Getting to know Scotty Highlander

The life behind the mascot

(left to right): Student mascots Sam Granados and Andrew Garcia, Coordinator for Student Organizations and Campus Vitality Joseph Martinez
Martin Lopez/HIGHLANDER

Scotty the Bear

Scotty Highlander, more commonly known as Scotty the Bear, is the face of UCR, known for exemplifying the Tartan Soul values that UCR thrives on and the determination and brawniness that exists on campus. Scotty’s history is relatively well-known within the Highlander community: The Scottish-kilt wearing predecessor was first introduced alongside the school’s opening in 1954 and was drastically remodeled in 2011 after student-athletes requested a more fierce mascot that “looks like we are going to tear the competition apart.” Thus, the Scotty we have today was born: Seen on logos with half of their face painted in blue like Scottish hero William Wallace, sporting cannonball-sized biceps and wearing a plaid Tam O’Shanter.

However, not much is known about Scotty’s personal life nor personality. We see the face all over campus — whether it be at athletic games, nooners or one of the numerous other campus events they frequent — but what are they like? What do they like to do in their free time? Have they ever undergone any emotional struggles at any point during their lengthy 70 years at UCR? The Highlander sat down with Student Life’s Coordinator for Student Organizations and Campus Vitality Joseph Martinez and student mascots Sam Granados, fourth-year neuroscience major, and Andrew Garcia, second-year entomology major, to dig deeper into the life of our beloved mascot.

Scotty’s career at UCR began in 1954 when initially enrolling as a student under the college of CNAS, which is the oldest college under UCR, as UCR got its start as a citrus experiment project. Although Scotty is presumably UCR’s longest standing student, there is no shame taken upon the super senior status, as Garcia revealed that, because of this, Scotty “knows all of the secrets about the campus and never wants to leave.” Scotty is potentially working toward becoming “Dr. Highlander,” shared Martinez.

Scotty’s career at UCR began in 1954 when initially enrolling as a student under the college of CNAS, which is the oldest college under UCR, as UCR got its start as a citrus experiment project.

On campus, Scotty is highly involved with the pep band (which they sometimes plays drums for), Highlander Orientation, athletic events and campus events. Martinez revealed that because of the packed schedule of being both a busy CNAS major and engaged in campus events, Scotty is not a part of any student organizations. However, since Student Life is the mascot’s home, Scotty is able to take part in the management of all student organizations on campus, so “you could argue there’s a little bit of Scotty in every org,” as Garcia describes the situation.

There are times when the workload becomes overwhelming, and when that happens, Scotty has been seen frequenting The Well and speaking with the various wellness partners available. The plethora of resources and peer training given at The Well have been helpful to keeping Scotty on-track and upbeat, and they hope that endorsing these resources serves as a role model for other students to take advantage of them as well as negate the stigma that is placed on mental health issues.

In terms of the student government and recent protests that have occurred on campus at UCR, Scotty has tried to steer clear of the drama, being aware of the fact that there is not one collective stance taken by students at UCR. They have, however, been inspired partially by the activism that has taken place on campus to be more aware of the needs and representation of students. “In the past, some of the offices were for some students but not for all,” professes Martinez, “Scotty has broken the barrier by supporting the different areas on campus and making students aware that they can be a part of areas that they might not identify with but that others do.”

Scotty identifies as gender neutral and is an avid supporter of the Women’s Resource Center and LGBT Resource Center. While Scotty is not a part of any particular student organization, they have been putting in more effort within the past few years in promoting the ethnic and gender resources programs and awareness events such as those that take place during nooners. Scotty’s straying away from direct involvement with any student organization allows them to respect students of all different backgrounds and stances and to encourage them that there is a safe space for everyone on campus.

One of Scotty’s best friends on campus is Norm the Orange. “There is a perceived notion that Scotty and Norm are rivals, but that’s not true at all. They’re friends, they hug each other every time they see each other, they dance together,” stated Garcia.

A potential nemesis of Scotty’s is Captain Grapefruit, a new component being introduced next school year who will be involved in the “Save Scotty” event. In the “Save Scotty” event, Captain Grapefruit will kidnap Scotty and a team of students or staff will have to try to save the bear in distress. A beta team has tested this game and were able to save Scotty in a little over an hour.

Scotty also has rivalries with UCSB’s Ole the Gaucho, UCSC’s Sammy the Slug and CSU Fullerton’s Tuffy the Titan, although Granados clarified that, “At the end of the day, he (Scotty) still supports the other schools and their mascots because they’re all striving for the same things.”

In the future, Scotty hopes that UCR will continue to expand in terms of students, buildings, staff, faculty and research — all of which culminate into the advancement of UCR’s name, getting students involved, creating manageable classroom sizes and embracing the diversity and Tartan Soul of the campus. Scotty endorses expanding the freshman dorms because, as Martinez explains, doing so will “allow students to spend more time with Scotty; if they’re here living on campus, they will be more capable of visiting athletics games and recreational events.”

The student mascots

Everyone wants to know the inside-scoop about the student mascots, such as if they smile when pictures are taken and how they manage the heat. Now, those questions are finally being answered.

Martinez revealed that there is not a height requirement for the suit, as people of different heights and sizes can fit into the suit. It comprises of numerous different pieces — such as those for the legs, chest, pants and heat — to allow for flexibility in movement. Adjustments can be made, however, depending on the event. For athletic events, it’s ideal to have a taller mascot participate to make Scotty more prominent, and for events involving children, a shorter person can be less intimidating. Suspenders exist in the suit that prevent the pants from falling down.

The student mascots described the extent of the heat and stuffiness that the suit sometimes reaches as the greatest issue, which is why they have timed appearances for each person who goes into the suit. There is a limit of no more than an hour and a half of being in Scotty at a time, and during their shifts, the members are asked to take a break. It’s tougher work than being Norm, who has a built-in fan as well as an ice vest installed in the suit.

Other concerns that come with being Scotty is having people getting too touchy, such as trying to look into the mascot without being aware of who is inside the suit, and not being able to look straight ahead, since “where Scotty looks straight ahead, we look down,” according to Garcia.

This is why it is important to have a spokesperson, who walks next to Scotty during events and ensures that the mascots are safe and on-track. The spokesperson’s job is crucial to the presence of Scotty, for they handle pictures, determine where Scotty goes and at what times and sometimes acts as Scotty’s voice since the mascots cannot talk.

… even though we can’t use words, I feel like if we are smiling inside, we will appear as being happy on the outside too.

To fill the void of Scotty’s inability to be verbal, the mascots compensate by being expressive through non-verbal communication in their motions and energy. Therefore, Garcia and Granados admit to smiling when people take pictures with Scotty, because “even though we can’t use words, I feel like if we are smiling inside, we will appear as being happy on the outside too.” It’s a running joke for handlers that, if a picture doesn’t go well, they can say, “Sorry, Scotty blinked,” and retake the picture.

There is no particular set of qualities or personality traits that are sought out when auditioning for new Scotty’s, for there are different advantages for different skill sets depending on the event. For instance, just because someone is not a natural dancer does not mean they cannot have the energy to get a crowd riled up during an athletic event or to have enough stamina to do outdoor events for a relatively extensive amount of time. There’s not as much pressure experienced by a mascot as one would think, for Garcia explained that “when you’re in the suit, people see Scotty, not you.”

Student Life is actively seeking ways to reach out to students and encourage them to apply to become a mascot. The process consists of an audition and interviews during both the summer and the fall, and questions that will be asked relate to what motivates them in the Highlander experience, what they will bring to the team and what they believe makes up Scotty.

For Granados, it wasn’t hard connecting with Scotty despite initially never having believed she would become a mascot, sharing, “I really love UCR and getting involved on campus. Scotty is really excited about the campus and encourages students to embody Tartan values, so I match up with how Scotty feels pretty well.”

Student Life encourages students to stop by their office at HUB 229 or contact Highlander Bands and Campus Vitality Advisor Geovanni Mayoral at geovanni.mayoraldavalos@ucr.edu to learn more about applying to become the next Scotty the Bear mascot.

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