Shortly after joining University of Arizona Athletics in 2016, Thomas Harris, now assistant athletics director for diversity, inclusion and employee engagement, developed a project to celebrate cultural heritage months. “We wanted to share special marks or logos on social media and use them throughout the months to honor students, coaches and staff,” he explains.
The university had a similar project underway, but both projects stalled and so, Thomas says, “I asked if I could just take over the entire effort.” The university jumped on his offer, and a project to create the first official University of Arizona Cultural Logos began.
Harris assembled dedicated focus groups of students, faculty, staff, campus cultural groups and alumni in a collaborative effort spanning two years. The resulting logos began rolling out in fall 2020 to coincide with cultural heritage months, but are meant to celebrate UArizona’s diverse community year round. Merchandise featuring the logos is available through the UArizona BookStores, and royalties benefit the multicultural centers on campus that serve students holding those identities.
“From the beginning, all the groups recognized that the Block ‘A’ felt too institutional to capture what it means to be a Wildcat with a strong cultural identity,” Harris says. “The Wildcat face really resonated, but still, no one could agree on one single image for each group. Then an idea came up to bring in multiple images. It sounded crazy to me, but Jess knew what to do.”
Jessica Estrella ’04 is the art director with UArizona’s marketing and communications team. She developed a system for each logo consisting of three distinct parts: cultural icons, the Wildcat brand mark and a title that represents the expression or celebration of each culture. The icons were developed with team input and recognize the importance of cultural nuance.
“The conversations we had went really deep,” Estrella says. “There are stories behind each of the icons.”
“My father was a first-generation college student and the only one in his family to graduate from college,” says Roberta Stout ’04, assistant athletics director of community relations and special events. “He placed a lot of importance on education and was very proud to have his daughters and their cousins also continue their education and graduate from the University of Arizona. Seeing ‘Familia’ incorporated not only represents how important family is to the Hispanic culture but also connects my family to the Wildcat family.”
“One thing we talked about in our groups was the delicate balance between stereotype and representation,” says Harris. “For example, the Hispanic group was very clear that there shouldn’t be sombreros or margaritas. The American Indian group didn’t want to see bows and arrows. The Black students were adamant about representing many skin tones. We went back and forth on each of the logos.”
Students were engaged in the review process and often challenged the thinking behind different elements, pushing for expression that captured their own generational perspective. “The Native students wanted to see ‘Skoden’ — that means ‘Let’s go!’” Harris says.
UArizona’s heritage dates back to 1885 and is rich in diversity and character. The university is a Hispanic Serving Institution and in 2020 drew a first-year student class in which 48% identify as non-white.
“The icons within each logo tell the history and story of these different groups,” Thomas says. “Not only will it be a source of pride for students, faculty and staff, but it will build connections with the broader community as people learn the story behind each symbol.”
Read on to see how the workgroups framed statements to capture their unique UArizona heritage. Explore the stories of the icons at licensing.arizona.edu/cultural-logos.
Our Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American Heritage is a celebration of community, one as colorful and vibrant as it is diverse.
Just as in a family, our different facets — over 40 nationalities, dozens of religions and hundreds of languages — are a part of what makes us strong.
Listen closely: Each language and dialect carries stories of both joy and persistence that reverberate across the nation and the world.
See us: We are your neighbors, friends, Nobel Prize winners, political trailblazers, Olympic athletes, artists and inventors. We use our rich traditions, built over generations, to illuminate the way to a better world.
Like the lotus flower, we persevere in the face of uncertainty and challenges to find light and growth.
Multiple cultures, one community.
Our Black history is an anthem for a world that can be better. An ensemble of legends, a cadence, a flow. Every verse an attempt to unite, even the playing field and move us forward.
Our Black history is a celebration of progress.
A divine network that lifts us higher and strengthens our dreams. Those who take action, who march, who teach or mentor and who make it possible to play on the same court. We stand on the shoulders of those who create, innovate and improve everyday life for everyone, not just the select few.
We see each other and wish to be seen. We encourage allies to listen first, then act. And we live inspired by artistic creativity and scientific genius.
A beautiful score within the composition of our nation, humbled by what we’ve overcome to live uniquely.
Empowerment. Unity. Ubuntu (“I Am Because You Are”) Wildcats!
We know this to be true…
Before Arizona was a state, it was part of Mexico. Before Arizona was a state, there was the University of Arizona.
Our history is rich in Hispanic culture and influence, from artists and explorers to teachers and leaders who create new opportunities.
Our history is a vibrant thread of character, woven into our being like a celebration that has no end and wants nothing more than to inspire joy.
We live by…
Family, community, they are like music that quickens the pulse and sets the rhythm for conversation and dance.
Bright colors, bold flavors, they drive us forward, fearless, toward the sunset.
¡Gatos Por Vida!/Viva Los Gatos!
Our Native American Heritage is a reflection on our past, the growth of our present and the opportunities of our future. The University of Arizona resides on indigenous homelands of the Tohono O’odham and the Pascua Yaqui people. And we recognize the values, identities and histories of the 22 sovereign nations of Arizona.
The stories told in the slopes of the hills, the fruit of the cacti and the shapes of the rivers are sacred. Each lesson woven into symbols of strength, balance and honor for their tribes. As a community, we are on a constant journey of compassion to listen and ensure vitality for all.
Like the beat of a drum, our hearts dance together beneath the powerful sun and each night under diamond-filled skies. Our minds are nourished by the food, architecture and arts of those who came before us. And our spirit is like water, always remembering, adapting and living life with integrity.
Skoden (“Let’s Go”) Wildcats!