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Thursday, June 13, 2024 — Houston, TX

Vision Weekend ready for prospies

By Hallie Jordan     2/11/10 6:00pm

Now that all college applications have arrived, Rice will attempt to woo more than 150 prospective minority students with Mardi Gras beads and bus tours of Houston. Vision Weekend 2010, which comes with a "quasi-Mardi Gras" theme, is an opportunity for minority students who have applied to Rice to get a preview of the university before decision letters are sent, Admission Associate Director Laura Villafranca said. Students from underrepresented minority groups will be on campus Sunday through Tuesday, Feb. 16.

"These are rock star kids; we want to get these kids to Rice," Villafranca said. "We spend several painstaking weeks to select about 300 kids to receive invitations."

The group of prospective students will include African-American, Hispanic and Native American high school students. The current Rice population consists of 24 percent Asian-American, 12 percent Hispanic, 7 percent African- American and less than 1 percent Native-American students, while the rest are either Caucasian or of mixed ethnicity. These numbers are comparable to national demographics from the 2000 U.S. Census, except for African-Americans, who make up 12.8 percent of the total U.S. population.



Almost 1,000 students were considered in the Vision Weekend selection process, which occurs separately from the admission process. To be selected for the all-expenses-paid weekend, students who applied to Rice had to demonstrate in their applications how they have embraced their diverse backgrounds.

"They need to be in touch with their culture - you can't just check a box," Villafranca said. "We want students who will be strong."

Rice aims to increase the enrollment of students from underrepresented minorities on campus with Vision Weekend, Villafranca said.

"Our numbers [of minority students] are not at capacity," Villafranca said. "If you look at where [Rice] is, we should have more students of color. Houston is now a minority-majority city."

Some former Vision Weekend participants said their stay strongly influenced their decision to go to Rice.

"Even though there are not a lot of minority students here, there is a community here," Allonna James, a Baker College junior and 2007 Vision Weekend participant, said.

Alex Siller, who participated in Vision Weekend as both a prospective student and a host, echoed James' sentiment.

"It is really important that the university took an interest in promoting diversity and not just saying it on its Web site," Siller, a Martel College senior, said. "They actually took the time to host a program that had a different focus for recruiting, and reaching out to, underrepresented minority students."

All students traveling to Rice by plane will be reimbursed. On Sunday, student volunteers will hand out information packets and Mardi Gras beads to prospective students to kick off the weekend's theme. After meeting their student hosts, Vision Weekend students will board charter buses for a tour of Houston, which will explore the Rice Village, Kirby and Galleria areas before ending downtown for a dinner at Treebeard's.

The traditional Sunday night dinner will be held at an off-campus restaurant because the Grand Hall is not large enough to hold the 350 people - students, hosts, registration volunteers and admission staff - involved in Vision Weekend, Villafranca said.

Other student activities include ice-breakers in the Jones College Commons on Sunday as well as a Monday open-mic Pub Night and a party at Willy's Pub. Students will visit classes Monday morning from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and attend academic divisional meetings in the afternoon. Though the university has been enacting budget cuts across campus, Villafranca said Vision Weekend, now in its 15th year of existence, has been untouched.

The weekend is coordinated in collaboration between admission officers and student groups Minority Interest Committee, Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice, the Rice Native American Student Association and the Black Student Association.

"We communicate the student perspectives on what activities would be good to the admission officers who implement the ideas," MIC co-chair and Jones College senior Max Paul said. "We really want these students to come here."

This year, Rice received about 12,000 applications with an acceptance rate estimated at 20 percent after decisions are mailed in April, Villafranca said.

"We want people who are different," she said. "It would be very strange to have a homogeneous population. I think Rice attracts a certain type of student. No one is really judgmental here, and I like that.



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