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UND student-led Mascot Committee named, begins process of shaping new Fighting Hawks 'head of hype'

Posted on 3/7/2018

Originally published at UND Today:

Given a blank canvas and an open mind, what kind of creature would you envision embodying the spirit of the University of North Dakota?

Does it stoke fear in the competitor?

Is it sleek and mobile for acrobatic feats?

Is it fluffy, smiling and ready for the next elementary school photo op?

These are the difficult decisions at hand for a newly assembled, 17-person UND Mascot Committee (listed below), born from an initial task force formed in January. The student-led group, co-chaired by UND Student Body Vice President Erik Hanson and former UND golfer Matt Jacobson, will spend the month of March discussing which mascot attributes will best engage the Fighting Hawks fan base.

"We have a great mix of people with various backgrounds - a combination of nine students with staff, faculty and alumni who are very passionate about UND," Jacobson said.

"Resoundingly what we've heard is we want this mascot to be something that's energetic, that's fun, and that really captures the strength of the hawk logo that we have," Hanson said. "We want stoic, while also having something that's approachable and can make that game day experience even better than what it is now."

Mascot planning perfection

The committee met for the first time on Feb. 27 to map out a process, communicate the role of the members and investigate the direction other universities have taken in crafting their mascots. The group will converge again this week to begin brainstorming the distinct characteristics of UND's new crowd-revving representative.

"What does the beak look like? What are the eyes like? What is the color of this hawk? Is it even a hawk at all?" Hanson said, with a smile implying that a hawk was the likely route. "Those are all of the fun questions we get to talk about."

Once the committee has ironed out its preliminary vision, it will pass along a list of 10-15 attributes to a design firm, currently being chosen through a simultaneous request for proposal (RFP) process. In April, the chosen vendor will take that list and, working collaboratively with the committee co-chairs and staff leaders, create three graphic identities for the UND mascot.

By the end of the semester, the student body will have a chance to vote on which of the three mascot designs best fits the essence of UND Athletics - now and into the future.

"We should all share the goal that this generation of UND students are as excited to be Hawks as earlier generations were to embrace our prior logo," said UND President Mark Kennedy. "That's why I am enthused that this student-led effort is moving forward."

"I think it's something that students can be proud of, that we helped create this," Hanson said. "There's still some animosity toward the name change - there's really no way around that. But we want to make sure we're looking forward to future students, and that they have something to be proud of."

Game day mainstay

The idea for a live mascot rose out of discussions and community surveys from the UND Game Day Experience Committee, formed under the guidance of President Kennedy last summer to create a more vibrant sports environment for Fighting Hawks fans of all ages.

"The game day experience has continued to get better. We're trying to keep that momentum going," Jacobson said. "The mascot is another element that will help the UND spirit and hopefully put a smile on kids' faces."

Although design discussions will be contained within the Mascot Committee meetings, Hanson says their ears will be open to outside ideas.

"We absolutely want to take that input. We love that," he said. "Obviously, we're not going to be able to have everybody's opinion be a winner. But we'll try to take what we can and apply it."

"We're working with a diverse group of people who all have great ideas. I'm excited to see designs and gauge feedback from everyone," Jacobson said.

Once the student body chooses the final mascot design, a vendor will begin construction of the costume, with upfront costs covered through donor support and maintained by UND Athletics. The timeline of that construction will depend on the intricacy of the design, so there's no word yet on when Fighting Hawks fans may be introduced to their new head of hype.

When asked if he will try out for role, Hanson said he'd leave the responsibility to someone a little more gifted in that skill set.

"I've been blessed with a lot of talents," he laughed. "But I don't think that would be my best one."

UND Mascot Committee
Erik Hanson (Co-Chair), Student Body Vice President
Matt Jacobson (Co-Chair), Alerus Financial, Former UND Athlete (Men's Golf)
Paul Todhunter, University Senate Representative
Megan Wasylow, Staff Senate Representative
Sue Jeno, Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Representative
Kara Kohns, Student
Keenen Berning, Student
Jon Santiago, Student Athlete
Alivia Fraase, Student Athlete
Preethi Kasilingam, Student Athlete
Jacob Notermann, Nodak Nation Representative
Alissa Siekkinen, Nodak Nation Representative
Makayla Wittmer-George, Nodak Nation Representative
Carrie Huwe, UND Marketing & Creative Services
Breanna Linert, UND Licensing
Alex Kroke, Athletics
Kyle Doperalski, Athletics

Cassie Gerhart (non-voting), Student Affairs & Diversity
Mike Mannausau (non-voting), UND Alumni Association & Foundation

-Kaylee Cusack

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