FALL in Love with Rice

Fall is in in full swing (and has been for some time – technically the fall equinox began on September 22nd), but it’s only just beginning to really feel like autumn. There’s a common saying in Texas: our seasons are summer and not summer. This saying is especially true in my hometown of Dallas, but applies to Houston to some extent as well. The extra humidity can make the cold a little colder and the hot a little more stifling, but generally, it stays in a pretty comfortable range with some days being absolutely breathtaking (I’m talking clear skies, cool breeze breathtaking). Even so, there is a slight transition into fall that is signaled more by the students than anything else. I know that fall is coming when I see winter boots coming out, long sleeves, and flannel tied around waists. I’ll see warm cups of coffee or tea clasped in the hands of students as they hustle to class or settle down to study in Coffeehouse. Suddenly, pumpkin carving study breaks, fall treats, and decorations for Halloween pop up around campus. Our library is set alight with lights the color of orange and yellow and a spooky skeleton greets you as you walk in.

Pumpkin carving study break at Hanszen College.

Pumpkin carving study break at Hanszen College.

I can even tell what region from the United States people are from by what they’re wearing when they leave their dorm on a chilly afternoon (that’s chilly in Texas-speak so anything under fifty). In general, it seems like a student from the south will be bundled up to the chin, complete with scarf, thick sweater, jacket, pants, wool socks and boots, while my friend from Wisconsin (and other students from the north) feel fine walking out in athletic shorts and a thin T-shirt. Whatever your preference, we all make it through the weather together (with plenty of pumpkin spice to spare).

Among the many events that happen during this celebration of fall, one that is especially exciting is Rice Program Council’s “Night Owl Antics: Trick or Treat on the Rink.” Rice Program Council is an organization at Rice that provides “opportunities for campus-wide bonding and entertainment.” They’re truly an amazing part of campus life, encouraging social events and interaction between students. As just one example of the cool events they sponsor, Trick or Treat on the Rink is an event where they rent out the entire ice skating rink at the Houston Galleria for just Rice students! You’re encouraged to wear costumes to do some cool tricks on the ice and there are plenty of treats to consume off the ice. I was a little nervous to wear a full outfit (I was Pikachu!) in case others didn’t dress up, but true to Rice culture and community, everyone was super encouraging.

Rare photo of Pikachu preparing Ash for battle

Rare photo of Pikachu preparing Ash for battle

I didn’t know how to skate at all, but it was so fun to scooch around on the ice and have all my fellow Rice students right there with me. There are events like this that cater to students and are designed to increase student connection and interaction all throughout the year. Just as the seasons change (or stay the same), so too do the activities and study breaks at Rice. One thing you can count on? Rice University being an amazing place to be.

Free T-Shirt Complex

The more time you spend at Rice, the more free T-shirts you accumulate. Although they may mostly be blue and gray, your rainbow of T-shirts will show a good idea of your time spent here, and at the end of your four years, they will be able to tell you what is important to you. Though you are allowed to keep all 65 shirts you will have accumulated, most likely you won’t actually do so. There will be one pile that goes to the clothing donation box that Rice has at the end of each year, 20 that go to a loved one to be made into a T-Shirt Quilt, and the three that you will wear proudly until the end of time. These 23 T-shirts will show you your best memories, and everyone’s quilt is filled with different T-shirts.

Welcome Back Day T-shirts

This is the most popular T-shirt at Rice. At the festival put on by the Rice Program Council the day before classes start each year, this T-shirt is handed out to the vast majority of students on campus. This also means that you will not be able to escape this shirt. Someone will be wearing it every single day of the next however many years you have left. However, no matter how tired of this shirt you become, you will feel attached to it. This shirt is a physical common bond between you and every other student on campus. This shirt is where it all started (and this shirt is also served with incredible food at the festival). You will have a glimpse of nostalgia in your eye as you give this t-shirt up for donation, because although it carries memories, the memories that you make over your time at Rice have forged stronger bonds than any shirt ever could.

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The T-shirt that will never be its original color

This T-shirt will probably be worn the least out of the T-shirts on your quilt. It was worn once, you had a crazy-messy-fun time, and it is now gross. You can wash it as many times as you want to, but not even the strongest of Tide-Pods will clean away the laughter that appears as a stain the size of the entire shirt. This shirt will statistically happen at Lovett College, who takes it upon themselves to host a Paint or Foam Party every year in the fall, and turn the campus-wide water balloon fight into a mud wrestling pit in the spring. Even though you may be scared to put it back on your body, it sure does look great in a quilt.

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The Job Fair T-shirts

Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. You see that soft, 100% cotton light blue tee and you muster up the guts to talk to a company you have no interest in because you WILL earn that shirt. There is no judgment, we’ve all been there, and most likely more than once. However, this shirt will never last. You’ll collect more career shirts at info sessions and through internships, displaying pride for your current company a few months at a time. But at that eighth career fair senior year, you aren’t going to muster anything up for a T-shirt, because you aren’t going to be at the Career Fair at all. You’ll be in your room, wearing one of the 3 T-shirts that you can’t bear to let go; because printed across the front is the name of the company you’ve always wanted to work for, and on your desk is a signed contract for your dream job.

The memories you make at Rice make getting dressed a whole lot more fun.

Every Student Has a Say: Being Part of Student Association

Athena with committee head from Academic Committee, Komal(currently SA internal vice president)

Athena with the committee head from the Academic Committee, Komal (currently SA internal vice president) at the SA recognition retreat.

I have been in Student Government throughout my three years in high school. So when I got into Rice, I knew that I would keep doing it.

There are two types of Student Governments at Rice: Rice-based and residential college-based. For Rice-based government, which we call Student Association (SA), the SA president, vice president, college presidents, senators and new student reps (NSRs) all have to attend our weekly meetings. I was an NSR for my residential college, Martel, when I was a freshman. And it was the most valuable experience I have ever had. I was able to participate in most of the important decisions made in Rice – for example, adding CCTV (closed-circuit television monitoring) at the university’s main entrance, and bike racks to prevent bikes from being stolen. I was encouraged to speak up about my personal opinions even as a freshman, because SA believes that every student has a say.

Besides attending weekly meetings, NSRs are also required to join a standing committee and work on their projects. There are five committees in total. Their names and visions can be found on http://sa.rice.edu/people/scc.php. I was in an academic committee and helped start a program called Meeting Your Professors. It was a monthly event that invited professors to have snacks with us and talk about their life before and after Rice. I really enjoyed doing it and helping build bonds between students and professors in a casual setting. I was also amazed by how much power I had as a freshman. Although the committee chairs did help me with planning and getting food to the event, I was given a lot of autonomy. I could decide how I wanted to advertise for it, which professors I wanted to invite, and how often I wanted to host the events. It was totally different from my experience with student government in high school. It was at Rice’s SA that I started to feel like I was given full responsibilities as an adult.

If you are not interested in Rice-based government, there is another choice: our residential colleges’ governments. For residential college-based government, class reps from each year (another way for freshman to get involved!), the residential college president, vice president, prime minister, senator and standing committee heads are also meeting weekly. But it mostly focuses on specific residential college-related topics. For my college, Martel, we would talk about topics such as how much money we will give to a special event held in our college and suggestions we have for renovating our kitchen. The residential college president and senator will also bring important topics that the SA is considering up to discussion within the college so that they can give feedback to the SA representing their college’s opinions.

Being part of Student Government was one of the most valuable experiences I had during my freshman year. It was quite different from high school, but I did enjoy it. I loved having my opinions respected and treated equally as those of upperclassmen, and I loved the freedom and support I was able to get when I was working on my project. I cannot think of another place that can offer me, a 19-year-old girl, such freedom and respect.

At Rice You Can

Chances are, you’ve heard the phrase “you can do anything you set your mind to.” For many of us, it’s something we’ve heard since we were young, and even though we believe it on some level, we sometimes forget how true it can be. We get so caught up with the things that we can’t accomplish that we don’t appreciate the many things we can do. More than anything, Rice University has reminded me of the inherent power in setting your mind to something and seeing it through. At Rice, the entire adult team (deans, advisors, masters, associates, professors, etc.) are there for your benefit, and they have incredible resources at their disposal. Taking advantage of opportunities at Rice can seem daunting at first, but once you do, so many doors open up, and you’ll be surprised by what you can do with just a little initiative and forethought.

Hungry Hanszenites enjoying food at a student run event

Hungry Hanszenites enjoying food at a student run event

Rice students enjoy quite a bit of autonomy, and I have a feeling that this contributes to our ranking as some of the happiest students in the nation. We are free to think and learn in our own unique ways, and we are celebrated for our differences. This kind of freedom is what makes Rice an amazing and empowering place to be. In high school, I never considered coordinating my own events because that was something adults did. I assumed they were in charge of creating clubs, planning events, and leading meetings because they knew best, and I was not qualified to do any of those things. When I think about it now, one thought comes to mind: why not? The answer is more than just because I was young and inexperienced; it also involves the fact that there weren’t resources in place to support student initiatives and the drive to do something different. There were organizations I was truly passionate about in high school, but I never felt there was a system in place to encourage me or make me feel as if I could ever follow through with an idea. This is most definitely not the case at Rice. Here, there are so many opportunities to get yourself involved, create new traditions, and make your mark. Best of all, you can do all these things simply because you want to and not because you hold any position of power or some sort of sway.

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My friends and I (far right) after our cascarones event

In my home college, I’ve coordinated several events throughout the year with the help of my fellow Hanszenites. Some events include renting out the skating rink for our college, gathering in the quad to have a cascarones fight, carving pumpkins together, and throwing a major declaration party to celebrate what we’ve accomplished in the past year. The success of these events wasn’t based on the number of people who came or the amount of people that talked about it afterwards. Rather, the true success of the events came from the fact that all of them were the result of the students’ desire to try something new and take ownership of their own college culture. I am so grateful to attend a university that supports the ideas of its students and gives them the resources to turn those ideas into a reality.

At the Intersection of STEM and the Arts

I absolutely love being a computer science major at Rice, but my interests extend far beyond just my major. I’ve always enjoyed STEM subjects, and I also like having an outlet that’s completely different: theatre. During high school, I didn’t meet many people who shared my enjoyment of both the arts and STEM subjects. However, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter so many people at Rice who think like I do.
Rice students are some of the most hardworking and diverse students in the nation, and that also extends to their extracurriculars. One of my good friends is an aspiring physicist, but she gets just as excited talking about her experience with Rice Dance Theatre as she does when she’s discussing granular physics. When I helped with costuming for the Visual and Dramatic Arts Department’s production of a Much Ado About Nothing last semester, half the cast were STEM majors. While theatre may not be their major, each member of the cast was as dedicated and enthusiastic as they were with anything else at Rice.
This semester, I’m especially excited to be a part of Wiess College’s Hello Hamlet, a comedic musical version of the famous Shakespeare play that was originally written and performed in the 1960s by Rice students at Wiess College. It’s been performed every four years since then, so students usually only get one chance to be involved during their time at Rice. Each time the show is performed, the script is updated and re-written, including whole new scenes and songs. I was lucky enough to be a part of that process, and I had a blast working with students to rewrite famous songs from musicals, such as the “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago, to suit Shakespearean characters. The show is also being entirely produced, directed, costumed, and choreographed by students. I can’t wait to see what I’ve written performed onstage!

There are so many opportunities at Rice in the arts, ranging from theatre to dance to fine art, that there truly is something for everyone. I’d recommend that everyone, even those who don’t consider themselves “artsy” at all, to try to get involved — you never know what you might discover about yourself!

Owls + Chemistry = Owlchemy!

One of the best things I’ve gotten to do at Rice is volunteer with Owlchemy. What is Owlchemy, you ask? Owlchemy is a club for people who like chemistry and/or doing demonstrations. We do demos at various campus events and at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I was first introduced to Owlchemy at the activities fair my freshman year when I saw them freezing flowers with liquid nitrogen and smashing them against a table. I decided to join them because I love chemistry, and doing demos seemed like fun. It was a great decision.

I’ve had the chance to work with an awesome group of people who love chemistry as much as I do. We have a lot of fun making bubbles with dry ice and dish soap, freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen, and combusting gummy bears with potassium chlorate and talking about the chemistry behind the demos. Aside from getting to play around with really cool stuff like dry ice and liquid nitrogen (See what I did there?), doing chemistry demos for kids is a lot of fun. Kids get really amazed by the phenomena we show them, but more importantly, they really become interested in what we show them. Some of the older students who have had some chemistry in school even ask about how our demos relate to something they learned in school. As a chemical engineering major, I really love seeing young kids interested in and curious about science, and Owlchemy was the perfect place to channel my own passion for chemistry into getting kids interested in chemistry.

An elementary school student assists with a liquid nitrogen demo

Dry ice bubbles!