Introducing Bo the Bee: Our New Inver Hills Community College Mascot

Bo the Bee creates buzz in Star Tribune

[The following article appeared in the Star Tribune Friday, March 1, 2024.]

Inver Hills gets new bee mascot to match its environmental pledge

The Inver Grove Heights community college is the first campus in Minnesota to get the special designation for its pledge to support pollinators.

By Erin Adler Star Tribune | MARCH 1, 2024 — 6:30AM
Inver Hills Community College’s new Bo the Bee mascot

Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights debuted a new mascot this winter — Bo the Bee, a pure green sweat bee (Augochlora pura) that, according to campus lore, makes its home in the Inver Hills Community Garden and Orchard. According to Inver Hills’ website, the pure green sweat bee is a medium-sized, solitary, metallic green bee that is common in much of the state.

The college’s athletic teams were called the Giants years ago. In 2023, the school’s general mascot became the Bees.

“When we decided to come forward with the mascot, the bee was one of the choices,” said Lisé Freking, spokeswoman for Inver Hills Community College. “The bee came out on top.”

Inver Hills students voted on the new mascot’s name and Bo was the top choice, followed by Buzz and Polly, according to the website. Bo was named after Tom “Bo” Johnson, a former student and employee who is currently a part of the Inver Hills Alumni Association.

The college was named Minnesota’s first “Bee Campus USA”, a designation made by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in 2019. The group is named after the Xerces blue butterfly, the first butterfly known to have gone extinct in North America due to human activity. It lived in California sand dunes and was last seen in the 1940s, according to the society. Joining the program requires a college to commit to improving its campus to support pollinators.

According to Freking, the campus has a broader commitment to bees. There’s a “Bees Knees Committee” — a cross-departmental working group that reviews the requirements for being re-certified as a “Bee Campus USA” and also works to create a campus habitat plan for pollinators.

Erin Adler is a suburban reporter covering Dakota and Scott counties for the Star Tribune, working breaking news shifts on Sundays. She previously spent three years covering K-12 education in the south metro and five months covering Carver County. 612-673-1781

Top mantras: “Bee true to yourself” and/or “Don’t worry, bee happy”

Bo the Bee, the new Inver Hills Community College mascot, was born at sunrise on Monday, May 1, 2023. On that day in 1967, Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.

Twenty-six years earlier in 1941, Citizen Kane, the Orson Welles classic, premiered in New York City in a tempest of controversy only to endure as one of the most highly regarded films of all time.

“That’s good to know,” Bo the Bee said, “but I’ve never seen an Orson Welles movie. I did watch Akeelah and the Bee on Hulu the other day. Did you know words need letters just like flowers need petals? Did you know Elvis is some kind of king? Bees don’t have kings. Of course, I really like the song, “You Should Be Dancing,” by The Bee Gees. I rarely stop dancing.”

A pure green sweat bee (Augochlora pura), Bo the Bee emerged from an egg stuck on a pollen ball in burrow dug by their mom in a quiet corner of the Inver Hills Community Garden & Orchard. According to Minnesota Seasons, the pure green sweat bee is a “moderately-sized, solitary, metallic green, halictid bee” that is quite common in much of Minnesota. Bo the Bee diligently patrols an “established route, flying quickly and continuously between specific flowers.”

Well, I’ll bee!

Yale University’s Handsome Dan, widely considered the first collegiate mascot

According to Wikipedia: “A mascot is any human, animal, or object thought to bring luck, or anything used to represent a group with a common public identity, such as a school, sports team, society, military unit, or brand name. Mascots are also used as fictional, representative spokespeople for consumer products.”

Wikipedia goes on to say, “The word ‘mascot’ originates from the French term ‘mascotte,’ which means lucky charm. This was used to describe anything that brought luck to a household.”

The bee is widely considered a terrific choice for a mascot. Bees exemplify teamwork, courage, and an indefatigable nature. For instance, St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, fields the Fighting Bee mascot thanks to a fable that insists the infant saint was once discovered with a swarm of honeybees encasing his head.

The bees did not sting the baby, but instead deposited a dollop of honey on his tongue, foreshadowing the future Bishop of Milan’s legendary eloquence.

Bee there or bee square…

Bo the Bee isn’t up to speed on Zodiac signs and might be surprised to learn they’re a Taurus. They are loyal, dependable, trustworthy, enterprising, and intelligent. Because they are Earth-oriented and conscientious, Bo the Bee decided to earn a 16-credit Climate Change certificate at Inver Hills. They started taking classes last fall and have a very crowded schedule.

“Many people assume Bo the Bee is a typical wage earner who puts in a standard 40-hour week,” reported Lisé Freking, strategic marketing and communications director at Inver Hills and Dakota County Technical College. “That is not the case. Bo the Bee is the college’s goodwill ambassador, good luck charm, and swag scout, which means their image and identity are on the job 24/7.”

Lisé added that Bo the Bee is a solid member of the college’s marketing team, noting that they have a very particular set of skills, skills they have acquired over a very short career. They are compensated for their work on a daily basis via residual payments of flower pollen and nectar.

“I am not an actor, though, or affiliated with the entertainment industry,” Bo the Bee is quick to explain. “I am not really cut out for make bee-lieve. I only know how to bee me.”

Staff perspective: Maranda Steinmetz-Robey

Maranda Steinmetz-Robey

Bo the Bee has forever secured a special place in my heart. Bo was my first and mayBee (pun intended) my only college mascot design (for quite some time). Ever since I was a college marketing intern back in 2014, I have always dreamed of one day designing a mascot.

During a previous internship at a college, a fellow intern and I had the opportunity to re-design the college’s current mascot. Although our designs never came to fruition, it was a tremendous learning experience.

Fast forward nine years and my full-time job at Inver Hills (and DCTC) as a graphic arts specialist. I was given the opportunity to create a mascot for Inver Hills. It’s funny how life has a way of coming around full circle. As the project began to unfold, I felt well-prepared, drawing on my wealth of experience/knowledge regarding college mascots.

While I may have been the one to finalize Bo’s appearance, the process was undeniably a collaborative effort. From the initial voting to multiple rounds of changes and feedback from faculty, staff, students, and even a panel of high schoolers, so many played a role in how Bo the Bee ultimately buzzed to life.

I love that we were able to keep this creation of Bo in-house. Bo the Bee is truly and collectively made by the community of Inver Hills.

Maranda Steinmetz-Robey
Graphics Arts Specialist
Marketing and Communications
Inver Hills Community College
Dakota County Technical College

Bee-hind the scenes…

Naming the college’s new mascot was put to a vote by the campus community. Here are the results:

More about Bo the Bee…

Not surprisingly, Bo the Bee’s favorite color is Inver green. They like visiting more than 40 different types of Minnesota flowers, but are especially fond of maple tree flowers in early spring, which just happens to be their favorite time of year. Bo scrupulously avoids spearmint, peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella, lemongrass, and weed wackers.

When they’re not doing intensive research on sustainability, organic gardening, composting, and recycling, Bo the Bee enjoys buzzing around our university-style campus, getting to know our students, staff, and faculty.

“When I meet prospective students, I tell them Inver Hills is a flower garden of splendid Degrees & Programs,” Bo the Bee said. “I tell them the knowledge and skills they’ll acquire here can be compared to the nectar and pollen bees use to energize and nourish their lives. I tell them Inver Hills is dedicated to the power and promise of education. We are student centered, equity minded, and community engaged. Together, we can learn, discover, and build a better future.”

Inver Hills Mascot Brand Guidelines

[Click image above to discover the guidelines…]

Bee Campus USA

Inver Hills Community College is the first educational institution in Minnesota and the 83rd in the United States to be certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, which is designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators.

As a Bee Campus USA, Inver Hills is a proactive participant in a national movement of campuses committed to engaging in pollinator conservation. The college can contribute to affiliate network webinars that promote collaboration as well as teaching and learning opportunities.


The Bee’s Knees Committee

The Bee’s Knees Committee at Inver Hills is a cross-departmental working group that meets once a month. Members of The Bee’s Knees Committee are dedicated to reviewing the requirements of Bee Campus USA certification and creating a campus-wide habitat plan.

The Bee’s Knees Committee at Inver Hills takes pride in the college’s commitment to minimizing hazards to pollinators by using nearly no neonicotinoid pesticides, glyphosate herbicide or other potentially dangerous pesticides.

The Bee’s Knees Committee members are excited about the opportunities for student research, service-learning and/or community-based learning projects, connecting with area businesses, creating sustainability connections in academic program curricula, and establishing designated pollinator gardens on campus. Inviting a variety of environmental stewardship experts to campus as presenters and speakers is also in the works.

The Bee’s Knees Committee members
  • Co-Chairs: Rachel Marzahn & Scott Klaehn
  • Ben Feldkamp
  • Debbie Wallen
  • Erica Kantola
  • Heather Brient-Johnson
  • Julie Nelson
  • Shannon Williams
  • Lydia DeGrross
  • Kellyn Redlin

Staff perspective: Rachel Marzahn

Rachel Marzahn

Do you ever think about bees? Why would you? You’ve got a busy life, and they’re just another annoying insect, right?

A few years ago, I would have said the same thing. However, thanks to a lecture at the college, I learned some facts that changed my mindset, and I am hoping changes yours, too.

I don’t know about you, but I love to eat! Without bees and other pollinators, you can say goodbye to much of the food we eat today. I could not imagine a world without apples, honey, coffee, or cheese. And without bees, we wouldn’t have these (at least not in the way we do today).

According to the USDA: “About 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to produce.”

And it’s not just food, bees and other pollinators also contribute to the production of our clothes and help define our seasons—like the berries in summer and pumpkins in fall.

According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation: “The loss of pollinators would negatively affect both farmers and consumers who would be faced with reduced crop yields and lower quality products. Moreover, insect-pollinated foods contain many key nutrients, such as vitamin E, essential to our diet. A world without pollinators would not only leave us with fewer food choices, but would make it substantially harder to find the nutrition we need to survive.”

“I used to think I was allergic to bees, but a recent allergy test let me know that I am not allergic and bees are my true friends. So, now I can help out local pollinators without fear of dying—which is the last thing I need.”
Rachel Marzahn, The Bee’s Knees Committee Co-Chair

I found out the bee population was plummeting globally due to habitat loss, climate change, disease, and pesticide use. I mean, bumble bees are now on the endangered species list!? When I heard this, I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. I had to speak up and do something about this issue!

I thought if I didn’t know this, maybe others didn’t know this either! It’s easy to get depressed and give up, but it’s not too late to make changes. It doesn’t have to be done on a large scale. Simply planting pollinator friendly plants and reducing harmful pesticides can positively impact our local pollinators. And spreading awareness of the issue in-person and online can also help.

I found the most hope when I discovered a local, tangible, positive, and community-forward way to make a difference—right here on the campus of Inver Hills Community College.

Likeminded, concerned community members formed The Bee’s Knees Committee back in 2019 and became the first educational institution in Minnesota and the 83rd in the United States to be certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program and certified as pollinator-friendly by the Xerces Society.

It feels great do something about this problem, right in our own backyard. We’re a group of students and employees who volunteer our time to create a pollinator habitat plan all while planning and implementing educational and awareness events throughout the year. We take pride in the college’s commitment to minimizing hazards to pollinators by minimizing dangerous pesticides and removing invasive species that harm pollinator habitats. I am also excited about the opportunities for student research and service-learning, and educational outreach to raise awareness about the plight of pollinators.

Our group is small, but mighty, just like the humble bee. We can always use more folks to join our hive! We meet monthly to discuss policy management, event planning, and educational opportunities. If you don’t have time to join The Bee’s Knees Committee, volunteering at a planting event is also a way to help out! If you’re an online student or remote worker, you can look into taking the pollinator protection pledge to commit to protecting pollinators at home.

Rachel Marzahn
Interactive Media Coordinator
Marketing and Communications
The Bee’s Knees Committee Co-Chair
Inver Hills Community College
Dakota County Technical College
Interested in joining The Bee’s Knees Committee? Contact Rachel Marzahn or Scott Klaehn, committee co-chairs.

Unity Trail

The Unity Trail will be a 5-mile loop along existing walkways in Inver Grove Heights. It will highlight the contributions of Dakota County’s diverse community. The project is a partnership of:

  • Dakota County Parks
  • Inver Hills Community College
  • ISD 199
  • City of Inver Grove Heights Parks and Recreation
  • ​Dakota County Library
  • The Unity Trail will honor and recognize the contributions of Indigenous, Black and communities of color. It will also emphasize the connection between racial equity, sustainability and environmental conservation.

The trail will connect the Mississippi River Greenway, libraries, schools and Inver Hills Community College to reach new and underrepresented users.

Funding for this project was provided through a Metropolitan Council grant, the City of Inver Grove Heights, Dakota County and the Dakota County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership.

Links of interest:

Bo the Bee Q & A

What do you find most interesting about the Climate Change program?

I really like learning about the different ways humankind can go about saving all our flowers from getting fried up, drowned, or blown away.

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role as the Inver Hills mascot?

One thing I find rewarding is how much I like telling people that Inver Hills is a community college “where all students bee-long.” One challenging thing is how I am starting to worry I will soon bee more famous than Taylor Swift.

Three words that describe you as a college mascot:

What advice would you give students thinking about enrolling at Inver Hills?

Like bees, our students show up no matter what. They work hard, study till they’re buggy, and know they can achieve their wildest dreams. They understand what it means to bee a bee. Bees might be small, but we are mighty.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

A green darner dragonfly once tried to eat me, but I told him my life was the bee’s knees…or was it the flea’s eyebrows or maybe the rat’s pajamas? Anyway, that impressed him, I guess, because he just jiggled his head before zooming away to enroll in the college’s Culturally Responsive Professional Peace Officer (CRPPO) program. Nowadays, you’ll often hear me saying, “If you can’t bee tough, bee cool.”

Green darner dragonfly (Anax junius)
If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

Everyone everywhere would bee kind, bee real, and bee free. Okay, you’re right, that’s three things. We’ll make the extra two things freebees!

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Inver Hills Community Garden & Orchard

LOCATION: From the top floor of Heritage Hall, enter out of the north door toward the Business Building. Turn left and take the trail to see our Community Garden & Biology Natural Area. The garden is open to the public from dawn to dusk.

Our garden is an interdisciplinary, cooperative effort among Inver Hills Community College students, employees, and community members. The garden has three components:

  1. Communal garden (one acre+)
  2. Communal orchard
  3. Thirty-eight (38) individual plots

Growing Food

The communal garden and orchard are maintained by our volunteers assisted by our staff. We produce University of Minnesota disease resistant apples, perfect for this climate. All green waste from the garden goes to our compost bins.  Students, employees, and community members contribute their time to grow fresh food for our on-campus food shelf.

Growing Experiences

The garden provides opportunities for hands-on learning experiences. Students participate in day-to-day maintenance. Classes use the garden for lab activities, such as soil testing and growth experiments. The communal garden also functions as an outdoor classroom and performance space, with a 30-seat amphitheater. Administrators, faculty, and staff use this space to hold office hours, teach their classes; the space is also used for concerts and other events. Classes use the garden as reflective space, for creative writing inspiration, and as a place to showcase their visual art.

Growing Community

The final component of our garden is the area with 38 community plots. Students, student clubs, alumni, employees, and community members from Inver Grove Heights and surrounding areas grow their own food in 10×10 plots. Each plot has a wide array of veggies, plants and flowers. Former farmers, master gardeners, and novice gardeners alike learn from each other to make this place come alive. Flowers surround massive tomatoes and cucumbers, making this spot one of the most beautiful and interesting places in our garden. Some gardeners choose to donate all they grow.

Growing Soil

The communal garden is managed following soil conservation principles. Low/no till practices, cover crops, and other techniques minimize soil disturbance, maximize soil biota, and reduce erosion. Restorative agriculture improves soil, water, and air. We partner with University of Minnesota Extension, and the Dakota County Master Gardener program maintains a plot, trialing new seeds and techniques each year.

Read more about what’s currently happening in the garden and orchard by visiting:

Inver Hills Community Garden & Orchard on Facebook

Ask questions about the Inver Hills Community Garden & Orchard by contacting:

View garden and orchard photos by opening the Inver Hills Flickr album:

Inver Hills Community Garden & Orchard: Late August 2022

Bo the Bee 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Buzzing
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Dubai Miracle Garden
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Got hired as the Inver Hills mascot
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Save the bees 2) Buy a million-acre flower garden somewhere without winter 3) Donate to the Union of Concerned Scientists 
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Book: What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories, and Personalities of Bees by Stephen Buchmann; Movie: Bee Movie (“Honey just got funny.”)
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: Whenever peace and prosperity prevail…
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Bee the best I can bee
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Bee hummingbird
  9. Dream occupation: President of the United States of Nectarica
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Sting (ha-ha, no, not really ?)
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Spelling
  12. Most important issue or problem facing bees: Extinction
Learn more about enrolling at Inver Hills by contacting:

Inver Hills Community College
Virtual Visit

Learn more about Bo the Bee, the new Inver Hills mascot, by contacting:

Lisé Freking, JD
Strategic Marketing and Communications Director
Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College

¹ SOURCE: Dakota County Forever Wild Park: Unity Trail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *