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Mini O-Week held for 35 Spring 2021 matriculants

Channing Wang/Thresher

By Mary Brady     1/26/21 11:17pm

Rice held a mini orientation week from Jan. 20 to Jan. 22 to welcome 35 new students, mostly transfers from other universities, to the Rice community for the first time during the Spring 2021 term, according to Araceli Lopez, the associate director of First Year Programs at Rice. 

Typically, when just a few students join Rice for the first time in the spring, the orientation they receive is purely academic, Lopez said. During this year’s orientation, however, the students were able to socialize virtually with members of their newly assigned residential college through ice breakers, escape rooms, jeopardy games and breakout rooms with their peers. 

“We’ve never had to do an official orientation for [Spring transfer students],” Lopez said. “Last year … it was just one person, so I just met with them one on one and got them connected with the departments to do trainings.”

Lopez said around 70 percent of the students joining Rice this spring semester are transferring from other colleges and universities.

Lopez said she worked closely with O-Week 2021 Student Directors Jordyn Wainscott and Ishaan Rischie to help these new students build their community at Rice. 

“We kind of picked the big stakeholders of what our orientation is like, and molded it to fit into this two-and-a-half-day orientation for the new students,” Lopez said.

The mini O-Week included many traditional aspects of a regular O-Week: academics, acclimation to the residential colleges and diversity sessions, according to Wainscott. 

“Ishaan and I planned and ran a social event in the evening of each of the three days, including icebreakers, a virtual Chaus-themed escape room and a college game night,” Wainscott, a Will Rice College junior, said. “We were excited to design and facilitate these social events to give the new students an opportunity to meet each other and begin to build the sense of community so integral to Rice.”

According to Lopez, the new COVID requirements introduced in early January also affected the format of the mini O-Week.

“We at first were planning to do a dual delivery … but with the … push back of the return to campus, we moved to go all virtual,” Lopez said.

Kendall Cooney, a sophomore transfer student who participated in the mini O-Week, said she wasn’t too bothered by the virtual format.

“I still felt a great sense of camaraderie among my O-Week advisors and other Lovetteers and everyone was quick to offer their contact information,” Cooney, a Lovett sophomore, said.

One event unique to this mini O-Week is the Transfer Student Panel that was held for the incoming students, according to Lopez. Lopez cited this panel as one of the more important events of this orientation.

“We had four upperclassmen come in and talk about their experience as transfer students,” Lopez said. “I thought that was really important as transfer students often have very unique needs and experiences [compared to] our traditional students.” 

Sarah Madhani, a sophomore transfer student from Duncan College, said she felt that the academic planning sessions were helpful.

“We had individual meetings with division advisors, we spoke with [peer academic advisors], there were office hours, so there was a good amount of preparation. I feel like there was a lot of room to ask about any doubts that we had,” Madhani said.

Diversity facilitator sessions, which are an aspect of a typical O-Week, also made an appearance in this mini O-Week. The typical topics of a DF session, including microaggressions, allyship and implicit biases were discussed during the DF sessions of the mini O-Week, as well as current events topics related to racism and bigotry, according to Soha Rizvi, a Hanszen College junior. Rizvi was one of the DFs leading the sessions during the mini O-Week.

Madhani mentioned the diversity facilitator sessions as an event she really enjoyed.

“The diversity session was really cool because we got to think about a lot of topics that aren’t very commonly addressed,” Madhani said.

Rizvi said she felt that the DF sessions benefitted from the smaller group size and virtual nature of this O-Week.

“I imagine that [the students] felt more comfortable to share than in last O-Week,” Rizvi said. “I think that [the Zoom format] is more conducive to these discussions … If you’re at Duncan Hall, I’m sure you don’t feel as comfortable raising your hand to talk about your experience with microaggressions as you would if you’re sitting in your room.”

Just like a typical O-Week, residential college-specific events were a favorite of both Madhani and Cooney. According to 

Lopez, the new students were split into O-Week groups with the help of the 2020 O-Week coordinators and the 2021 O-Week student directors.

Madhani said these events helped her get to know Duncan better.

“I got to socialize with my college before even getting there, so it feels like I already know some of [the people at Duncan],” said Madhani.

Cooney said her favorite part of the mini O-Week was the impromptu sallyport procession.

“Me and a few other on-campus students went to the Sallyport early Saturday morning, and Chloe [Oani], the magisters and [other new students] suddenly surprised all of us! Chloe carried the Lovett banner as we walked through Sallyport. It was super great to have that little ceremony,” Cooney said.

Lopez said she was open to the idea of continuing this mini O-Week tradition.

“If [the university] decides that we’re going to do this annually, then we’re game,” Lopez said. “We already have a framework to build off of and based on this year’s feedback, we’ll just continue to improve upon it.”

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