Undergrads Take the Plunge

It’s been happening for decades and is now one of the most widely admired traditions at UIC: the senior class pool jump.

UIC College of Nursing seniors taking the plunge
UIC College of Nursing seniors taking the plunge (Chicago, 5/2/2017). More photos here...

Each year on the Monday or Tuesday of commencement week, bachelor’s degree students who are about to graduate celebrate with a sort of communal baptism into post-college life. The jump follows a luncheon and honors ceremony for the soon-to-be-grads.

This year’s dive took place on two campuses—Chicago and Urbana—on Tuesday, May 2. The Chicago version was held indoors at UIC’s Sport & Fitness Complex. Urbana’s intrepid students plunged into an outdoor pool on an overcast, 55-degree day. (Of the six UIC Nursing campuses in Illinois, only Chicago, Urbana and Springfield offer undergraduate degrees. Newcomer Springfield will have its first class of (pool-jumping?) BNS graduates in 2018.)

Little is known about the tradition’s origins, other than that it began in Chicago and was inaugurated in Urbana in 2008. It took root simply by each class of undergraduate students passing it on to the next.

“It’s been happening since I began working here in fall of 1981,” says college staffer Denise Rosen. “Then and now, it’s a way for the students to ‘wash off’ the stress of their undergrad years and celebrate and bond in a really unique way.”

In the early 1980s, students took the plunge in swimsuits and their official nursing aprons, says Rosen. In recent years, the attire has been scrubs.

Decades ago, the event was a favorite feel-good story covered by major Chicago newspapers and TV stations. In a grainy, undated photo from a Chicago Tribune clipping, students are captured mid-jump; a banner on the wall behind them announces “The Nightingale Plunge,” presumably a twist on the Nightingale Pledge.

“I’m still glad I did it,” says Joey Nguyen, BSN ’12. He is now Clinical Staff Nurse Officer at Winn Army Community Hospital in Fort Stewart, GA. “It’s a fond memory for me because of the symbolism that it held. I feel like it made my UIC experience even more unique.”

See more photos from the Chicago event here...

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