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The senior class pool jump

Students jump into pool

Our BSN students' odd and admired tradition Heading link

Each year as commencement approaches, bachelor’s degree students who are about to graduate celebrate with a sort of communal baptism into life after college: They put on their scrubs and jump in a pool.

On the Chicago campus, the jump happens at UIC’s Sport & Fitness Center following an awards and pinning ceremony for the senior class. Intrepid BSN students at the college’s Urbana campus plunge into the chilly outdoor pool at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) on the U of I Urbana-Champaign campus. Our Springfield campus partners with a local fitness club to use their pool.

How did this thing get started?

Little is known about the tradition’s origins, other than that it began in Chicago more than 40 years ago. (It was then adopted in Urbana in 2008 and in Springfield in 2019). It took root simply by each class of undergraduate students passing it on to the next, nowadays primarily through the College of Nursing Student Council.

“It’s been happening since I began working here in fall of 1981,” says now-retired 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.

The event has often been a favorite feel-good story covered by major local 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, a professional oath for nurses that is named in honor of Florence Nightingale.

“I’m still glad I did it,” says Joey Nguyen, BSN ’12, who went on to become a behavioral health nurse Officer at Winn Army Community Hospital in Fort Stewart, Georgia. “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.”

UIC College of Nursing 2022 BSN graduates in Chicago take the plunge during the annual pool jump ceremony.