Like most first-year students in 2020, Mo the Mustang’s (they/them/their) arrival on campus at SUNY Morrisville was not what they originally had in mind.
Wearing a face mask, practicing physical distancing, picking up meals to go and otherwise adjusting to pandemic life were some of the firsts that the college’s mascot experienced at the same time as other students.
Originally, the plan for a new mascot design to be unveiled was to take place in the middle of the spring 2020 semester, or at least by commencement in May. When COVID-19 struck and sent everyone to remote learning and working from home, both the costume’s production and Mo’s debut were delayed.
That gave the college time to plan for a different sort of arrival, and Mo immediately became the favored face of (re)introducing SUNY Morrisville to students arriving for fall 2020.
“Coming back to campus this semester was scary. It was difficult to engage students because no one could gather in groups,” said one staff member. “There was a lot of important information to convey, from health checks to new dining protocols. Using Mo in custom-made videos, photos and signage quickly made them a familiar and friendly figure. The information was still new and on a serious subject, but Mo made it easier to remember and just a little more fun for students.”
Mo the Mustang is the latest iteration of a campus mascot that has taken different shapes over time. The college had used off-the-shelf costumes for several years, some persisting long past their intended and expected duration. Additionally, the costumes were monochromatic and did not necessarily show up well in photos or video.
With the need for a new costume and a fresh look, people from across the college worked together to come up with an idea worthy of a custom design. The college is expanding its outreach efforts to alumni, students, fans and families, and it recognized a need to project the personality of the institution.
Determined to show more of the mascot’s energy and personality in a new design, the college took its ideas to a number of potential partners who could make that vision come true. SUNY Morrisville selected Sugars Mascot Costumes to help, based on some initial concept drawings and conversations that showed a lot of promise.
“From my point of view as the mascot vendor, Mo is the result of a very fruitful collaborative process,” said Lucie Whitehead, account manager. “SUNY Morrisville came to us with a strong aesthetic viewpoint, and I think that, working together, we created something special.
“I love the lightning bolt above the eye in particular.”
The new mascot is intended to reflect the athletics logo, which features a mustang with a green mane and bolt-like design element.
The name was inspired by a common nickname for the college’s hometown: Mo’ville. As the team collaborating on the mascot refresh reviewed many suggestions,
members recognized the many possible wordplays they could make with “Mo” and ran with it.
Additionally, it was recognized that “Mo” seemed like a gender-neutral name, which also advanced the idea of making Mo an ambassador for inclusivity. By not assigning a male or female gender to Mo, and instead giving Mo a nonbinary identity, they are able to be a positive role model for everyone.
“People often think of male as the default gender, especially in mascotting, and it’s wonderful to see an organization making a conscious choice to move away
from that,” Whitehead said.
The new design represents the mascot as friendly and welcoming, but also sturdy, tough and even a bit edgy with the two-toned green mane that some have dubbed
the “Mo-hawk.” Mo projects the resiliency and grit many Morrisville students and graduates demonstrate in their studies and careers.
“The new look is much more modern and cool. I love the electric green over the eyes. It looks like they are charged up!” said Rhiannon Da Cunha, alumni engagement coordinator. “I think the new design suggests and outwardly expresses that the college is continuously evolving and adapting. The new mascot looks a bit younger and not so weathered and aged as the previous one. The design reflects the student body — relevant, current and full of that youthful energy that students
bring with them to campus.”
Da Cunha taught Mo some salsa dancing as well, in a video on social media that invited students and others to participate in a series of virtual dance lessons.
“I have been really impressed with what I have seen in terms of Mo being used as a tool for spreading information regarding pandemic protocol in a fun, engaging way,” Whitehead said. “Mascots are often associated with crowds and big events, but I am seeing that many organizations are realizing that they are such a good tool for connection in the absence of that — they can communicate across distances and convey emotional warmth in a time when that can feel lacking because of the necessity to keep physically apart.”
Mo already has their own social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They will soon appear on the college’s first TikTok and Snapchat accounts as well. Just like the college they represent, expect to see Mo working in innovative ways to engage all of their fans and supporters however they can.
“I hope Mo continues to be involved in the many evolutions of the college and symbolize hope, life and spirit for years to come,” Da Cunha said.
The new look is much more modern and cool. I love the electric green over the eyes. It looks like they are charged up.
Questions and Answers with Mo
Check out these fun facts about Mo the Mustang!
What were the biggest factors in you choosing to attend SUNY Morrisville?
Too many reasons to the list! My parents both attended and met at Morrisville. You should hear all the stories they tell me about their days at the Equine Center. They often took me for visits around the track. We always took family photos at the Mustang Statue and we attended Mustang Weekend every year (my dad would brag that it was named after him, but I never believed that one).
What are you most looking forward to during your first semester?
Well, it isn't the first semester I expected, but I'm just looking to make the most of it. With everything from horses to horsepower, Morrisville is a place where you can really harness your potential. I can't wait to be hooves-on, er, I mean hands-on, in the labs while combining that with online classes to get a hybrid experience this semester. I also hope to be a good neiiiggghhhbor and greatly look forward to becoming a part of the Mustang family! #MustangStrong
What is something unique that people may not know about you?
I am nonbinary. Please refer to me using the pronouns they/them.
Under normal circumstances, how do you like to spend your free time?
I like to stirrup fun. I really enjoy roaming the hills, grazing in the admin quad and attending sporting events. Go Mustangs! I also recently got a job as a mascot. It's a pretty stable position, I've really enjoyed it so far.
What is a skill you'd like to learn and why?
I would love to learn how to cook. It would be great to make something different that doesn't have oats in it.
What are you most proud of that you never have an opportunity to talk about?
I am a horseshoe champion! I was the top finisher at the World Horseshoe Tournament. It was such a MOmentous occasion for me and my family. Now I get to play at the new horseshoe pits on campus.
What are your pet peeves?
1) People who saddle themselves with too much negativity; 2) When I am going too fast and people tell me to "hold your horses"; and 3) When talking too much makes me hoarse.
Who do you most admire?
SUNY Morrisville students and professors. They learn and teach with passion, overcome challenges and obstacles and are true trailblazers. Students are career-ready right out of the gait!
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
I'd tour with the Harlem Globetrotters for a while. It would be so much fun to get to play a game of HORSE with them.
What is your favorite: book; magazine; television show; movie; musical group/band/singer, etc.?
My favorite magazine is MOmentum, of course. My favorite book and movie both have to be Seabiscuit. I would say my most-watched television show is Mister Ed, which was a staple in our household growing up. For music, I am a huge fan of the '80s. You know, MOdonna, MOtallica, Bon MOvi. My favorite '80s song has to be Take on Mo, especially since I starred in the video.