When Rice University's Graduate Student Association was formed in 1969, it had a singular focus: create a space for graduate students to hang out, relax and socialize after a long day of rigorous studies. Thus was borne Valhalla, a small bar (or "hobbit hole") tucked into the basement of Keck Hall that became a fixture of campus life. Over the years, the GSA evolved and expanded into what it is today — a robust support system that enriches graduate student life in a variety of ways. In honor of the GSA’s 50th anniversary celebration taking place during Homecoming & Reunion Nov. 1 & 2, 2019, we’re highlighting five (of many) fun ways the GSA brings the graduate student community together.
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1. Viva Valhalla
While Valhalla has changed little over the years, it is still, indisputably a centerpiece of graduate student life, whether students are enjoying the food and drink or holding fun events like Valhallaween and Carnavalhalla in the commons.
Wondering what it's like to hang out with brilliant scholars from all around the world? Look no further than Rice, where as of last year, 40 percent of Rice’s graduate students came from outside the United States and represented 73 different countries. For many, the diversity of the graduate student community is a defining characteristic of the university, and it's worth celebrating.
“Rice has always taken pride in its level of student diversity. When I was a student, Rice could boast of student presence from over 50 countries; this was unmatched at any U.S. school. This results in students developing broad outlooks with very fulfilling experiences."— Sumedh Warudkar ’13, an economist with Shell Oil Company who was GSA president in 2011-2012.
“The GSA collaborates with different offices at Rice and beyond Rice to create awareness of the resources available to the graduate student population. These efforts help them to enhance their soft skills, leadership skills and build a professionally rich resume so they can be more competitive in the job market. GSA also advocates for services pertaining to professional development that cater specifically to grad student needs.”
— Thasneem Frousnoon, GSA’s vice president for professional development and chemistry Ph.D. student
5. A drive to serve campus and community
Whether graduate students are volunteering their time to create a vibrant and inclusive campus community through GSA leadership positions, or they are engaging the broader Houston community through a variety outreach programs, one thing is clear: service is at the heart of the GSA.