Being an Economics Major at Rice

Rice has one of the most prestigious undergraduate economics programs in the country, and when I was admitted to Rice as a Mathematical Economic Analysis major last year I was elated to start specializing my studies and begin a new chapter in my life. At the same time, though, the thought of living and breathing economics for the next four years seemed daunting, so I wanted to share my experience as a freshman studying economics for all the Future Owls reading this blog!

While Rice does allow you to place out of Principles of Economics (ECON 100) if you scored well enough on both the AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics exams,  I highly recommend that all new students considering to major in economics take ECON 100! ECON 100 is taught by the one and only Dr. Jimmy DeNicco, who works full time at Rice teaching 4 ECON 100 lectures every semester! His lectures are filled with crazy sound effects and even crazier stories and analogies, but nonetheless Dr. DeNicco takes teaching his students very seriously, having quite possibly some of the most accessible office hours on campus, asking his students every week for advice to improve the lectures in exchange for a small bit of extra credit, and empathizing with his student’s struggles and doing whatever he can to help you understand the material. I came to Rice with a decent understanding of basic economics, and Dr. DeNicco’s class was the perfect refresher; there wasn’t a boring day with him!

However, should you choose to take advantage of your AP credits and place out of ECON 100, you would be taking ECON 200, Microeconomics, your first semester at Rice. I am currently taking ECON 200, and it is the polar opposite of 100! Whereas Dr. DeNicco is a rambunctious, spirited, fire-in-his-eyes kind of guy, Dr. Brown, my ECON 200 professor, is mellow, quick-witted, and serene (plus his voice is very soothing and patient!) And though Dr. DeNicco tries his best to steer away from using calculus in ECON 100, Dr. Brown embraces derivatives and multi-variable functions with open arms. That’s not to say that the lectures are confusing, though: Dr. Brown explains each concept he presents very thoroughly and stops frequently to make sure as few people as possible are confused. Like Dr. DeNicco, Dr. Brown makes it very clear at the start of the semester that he wants you to succeed, and is willing to even hold review sessions on Sunday afternoons and help you brush up on your calculus skills one-on-one if you need it! ECON 200 may be very technical and complex at times, but Dr. Brown is with you every step of the way.

The Economics and Mathematical Economic Analysis degree programs at Rice also include many other specialized economics courses for upperclassmen, like Behavioral Economics (ECON 210) and International Finance (ECON 421), but at the end of the day, if you decide economics is not right for you, Rice makes it very easy to switch majors! Rice requires you to declare your major by the second semester of sophomore year, but before then, most major paths are fair game! At Rice, you can take the time to figure out what you’re passionate about, even if it isn’t economics, and although you’ll only be able to find Dr. DeNicco and Dr. Brown in the ECON department, Rice’s professors are all caring, dedicated, and willing to help in their respective fields of study.

Taking a Language at Rice

Rice’s foreign language program is an excellent resource for both fluent speakers and first time language learners. However, like most incoming freshmen, I struggled with the idea of continuing my French studies in college: I loved foreign language classes in high school and wanted to continue, but at the same time I didn’t know if I was ready to allocate time from my busy schedule for French. Wonder what taking a language at Rice is like? Here is some information based on my experience with the foreign language program.

  1. The faculty are very supportive. My French professor, Dr. Couti, has helpful and easily accessible office hours. I often bring my rough drafts to her office hours and receive valuable criticism for grammar, spelling, and clarity; I can attribute most of my improvement in French to these helpful office hours! If you choose to take a language class and find yourself struggling, do not be afraid to ask for help from your prof: they love talking about language to their students!
  2. Language classes tend to be smaller discussion based classes. In fact, my French class has three other students in it! While small class sizes may seem more daunting due to there being more pressure on you to speak and contribute, I can assure you that your classmates will be supportive and understanding, even through the errors: after all, speaking is the number one way to improve fluency in a foreign language, and you’ll be surrounded by other students who empathize with your language journey! At Rice, we’re here for you, even when you miss conjugate a verb or forget an idiomatic expression.
  3. First year language classes are perhaps some of the greatest elective classes you could take! A few of my friends are taking first year Japanese and love to talk about what they’re learning at lunch. What sets Rice’s first year language classes apart is how the department designs them to be as encouraging as possible. Usually, there are around 20 people a class (yay to not learning language in a big lecture hall!) and there is a cultural club for almost all of the languages, where you can interact with fluent speakers who will be more than happy to help you with any troubles.

Rayzor Hall, home of the language program at Rice, as seen from the inner loop.

I would definitely recommend taking a language at Rice! Our amazing language department makes learning language in college accessible and so much less daunting. Continue learning the language you’ve been practicing for years, or start fresh with a new one – the choice is yours!