SA/GSA Research Mixer

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to mingle with graduate students doing fascinating research and to eat wonderful Thai food at the SA (Student Association)/GSA (Graduate Student Association) Research Mixer.

The graduate students represented the schools of Humanities, Social Sciences, Engineering, and Natural Sciences. There was something out there to learn for everyone! I had the chance to speak to a graduate student doing anthropological research on the relationship between doctors and patients of different nationalities in humanitarian medicine. I also spoke to a Psychology graduate student and a Religious Studies graduate student.

The rules were that after we spoke to each graduate student, we would get their contact information (yay potential future research opportunities!). After we got three graduate students’ contact information, we got to help ourselves to fantastic tasting Thai food.

This is one of the many ways that undergraduates at Rice can learn about research opportunities around campus, as well as bond with each other.

Baker Institute Talk on the Syrian Crisis

About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear distinguished speakers talk about the crisis in Syria at The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, one of the nation’s premier political/policy think tanks… which happens to be a ten minute walk from my residential college.

Three panelists and Edward Djerejian, a former US Ambassador to Syria, discussed the Syrian Civil War, its implications, and what can be done about it. Afterwards, there was a Q&A session with the audience.

One of the most fantastic things about Rice is how easily students can get plugged into the world if they make the effort. Going to Baker Institute talks and events, whether the topic is Syria or a talk with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (by “a talk,” I mean that someone from The Baker Institute was interviewing him as the audience listened), is an interesting and unique way to learn and think about current events.

I’m looking forward to more Baker Institute events throughout the year.

UNIV 110: First Year Foundations

Wrapping up my freshman year at Rice, I can honestly say that one of the most influential classes I took was UNIV 110: First Year Foundations. As the name suggests, this class is geared towards helping new students navigate their first year (and beyond) at Rice. It exposes them to the many resources and opportunities available on campus. The instructor and the two upperclassmen Peer Guides give helpful advice on everything ranging from classes to off campus living.

Signing up for UNIV 110 was not only one of the best decisions of my Rice career, but one of the best decisions of my life. Through this class, I gained more than information about navigating Rice, on campus resources and opportunities, and helpful advice. I also gained another layer of community, strengthening existing friendships and forming new ones with people all across campus. The discussion-based format helped everyone understand each other’s perspectives, and helped everyone get to know each other. We have a strong group bond – for example, the Saturday before the first week of finals, we all reunited and went out to eat in Rice Village.

Additionally, I learned a lot about myself through this class. The reflective papers and projects allowed me to take a look at myself and the ways I’ve changed since first setting foot on this beautiful campus. Knowing yourself is the first step towards doing anything in life, and this class helped me accomplish that.

I highly, highly recommend this course to incoming students. It is a relatively stress free environment that allows for tons of identity and community building. If you have room in your schedule for UNIV 110, sign up for it. You won’t regret it.

Owls, Owls Everywhere! ASB San Francisco

Being a Rice Owl can take you to some exciting places. This Spring Break, instead of staying at home in Houston, I traveled to San Francisco, California on an Alternative Spring Break Trip to focus on the education gap in our nation.

What is an Alternative Spring Break trip? It’s exactly what the name suggests. No misnomer here! It is a service trip sponsored by Rice’s Community Involvement Center that you have to apply to. If chosen, you and the other members of your group go volunteer with the specified organization. There are several ASB trips each year, with various destinations and organizations. You can view a list of the 2012 trips at this link, under “2013 Trip Destinations”: Information Sessions.

In San Francisco, I was paired with a teacher at a middle school. During the school day, I observed and helped out in the classroom, and afterwards, I volunteered at the built-in after school program. Not only did I get to help the kids, but I also got to learn about them, play games with them, and talk to them. I now understand the current state of our public education system better, and I learned that educational inequality involves many complex features. There isn’t an easy solution for educational inequality, but little things, such as telling a kid about your experiences in college, can potentially make a difference.

In addition to volunteering, my ASB group and I also got to tour around San Francisco. Some of the places we went to included Ghirardelli Square (I had the BEST ice cream cone in my LIFE), Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower, and Baker Beach.

I mentioned how being a Rice Owl can take you to some exciting places. My group and I stayed in San Francisco for only a week. But, one night, as we were headed back on the bus to the place we were staying at, we met a Rice alumnus! One of my friends had been wearing a Rice hoodie, and the alumnus noticed it and started talking to our group. He had graduated a few years ago, and told us he now works in San Francisco. Owls, Owls, everywhere!

In short, my ASB experience was amazing, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Here we are at Baker Beach. Some of us made an ASB SF light show with our phones! Photo Credit: Soorya Avali.


College Courses (COLL)

This semester, I am taking a College Course called “Inequality and Mobility.” Every Monday for an hour, I get to take an in depth look at the causes and effects of income inequality in the United States.

Rice students, primarily upperclassmen, who are passionate about a particular topic and want to share it with their peers, teach college Courses. In order to teach a COLL, a student’s proposal must be accepted by the Dean of Undergraduates.

Taking a COLL has allowed me to absorb information in a stress-free and inquisitive environment. The class is only one credit hour and is graded on a satisfactory/nonsatisfactory scale, so it is not a huge time commitment. However, despite having the class only one hour per week, I have gained a lot from it, and the information I have learned will be useful in my future endeavors.

New Perspectives on War

Where can you see thought-provoking images of war with your friends, complete with a one-hour tour given by one of the curators? At the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

On Wednesday, I, along with several other members of McMurtry, my residential college, had this opportunity. One of our Resident Associates (a faculty member who lives at the residential college), had organized the event, and had gotten us discounted tickets.

The photographs were hauntingly beautiful. The curator explained how we often forget that there are people behind those images. These photographers risk their lives while not even being soldiers, while not even being in combat. They gamble with their lives to preserve pieces of history.

One of the images that stuck with me is simple at first glance. It shows some grass, dirt, and soldiers from two different angles. The curator explained that the photographer took the photos right after he had mistakenly stepped on a landmine.

This exhibit is running until February 3rd, but there are many interesting upcoming exhibits, including “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning,” “Princes and Paupers: The Art of Jacques Callot,” and “Picasso Black and White.”

A fantastic aspect of Rice is that thinking goes beyond the hedges. There are events like this that make it easy for students to look at the world with new vantage points.