Scav Hunt at UChicago: Seeking Fun, Finding Tradition

Quirky, at times impossible, yet always fun, Scavenger Hunt—or Scav—has set UChicago students dashing on multiday searches for eclectic lists of miscellany since 1987. Simultaneously a break from coursework and a thinly veiled learning exercise, Scav has become an enjoyable rite of spring for undergraduates, as well as some graduates and alumni.

At the core of the game are intelligently playful scavenger hunt lists. Packed with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor, often absurd and laced with pop culture references, each year Scav judges painstakingly craft “The List” and showcase a particular brand of brainy whimsy that aptly reflects both UChicago’s commitment to exploring intellectual curiosities and its irksome tradition of academic hairsplitting.

Truly inclusive, Scav does not require expertise. Generally played by groups coming together in residence halls, Scav promotes house spirit and is an immersive team building experience where neighbors scramble together, improvising and bonding over victories small and large. Beyond the dorms, Scav unifies the student body in a way that sports teams build school-specific spirit at some colleges. Students recognize Scav as uniquely UChicago and players back the game with fierce intensity and school pride.

For nearly four decades, Scavenger Hunt has evolved, adapted with technology, and garnered local, national, and international press, yet throughout time, it has retained its characteristic spirit of humor, playful rigor, and inclusion that reflects core UChicago values and has become an endearing student tradition. [1 introductory point for actually reading an exhibit introduction]

The founders of the University of Chicago's Scavenger Hunt participated in a panel discussion at the University of Chicago Library on May 1, 2024, to explain how Scav started in 1987. Chris Straus, Cassie Hallberg, Diane Kelly, Rick Jeffries, and Nolan McCarty told attendees how it all began.

Exhibit Publications & Documents

Exhibit Checklist