'A Night at the Museum' sees triumphant return

Nearly 450 guests and 10 departments participated in GPS' annual recruiting event.

MECH prospective students and current faculty/students at the Night at the Museum 2022 event at Rice University

On February 25, 2022, the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) was thrilled to return to its ‘Night at the Museum’ event for the first time since the pandemic’s start. The office also recorded its highest ever attendance - nearly 450 guests were able to explore the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and 10 academic departments in Engineering, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences participated.

The annual event, held in the Morian Hall of Paleontology, is a partnership between the GPS office and participating academic departments during their prospective student visiting weekend. Students are invited to the museum for an interactive, science-filled cocktail party where they meet faculty, staff and current Rice graduate students in one of Houston’s most stunning settings.

“It was amazing to see everyone in person again - not just the admitted students, but our colleagues who we may have only seen virtually or sporadically since 2020,” said Jennifer Hunter, Director of Visibility Strategy. “It really was a reunion.”

A series of three images capturing guests at the 2022 Night at the Museum event at Rice University

Seiichi Matsuda, Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, agreed. “The opportunity for us to offer prospective students the chance to experience Houston and its world-class museums and see our beautiful campus is of paramount importance to Rice and its mission,” he said.

While the pandemic brought added challenges, it also reignited a spirit of creativity and perseverance. GPS pivoted to virtual events in 2021, created a 360° campus tour with the tremendous support of the Rice Digital Media Commons, and introduced its Graduate Student Ambassadors program. But the desire to return to the museum was there from the earliest days of the pandemic.

Nearly two years later, GPS was able to safely coordinate the event for all attendees by providing PPE, expanding into additional exhibit areas and encouraging social distancing.

Additionally, GPS introduced new activities during the event. Guests were able to interact with “Discovery Guides” - team members at HMNS who were able to share detailed and fascinating information about the exhibits. Guests were also invited to meet with student affinity groups at scheduled times.

GPS has been holding its annual “A Night at the Museum” event since 2015, and is already looking forward to 2023 and 2024. Departments interested in partnering with GPS for the next Night at the Museum event should contact Pia Byrd (pb24@rice.edu) and Jennifer Hunter (jkh6@rice.edu) for more information. Planning for 2023 will begin later this year.