It’s September, that special time of year when parents pack their children off to school and college freshmen get to enjoy their first taste of freedom. In honor of Back to School, the Chicks are talking about their alma maters—and in the spirit of group projects everywhere, we hope you’ll share yours as well! (Extra credit if you have a funny story about your mascot.)
Go, Green Wave! That’s the ridiculous mascot of my otherwise wonderful alma mater, Tulane University. (Seriously, an angry dark green and light blue wave? That’s the best you could do, TU?). But I didn’t start at Tulane. I spent freshman and half of sophomore year at State University of New York, Binghamton. For someone who dreamed of going to school in a 1940s movie musical—rah, rah, sis boom bah!—this could not have been a worse choice. The theatre department offered a bizarre curriculum, the weather was dreary, and so many hideous new buildings were being built that it was like going to school on a construction site. Ah, but Tulane… a gorgeous campus, sexy tropical weather—well, sexy to me—and in the heart of New Orleans. It was enough to make a gal break into song and dance on the campus quad. The time I spent in Louisiana also inspired my mystery, Plantation Shudders. A great college experience and a book idea? GO, GREEN WAVE!
Hook ’em Horns! Ellen thinks her mascot is ridiculous: mine was a longhorn steer—which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with different bovine classifications, is a neutered bull. Neutered, people! I’ve seen them out in the field around Texas, grazing on bluebonnets and looking quite peaceful. They wouldn’t harm a fly.
So how did an Oklahoma girl end up a Longhorn at the University of Texas? When I toured different colleges my senior year of high school, I loved them all. After all, they were colleges. All of them out of state and away from my parents. But when I got to Austin, I fell ridiculously, passionately, madly in love with it. Did I care that UT had 48,392 students? Hardly; what better way to find my people? Did I care that my dorm was so big it had its own zip code and was designed by an architect who was known for his work designing prisons? Well, I met my future husband there on the very first night of school, so no. Not even the nightly swarm of grackles that congregated in the tree outside my dorm each night at dusk could dampen my enthusiasm for what would have to be, hands-down, the best choice I ever made in my life.
Hold on to your tricornered hats! The hottest college mascot on the planet is…the Eph (rhymes with “beef”). For those who aren’t in the know, an Eph is a Williams College athlete, sports team, student or grad. The term descends (*pompously clears throat*) from Colonel Ephraim Williams, who willed land for the school immediately before he was killed in the French and Indian War. The Eph’s fiercest (and pretty much only) rival is Lord Jeff of Amherst, another small but mighty (and infinitely inferior, of course) Massachusetts liberal arts institution. Those two have a great time dueling it out on ESPN’s College Game Day. To up the cool factor—or at least add some color—Williams adopted the Purple Cow as its unofficial mascot. (The jury’s still out on that one.) My campus experience? Think Welton Academy from Dead Poets Society, 20-something years later when it went co-ed, with a lot of great professors like Robin Williams’s character. (More than a coincidence? I think not.) One of my profs taught us it was okay to have a little fun in your writing. In his honor, I’ve named one of the suspects in my current manuscript after him. He won’t mind. Go Ephs!
You know you’re in good company when your mascot is a Rattler and you can’t say you had the worst mascot in the group. I matriculated (If I accomplish nothing else today, I can say I used “matriculated” in a sentence. Correctly, too!) at Florida A&M University, a historically black university (HBCU) in Tallahassee. I knew from the moment I learned about FAM my sophomore year of high school that I would be attending. It was the only school I applied to! (Thank God I not only got in, but got an academic scholarship to boot!) Of course, it never occurred to 17-year-old me that I was in the South until I got down there. Me during my first week: “Hey, is that a Confederate flag sticker on that guy’s truck?” I still count it as the best decision I ever made. The HBCU experience is a unique one. For example, we’re probably the only schools that come to football games for the marching band half-time shows and then perform a mass exodus as the third quarter kicks off. (You can see why here! There’s a reason the Marching 100 performed with Prince at the Super Bowl.) I still have a FAMU t-shirt I bought for $5 outside a game during freshman year. I could never wear it (it looks like you’d imagine a $5 t-shirt might look after almost 20 years. You can barely see the letters.) But I also could never give it away.