Today marks the beginning of the seniors’ last complete month as undergraduate students. Because the month of March is divided by spring break, April ends early for reading days and May sees final exams and commencement, February is the last full month of classes.
“My first thought when you said that was, ‘oh, crap,’” Wharton senior Julia Cantu said. “Wow, I just did not realize it was looming like that.”
Today also begins Feb Club, a tradition that celebrates each day of the last month the senior class has together.
Despite seniors’ familiarity with Feb Club today, it’s a relatively recent tradition on Penn’s campus. Founded in 1997, Feb Club — which is run by the Senior Class Board in conjunction with Penn Alumni — held only nine events throughout the month in its first year.
“I didn’t really know what it was until it was happening,” admitted 2002 College graduate Lisa Vaccarelli, director of Alumni Education and Alumni Travel & Career Networking.
It was not until 2004 that a Feb Club event was scheduled for every day of the month, and this tradition continues today.
Each day of the month will feature an event — ranging from athletic games to community-service projects — that will take place near campus or downtown, which all seniors are encouraged to participate in, said Rodney Robinson, associate director of activities in the Office of Student Affairs and faculty adviser to the Senior Class Board.
Cantu said she had heard of the upcoming events throughout her years at Penn, but “I wasn’t super excited. I’ll go to a couple of them … just to get the experience and see what it’s about.”
Cantu’s somewhat ambivalent attitude toward the events is shared by others across campus.
While “[seniors are] generally pretty excited,” according to Robinson, the tradition is not as big as others such as Hey Day, which celebrates the junior class becoming seniors, or Spring Fling, a weekend-long festival hosted by the Student Planning and Events Committee.
This holds true for Dennie Zastrow, a 2010 College graduate and assistant director of Undergraduate Participation who is currently in the masters of public administration program. His most vivid memory of Feb Club is “the first night and just waiting outside Smoke’s” for longer than usual.
“It’s a different tradition,” Zastrow added. “Hey Day and the Final Toast are in a league of their own.”
To incentivize students to attend more events, each senior is given a Feb Club Card and receives a stamp for each event attended. Students who rack up a stamp for each night win the grand prize — their names are engraved on a plaque that is hung at Smokey Joe’s.
This year, those wishing to go down in Smoke’s history have a particular challenge. Because it is a leap year, Feb Club will host 29 events in all, Senior Class President Jibran Khan pointed out.
Khan went on to explain that the Senior Class Board has worked harder than ever to “maximize the overall senior experience in February,” adding that the Board has contributed a “considerable” amount of its own money in order to offer seniors group discounts, drink specials and private rooms at certain events.
The first night’s “classy” event is one that Khan is particularly proud of. The First Toast will take place at the Pyramid Club — a private club on the top floor of the BNY Mellon Center at 17th and Market streets. Each senior will enjoy free hors d’oeuvres and, for those who are of age, a gratis glass of champagne.
For some students, however, the emphasis on alcohol is an obstacle that blocks Feb Club from gaining more prominence among seniors. Some see it as a tradition that revolves solely around drinking.
Cantu’s initial impression of Feb Club was that it took place at “different bars.” When told about the diverse activities that take place during the month, she added that she would be more likely to participate in events such as Community Service Day and ice skating at RiverRink at Penn’s Landing.
Like Cantu, many seniors may be unaware that, in addition to drinking-oriented events such as the Sansom Pub Crawl or Millcreek Monday, the Senior Class Board has also planned events to appeal to other crowds. These include a visit to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens and a 76ers game.
One event will still be held at Smoke’s in honor of “tradition,” Khan said. Because going to Smoke’s is not “maximizing the senior experience,” as many seniors already visit the bar often, a wider array of venues have been added to the calendar this year, he added.
Many see the tradition of Feb Club expanding each year.
“Every senior looks forward to it” now, Zastrow said. “You hear about it from freshman year.”
For the first time, Seniors for the Penn Fund will co-sponsor a Feb Club event. According to Zastrow, coordinator of S4TPF, seniors must have made a donation to the Penn Fund before attending the First Toast at Pyramid Club, either online or at the door.
“The entire mission of Seniors for the Penn Fund is to foster class unity,” Zastrow said, which is in line with the Feb Club’s mission to provide the senior class a memorable bonding experience.
“Shared experiences … unite you with your fellow classmates across generations,” Executive Director of Alumni Relations Elise Betz said. “As much as campus has changed,” traditions like Feb Club “are the constants.”
“It was a lot of fun to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen since freshman or sophomore year,” Zastrow recalled.
Vaccarelli also said that Feb Club was not only an opportunity to reconnect with friends she made freshman year, but that it also helped seniors “get through the winter months.”
According to Betz, many alumni wish something like Feb Club had existed during their final year at Penn. “They are envious of these new traditions that have evolved.”
While seniors still have much to look forward to, including Senior Week and their final Spring Fling, February marks “the beginning of the end” of the undergraduate experience, Vaccarelli said. “It’s the beginning of the time to reminisce, to be nostalgic.”
The seniors who tonight will toast to their years at Penn will in a few months walk down Locust together in their final gathering as an undergraduate class.
“Penn will always be the place you graduated from,” Betz said. “The student experience is four years; the alumni experience is the rest of your life.”
However, for some, Feb Club is simply an opportunity to deny the inevitable transition from student to alumni.
“My goal is to be at every event,” Khan said. “There’s no reason not to make the most of it right now.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.