Rice University greeted the incoming Class of 2027 for the first time during an eventful, emotional and celebratory O-Week move-in day Aug. 13.
Hundreds of Rice students who volunteered to lead new students through O-Week awaited the arriving parliament of Owls as they flooded through the campus bright and early Sunday morning looking to acclimate to their new educational home.
“Move-in day is the first day that the newest Owls step on campus, so obviously we want to make a great first impression to them,” said Alan Tapper, president of Hanszen College and a senior. “Not only is it their first time on Rice's campus, it is also their first time at Hanszen, so we want to welcome them with open arms, make sure that they are included and supported, and that they have a great time.”
Starting at 7 a.m., cars loaded with dorm room supplies, eager students and more than a few emotional parents lined the roads surrounding each of Rice’s 11 residential colleges, the student dormitories to which incoming students are randomly assigned, one of the unique traditions that forms the bedrock of Rice’s one-of-a-kind undergraduate student experience.
The most selective class in Rice’s history, this year’s incoming undergraduate class is made up of 1,140 talented young scholars.
One of those bright academics is incoming freshman Sara Avalos-Paez, who will reside in the newly built Sid Richardson College and is a business major.
“I applied to Rice because of the state-of-the-art facilities, and I knew that the Jones Graduate School of Business’ recently established undergraduate program is going to be taught by the master program’s professors,” she said. “I knew this is an opportunity that will prepare me to work anywhere because of how good the business program is.”
While Avalos-Paez grew up in Houston, other freshmen traveled across the country or the globe to start their academic journey.
David Lee, originally from South Korea, moved to Carmel, Indiana, and now calls Houston home.
“I think for a while it was just an idea in my head that I got accepted to Rice,” the Martel College freshman said. “I visited campus on Tuesday, and by walking through the Founder’s Court and seeing all the historic buildings and the trees … there are so many little details that you don't see in the promo videos that you comprehend when you arrive on campus. Everything is now setting in and has made me more excited than before, which I didn't know was possible.”
As each student arrived, they were greeted by current Rice students, college magisters, faculty and staff. The Rice football team helped provide some muscle as new Owls moved boxes and room decorations to their new abode, and Rice President Reginald DesRoches and Provost Amy Dittmar drove from college to college to greet students.
Student volunteers (“advisers” in Rice lingo) brandished hand-painted signs welcoming the newest members of their respective flocks.
Advisers danced and jumped along to pop music booming from loudspeakers, which was then drowned out by cheers from upperclassmen shouting the names of incoming students arriving in their vehicles. Each car was quickly enveloped by advisers — hand carts and dollies at the ready — leaping to the task of moving their new classmates’ possessions into their new homes on campus.
Providing extra hands for a smooth move-in process is just the beginning of the job O-Week advisers signed up for. These dedicated student volunteers will serve as mentors, friends and helpful sounding boards throughout their fellow students’ years at Rice.
Many of the volunteers understand the importance of participating in O-Week because some of them did not receive the traditional experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am part of the Class of 2024, so I was remote my freshman fall and my O-Week was all virtual,” said Jackson Hughes, a senior and president of McMurtry College. “I think I appreciate it so much more, being on this side of it, and I put so much energy into it because I never got it on the other side. I think a lot of the seniors feel that way.”
As the morning progressed, more new Owls were greeted and ushered into their residence for the next few years.
“It's sort of like unbelief and excitement and nervousness,” said Sophia Oliveira of Brown College. “We’re driving around, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I'm actually going here.’ It's crazy. I love the architecture. I love the campus. I love everything. I'm nervous, but I'm really excited.”
Blaire Sheftel, who is moving into Lovett College and was attracted to the university because of its small size and academic prestige, shared the same sentiment.
“It all seems very unreal,” she said. “I’m incredibly excited to be joining Rice this fall. Now that I'm here, everyone is excited and supportive for me to be here. I'm feeling a little nervous still, but I’m very ready to join.”
Droves of students expressed similar emotions, and like all good things, the day eventually had to come to an end … but not before one final moment spent with loved ones.
At 11 a.m., students and their families headed into the residential colleges for a buffet lunch -- the last meal the Class of 2027 would share before parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and siblings would be whisked away to family orientation presentations. Their Owls would begin getting to know the small O-Week groups they’d been assigned to, as well as the upperclassmen advisers, who lead each microcosm of the incoming class.
By 12:30 p.m., it was finally time to say goodbye. Hugs were shared as the eyes of students and their loved ones welled up. As one chapter of life ended for each student, another began anew, rife with hope, maybe a touch of anxiety, but most of all abundant excitement about everything Rice and the future has in store.
Rice O-Week participants are encouraged to include #RiceOWeek23 on their posts, videos and tweets. For a full schedule of O-Week events, click here.