A Visit to Rice University

It was a muggy and rainy afternoon when I arrived on the beautiful campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas last Friday – thankfully with umbrella in hand!  I was in town to attend and exhibit at the Texas Hunter Jumper Association equestrian college fair at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center, but arriving in town the day before gave me the opportunity to connect with a counseling colleague for a tour at Rice – and to eat some amazing, authentic Texas barbecue.

But let’s focus on the tour:

It was a rainy welcome to Rice - but that didn't dampen my enthusiasm for a tour of a wonderful school!
It was a rainy welcome to Rice – but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for a tour of a wonderful school!

Rice is a very selective university with just under 4,000 undergraduates and around 2,500 graduate students, making it a large but not overly large school.  (In fact, Rice competes in NCAA Division I athletics and is the second smallest D1 school in the nation.)  The campus is substantial but doesn’t feel sprawled out and its tree-lined inner loop provides a beautiful green oasis in the middle of the hectic atmosphere of downtown Houston.

Founded in 1912 by railroad and real estate magnate William Marsh Rice, the university was originally called the Rice Institute and was designed to look and feel somewhat like the University of Pennsylvania.  The residential college model utilized at Cambridge University was added a few decades later and remains to this day.  (More on that in a moment.)  In 2013, the university has become nationally recognized for its research ($100 million is dedicated to undergraduate and graduate student research projects annually!) and its proximity to Houston’s museum district and the Texas Medical Center make it an ideal choice for a variety of students.

When you see brochures and posters for Rice, this is usually the iconic view they show.  (I took this standing in the middle of the quadrangle.)
When you see brochures and posters for Rice, this is usually the iconic view they show. (I took this standing in the middle of the quadrangle.)

The most unique feature of Rice (as I already alluded to) is its residential college model, which randomly divides all incoming freshman into one of 11 residential colleges where they will live and eat for two to three years of their Rice experience.  (All Rice juniors normally go off-campus for internship or study abroad experiences or else just move off campus for a different experience.  Seniors are allowed to move back on campus if they wish for their final year.)  The colleges each have their own unique traditions and personalities and students may not express preference for one or another unless they are a legacy and wish to be placed into (or not placed into!) the same college as their parent.

Hallowed halls indeed!
Hallowed halls indeed!

The Rice Honor Code is also spoken of with reverence by Rice students, who take unproctored exams that then must be certified with the following phrase: “On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this (examination, quiz or paper).”  This sense of pride in their institution seeped into all conversations that my colleague and I had with Rice students and was impressive.

For riders, RIce competes in the IHSA in hunt seat and rides at Southern Breeze Equestrian Center.  During the equestrian college fair, I chatted briefly with coach Cathy Strobel, who also coaches a large group of junior riders at her barn.  Rice hosted their first home meet last January and looks to continue to build their team in the coming season – exciting!

Could Rice be the school you’re looking for?  Contact me and we’ll find out!

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