An Interview On
Rice University

Background

Interview Date:January 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: African American
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Private boarding school in New Hampshire with a graduating class of about 300 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Bioengineering
Minor: Data Science
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Student Government Association, part of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and am on a bike team.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The NSBE is an important group for me because it gives me an opportunity to be surrounded by people of similar race, ethnicity, and with similar career interests. There is a culture of care surrounding like-minded individuals, so I really love that. The Student Government Association helped me continue to meet other people around campus and has helped me put myself out there.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for the general requirement courses you’ve taken for your major?
It’s mainly problem sets, labs, and exams. We have a lot of papers in my Social Entrepreneurship class.

Is there anything you feel that Rice does especially well or poorly academically?
They do poorly with some of the introduction classes. I didn’t feel super prepared for physics at Rice even though I went to an academically rigorous high school. I was put with people who took a lot of AP classes, and I wasn’t ready for that rigor of learning. I think they do a good job at emphasizing why a phenomenon exists and pushes me to really think and explain what the root cause of a decision is.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s very collaborative this year. We have a culture where people want to see each other succeed. I haven’t seen any instances of over competitiveness.

How accessible have your professors been?
Very accessible. They host office hours at least once a week, so I’ve been able to develop a relationship with almost all of my professors.

Why did you pick to your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I really like Biology. I wanted to do Engineering Biology focusing on infectious diseases and global health. I think Bioengineering is a good major that will take into account the things I’m interested in. Data science will give me another perspective edge, and computer science could also help me in this field.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Rice has a residential college system, when you matriculate you are placed randomly into one of eleven residential colleges. You live in the college when you are on campus.

Freshman: McMurtry College in a double

How was the transition of going to a college that is in your hometown of Houston, TX?
I live an hour away, so it hasn’t been very difficult transitioning. I did go to boarding school, which complicated things a little bit.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel like this campus is generally safe. If you go near the outskirts of campus there may be areas that are not as safe as the others.

What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Torchy’s

What is your favorite place to get away from the campus?
Rice gives students free metro cards, so I’ll use it to go anywhere. I like taking the metro to a bubble tea shop that’s five minutes away. It’s nice that we can go off campus anywhere we want.

Pros and Cons of being in Houston, Texas?
Pros:
1) We’re right next to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the U.S. This provides good opportunities, specifically for Bioengineering majors. It’s walking distance from us, and people will have internships here their sophomore year.
2) We’re next to the museum district, almost in downtown Houston. It’s a busy area but doesn’t get too loud.

Cons:
1) Some people are scared to use the metro because there are homeless people in downtown Houston. People who lived in smaller towns may find it harder to live here, but I haven’t had an issue.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in at Rice?
Each residential college has Publics, which are public parties on campus. I go to those and some of my clubs have events and activities. I’m also a little involved in the African Student Association who has events. I may also just go off-campus to do homework.

Who hosts the parties? Where do they typically take place?
The residential colleges host the parties since we don’t have Greek life. Each residential college has its own culture, and people from all over campus go to them on Friday and Saturday nights.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
There are lots of concerts in downtown Houston, but I haven’t really explored them yet. I’ll see Facebook events of concerts people go to. We have free access to museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Natural Science. There is a theatre district nearby so people will go to plays.

We have something called Passport to Houston, where most weekends the Rice Program Council gets free tickets to go to specific things such as a ballet nearby. You can put your name in a pool, and they randomly select people for these events.

What have been your favorite times at college?
The cultural showcase put on by the African Student Association. We show the school’s various cultures within the African continent. This made me feel grounded and in touch with my culture. I like that we have the opportunity to show Rice that we have so many different cultures.

How happy are you with the weekend activities and nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think it’s fun. Sometimes it can feel like the only thing to do on campus is drink and some people can feel isolated by this. Something we could change is doing a better job advertising the opportunities that don’t involve partying, and emphasizing that you shouldn’t feel pressured by the drinking culture.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
Within my residential college. I think it’s easy to form strong friendships with people not on my hall because we’re in the same college.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Rice?
We have a strong culture of care. I also think that there are a lot of strong friendships within each residential college. The clubs you join make part of your experience, allowing you to have fun with people outside of your residential college. It’s very flexible, and you can make your own experience.

How would you describe the student body?
It’s diverse. Rice should do a better job at making diverse students feel included at the institution. There is a new investment fund, and more students that are first-generation or low-income will be admitted to Rice. Inclusion is very important and is their next step.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It depends. If there aren’t many people that look like you within the college, then you have to go out of your way to meet people [of similar races or ethnicities]. It’s not like people are forced to mix, but the residential college fosters the mixing of different types of people. [33% of students are White, 26% are Asian, 16% are Hispanic, and 12% are international students.]

How strong is the Black community on campus?
It’s very strong and is what you make of it. There are lots of clubs and organizations where you can be in touch with the Black community, which I appreciate.

Do people generally seem happy with their college choice by senior year? Do people love Rice?
People sometimes say they love rice and it gave them so many opportunities, but a lot of times they are [ready to go] by senior year. Generally, people are grateful for their Rice experience.

How do you like the size of Rice? How has that influenced your social experience? [The Rice undergraduate population is 3,992.]
I really like that we are really small, with 4,000 undergrads. I went to boarding school with 1,000 people and enjoyed saying hi to everyone I know walking around. In the same sense, people say they wish it was a bigger university because everyone knows everything here.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
It hasn’t, and I think the alumni connections can be improved. I’m not sure if it would help me find an internship because I think the connections I make on campus now will help me the most.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I’ve used it a lot. They have resume labs, and they helped me navigate my decision to go into Bioengineering. They helped me find people from Rice that also did Bioengineering to see what their career paths were. They also have lots of companies and organizations that come to Rice.

Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that have been or will be especially helpful professionally?
I’m taking Introduction to MATLAB, which we use within Bioengineering. I may take a Python class later.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Rice before you entered as a freshman?
I never saw Rice before I accepted, so I wish I came here and saw the campus so I wouldn’t be as confused going in.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Definitely go into the residential colleges, and ask people about the culture and their own personal experiences.

What is something a prospective African American student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
You should get out of your comfort zone and really try to keep in touch with the Black community from the beginning. Even though I just got here, they are really an integral part of my experience. Make sure you use all of your resources because you never know what will work and what won’t work.

Reasons to attend Rice?
1) It’s next door to the Texas Medical Center, which is great for opportunities.
2) There is no Greek life.
3) It’s small and not super competitive in terms of resources.

Reasons to not attend Rice?
1) Some majors and programs aren’t offered, such as Forensics or African Studies.
2) It’s a very STEM-oriented school, so many people are pre-med or engineering which may not be the best school for those who are studying the social sciences.

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