Social Science Owl: Claire Noel

Most people think of Rice as a STEM focused school with most students majoring in natural science or engineering. I used to think the same thing and came into this university wanting to pursue a degree in natural science. However, I quickly found out that the people around me were not all studying science and a large amount of my friends were studying social sciences and humanities at Rice. Two of my O-week advisors, multiple people on my floor and in the campus band, and some of my closest friends are all pursuing a major in the social sciences. One of my friends, Claire, is a double major in political science and social policy analysis. Continue reading

Diversity Facilitators at Rice

This past O-Week, I served as a Diversity Facilitator for the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Diversity and inclusion have long served as two core aspects of my life. During high school, I was involved in a variety of activities related to social justice activism and inclusion. When I came to Rice, I knew that I wanted to translate my passion for advocating for a more diverse and inclusive environment into extracurricular opportunities that were not available to me before I came to Rice. When the opportunity to apply to become a Diversity Facilitator came around, I knew that it would be a wonderful way to learn more about issues related to diversity and inclusion, as well as to grow as a communicator and leader.

During O-Week, the other Diversity Facilitators and I served a resource that the New Students could utilize to learn more about or discuss issues related to diversity and inclusion. Moreover, we led workshops for the 950+ New Students about the importance of diversity and inclusion in our education.

While we serve as a resource specifically for New Students and Advisors during O-Week, we also serve as a resource for all undergraduate students throughout the school year. Rice’s Diversity Facilitators lead Dialogues on Diversity every Friday at lunchtime. During this time, Diversity Facilitators will pair up to lead a discussion about current events and issues, media, and policy pertaining to diversity and inclusion. Last semester, my fellow Diversity Facilitator Diana and I led a discussion about what voter suppression is and how voter suppression impacts the ways in which constituents vote. 

For this upcoming O-Week, I will serve as one of two Diversity Coordinators. As a Diversity Coordinator, I will oversee the Diversity Facilitator program, the selection and training of Diversity Facilitators, and the planning and execution of our O-Week events and weekly discussion lunches. We are beyond excited to be playing a role in the planning of O-Week, and are beyond grateful to serve as a resource for you throughout your four years here at Rice.

Dipping a Toe Into Rice? Immerse Yourself in Rice.

For most Rice students, their Rice careers begin during O-Week. For mine, it was a hot and sweaty week in the middle of July, filled with sleepless nights and some of the best memories I’ve ever made. Elated after my admission into Rice, it wasn’t long until I got an email about a cryptic summer program called “Urban Immersion”. Coincidentally, my birthday fell on the last day of the program- and I was initially just excited to spend my birthday with people from school for once.

I won’t give away too much about Urban Immersion- after all, so much of the fun was because we had virtually no idea what was going on until the night before- but I will say that it made me develop so much as an individual. For a general overview, Urban Immersion was a six day summer program that requires an application. 24 incoming freshmen are selected, and the experience is led by 3 current Rice students who have been planning and training for Urban Immersion for months. Over the course of the six days, we worked with various non-profit organizations and explore Houston, staying at a location off of Rice’s campus. From dawn (literally getting up at 6 AM) to the time we slept (usually 2 AM), there was hardly a single moment of down time. As grueling as it sounds, each activity provided indispensible knowledge. Even though I’ve lived in Houston for the past five years, I learned the most about my home in that one week.

The takeaways from Urban Immersion go so far beyond just the friends I made. Sure, it was great coming into Rice with a whopping 26 other students I trusted and had great memories with, but when I came to Urban Immersion, I thought I knew everything about civic engagement and being an ally to communities. It turns out that I only knew the tip of the iceberg. Urban Immersion didn’t just prove to me that I had so much left to learn, but also that becoming more civically engaged with your community is an ongoing progress. It’s just as possible to regress in the path to active citizenry, which is totally okay! What’s more important is the continual and conscious effort to grow and address social issues in life.

Urban Immersion acquainted me with not only some of the most selfless student leaders I have ever had the privilege of meeting, but also instilled in me a determination to take my experiences from the summer even further. Upon encouragement from my Urban Immersion coordinator, I applied and got accepted into an Alternative Spring Break. Though my journey into civic leadership has just begun, these past few months as a Rice student have already challenged my previous knowledge and spurred on growth in leaps and bounds.

When they talk about going outside of Rice’s hedges, let me tell you that each and every day here prepares me to maximize my impact on wherever I go.

A Very Rice Spring Break

The ins-and-outs of Rice life are kind of what you’d expect: on weekdays, we go to class, on weekends, we don’t go to class, and at times when we’re not in class, you can find us hanging out and studying – or hanging-out-and-studying, which is also very popular. But what do us Rice students do outside of school days? In other words, what do we do over spring break? The answer is: a ton of things. Surprise, surprise.

I personally had a grand time on a trip planned entirely on my own. I spent about half the break in Houston getting some work done on my long-term projects, and about half in Austin, not-really attending SXSW and reading a whopper of a book a fellow English major challenged me to read over break: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace (if you don’t know, the book is about 1100 pages long and includes almost 400 endnotes scattered throughout the text that require a bunch of flipping back and forth). While visiting independent bookstores, jamming along to custom-made mixtapes, and completely failing to make crepes was all riveting, the past week of my life was totally different from my friends’ breaks.

My friend Jessica went on an Alternative Spring Break (ASB), which is Rice lingo for a spring break trip that accomplishes something beyond just vacation, but builds leadership skills and provides further educational opportunities. She traveled with a group to San Francisco to learn more about stigmas associated with HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and poverty. “We bonded over meaningful discussions and home made food,” says Jessica – tired from the week, but filled with stories to tell about visits from different speakers, experiences in San Francisco, and a better understanding of prejudice in health and poverty crises in American cities.

Photos from Jessica’s trip in San Francisco, taken at the Golden Gate Bridge and the Maitri Hospital for those affected with AIDS.

On a completely different note, my friend Matthew traveled with Rice Outdoor Programs and Education (ROPE) on a backpacking trip in Arizona. I remember being somewhat surprised but intrigued hearing about the trip, which sounds to me both a little hellish and a little bit captivating. He describes it as “40 miles of hiking through canyons and over mountains carrying everything we needed on our backs and sleeping under the stars.” That’s time for thought, getting to know the few people on the trip, and challenging yourself.

A photo of Matthew’s trip in Arizona, with his group.

A photo taken on Matthew’s trip in Arizona, backpacking their way across the mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A favorite question among prospective students and their parents tends to be, “Well, what does your average Rice student look like?” This little post answers that question pretty well: it completely and totally varies, but you can guarantee that people are doing something. Whether it’s exploring a new city, taking some time for inner reflection, a personal challenge, or looking hard at a problem in the world, I think we can all agree that spring break was definitely an experience that wasn’t school. Meaning, we’re all a bit bummed that today is Monday, and that we’re not still taking part in the world outside (or inside, in a new way) Rice’s hedges.

Rice in South Carolina!

I’ve had a whirlwind end of school year and summer!

At the end of the school year I participated in a fundraising event for an organization called St. Baldricks focused on raising money to support research towards the cure to children’s cancer. In order to raise money, I pledged to shaved my head on April 24th. Over the course of 3 weeks, I raised almost $2,000 and raised awareness for children’s cancer around Rice’s campus! The day of the shave ended up being a huge success and helped bring the Rice community together for a good cause.

A few weeks later, I flew down to Charleston, South Carolina for a summer research experience (Research Experience Undergraduates funded by the National Science Foundation – Minorities in Marine and Environmental Sciences) and had been having an amazing summer so far. Not only am I getting valuable research experience, learning how to structure and write my own research paper, but I am also getting to explore Charleston for the entire summer. While working here, I even had the great opportunity to meet a Rice Graduate School Alum working on my project with me. Dr. Dan Bearden got his Masters in 1983 and PhD in 1987 in Physics from Rice University and is now working here in the Hollings Marine Lab using nuclear magnetic resonance to discover metabolic trends in marine animals. We’ve been able to chat about all things Rice as well as marine and environmental sciences over the course of the summer

All in all, I’ve had some wonderful learning experiences this summer but I’m still very excited to get started back at Rice in the next couple of weeks!

Me in Winyah Bay, South Carolina holding a wild Red drum (my focal species for the summer)

Me in Winyah Bay, South Carolina holding a wild Red drum (my focal species for the summer)

Me and Dr. Dan Bearden, a Rice alum and current student

Me and Dr. Dan Bearden, a Rice alum and current student

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!