As a maturing institution, Washington State University Vancouver is carving out its own identity and traditions.A primary example was part of Saturday’s commencement: a symbol of academic pomp that looks a lot like a shovel.It is WSU Vancouver’s mace, and it was carried by Elizabeth Soliday, chairwoman of the Council of Faculty Governance.The mace provides a signature tradition within a statewide college system. And that’s what Chancellor Mel Netzhammer was looking for after he arrived in the summer of 2012.Back then, commencements at WSU campuses were on different days — typically two ceremonies on one weekend and two more on the following weekend.“The president and top-level administrators could make it to all of them,” said Nancy Youlden, WSU Vancouver vice chancellor. “There was one university mace, and a person would bring it from Pullman to here for commencement” in Vancouver.Netzhammer figured that WSU Vancouver was big enough to stand on its own and not be the westernmost stop on a statewide commencement tour.“The decision to move all of the commencements to the same day meant that we had the necessity, but more importantly, the opportunity to come up with our own symbols. The decision to commission a mace was an important piece in establishing our own commencement,” Netzhammer said.The mace traces its DNA back to medieval warfare. But in academic circles, it’s strictly ceremonial. Depending on design elements, it can wind up being more artwork than weaponry.