Minorities get VISION of life at Rice
Wondering where all the prospies came from so long before Owl Days? Rice's admission board invited 210 prospective students to campus this year to participate in last weekend's VISION program. According to Associate Director of Admission Laura Villafranca, VISION, now in its 16th year, is an opportunity to showcase the university to a strong group of minority applicants in a way that goes beyond a traditional campus visit.
Villafranca said that unlike a simple campus tour, VISION connects applicants to the faculty, staff and students who make up the Rice community and also gives them a feel for the resources available to students. The prospective students were on campus from Sunday until Tuesday.
"Although most are not yet admitted, VISION students are likely to be competitive applicants at a number of schools," Villafranca said.
Villafranca reported a 50 percent increase in attendance compared with last year. The most prominent ethnic groups represented by the prospective students were African American, Hispanic and Native American, Villafranca said. According to the Office of Institutional Research, Rice's undergraduate population is 43 percent Caucasian, 21 percent Asian-American, 11 percent Hispanic, seven percent African-American, six percent multiracial and less than one percent Native American.
The weekend is coordinated by admission officers and student groups such as the Minority Interest Committee, the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice, the Rice Native American Student Association and the Black Student Association. Minority Interest Committee Chair Re'Sean Newton said that roughly 500 students were considered in the VISION selection process.
"These are strong minority students who have shown a commitment to encouraging diversity and would probably not get a chance to visit the campus otherwise," Newton, a Duncan College senior, said.
Past VISION participant Aaron Sharpe said that his experience at the event last year solidified his decision to come to Rice.
"Many of the people who I met through VISION are still my friends here," Sharpe, a Wiess College freshman, said. "VISION gave me a taste of what it is like to be a Rice student and was a strong reinforcement in my decision to come to Rice."
Students who attended from outside of the Houston area were offered reimbursements for certain travel expenses, up to a limited dollar amount. After meeting their hosts, students embarked on a bus tour of Houston, which showed them around the Texas Medical Center, Museum District, Houston Zoo and Downtown's Discovery Green. The bus then dropped them off at Treebeards downtown for dinner with their hosts as well as program volunteers.
"Treebeards at Market Square was chosen because they can hold the number of students, hosts and volunteers that need to be fed since the size of the program has outgrown all on-campus locations," Villafranca said. "This choice also allows us to take the participants off campus for an evening to experience a little of Houston."
Students visited classes on Monday morning from 9 a.m. to noon and attended informational meetings for the individual academic schools and tours of facilities in the afternoon. The Center for Civic Engagement conducted an information session later in the day before a formal faculty and alumni dinner held in the Rice Memorial Center Grand Hall on Monday evening. The last scheduled activity of the program was an activities night at Willy's Pub, which included games and karaoke. Students departed campus on Tuesday morning.
VISION attendee Omomayowa Olawoyin said she enjoyed the experience.
"I think that it will definitely have a large impact on my decision when April rolls around," Olawoyin said. "I've been exposed to the teachers, staff, students, dorms, not to mention the great serveries. This experience has been great since it really brings you into the school, and you get a real feel for the environment.
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