For the first time in seven years, a female student was chosen as Stanford University’s unofficial mascot, the Tree, after the annual Tree Week shenanigans. Nicoletta von Heidegger ’13 is a longtime member of the drum section of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB), a competitive equestrian, staff activities coordinator at the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, a peer counselor at The Bridge Peer Counseling Center, a Synergy resident, a psychology major and, rather fittingly, a lover of trees — her favorite is the oak, an image of which is tattooed on the inside of her wrist. For von Heidegger, being the Tree is both an honor and a chance to reinvent Stanford’s arboreal mainstay. The Daily sat down with von Heidegger to chat about Tree Week and her plans for the future of our school’s eccentric mascot:
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Why did you decide to audition for the role of the Tree?
Nicoletta von Heidegger (NH): I’ve been in the LSJUMB since freshman year, and I obviously love the Band. I wanted to give back and do something in that realm…There hasn’t been a girl Tree in seven years, and I felt that I was a good, strong female-type role model who would really enjoy dancing and representing Stanford in a way that could be fun, but also be a good public figure in the social media — hopefully!
TSD: What plans do you have in terms of designing the Tree’s costume?
NH: There are all sorts of things you have to look at when you’re designing the Tree. You want something that’s ergonomic, light and nice to dance in, but you also want something that looks good on camera and looks big enough from high up. I also want to add some feminine aspect to the Tree like a giant red tutu.
TSD: What was the process of Tree Week like?
NH: Well, it’s basically just kind of a do-as-you wish sort of week, within reasonable limits…For my introduction stunt, I rode in on horseback. Because I ride horses competitively, I rode into the Band Shack on a friend’s horse, with chaps on and a long wig and a cowboy hat, with someone following me [carrying speakers playing] the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” soundtrack. We [also] recreated a giant seesaw. It was 20-feet long, and it goes 13-feet high. A former senator of Wisconsin [Russell Feingold, distinguished visitor at the Haas Center for Public Service] and his friend…happened to walk by, and [the friend] tried it out. Also, my Band nickname is Pac Man, so we did a giant game of Pac Man starting in the Circle of Death, running in between tour groups and bicycles, and made our way through Tresidder and The Axe and Palm during lunch, which was pretty busy. I also did a KY wrestling event at Sigma Nu, and it happened to coincide with Parents’ Weekend, which was not ideal, but some of my friends brought their parents, and they thought it was fun.
TSD: Other than playing drums in the Band and being the Tree, are you involved in any other activities at Stanford?
NH: It was a big decision to become the Tree because I’m very involved in a lot of other things on campus, so I’m definitely going to have to cut back on a lot of those things for my senior year, which is kind of bittersweet…I’m super busy as it is, but now I’m going to be busy mostly doing Tree things instead.
TSD: Was there a formal process involved when you were named the Tree?
NH: When you are announced [as the new Tree], the entire Band comes to your house to roll you out. So at 2:30 a.m. you hear the whistle blowing downstairs, and then the entire Band, however many people show up at that early in the morning…were all playing. It was the best moment of my life. They had some of the old Trees there, and they carried me down the stairs — we were dancing on the tables, they were playing songs for me and I was hugging all of my friends in Band. It was like a blur of time just because it was so exciting.
TSD: You’re the first female Tree in seven years. Do you think that the role of the Tree is affected by gender?
NH: I suppose I consider myself a bit of a feminist, but at the same time I also consider myself a tomboy in some ways. Going into it, I definitely was assertive in terms of my femininity just because there hadn’t been a female tree in so long, but I also want to be seen as an awesome Tree who happens to be female. That being said, [I am] the first girl [Tree] in a long time, and I would like that to be a more commonplace thing. I’d like to make my Tree sort of represent something more feminine, like I said, with the tutu or …rhinestones, but who says that couldn’t be a guy’s thing, too, if he wants it to be? In terms of [the reputation of the Tree as the most active kisser at] FMOTQ [Full Moon on the Quad], I think a girl set the Tree record, so I don’t have any concerns about that.