Graduate students mix and mingle during annual GSA cookout

Rice University graduate students took time to get to know their classmates during the annual Graduate Student Association (GSA) cookout at Valhalla Aug. 15. The gathering was held in conjunction with the graduate student activities fair and was one of several events planned for the 540 new graduate students at Rice.

“It’s designed to give new students a feel for graduate student life here on campus and a chance to mingle with their classmates,” said GSA President Anna Saikin.

She said the picnic is just one of many activities planned as part of O-Week, the weeklong orientation program for incoming students, to offer information about the culture, clubs, activities and traditions at Rice.

Paula Sanders, vice provost for academic affairs, dean of graduate and postdoctoral students and professor of history, said the picnic is a chance for the Rice community to welcome the new students into the university’s “community of scholars.”

“We think O-Week is really important for graduate students, because we want to help them get off to a good start,” Sanders said. “We want them to know that there are tremendous resources here to help them have a successful, happy and fulfilling graduate career.”

David Ramirez, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering from Mexico, said he appreciates the opportunity to interact with his fellow students and learn about the resources available to him.

“It’s pretty awesome to meet the new students coming in,” he said. “It’s cool to see how many international students there are, and it’s great knowing that you’re not the only one from your home country.”

Jie Hou, a new graduate student in Earth science from China, agreed. “It’s my first time in the U.S. and my first time in Houston,” he said. “It’s very interesting. It’s great to make new friends and meet new people from other countries.”

“During the year, we don’t always see much of each other. We’re in our research labs and elsewhere,” said bioengineering graduate student Monica Fahrenholtz. “I think events like this are good for incoming students to meet each other and other graduate students to get together and catch up.”

For a full schedule of graduate O-Week events, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.