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Owl Days: A chance for students to give back

By Graham West     4/4/12 7:00pm

On Thursday, April 12, 2012, be prepared to see more than a few unfamiliar faces wandering around campus. If you find yourself shocked by the number of excitable, eager and occasionally confused high school students roaming the quads, colleges and academic buildings of Rice, have no fear: It's simply time once again for Owl Days!

I suspect many Rice students remember their Owl Days experience as a senior in high school, just as I do. I stayed at Sid Richardson College (a college which I fell in love with and was ecstatic to be placed in later that year), and my host, a fellow political science enthusiast, told me about all sorts of cool opportunities he was getting through the Baker Institute and our accessible Social Sciences faculty. I had to get up at a ridiculous hour the next day to make it back in time for classes but I had been sold; I turned in my contract to come to this university before I left campus that morning.

My great experience at Owl Days was what led me to get involved with the Student Admission Council, the umbrella organization on campus for all things prospie-related. I suspect that this is true for many of my fellow volunteers - people who had a great overnight stay, lunch with a student or campus tour all feel compelled to pay a return on that experience by providing the same show of enthusiasm and quality of information to the next generation of campus visitors. However, even if you didn't come to Owl Days - or perhaps even visit campus at all as a high school student - I still encourage you to find a way to get involved that best suits your schedule.

Volunteers in shifts throughout the day will help direct the flow of visitors around campus, register students at check-in and be on call to help answer any questions students or parents might have. There is, of course, also the option of being an overnight host, letting a prospie or two crash at your college and introducing them to friends, taking them to campus events and just letting them see Rice through the eyes of a current undergraduate. And this year, for the first time, we're offering a wider range of students (including those who live off campus as well as folks with big commitments the following day) the option of "day hosting" a prospie or hanging out with them from just 5:30 to 10 p.m., at the latest.

To be perfectly frank, Owl Days is the easiest opportunity to "give back" to Rice University that a student could ask for. Even if you can't commit to one of the roles I described above, you can still make a difference. We all take Rice's so-called "southern hospitality" for granted, but I think most would be shocked at how many students and parents praise campus friendliness as a novel concept.

An offer of directions to a family that looks lost or even a simple smile really does go a long way in building our reputation in the minds of these visitors. I can't thank everyone who has already committed to helping out enough - you all are what makes programs like this possible. To anyone still interested in volunteering, don't hesitate to contact me or any of the college liaisons or friends you have in SAC. The more people who can share what they love about Rice with these students, the better!

Graham West is a Sid Richardson College senior.

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