Grad School 101: Get to know Rice's student organizations

Grad students make up about half of Rice’s student body, and our campus is full of organizations and activities aimed at graduate student life!

Grad students eat pizza in the graduate commons outside Valhalla

Did you know? Grad students make up about half of Rice’s student body, and our campus is full of organizations and activities aimed at graduate student life! We encourage you to get involved early with groups you’re interested in. Joining a new organization is a great way to meet friends on campus, especially outside of your academic program/departments. 

Due to the current pandemic, many students are now experiencing graduate school in a remote way, at least temporarily. However, this does not mean that connecting across campus needs to wait until coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted! Below you will find information on graduate student affinity groups and student clubs and how you can connect with them before the start of fall semester.

Affinity Groups

Rice has various affinity groups for its graduate students, including the Black Graduate Student Association, Queer Graduate Student Association, and Wiki Women. Rice’s strong affinity groups provide great connections for graduate students on campus, and they also often host wonderful events for the graduate student community as a whole throughout the academic year. Interested students are encouraged to reach out and get in touch! 

International Student Groups

There are a number of international student groups on campus as well! The Chinese Student Association, Indian Students at Rice, Latin American Graduate Student Association, Brazilian Student Association, Korean Grad Student Association, Rice Iranian Society. We are incredibly proud of our diverse student body! Our annual Culture Night, hosted by the GSA and the OISS office, brings the grad student body together for food, music and dancing to celebrate this diversity! See photos here.

Student Clubs

The Rice campus is home to a myriad of student clubs. Some clubs are open to undergraduate and graduate students alike while others are focused primarily on graduate student membership. OwlNest is a great place to start when looking for student organizations to join, as is the Student Activities webpage. There truly is something for everyone, including dance, fashion, community service, coding, and even a club for board games!

Graduate Student Association

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) is highly active on campus, and it is a popular way to get involved with the Rice community. Every graduate student is a member of GSA, but GSA also offers lots of opportunities to be involved with graduate student life. GSA also hosts and participates in campus events throughout the academic year. You can learn more about GSA through their website and facebook page

Departmental Graduate Student Associations

Many graduate programs on campus also have their own departamental GSA that manages grad student life within the program. Departmental GSAs are a great way to get involved in graduate student government on a smaller scale, serving the needs of graduate students in your program as opposed to the graduate student body as a whole. If your department has its own GSA, get in touch with the students who serve on the executive board — they can let you know about upcoming D-GSA elections and the different positions available to students. 

Popular Campus Events

The university, student organizations, and the GSA put on many great events throughout the academic year, but a few stand out as student favorites. Valhalloween is the grad student celebration of Halloween that takes place at Valhalla, the grad student bar, during late October or early November. Grad students enjoy food and drinks together, and costumes are highly encouraged. Many students go all out with theirs in hopes of winning the GSA Costume Contest. Culture Night, typically held in February, showcases the myriad of international cultures represented by Rice’s diverse grad student body with free food, drinks, and entertainment at Valhalla. Beer Bike is a university-wide event enjoyed by both undergraduates and graduate students since 1957. Beer Bike, typically held in April, is an intramural bike relay race and drinking competition where each undergraduate residential college and the GSA compete against one another to win. Beer Bike is something that everyone has to witness at least once to fully understand it, but you can read more about the legendary race here. It even gets its own mention on Rice University’s Wikipedia page!

Popular Spots on Campus

Rice’s campus is beautiful, and its lush greenery, pretty architecture, and quiet atmosphere make it like a little oasis amidst bustling Houston. Certain spots on campus are extra loved by Rice students. Rice Coffeehouse is a student staple. Completely student-run, the Coffeehouse offers a wide array of affordable beverages and pastries, including a never-failing stream of $1 drip coffee when you bring your own mug. Rice Coffeehouse is in the Rice Memorial Center at the heart of campus, and it is many students’ favorite spot to get some work done or catch up with friends. Brochstein Pavilion is another popular spot on campus to work and socialize. The glass pavilion in the center of campus offers plenty of seating and table space. You can also get coffee, pastries, and other quick bites at FLO Paris inside the Pavilion. 

Grad students also have their own bar on campus, Valhalla, located beneath Keck Hall. Valhalla is student-run like Rice Coffeehouse, and the prices can’t be beat — you can get draft beer for only 95 cents! While the indoor bar space itself is small, outside Valhalla is the Grad Student Commons. Many grad students will wrap up a day on campus by grabbing a drink with their office- or labmates and sitting outside under the string lights of the commons. It is also a Rice tradition to celebrate a successful dissertation defense with a tie cutting ceremony at Valhalla. New PhDs cut off their ties and tape them on the walls inside Valhalla to celebrate the completion of their doctorate. 

Further Reading:

Grad School 101: Approaching the application process

Grad School 101: Four easy way to prep for your first year

Grad School 101: Discover your research interests


About the author: Originally from Massachusetts, Emily Elia is a second-year Ph.D. student in political science. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2018 and currently studies comparative politics with a focus on Latin America.