Unconventional students at Rice 2018: Diversity of thought

Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley in a mostly Mexican-American community, Austin Figueroa felt a cultural shock when he entered Rice.

“Rice was a fairy tale for me,” he said. “Coming from one of the lowest-income communities in the country, it was very different coming to Rice and seeing a different way of living and thinking.”

Figueroa, who is graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, has been passionate about music since he was little. Under the stage name Kid Fig, he continued making music at Rice and described his experiences as a Hispanic American through a mixture of English and Spanish raps.

Growing up around old-school lowrider cars sparked his love for mechanics. “I told my father I loved cars, and I wanted to be a mechanic,” Figueroa said. “He told me I wanted to go farther than that – I should be a mechanical engineer. And it stuck.”

Figueroa credits Rice’s culture for encouraging him to pursue whichever paths he wanted.

“People often refer to Rice as a bubble and I agree, but it’s also that persona of a bubble that makes Rice so great,” he said. “Diversity of thought, culture and religion is accepted. At Rice, you’re encouraged to take the first step down whichever path you choose.”

About Brandon Martin

Greetings, I am a video producer at Rice University in the Office of Public Affairs. I became a Rice Owl in June 2011. Before that, I was at KPRC-TV in Houston as a special projects photojournalist for seven years, where I covered everything from hurricanes to sports. Southeast Texas has been my home my entire life. I am lucky to have a wonderful wife and two of the cutest girls I have ever seen. Go Owls!