Last week, University of Idaho’s journalism and mass media department hosted a group of high school students for its annual summer workshop. Over the course of four days, students learned first hand about media ethics, AP style writing, capturing and editing video and page design — among other topics. For the final project, students worked on a piece that would ultimately be published in UI’s student newspaper, The Argonaut. All projects can be seen on The Argonaut’s website, too.
The following story was written by Angelyn Cox. The Lewiston High School senior-to-be, not only showed interest in news writing, but also for Idaho’s mascot Joe Vandal. She tells the story of what it’s like to be the famous Idaho mascot and the life-changing experience that comes with it.
Angelyn Cox | UI Journalism Workshop
Joe, Idaho’s favorite Vandal. He stomps about high-fiving fans, dances like a goof and spreads joy to everyone he greets.
“I’m given the authority to misbehave and to embarrass,” Joe Vandal said. “To be a big absolute child at these events and get away with it and make people laugh.”
The Vandal isn’t just a mascot but a person. An average college student who lives day to day on the University of Idaho campus, making memories as he goes.
The Vandal is constantly seen all over Idaho, the northwest and even the world. Whether it be car magnets or coffee mugs, the mascot himself is in high demand. He’s everywhere from Vandal athletic games, to elementary schools and public events — among other things.
“He is the face, everybody can recognize him,” former cheerleader Morgan Berriochoa said. “No matter what year it is, everyone wants to see Joe. He is the face of tradition, pride, as well as school spirit. He is the whole package and what it is to be a Vandal.”
Like Superman, Joe Vandal is sworn to secrecy and keeps his identity hidden from the general public. Berriochoa said it is tradition for Joe Vandal to reveal himself at the final home game of his senior year. Until then, he remains anonymous.
“No talking,” Joe Vandal said. “The moment you talk, is the moment you lose the illusion. You don’t tell people everyday that you’re the mascot.”
In order to obtain the position of mascot, one must join the cheerleading team. Barriochoa said the applicant needs to be athletic, memorize routines, have an out-going personality and flexible schedule.
The Joe Vandal interviewed, however, did not have all of these qualities. He said it was very hard to adjust because of his naturally shy personality. As a new college student he was often timid around new environments.
“I’m definitely surprised on how much I enjoy it,” Joe Vandal said. “I was all out of my comfort zone, so it made it hard for me to be a very cheery, happy-go-lucky mascot kind of figure.”
Being the mascot changes people. A person can be shy and uncomfortable when they first take the position. Joe Vandal said, as time passed the experience and memories grew, along with building more confidence, flexibility and relationships.
“Things that I do, things that I get away with, the interactions I have with people, really puts a smile on my face beneath the giant smiling head,” Joe Vandal said. “It definitely was a big 180 toward my experiences. My attitude towards Joe Vandal has changed from the beginning of the year, to the end of the year. I realized that this job is extremely important to the University.”