Rice’s Culture of Care

As a new student, most especially during O-week, one of the first things you’ll hear about is the Culture of Care. And, believe me, it’s one of those things you will keep hearing about until it almost seems to lose meaning. At orientation, you’re introduced to all of Rice’s resources, which seem to take care of just about every need you’ll ever have. Need help making your schedule for next semester? Peer Academic Advisors (PAAs) are there for that. Come down with a cold? Need someone to talk to? Rice Health Advisors (RHAs) are prepared for all your basic mental & physical first-aid needs. Need general advice about academics or life at Rice? Your O-Week advisors are happy to help you figure things out. You hear about all these people–all this information is stuffed into your brain in such a short amount of time–and you just got here. You don’t know anyone at Rice. You wonder: are all these people really here to help? Can I ask them for help? Or are they just figureheads? Continue reading

Duncan’s Quad Culture

One of the most unique aspects about Rice is our residential college system. Rice has eleven different residential colleges that students are a member of for their entire time here at Rice! Each college has different traditions, public parties, and cultures. One of my favorite aspects about my residential college (Duncan College) is our quad culture.

One of the many events that takes place in our lovely quad is Friday in the Quad. At FITQ, there is a ton of awesome activities, catered food (like from Torchy’s Tacos), and people. Furthermore, each FITQ has a different theme, ranging from Families Weekend FITQ to Petting Zoo FITQ. At our Families Weekend FITQ, we had pumpkin carving, Boba, and a photo booth. Meanwhile, at our Petting Zoo FITQ, we had mug decorating, a make-your-own smoothie bar, and, of course, a petting zoo! Overall, FITQ is a wonderful way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our busy academic lives, to bask in the beautiful and sunny weather that we have here in Houston, and to form new friendships with fellow Duncaroos.

Another awesome activity that we have in our quad is College Night. College Night is yet another day full of fun! At our most recent College Night, we had a huge water slide, a Velcro wall, a spikeball tournament with our friendly rival McMurtry, and our own unique Snapchat filter, as well as a TON of awesome food, ranging from Cane’s to Domino’s. College Night was a great way to hang out with my fellow Duncaroos and to take a break from the books.

Located right next to our quad, we have our DuncTank, which serves as a central element of our college’s culture. You’ll often see Duncaroos sitting and studying around the DuncTank and dipping their feet in the DuncTank to cool off on Houston’s hot and humid days. You may also see a group of Duncaroos carrying one of their friends and putting them in the DuncTank. While this may sound a bit crazy, this is just another one of Duncan’s traditions! On a Duncaroo’s birthday, they may opt to get dunked in the DuncTank by their friends. All in all, Duncan’s quad serves as a place for students to eat, study, have fun, and relax!

A Day in My life as a Rice Freshman

No single Rice student’s day looks the same, which is one of the best things about this university. Each person has unique interests and passions which they pursue here at Rice. Students pursue a wide range of majors, from Biological sciences to classics and everything in between. Students are involved in advocacy, research, medical humanities, policy, volunteering, and much much more. One of the best parts of being a Rice student is having the opportunity to interact with peers who have interests that are different from your own, but equally interesting to learn about. The first couple months of my freshman year at Rice have been all about exploring what I want to do with my time here and getting involved in things that seem interesting to me.  With that being said, here is a day I have recently had as a freshman at Rice.

7:15am– I heard my alarm. I groaned. I hit snooze.

7:30am– I heard my alarm again, this time I decided I should probably get up. I proceeded to get out of bed and get dressed for the day.

8:30am– I headed down for breakfast at West Servery and grabbed a plate of scrambled eggs and fruit. I sat at a table outside the servery and read an article for class. This particular one was called “Millennial Women are Worried About the Future of Their Reproductive Care.” After I finishing my reading, I grabbed a cup of servery coffee – which I must say is not bad at all – and headed back up to my room.

9:30– While I would like to say I was productive with the hour I had before class, alas, I was not. I laid in bed watching Stranger Things.

10:30– I packed my backpack and met up with my friend to walk to Econ class. I walked into class and waved at the professor, who I must say, is amazing! Econ 100 is a 120 person, lecture based introductory class, which the professor makes extremely interesting and manageable. He also knows who I am and talks to me whenever he sees me outside of class. But I’ve learned, that’s just how Rice professors are.

12:00– I walked to the English department lounge for a presentation on what careers are available to English majors. As a potential English major, this was right up my alley. Representatives from the Center for Career Development and the Jones Graduate School of Business spoke about various job opportunities. Free lunch was also provided at the event, so I dug into a delicious burrito as I listened to the speakers.

1:15– I hurried to Brochstein Pavilion, which is both a cafe and central spot on campus. I was meeting my English professor at Brochstein to discuss my ideas for my close analysis essay on Egyptian poetry.  

2:00– I went to my second and final class of the day. Today, there were two guest lecturers in class: one was from Planned Parenthood and the other was a doctor at Rice. We spoke about gender, reproductive care, health insurance and legislation.

4:00– I settled down in a comfortable chair at Fondren Library, with a view of the quad and Sallyport on my right, and my calculus textbook in front of me. With a midterm coming up soon, I had a lot of work to get done.

8:00– I suddenly realized that I forgot to leave the library and eat dinner- I know, it’s crazy! I walked back to my room and warmed up some readymade Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese (it’s honestly really good). My friends came over and we all sat on the floor talking, eating and watching Stranger Things.

10:00– I changed into pajamas and worked on my essay in my room. I occasionally got distracted and watched Youtube videos, but on the whole I was productive enough.

12:15– I got into bed and went on Instagram for a few minutes and then promptly dozed off afterwards.

Sid and Me? We Go Wayyy Back

I’ve been a tour guide for almost three years and have had the honor of having many Rice alumni on my tours, accompanying their children on their search for the perfect university, only slightly constrained by the poorly-hidden bias emanating from their parents. I have to admit that having these parents on my tours is one of the coolest things about being a tour guide. Their enthusiasm about the university and their memories of their eventful time here is still as strong as when they graduated, and it’s inspiring to realize how much larger yet how much more close-knit Rice is than I previously thought. As a student at Rice, you are plugged into the fascinating, quirky, and unique history that has been shaped by the students themselves over the last 105 years.

I had the honor of giving the first woman to graduate from Sid and her family a tour of the campus. Here we are in the Sid Richardson lobby!

Twice, I’ve had Sid Richardson (my residential college) alumni on my tours, and both times, it was extremely cool to hear their stories (I may or may not have given them a little princess treatment after the general tour). The first alum happened to be the first woman to have graduated from Sid Richardson College after Sid became a co-ed college in 1987. She was with her whole family on the tour, and I excitedly brought them back to Sid Richardson afterwards, her first time back in the building since she graduated. Nothing had changed. She scanned the portraits on the wall of presidents and pointed out her friends to her kids. I brought them up to my suite to see a Sid room, and that, too, was exactly the same as she remembered it. It was exciting, as she shared stories of her time with her kids in the place that they happened, and how she transferred from Jones to Sid in her junior year. It was truly a blast from the past, and the fact that she was an Asian woman made it feel like she had carved the way for me to be there.

The second time was just recently, perhaps two weeks ago. Two boys on my morning tour were accompanied by their mother and father, who graduated from Sid Richardson in 1979. Later on in the day when I was walking back from class to Sid, I found them standing in front of the entrance, staring up at the building. Seeing that there was not much for them to garner just from looking at it, I brought them inside. Their father was charged with infectious energy as we made our way up to his old floor, 6th floor, and looked out from the balcony as the stacks blasting music right above us. Their father told us about the time someone drove their motorcycle into the college commons for college night (which we still have today) and another time someone fell through the ceiling tiles into the servery. Conveniently, we ran into our current Sid president at the same time, and we all engaged in a fascinating conversation merging two eras of Sid history and tradition.

We talk about the residential colleges a lot – how fun they are, which one has the best food, which one is going to win the President’s Cup for intramural sports – but sometimes we forget that the colleges are living with rich history of all the students who lived there before us. It’s crazy for me to go through old yearbooks and see things like Lyndon B. Johnson standing among the same brick walls in Sid commons in 1971. Rice is a community that spans far larger than any of us could imagine, not only in breadth but also depth. Your presence and participation in any of the residential colleges is no small matter. If anything, it makes your experience as an undergraduate student that much more meaningful.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For the last week, campus has been in good spirits, even though many of us are going through a second round of midterms. Why, you might ask? Two words: Willy Week!

Willy Week is the week leading up to Beer Bike, an annual Rice tradition where a day of festivities culminates with a bike race between teams from the residential colleges. There’s a men’s team, a women’s team, and a team for alumni from each college; so if you like biking, you can join your college’s bike team once you get to campus! Throughout Willy Week, the residential colleges host activities for students to enjoy themselves and forget about the stress of classwork and exams. It’s a week full of special events, fun and games, and water balloons (more on the water balloons later).

My residential college, Sid Rich, put on its own share of activities. This year, these included the annual Mr. Sid pageant, where 5 male Sidizens competed for the top prize. We also had a private dinner service one evening where we got to dress up and bond over fancy food. My favorite Sid Willy Week tradition, however, was the annual Orc Raid.

For Orc Raid, me and a bunch of other Sidizens assembled outside. Wearing all black, we covered ourselves in black and red paint, Sid’s college colors. Then, as a mob, we ran all over campus, infiltrating the commons of other colleges. By shouting cheers and jumping on tables, we asserted our dominance as the best residential college (in our eyes at least). Along the way, we got a few weird looks from people doing homework and even joined a group of people in the Will Rice commons singing karaoke (because, let’s be real, Adele never fails to bring everyone together).

Sid infiltrates Duncan commons!

There is a friendly rivalry between all the colleges about which one truly is the best. While there really is no answer to this question, Rice students are pretty partial to the one they call home. This rivalry is especially magnified during Willy Week, and reaches its peak come Beer Bike morning.

Here’s where the water balloons come into play. Throughout Willy Week, students spend time between classes filling up water balloons. Then, as the final activity before the bike races on the morning of Beer Bike, thousands of students take their positions around the perimeter of a big field for (unofficially) the world’s largest water balloon fight. It’s a Hunger-Games-esque battle where everyone gets soaking wet (but it’s so much fun getting to throw balloons at your friends!).

Tens of thousands of balloons are thrown in a matter of minutes!

Throughout the week, I was able to make lasting memories with my friends and fall even more in love with Rice and its unique traditions. Getting to experience Willy Week and Beer Bike for myself made me understand why it’s nicknamed Christmas. There’s definitely a reason why something so special only comes once each year.

O-Week 2017: Get Hype?

Here’s a timely topic for you: Orientation Week (aka O-Week) 2017!!! This is the first week new students have on campus: a week of fun social events and academic planning and sessions meant to orient you to important aspects of campus life. Each new student is placed in a group of 8-10, with 2-4 upperclassmen advisors who are there to be the first point of contact and the first advocate for a new student.

“But wait,” you say, “O-Week doesn’t happen until next August.” That’s true. Many of the students who will be joining us next year haven’t even been admitted yet and won’t find out about their acceptance to Rice until the end of the semester. It’s the middle of February, sure – but in fact, planning for O-Week has already begun. This is just the point at which things pick up speed.

At Duncan, my residential college, the O-Week theme was revealed last week to be RadiO-Week, which has prompted two things: a wave of radio-related puns to circulate the college and a wave of excitement and mild panic as people rush to fill out their advisor applications. Interviews, decisions, a second wave of applications and interviews and decisions as colleges seek to fill the co-advisor (advisors who are from a different residential college) positions, and so on. It can be a stressful time, especially if it’s your first time applying to advise, especially because it’s a job that attracts so many people. Yesterday, at lunch with the group I advised last year, I asked who, if anyone, was applying to advise. Almost all of my new students said they were, and, further, that “basically the whole freshman class is applying.” So what’s the big deal? Why is it that my whole group – ten wonderful freshmen with diverse interests and backgrounds and personalities – wants to turn around and play the role of the knowledgeable older student?

As for my lovely O-Week family, there isn’t a single one of them that wouldn’t make a great advisor next year!

People have different reasons for wanting to become advisors, but here are some of the ones I’ve heard. Of course, everyone who applies wants to get to know the matriculating class of 2017 and wants to be involved in the college (and it’s fantastic to be part of an environment where those motivations are just givens). But here are other reasons for your future advisors giving up two weeks of their summer vacation and a whole lot of their sleep to make sure the matriculating class of 2017 feels safe and accepted at Rice:

  1. My O-Week was amazing!!! I want to repay the favor for the next group of new students!
  2. I know something could have been improved, so I wanted to see that change.
  3. I want new students like me to feel that they have someone supporting them.

The middle reason may be surprising, but it just goes to show the drive and compassion of Rice students. Other advisors I worked with last year admitted at some point, “You know, my O-Week experience was only okay, but I know that was only because of XYZ thing, so I wanted to sort of make sure that didn’t happen.” And those advisors who are advising for the third reason can be some of the most passionate – they’re people who have felt marginalized at some point in their lives, who struggle with mental wellbeing, and who want to use their experiences to make things easier and more comfortable for new students.

And the best O-Week team (like Duncan’s team last year) has a mixture of all three. So I encourage any prospective students who do decide to come to Rice to look out for the differences in the advisors at their residential college. There is no one Rice experience, and your advisors are going to represent that.

The only slightly nutty advising team at Duncan last year: more awesome than you could imagine