Profiles from the Senior Class of 2019

This May, we asked 11 graduating seniors, one from each residential college, to sit for a portrait and reflect on their time at Rice. As they thought about memorable classes, favorite professors, hard-won lessons, proudest achievements and the music that defined their college experience, photographer Tommy LaVergne captured their reactions. Here’s to the Class of 2019!

BONUS: We made a playlist of the songs and music that in some way defined the college experience for these seniors. From Hanson’s MMM Bop to J. Cole’s January 28th and The Maine’s Another Night On Mars, there’s something for every musical taste. Check out the entire list on Spotify here.

NICHOLAS MCMILLAN, HANSZEN COLLEGE  

Where you spent the most time outside of residential college:
For me, the question isn’t where I spent most of my time but what I was doing, and for me, that was video. Outside of Hanszen, I always had a camera in my hand. I was constantly videoing different parts of campus, events and people’s stories.

Advice for freshman self:
Don’t try to take on everything at once. I kind of got bombarded by a lot of work and stressed myself out too much at the beginning.

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Song: “MMMBop” by Hanson. That’s kind of our theme song at Hanszen.


NAIMAH SARWAR, MCMURTRY COLLEGE

Course or teacher you will always remember:
Some I’ll remember for different reasons — like the nights spent staying up. Last semester I took what was probably my favorite class at Rice — Medical Sociology. On the last day of class, I thought, I’m going to miss this!

Advice for your freshman self:
Don’t hold back on doing the things you want to do. If there’s something you’re passionate about, ask about it. Apply to it. How much you’re able to accomplish will surprise you.   

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Song: “Another Night on Mars” by The Maine.

JAY RYU, DUNCAN COLLEGE 

Course or teacher you will always remember:
COMP 421: Operating Systems and Concurrent Programming, because the thoroughness of the assignments amazed me, and I learned a lot.

Advice for your freshman self:
The advice I’d give my freshman self is to get a better haircut. My girlfriend looked at my freshman photo and said she would not have dated me.

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Band: Extreme. I definitely listened to them throughout my years at Rice and went to their concert in Austin.

AVERY JOHNSON, WIESS COLLEGE

Course or teacher you will always remember:
Social Inequality taught by Ruth Turley. It was memorable because it allowed me to serve in organizations that addressed a form of social inequality. She had us all choose a specific nonprofit organization, and I chose one called the Houston Area Urban League.

Where you spent the most time outside of your residential college:
Most of my time was spent in the library and the Coffeehouse and probably at my church, West University Baptist Church.

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Song: “Just Want You” by Travis Greene.

ARLEN SUAREZ, LOVETT COLLEGE

Course or teacher you will always remember:
In my sophomore year, I took a Spanish theater workshop class, and in that class I met my favorite professor — Esther Fernández — and also got a different experience in college. It was a very creative and cool experience. My professor was super energetic!

Advice for your freshman self:
You will definitely fail. That’s a given in college, but that’s part of the growth cycle. The important thing is that you keep moving forward and learn from the mistakes you made.   

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Band: Khruangbin. It means “engine fly” in Thai. They’re this funk musical group that started in Houston. Their music is probably the music I’ve most listened to in my time at Rice.

EUGENIO MESTA, WILL RICE COLLEGE

Course or teacher you will always remember:
Matthew Brake in the mechanical engineering department. In my sophomore year, he sent around an email asking for people to join his lab, and that’s the first exposure I had to research. I started working with him all the way through the end of my junior year.

Your proudest achievement:
Club soccer. It’s a lot of work — we practiced three times a week and had games on weekends. I was captain my senior year and really enjoyed playing with the team.  

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Artist: J. Cole. I like his music a lot. I would listen to it while studying and also when I hung out with friends.

JULIA WANG, BAKER COLLEGE

Course or teacher you will always remember:
A class called Art and Activism. It was really great, because we got to do a class project where we worked with teenagers from a middle school in Houston with a large population of immigrants and refugees.   

Your proudest achievement:
Completing the Center for Civic Leadership capstone project. While studying abroad in France, I worked with a refugee organization in Calais gathering data on Sudanese refugees. It was really difficult hearing the stories that people told me and trying to understand what they were going through. 

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Songs: “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers or “One More Time” by Daft Punk. They literally play them all the time during O-Week, so that’s something I’ll always remember.

KSENIYA ANISHCHENKO, SID RICHARDSON COLLEGE

Course or teacher you will always remember:
The Civic Leadership Capstone through the Center for Civic Leadership. Danika Brown teaches that course — everyone who goes through it loves her. She believes in the students.  

Where you spent the most time outside of your residential college:
Fondren Library, to the point where I became a Fondren Library ambassador. I love being at peace with the books, just being in a peaceful environment.  

Your proudest achievement:
As cheesy as it sounds, my proudest achievement is just getting through Rice, even though it was difficult. For the first two years, I struggled and felt that I didn’t belong. But I realized I wasn’t putting myself out there and finding my niche. 

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Songs: “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac and “Back in Black” by AC/DC.

  

FELIX WU, MARTEL COLLEGE

Your proudest achievement:
Getting the National Science Foundation fellowship for graduate school. I didn’t expect it at all! I woke up one morning and my adviser, Mikki Hebl, was sending me congratulatory texts. The fellowship covers three years of graduate school.

Advice for your freshman self:
Don’t give up on your dreams. Keep working on your dreams without being worried about if it’s going to work out. When I was in my freshman year, I broke my leg, and that’s pretty bad for me because I couldn’t walk. All my professors were really supportive.

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Song: “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie,” because at Rice you’re always part of a team of some sort and you’re always working with a bunch of cool people.

MEKEDLAWIT SETEGNE, BROWN COLLEGE

Course or teacher you will always remember:
The Gen Chem course where I was a TA. Helping to explain lessons in chemistry was a very formative experience, and I was able to work with amazing professors. I got to see what kind of professor I hope to be.   

Your most difficult lesson or proudest achievement:
During the second semester of my junior year, I took a course that really challenged me for the first time. I did my best and worked hard, and I think I was proud of myself for sticking through it. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and that’s OK. It’s better to understand your limits rather than let your limits define you.

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Album: “2014 Forest Hills Drive” by J. Cole.    

SENYTE PIERCE, JONES COLLEGE

Your proudest achievement:
Rice really taught me that things don’t just happen to you, you can make things happen. Learning that I am in control of my life transformed my experience at Rice. I didn’t do so well my first semester, but I had friends who told me to take control of my life and helped me take the steps to get there. I was able to transform my experience.     

Advice for your freshman self:
In my experience at Rice, I had a lot of times where it was my first time failing. I feel like this is something that happens for a lot of Rice students, because we spend our entire lives doing well in school, even from when we’re really young. Rice was like, “Take a step off that pedestal.” Through hard work and determination and a little bit of finessing, you can still have the outcome you want.

The song, album or band that will always remind you of Rice:
Genre: Soca. I met my best friend when I got to Rice and she introduced me to Soca music. It’s become my favorite genre.

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