School Profile: The University of Pennsylvania and the Toast Zamboni

The University of Pennsylvania is located in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and began as a charity school in 1740. Under the influence of Benjamin Franklin, the school developed its roots in training students to become leaders in public service, business, and government. The private university has fewer than 10,000 undergraduates and ranks #13 on the Veritas Prep Elite 61 list of colleges.

One in nine Ivy League schools, the University of Pennsylvania has a long tradition of academic excellence. The undergraduate program includes three schools: the famed Wharton Business School, the School of Nursing, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Students may take classes from any of the three schools, no matter which is their primary school, under the school’s  “One University” philosophy. Additionally, students can take classes from any of three other schools in the Quaker Consortium – Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Haverford.

The University of Pennsylvania is consistently among the top research universities in the nation and offers students research opportunities in over 165 specialized research centers. Penn also offers six specialized dual-degree programs to undergraduates including management and technology, nursing and health care management, international studies and business, accelerated bio-dental, integrated energy research, and life sciences and management. There are even dual degree programs that allow students to have degrees from separate colleges within the University.

Penn offers students on-campus housing in an eleven house system. Each house has four faculty members attached to it that serve as the House Dean, Faculty Master, and two College House Fellows. Within the house system are themed residential programs where students are grouped by affinity. For example, students with a shared interest in science and technology are grouped together in residences. Besides traditional dining halls, Penn offers students Starbucks and Subway among other retailers on campus. Over 90 food trucks and carts dot the campus in Penn’s long tradition of food vending.

There are a combined 31 men’s and women’s sports teams at the University of Pennsylvania. This Division I Ivy League school takes great pride in their athletic department. Nearly three-quarters of the students participate in at least one sport. Penn’s football teams have become Ivy League Champions sixteen times, the last being in 2012. The basketball and lacrosse teams are consistently winning teams as well. The Penn Band, 100-member strong and completely voluntary, is one of the most active bands at the college level. The band, once conducted by John Phillip Sousa, enthusiastically performs at football games and other sporting events. They were the first band to ever march in the popular Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Every college has its quirky traditions and Penn is no exception. One oddly school sanctioned tradition is that of throwing toast during football games. At the end of the third quarter of home football games at Franklin Field, students begin a rousing chorus of “Drink a Highball,” which is on a list of school songs students should commit to memory. After the last line, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” students then throw toast onto the track surrounding the football field like thousands of small frisbees. The tradition started in the 1970s and continues to today. Engineering students designed a specialized machine to pick up the toast and other debris after games, which has become fondly named the “Toast Zamboni.”

Other traditions include Spring Fling, Ivy Day, Hey Day, and many others. Hey Day is a favorite for juniors at Penn. On this day, juniors gather on Hill Field all wearing the same tee-shirts, styrofoam hats, and carrying canes, for a picnic of hot dogs and pretzels. Students then march around campus to the College Green where the Penn president declares them seniors. In fact, Penn has so many traditions and social opportunities that it has been dubbed “the social Ivy.” If you’re looking for an Ivy League school where students know how to relax and not take themselves too seriously, then the University of Pennsylvania may be just the school for you.

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By Colleen Hill