Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre / UTEP News Service

Burros Help Student Group Promote Centennial Time Capsule

By on November 5, 2014

As The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Celebration events draw to a close, members of a new registered student organization are sprinting to the finish line with a plan to capture the year’s anniversary spirit – and it involves three burros.

The Students of the Centennial are using three distinct foam-board burros in a grassroots campaign to engage students, faculty and staff in a fun way and make them part of an effort to fill a time capsule with significant items from what the University achieved in 2014.

Students take a selfie with one of three traveling burros as part of the #CaptureABurro scavenger hunt and time capsule for the Centennial Celebration. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre / UTEP News Service

The collected items will be displayed Wednesday, Dec. 3 at the Centennial Museum and Welcome Center before they are set in a 2-foot plastic cube container that will be buried in spring 2015 under Centennial Plaza and dug up in 2039 – UTEP’s 125th anniversary.

The burros are the bait to get students involved, said Esther Zapata, a junior organizational and corporate communication major and secretary for Students of the Centennial. The team researched past mascots at UTEP’s Heritage House and were intrigued by the use of live animals.

“Some people think history can be boring, but UTEP’s history is extremely exciting,” Zapata said while sitting a few feet away from one of the two-dimensional burros that stand about 5-feet tall. “We are becoming part of this history.”

The initial time capsule idea was hatched by members of Martina Myers’ spring 2014 organizational and intercultural communication class who wanted to create their own student-driven Centennial memory. That class of more than 30 students divided themselves into small groups to tackle different aspects such as advertising, event planning, college outreach, burro design and project administration. Myers, Ph.D., said the students realized the scope of this project would go beyond a semester, so they became a registered student organization to create continuity and a legitimate fundraising arm.

After dismissing the original idea of bringing live burros to campus to promote the time capsule, the group approached Tom Birkner, assistant professor of painting, with the idea of fabricating the burros. The art faculty and students jumped at the chance, said Myers, communication lecturer and the organization’s faculty sponsor.

The artists created three pieces: the Golden burro shows rays emanating from the original Texas College of Mines seal, the Centennial Burro includes Bhutanese architecture, the number “100” and a depiction of the 1970s-era “Hardrock” Pete, and an Athletics burro uses the department’s Paydirt Pete logo. They were unveiled during Homecoming Week and have been seen around campus ever since. The official contest started Oct. 20 and will continue through Thanksgiving week.

The group sends out weekly riddles on its website about the location of the burros. For example, the question could be about the first building on campus to have a vending machine. More often than not, participants will need to research the answers using campus resources such as the UTEP Encyclopedia or the Centennial Museum website.

Students are encouraged to snap selfies with the burros and submit them to the group’s Facebook or Instagram sites with the tag #CaptureABurro to be eligible for weekly prizes. Those photos also will be stored in a flash drive that will be placed in the time capsule.

The students have been promoting the time capsule project around campus since the start of the semester including such high-profile events as Minerpalooza where they operated a “pin-the-tie-on-the-burro” booth. They continue to solicit University leaders for items that will give a future generation an idea of the attitudes and achievements at UTEP in 2014.

“The question posed by the project was, ‘How do we capture the spirit of today’s students and how do we communicate that in the future?’,” Myers said. “The burro was the starting point for student engagement.”

Maribel Villalva, executive director of UTEP’s Centennial Celebration Office, said the students approached her office last March to promote their plan. She admired their focus and appreciated their enthusiasm. Her team advised and guided the group in its planning and implementation.

“The use of the burros interested us,” she said. “They did their research. They’ve done a good job.”

The University’s 2014 Centennial Commission will pay for the plaque that will mark the spot of the time capsule on the new plaza.

By the way, the first building on campus that had a vending machine was Old Main.

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Published 10/31/14 at

Daniel Perez is a senior writer in UTEP's Office of University Communications.