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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Graduates celebrate their last days on campus for inaugural Senior Week

Jennifer Igbonoba | Staff Photographer
A graduating senior reacts to loosing their prize in the claw machine as part of the Last Night celebration.

Officials organized the first-annual week of programming dedicated to commemorating seniors and their achievements before the start of Commencement Week on Thursday.

The programming, a part of the Office of Student Life’s “Senior Week,” spanned six days with 14 events for the Class of 2024, including tabling events like a “First-Gen Family Thank You,” where families could grab graduation cards and first generation student pins and larger events like a cruise on The Wharf to celebrate seniors’ final days as undergraduates. Seniors said they appreciated class-specific events after a nontraditional start to their college careers in 2020, when they missed out on events like Orientation Week and in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dean of Students Colette Coleman said the week was a commemoration of the community that seniors have built throughout the past four years and officials intend to continue the programming for future graduating classes.

“This week is especially important, as the class of 2024 did not get to experience a traditional high school graduation, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020,” Coleman said in an email.

Coleman said officials were excited to host events the Senior Laser Tag on Monday night in the Lerner Health and Wellness Center, the Wharf cruise with Whitlow’s on Water, a floating bar, and “Last Night” — which included a “Biergarten” with drinks for people older than 21 and free copies of this year’s Commencement speaker Jen Psaki’s new book “Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World” — where seniors and their families were invited to say their “final goodbye to GW.”

Some events were sparsely attended like the “Senior Send-Off with Dean Coleman” with about 15 students trickling in and out for the duration of the event. Others had about 100 students, like the Senior Trivia Night, Senior Night at ExPat and Last Night on the first floor of the University Student Center.

Orlando Martinez, an international affairs major, attended Last Night and said he’s gone to other major events throughout his time at GW including Program Board’s Spring Fling and Fall Comedy Show, and he was happy to see officials putting on a large event catered towards the senior class.

“It helps us reflect on what we’ve had the last few years and it does make you kind of feel special that you know, we’re seniors that we get to celebrate something outside of like midnight breakfast, and that’s a whole school event,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he’s heard that the COVID-19 pandemic “killed” student life and school spirit at GW and that he believes that officials are trying to return to pre-pandemic spirit.

“I do credit GW for trying to give us opportunities to have fun events at the bond one last time before we all had our different ways,” Martinez said.

Senior Iman Khan, a psychology and biological anthropology major, said the Class of 2024 didn’t get traditional “senior experiences” in high school or a proper orientation at GW due to COVID-19, adding that her time at GW has “gone by so fast” due to the Class of 2024’s lack of a full first year because of virtual classes. She said she wishes she had more time to spend at GW because college is a period to “experience your youth.”

Khan said she had flashbacks to her senior year earlier this month due to a similar uncertainty surrounding Commencement after the University of Southern California canceled their main ceremony for seniors due to “new safety measures” and pro-Palestinian demonstrations on their campus. GW officials said Commencement ceremonies and final exams would continue throughout the 13-day encampment earlier this month.

“We’re still getting a graduation,” Khan said. “I’m glad that they’re doing stuff like this to at least make us feel like we were included and like they were doing stuff for us.”

Senior Jacob Comer, an international affairs major, said he’s noticed the University promotes events catered around things like food, which students are more interested in.

“It’s kind of difficult to build camaraderie with your class year outside of your major and the classes that you take with the same people over and over again, to be able to have that social bond with people that you may not necessarily run into on your day to day,” Comer said.

Gillian Mendoza, a senior and international affairs major, said she attended Senior Week events to take advantage of giveaway items like T-shirts and stuffed animals at Last Night and to see friends “one last time” before she accepted her diploma.

“I think it’s nice to put a close to it, close the chapter,” Mendoza said.

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