Residential Colleges: More Than a Living Space

If you’re considering applying to Rice, you’ve probably heard about the residential college system. The residential colleges are interesting – they are a little bit of everything. Even now as a junior, I am realizing how much the diversity of socialization and experiences that the colleges provide play a prominent part of my undergraduate career.

At other universities, my friends describe their dorms as more distinct – as “humanities dorms” or “honors dorms” or “engineering dorms.” Rice’s residential colleges are more of a mix, with no one major or program dominating the spaces we live in. The residential colleges are an inclusive blend of everything – academic interests, social interests, cultures. Even for me, personally, living on campus at Wiess College for the past two and a half years has produced interactions and memories with different kinds of individuals. In my current suite, I live with an athlete, an artist, and a future chemical engineer. My freshman year, I shared a room with a Math major who stayed up with me every other night writing proofs while I wrote essays for my English courses. Sophomore year, my roommate and I (usually) both went to bed by midnight, juggling very different non-academic commitments and daily to-do lists, but still managing to attend social and campus-wide events together.

Rice’s residential college system can bring you close to very individually interesting, bright, and inspiring people – here’s my suite heading over to the fall formal, Esperanza, all together.

At any given time in the residential college commons, I often see groups of people working together. I also see people getting up and floating around, interacting with people who are working on something completely different (whether academically, or for another purpose – someone designing a shirt for a social event, for instance). The residential colleges really allow each and every one of us to bring our unique interests, talents, and experiences to the table. No matter where you live on campus, no matter which residential college’s cheers you learn during O-week, your residential college provides potential interactions and friendships with people of all kinds. And although each college has its own colors, traditions, and buildings, they each share one very important feature: they are inclusive of all academic majors, ages, cultural backgrounds, and voices.

I Wanna Be (Sid) Rich

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m almost done with my first semester at Rice. It feels like I’ve only just gotten here, and now Winter Break is right around the corner. With that being said, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my college experience so far. I am enjoying my classes, have made great friends, and have gotten way too many honey butter chicken biscuits from the Hoot at night (The Hoot is a student-run shop that sells Chick-Fil-A, Whataburger, and a bunch of other snacks and drinks – it’s my go-to for a midnight snack). However, I think the residential college system has become my favorite thing about Rice. Being a part of Sid Richardson College (SRC DFA!) has made my experience all the more satisfying and rewarding.

The traditions that Sid Rich has really make me feel part of something bigger than myself:

  1. Radio Free Sid: Walking back from class on Friday afternoons, I hear music blasting from the 7th floor speakers. Sidizens can submit their own playlists for Radio Free Sid, getting the opportunity to blast their favorite songs. Radio Free Sid always starts and ends with Sid’s unofficial theme song, AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. Hearing some of my favorite jams puts me in a good mood and gets me excited for the weekend.
  2. Sid Skate: This is coming up in the next few weeks, but I can’t wait! Sid rents out the ice skating rink at the Galleria for students to take a break from studying for finals. Though I’m probably gonna fall down a lot, it’ll still be fun to spend time with my friends and not think about the impending doom of final exams.
  3. Floor Culture: One of the things that I love most about Sid is our floor culture. Some of my closest friends are the people that I’ve met on my floor. People are always out in the common area studying, playing games, or just hanging out. In order to further strengthen this floor culture, the Sid master hosts a year-long contest called “Floor Wars.” Every few weeks, he hosts an event that the floors compete in against each other. All year long, the floors compete for victory, and at the end of the year the winner gets a fancy dinner at the Master’s house (and the unofficial title of Best Floor). My floor (3rd Floor FTW!) is in first place right now, so hopefully we can keep our lead until the end of the year. Some of the events that we’ve had so far include a puzzle making competition, a pumpkin carving competition, a karaoke battle, and an ice cream making competition. It’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to become even closer to the people on your floor.

The people in your residential college are some of the closest friends that you will make at Rice. They are the people that you go to the movies with on a Friday night and the people that you discuss the meaning of life with at 2 AM. It feels good knowing that even when I’m away from my family in Dallas, I’ll “OWLways” have a home here at Rice!

Sid is the tallest residential college on campus, and this is the amazing view from the 7th floor balcony. The sun is setting on my first semester here, and it has been a wild ride!

Sid is the tallest residential college on campus, and this is the amazing view from the 7th floor balcony. The sun is setting on my first semester here, and it has been a wild ride!

Branching Out with Classes

As fall semester is coming towards an end and spring class registration is underway, classes are on everyone’s mind right now, including mine. We all go to college to take classes, and they really make up a large part of your overall Rice experience. Choosing the right classes can be a stressful but important component of the Rice experience.

Luckily, Rice has plenty of resources if students need guidance. Fifty percent of Rice’s orientation week consists of academics and class planning, so you will definitely not be lost coming into college. Throughout the rest of the year, each residential college has Peer Academic Advisors (PAAs) who are there to help you plan your schedule based on your major, fulfill graduation requirements, and ask about any important deadlines or academic opportunities. As a PAA for Wiess College, I’ve found my role quite fulfilling because I have my own group of new students with similar interests to mine to help with academic planning in addition to my general role as an advisor for everyone else.

When I came into Rice, I had a general idea of what I wanted to major in but I wasn’t completely sure. Thankfully, the resources I had from the Office of Academic Advising (oaa.rice.edu) and my PAAs were instrumental in my decision to change my major from Biochemistry to Cognitive Sciences. Through the major and the suggestion from PAAs to take classes that interest me, I’ve discovered and re-aligned my academic interests from a natural sciences background to more social science subjects (psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy). With Rice’s requirement to take 12 hours from each distribution (Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences & Engineering), students have the opportunity to explore beyond their majors. I know many people who switch majors or change their career plans because they unexpectedly became interested in a distribution class and wanted to further pursue the major associated with the class. Additionally, there are so many interesting classes for students to take, like an English and Biology combined class titled “Monsters,” a class about managing large cities taught by former Houston mayor Annise Parker, or a class formatted like the reality TV show “Survivor.” It’s also great because you get so much feedback from other upperclassmen who give useful advice about which classes to take in addition to the OAA and PAAs.

One of the main purposes of college is to explore your options and really find your passions, whether that be academic or non-academic. I’m thankful that I found what I’m truly interested in, and there’s no doubt you will too when you come to Rice.

How to Throw a Party like a Kardashian Rice Student

With the amount of time I spend looking at Snapchat news stories, 90% of which are about the Kar-Jenners, it’s surprising my brain hasn’t completely wasted away. The other day, however, I opened one story titled “How to Throw a Party like a Kardashian” and proceeded to swipe through the pictures and video clips of opulent decorations and luxurious table setups that ‘took 4 days to get right.’”

The highlight of the day was a visit from 10 golden retrievers, bound to lift anybody's spirits!

The highlight of the day was a visit from 10 golden retrievers, bound to lift anybody’s spirits!

Being neither rich nor famous nor patient enough to set up a table with real plates and silverware, Rice students have come up with equally sufficient and, in my opinion, better ways to have a good time. One such event is College Night, each college hosting its own once per semester. College night is actually an all-day event at your respective college – a themed day filled with music, games, and fun activities for just your college! As one of four college night coordinators for my college Sid Richardson last year, I can now say I can throw a Kardashian-standard party for about $10,000 less.

Sid Richardson’s fall college night was themed “Sid Turns UP!” (first step to throwing a killer event is a killer theme), and was based on the Pixar movie Up. My fellow coordinators and I worked endless hours to make this one of the best college nights Sid had ever seen. From fantastically-designed t-shirts to colorful jungle decorations and balloons tied everywhere to ordering way too much Cane’s chicken, we planned and executed a great event for all Sidizens. We posted “oldified” pictures of Sid’s freshmen on the wall, played the music from the iconic movie throughout the day, and just when it couldn’t get any better, we had 10 golden retrievers come and play with Sidizens.

The Sid Rich 2015-2016 college night coordinators in all our decked-out glory

The Sid Rich 2015-2016 college night coordinators in all our decked-out glory (I’m on the far right!)

College night is one of the many things you will get to look forward to as a part of the residential college system at Rice. Events like this bring everyone together to have fun, relax and mingle. They also offer many ways for you to get involved in your college’s activities. Being a college night coordinator was one of my favorite things about my freshmen year and helped me get to know a lot of my fellow Sidizens. As such an integral part to student life at Rice, your residential college will provide you boundless opportunities to have fun, kick back, and get involved. Hope you’re excited for your first college night!

Rice University: The Hogwarts of the South

Have you seen or read the Harry Potter series? Well, just in case you haven’t, the only thing you need to know is that at the magical school of Hogwarts, where the story takes place, all the new students are sorted into four different houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin) based on personality. So what in the world does this have to do with anything?

Similar to the way Harry and his friends were sorted into one of the four different houses when they arrived at Hogwarts, you will be sorted into one of the 11 (the more the merrier) residential colleges (Baker, Wiess, Hanszen, Will Rice, Jones, Brown, Sid Richardson, Lovett, Martel, McMurtry, Duncan) when you matriculate at Rice.  The only difference is that it is completely random instead of personality-based (Yay! You will not need to be scared of having a talking hat abruptly yell over your head). Your residential college will become your home, your family, your support group, your social space, and much, much more.

Lovett College (my residential college)

Each residential college is extremely close knit and has its own culture and traditions that you will quickly learn once you arrive on campus in the fall. You will make many close friends at your college.  And do not worry about not fitting in because each college is so diverse that you will definitely find your niche no matter who you are. Regardless of the college you get placed in, by the end of O-Week, you will love your college so much that you will believe your college is the best one on campus.

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My awesome O-Week Group at Lovett

Rice’s residential college system also provides endless resources for your success in college.  Each college has its own academic fellows, upperclassmen who can help you with your coursework. You will also be assigned to a peer academic advisor who can help you with planning your academics. Additionally, there are college masters and associates who are there to help if you have any concerns, so do not hesitate to reach out to them. The culture of care is truly alive at Rice, so if you need assistance of any sort, there are so many people here that would be more than happy to help you.

You have probably read enough about the different facets of Rice’s residential colleges, so let me address some of the related concerns that I have heard.

  • Making friends with people outside of the residential college: Do not worry! You will have plenty of opportunities to make friends from outside through clubs and classes.
  • No Greek Life: Although Rice does not have fraternities/sororities, the residential colleges provide the same close knit experience that many people look for through Greek life at other universities. The only difference is that everyone is guaranteed to be put in a college so there is no stress over rushing. Yay!

Like Hogwarts, Rice is undoubtedly a magical place. The residential college system provides an undergraduate experience that can be found in very few places. The inclusiveness of the colleges at Rice will integrate you into a large, caring family that will always be there to support you.  hey are what make Rice the perfect place for all of its students.

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.