BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Biracial: Half White and Half Hispanic
Sexual Orientation: Pansexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Tampa, FL with a graduating class of about 650 students.
First Generation College Student: No, but I’m low-income
Major: Cognitive Science
Extracurricular Activities: I [have a leadership position] in the Diversity Council for my college, I’m in the Rice Association for Mental Health Alliance, and I am a coordinator and an adviser for Orientation Week.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Advising and coordinating for Orientation Week and the Diversity Council have had a pretty large impact. Diversity Council is within my own college, and there are eleven colleges on campus and we work with different administration members and also across campus by hosting cultural events and also discussions. That’s been pretty cool.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
It depends on what track you’re going on within Cognitive Science because there are four main parts, Philosophy, Cognitive Psychology, Linguistics, and Neuroscience. Psychology is my specialization but I’m taking a lot of Neuroscience courses anyway so I have labs. I don’t really have problem sets. It’s mostly reading and then assignments where we go over lab work and research, and we also have a lot of research-based stuff. The major graded assignments are mostly exams, but there are also term papers and projects for some classes. I’ll have to work on them with a group where we run through the test with a group, replicate it, do multiple presentations on it and then write a paper about it.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly academically?
Because Cognitive Science is interdisciplinary there is no one Cognitive Science major adviser. There are major advisors for each specialization, so you might have a Neuroscience advisor for Cognitive Science. That is something that could be done poorly, but I think they do a really good job because you have the professors multiple times and really get to know them. My first semester first year I went and talked with my advisers and it was super helpful and not stressful at all.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I wouldn’t say it’s really that competitive. I put a lot of stress on myself because I want to be in the top of the class, but no one else really cares about that. And since for about half the classes there is a group project, group paper, or group presentation, it is pretty collaborative.
How accessible are your professors?
Most of them are pretty accessible. Some of them during the first few days of class will say come by my office if you want to get coffee or just want to talk or have questions about the material. I’ve only had one professor that I didn’t like but the others were pretty good.
How was transitioning academically from a low-income background? Were there any resources that helped you adapt?
There is the Rice Emerging Scholars Program (RESP) and I wish I did it. It was for STEM majors and I’m not technically a STEM major, and I wish I had done it because I think I would be more prepared for my upper-level classes where there is a lot of physics and math behind it, which would be nice to have a background in. But, for the most part, professors are willing to work for you. It’s frustrating sometimes, but overall, I think it’s pretty good.
Why did you pick to your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I knew I wanted to do something in Cognitive Science since middle school. More recently, I’ve gotten into Neuroscience. I was pretty happy with the cognitive psychology part of my major and I did research my freshman year and summer about cognitive psychology. Now, I think cognitive neuroscience is really interesting because I like the applications to education, the judicial system, and the prison system. I think it’s great.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
I’m in McMurtry College and have lived there both years because at Rice you live in the same residential college unless there’s a reason that you need to transfer.
Freshman: McMurtry College in a double.
Sophomore: McMurtry College in a suite of six people and two on the outside, so it can feel like eight. We all have singles and there is a common room.
How do you like the residential college system?
I like it a lot. It’s sometimes hard because, at first especially, you don’t know people outside of your college. Even now, all of my friends are in my residential college. But, you can make efforts to see friends outside of your residential college for coffee or study together. It is definitely more intentional if you want friends outside of your residential college. Overall, I think it’s great because we have resident [associates] who are adults and there is one per floor except for one, which is usually the loudest floor. They are really accommodating and don’t want to get you in trouble. They also host a lot of fun events for the college, so I think it works out pretty well.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Usually it’s pretty good. I feel comfortable walking from the Coffeehouse to my dorm completely by myself. There definitely have been a few times where it wasn’t super great. At the end of last year, a bicyclist was hit by a car and passed away because Houston is usually not great for pedestrians or bikes. Like every campus, there is sexual assault. I think it’s more or less as safe as other college campuses because we also have the blue light system and can always find somebody to walk with you if you don’t feel comfortable.
How was transitioning from Tampa, FL to Houston, TX in terms of location?
The weather’s the same. I don’t like the infrastructure of Houston because you have to drive anywhere and it takes a long time to get places because you have to get on the interstate to go places, which isn’t super great. But, there is a lot to do in Houston. There is a lot of good food and a lot of art and music, so, overall, I’m pretty happy with it. I just wish it was more walkable.
Pros and cons of being in Houston, Texas?
1) The culture of art and music.
2) The food.
3) The Texas Medical Center is right across the street from Rice and there are a lot of professional opportunities in the city. You can do basically anything you want professionally in Houston both after college, during the summer, and there are opportunities throughout the year.
1) The city’s kind of ugly. It’s not the prettiest place.
2) It’s not walkable. You have to take a car everywhere.
3) It is segregated in the residential areas. Rice is in a really nice residential area so when you go outside you have nice shops and nice places to go, but you only get one view of Houston. You have to be intentional about what you’re doing if you want to see more of it.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in at Rice?
There is a lot going on in my college. I usually hangout with my friends in my suite or there is a balcony on the fifth floor of McMurtry that we can hang out on. There are also Publics at Rice, which are parties put on by each college that everybody across campus goes to. Those are super fun. You can also go off-campus to a few clubs and bars that are close by. I do a little bit of everything, but I spend the most amount of time in my college with different friend groups. We also work a lot, so I do that maybe one night a week, either Friday or Saturday, if I’m lucky. The rest of them are spent at the coffee shops or at the Coffeehouse on campus, but it can be social even if you’re doing work.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Going to concerts is pretty fun. There’s always some small indie band that’s doing something really fun. If people don’t want to go out, they probably just stay in their own college which can consist of partying to hanging out with friends to watching The Bachelor. There are a lot of watch parties where everybody gets together one day a week to watch a show.
If at all, how has being a person who identifies as LGBTQ+ influenced your nightlife? Is there much of an LGBT nightlife scene at Rice or in Houston?
I still do a lot of the same things as my friends who aren’t LGBT+, but sometimes I’ll pick a different friend group to hang out with at the Pub, which is our on-campus bar. Montrose, which is the gay area of Houston, has some clubs that are really popular with people at Rice, but I don’t really go to bars and clubs that often. What is more common is going to the on-campus Pub because everyone goes to the Pub on a Thursday night.
How happy are you with the weekend activities and nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I like the weekend options. If it’s a pretty chill weekend, I’d go to breakfast or brunch with friends and then we’d go to a coffeeshop and work for a few hours and then maybe come back and go out. It’s a pretty good balance. If it’s a busier time, I’d stay on campus and do work all day and then hang out for a lowkey night with friends.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Orientation Week. Orientation Week is super big here. It’s about half academic planning and half social. Even though it’s really tiring because you’re up from 7AM-12AM every day, there are a lot of ways for you to meet people. Incidentally, I met three of my best friends through that. They were all random interactions but during Orientation Week.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Rice?
It’s pretty much exactly what I wanted. There’s no Greek life, which for me is a big plus. The overall mentality is work hard play hard, but whatever that means for you. You don’t have to drink or any of that to have a good time. There was a period of six or seven months when I was entirely sober and I had a great time. I think Rice is pretty deliberate is saying that.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I don’t think you even notice the different sexual orientations when mixing. People know each other within the LGBT community through events or meeting each other in other ways, but it’s not a divide. Racially, it’s definitely better than a lot of other places but there are still pockets. The largest divide is probably between international students and domestic students. Also, there are problems with Black athletes being isolated from the rest of the student body. Those are probably the two divides I see.
How do you like the size of Rice in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [The Rice undergraduate population is about 4,000.]
I like it a lot. Since Rice is majority undergraduate students, the professors really focus on undergraduate education. There are always opportunities to go in the lab and get experience. In terms of drama, there’s a lot of it because everyone knows everyone but it’s fine. [About 58% of students at Rice are undergraduates.]
How strong is the LGBTQ+ community on campus?
That’s kind of hard because everyone is really accepting because Rice is a liberal place. It’s a large community at Rice, but Rice is also small. You’ll probably know like five or six people who are LGBT in each of your classes.
How would you describe the Hispanic community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s not my favorite club on campus, but I do participate in Hispanic Association for Cultural Education at Rice (HACER). The meetings are fun because they have subsidized dinners and will have Hispanic administration members come talk about their experience. It’s really great to see representation like that, but it’s not socially where I hang out the most.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I’ve done resume editing and professional workshops for interviews and personal pitches that I’ve done a few of.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that have been or will be especially helpful professionally?
I’ve learned Python, Matlab, and R. One of them was through the intro to computer science class, which all Cognitive Science majors take. I learned R and Matlab through electives in my major, so you can learn them if you want to.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful has the office been?
I’m a QuestBridge Scholar. Rice is a QuestBridge Partner, so there is a great social and professional network because there are a lot of events on campus. I’ve gone to the financial aid office for help with an insurance scholarship and if you need to live off-campus, but I don’t interact with them a whole lot.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Rice before you entered as a freshman?
It’s not as liberal artsy it makes itself out to be on pamphlets. There is Distribution 1, which is the humanities, Distribution 2, which is the social sciences, and Distribution 3, which is STEM. It’s a running joke about how easy Distribution 1, which is frustrating even though I take classes in Distribution 2 and 3. It’s frustrating to me how so many pre-med students think anything that’s not pre-med is easy.
What is something a prospective LGBTQ+ student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Rice is small and you know everyone, so it’s not super hard to find a community. During orientation there are certain affinity groups you can go to if you want to meet people and there are talks where people come and talk about their individual experiences, like long-term relationships, homesickness, or whatever. I like that they do talk about and be present about LGBT+ issues.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The Coffeehouse. It’s where a lot of students hang out and do work. Their coffee is also really good and super cheap. You can pay for it through your meal plan. They also will have live concerts by students. It’s one of my favorite places on campus.
Reasons to attend Rice:
1) The academics. People who are hiring know about Rice.
2) Rice is really supportive. Rice will work with you if you’re having problems.
3) Rice is really diverse in terms of political opinion, racial identity, and all of that. Even if that’s what I want, it can be difficult to navigate sometimes. I have been challenged by that and have grown from it, so there are positives.
Reasons to not attend Rice:
1) If you’re a Distribution 1 major and in the humanities and not interested in anything STEM, it might be hard for you to find your people. Even though those people are here, you should be aware of that. I also think that it doesn’t mean that Rice is any less of an environment for you to be in because of that.
2) It’s small. If you want to do your own thing and not know what else is going on in terms of drama, it might be difficult. People aren’t catty or like to talk about others, but they just know about things a lot quicker and people will know things about you that you don’t know they know, which can be weird.
3) There’s not Greek life, so if you want that you won’t find it.