association'?

We conducted a survey to gauge students’ association with the name ‘Federation of Students’, how they felt it represents them, and what other names and words they associate with what we do. After the survey was conducted, we held discussions with the Execs, Students’ Council, and our marketing specialists, along with focus groups where students could voice their opinions on the future of the name.

That’s how the name Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association came about. Not only does it explicitly state who we represent and where, but it helps distinguish us from the other student association on campus, the Graduate Student Association (GSA). This helps to avoid confusion about where to go and who to talk to with matters like insurance, transit, and events.

Among the students we represent, some belong to professional programs like the Bachelor of Social Work, School of Pharmacy, and Optometry. We considered their unique nature in choosing to include the word “undergraduate” in our new name:

  • Students in these professional programs take courses in the undergraduate course calendar, and are considered ‘undergraduate programs’ by the University
  • These professional programs have graduate program equivalents: for The School of Optometry and Vision Science these are Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Vision Science; for the School of Pharmacy these are Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacy. These graduate degrees do not appear in the undergraduate studies calendar, while the professional programs do.

So while these programs are different from what one would typically consider an undergrad program, they are considered ‘undergraduate programs’ by the University, and as such we felt they would be accurately represented under the name ‘undergraduate student association.’

Finally, including ‘undergraduate’ was also intended to comply with Feds’ Charter, which states that the organization exists “[t]o promote the welfare and interests of the Students of the University of Waterloo in all matters respecting their common interests, and… [t]o act as the representative of the undergraduate students of the University of Waterloo”.


We hope this provides a little bit of background to the rebranding process! Do you have questions we didn’t answer yet? Let us know!