The early morning showers that drenched campus Aug. 14 didn’t dampen the moods of the Rice students, faculty and staff who gathered to welcome Rice University’s 2016 matriculating class. Move-in Day was the official kickoff to O-Week, the weeklong orientation program designed to familiarize incoming first-year, transfer and foreign exchange students with their new campus, residential colleges and classmates.
Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said he was so grateful to the O-Week coordinators and advisers for making the new students’ first day on campus “not just welcoming, but easy.”
“Their care and dedication are matched only by their enthusiastic hard work,” he said.
Across campus, cheers and laughter filled the air as O-Week advisers rushed to arriving cars to greet students by chanting their names and helping unload their belongings, giving parents a chance to spend a few last moments with their children.
(Photos by Jeff Fitlow)
Alejandro Toscano Rodriguez, a Brown College freshman originally from Mexico, chose Rice for “a lot of things,” including the academic programs and student life. As the first child in his family to go off to college, he admitted that his parents were a little nervous, but happy for him.
“I’m sure they’ll get better as my brothers go (off to college themselves),” he laughed.
“I’m so happy for my son, and I wish him the best,” said his mother, Patricia Rodriguez. “We’re very, very proud of him because we know he worked very hard to get here.”
Anthony Perez, a Baker College freshman from Tampa, Fla., said Rice has been his dream college ever since he was a little kid.
“I’m finally here, and I’m excited!” he said.
His mother, Dorrie Perez, said she was “totally heartbroken” to say goodbye to her son, but full of pride and joy.
“The welcome here is unbelievable!” she said.
Rice President David Leebron said that this year he can relate especially to the parents saying goodbye to their students. His son, Daniel, will leave for college later this month.
“I can identify a little more with that tinge of sadness of leaving your son or daughter … for an extended period of time, … but I think the parents also are very excited, and I think they are very reassured when they see the kind of welcome that students get here, so that, I think, is really the most important thing,” Leebron said.
(Video by Brandon Martin)
Franz Brotzen-Smith, a Brown College freshman from Houston, is the third generation of his family to be connected to Rice. His father, Franz, graduated from the university in 1980 and was also employed in Rice’s Office of Public Affairs, and his late grandfather, also named Franz, was a longtime professor and founded the materials science program at Rice. His grandfather was also a master at Brown College, where his father lived as a teen.
Brotzen-Smith said that while he’s not exactly following in his grandfather’s footsteps – he is majoring in political science, not engineering – he is “really excited.”
“It’s certainly going to be a new experience,” he said.
After saying goodbye to their parents and enjoying a day of activities with their new classmates, the freshmen attended the annual matriculation ceremony, where university leaders formally welcomed them to campus.
Hutchinson took the stage to greet the students before introducing Leebron.
“Now, you are a Rice student,” Hutchinson said. “And it’s worth pausing for at least just a moment to savor that fact, because you worked very hard to get here, and it is a major accomplishment to come here.”
Leebron then took the stage, echoing Hutchinson’s congratulatory wishes.
“This is the 13th time for me to welcome the entering undergraduate class,” he said. “Each year this day of move-in and matriculation is one of the most exciting and important days of the year, a day in which we renew our community and welcome the newest group of Rice Owls.”
Rice Student Association President Griffin Thomas, a Lovett College senior, followed Leebron onstage and urged incoming students to take control of their Rice experience, define success for themselves and forge their own paths with a sense of consciousness.
“Embrace the uncertainty, risk, possibility and even failure that you will encounter over the next four years,” Thomas said. “Your intelligence and dedication give you incredible promise. Now it’s time to go find your purpose.”
Shannon Vale ’77, president of the Association of Rice Alumni, also encouraged the students to take advantage of the many experiences available to them at Rice.
(Photos by Jeff Fitlow)
“One of the greatest aspects of Rice is that its size, student-faculty ratio and culture all make it possible for you to develop mentoring relationships and lifelong friendships with extraordinary teachers who are leaders in their fields,” he said. “But it will be up to you to take advantage of these opportunities.”
After the matriculation ceremony, students exited Tudor Fieldhouse and walked along a candlelit Inner Loop toward the Sallyport, the arched passageway in Lovett Hall that leads into the Academic Quad. As each college approached the entryway, a hush fell over the crowd waiting on the other side; as each group of freshmen marched through the Sallyport, the crowd erupted in screams and cheers for the students.
According to Rice tradition, students should not pass back through the Sallyport in the direction of Founder’s Court until their day of graduation — otherwise, they won’t graduate on time.
Twin brothers Matthew and Nathan Archibald, Will Rice College freshmen from Austin, said the day had been really exciting.
“Everyone made it feel like a really personal experience,” Matthew said. “And everyone’s been really helpful and nice, so it’s kind of been an easy transition (to college life).”
Briana Farias, a McMurtry College freshman, said she didn’t expect all of the fireworks or lights and said she felt so happy about being a new student at Rice.
Myles Adams, a McMurtry College freshman, called the enthusiastic welcome and fireworks overwhelming.
“It was incredible, honestly,” he said. “Coming in through the Sallyport made me feel really happy, and it was a true, genuine welcome to Rice.”
The 981 students in this year’s matriculating class were selected from the largest pool of applicants — 18,236 — in Rice’s 103-year history and represent the university’s most diverse class. Twenty-three percent of incoming students are underrepresented minorities, up from 20 percent last year.