Raising the Pennant
Vandal alumni share their passion for UI with future students
On a bright summer day in a hotel conference room in Pleasanton, California, a group of Vandals are singing the fight song.
As the clapping swells and fills the room, complete with enthusiastic fist pumps and cheering, the audience of high school students and their families gets swept up in the University of Idaho spirit.
It’s just another day of sharing what it means to be a member of the Vandal family.
“It was so funny to watch all the attendees in the room look at us like, wait, they’re going to sing? And not only sing, but sing with gusto?” said alumna Lois Long ’00. “By the end of it they were bobbing their heads and clapping along.”
The crowd was made up of attendees at one of many Meet the Vandals events, which connect prospective students and their families with UI employees and alumni. At first, Long said, the groups are always a little confused, but singing the fight song is a way for alumni to show how much their experiences at UI still resonate with them 15, 30, even 50 years later.
Long attended the very first Pleasanton Meet the Vandals in 2012. Through the gatherings she has made new friends with other alumni and enjoys reconnecting with them each year.
“It is not very often we get to do Vandal things in the Bay Area,” she said. “So when there was the chance to do that, I wanted to take it.”
Long grew up in Highwood, Montana. She first set foot on the University of Idaho campus in 1995 as a senior in high school. She immediately loved the campus and the people she met, including women in the Greek system, prompting her to join the Delta Delta Delta sorority as a freshman.
“It was nice to have an instant family and a group of people you could come to if you needed support,” Long said. “Everybody had something in common. We loved Idaho, we loved the Vandals and it created really strong bonds not just in college, but throughout alumni life as well.”
The sense of community and Vandal pride were valuable pieces of her experience that only enhanced the education she received at UI. The sense of community and family carried into the classroom and the group work she did while getting her degree in marketing from the College of Business and Economics. It was during her upper-division classes that she learned she really enjoyed working collaboratively, something that has shaped the rest of her life.
It is these types of stories — stories about community, camaraderie and expectations — that Long shares when meeting with high school students and their parents in Pleasanton.
“I think the greatest value really is the conversation that potential students and their parents can have with alumni and representatives from the university,” she said.
Giving Back to UI
Like Long, alumnus Travis Jones ’99, ’02 of Portland has been active in recruitment events.
“I think having alumni involved, not just employees, makes a difference,” Jones said. “It makes it a more personal connection between the parents, the kids and alumni, and it is not just a speech from someone paid to give it.”
Jones grew up in Lostine in eastern Oregon. His older sister attended UI, and he visited a few times in high school, but UI was not his top pick. He applied to WSU, Pepperdine and UI, and was accepted to all three. When it came down to deciding, UI rose to the top. The scholarships offered and the responsiveness of the school were factors that tipped the scale in favor of becoming a Vandal, Jones said.
What started out as a practical decision quickly became the best decision of his life. Jones went on to receive a bachelor’s in agricultural business and a master’s in agricultural economics from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
“I was an out-of-state kid, one that was not naturally going to go to UI, but I did and it was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I like being that voice in student recruitment that represents the out-of-state kid, to share why it was amazing to go to UI – here is why, here is how.”
Along with the enjoyment that comes from connecting with students and their families, re-connecting with alumni and sharing his personal story, Jones values the opportunity to give back to the university in a meaningful way.
“I want to do my part in giving back to the university and helping out when they want it,” Jones said. “And the best part about it is you feel really good about helping someone else have a similar experience to what you had.”
Article by Whitney Schroeder, Office of Alumni Relations