Student center

Rice unveils plan for new student center

Graphic by Robert Heeter; rendered courtesy Adjaye Associates

By Prayag Gordy 02/22/22 11:42 PM

The new student center will include a basement auditorium, a two-story multicultural center and a food court on the second floor, according to Bridget Gorman, dean of undergraduate students. Anzilla Gilmore, the project manager, said that construction is still planned complete by fall 2023.

Coffeehouse will have a new space around the corner from the Rice Memorial Center, with both internal and external access, Gorman said.

“They’re going to move to the corner of the building that you can most easily visualize now in your head is where the Farnsworth Pavilion is,” Gorman said. “They are going to have a walk-in window so people can have coffee outside the building. There will be outdoor seating as well as indoor seating. »



The Rice Pub and The Hoot will be in the food court, according to Campus Restaurant Manager Johnny Curet. Accommodation and catering will finalize outside suppliers by spring 2023.

The Career Development Center is moving into the building, Gorman said. No offices currently in the building are moving.

“To steal a line from Kevin Kirby, this is going to be one of the hardest buildings on campus,” Gorman said. “[The Center for Career Development] does a lot of programming and has a lot of ongoing student services, but they’re at Huff House on one side of campus. It made sense to locate them more centrally.

The new student center will be 15% larger in square footage but will have a similar footprint to the current building, according to Gilmore, assistant director of engineering and facilities planning for project management and engineering.

Undergraduate and graduate students participated in the planning process through the project’s steering committee, which includes Gorman, Gillmore, Associate Dean of Undergraduates Kate Abad and other representatives.

“I think one of the other things that really excites me is that we worked really hard to make sure there were students on the steering committee from the start in a way that a lot of projects on campus don’t have students,” Abad said.

The new RMC will serve the Rice community as a central part of the campus, according to Caitlin Lindsay, associate director of the student center for student-run businesses.

“I think student unions have this really cool and unique element of being locked in a central point on campus, kind of central to how we respond to the needs of students, staff, faculty, members of the community now as well as trying to plan for the future,” Lindsay said. “I think that aligns perfectly with the goal of a student union or student center is to be that place where student experiences happen, and I think our student-run businesses are a perfect example of the learning that happens in and out of the classroom and those pieces of experiential education that really help set you up for continued success while you’re in college and beyond.

pub location

The second-floor food court will be shaped like a horseshoe, according to Elizabeth Groenewold, general manager of the Pub. When other vendors are open, Pub will not be able to serve alcohol due to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission restrictions, Groenewold said.

“We could only be open when other vendors are closed,” Groenewold said. “From now on, the Hoot will also be in this horseshoe type area, and at night when it turns into a Pub space…they said there would be some kind of moving door that they would put in place .” Groenewold said she wishes Pub didn’t have to share space in the food court.

“I really wanted Pub to be our own space, but the admin was very adamant that a big problem with grad students is that they don’t have on-campus dining options,” said said Groenewold. “Essentially, one-third of the second floor is supposed to be dining options, which is this horseshoe-shaped area for graduate students.”

The steering committee gave Pub no other option, according to Groenewold.

“I think [admin] wants to give us what they think we need, but it seems like they made a lot of decisions about what Pub was going to be before telling anyone about Pub,” she said. “Even when I first met them, they were like, you’re in this horseshoe place, there’s no other room for you, you can only have one corner, we’re going reduce your hours, we may not be able to get you a stage, which was a bit frustrating.

Groenewold said Rice has since updated her and asked what Pub needs to run.

“I’ve had five meetings with a bunch of different people who come in fairly frequently to make sure they’re asking me what I think Pub needs and what the space would look like when it came to a Pub space, which I found useful,” says Groenewold.

According to Groenewold, it’s unclear what creative control Pub will have over its space in the food court.

“They know the signs I want to keep there because I sent them this complete list of everything I want to be able to hang and put in Pub,” Groenewold said. “I hope they’ll let me do this, [but] otherwise, I don’t see why they would have a problem with me hanging things up, just at night… They promised me that they were going to install a sound system that we could use. They said they were working on a scene that we can use. And they said we would have dim lights so we could make it look like we were in a pub.

Abad said she avoided trying to restore the current spaces in the new RMC.

“I think I really had to push myself to realize that we’re not recreating spaces, we’re building a whole new building,” Abad said. “We try to encourage everyone, when they think of spaces, not to imagine how they are recreating something they have now, but how we can take something new and beautiful and help create something again.”

Groenewold said she was concerned about the effects of the new shared space on pub culture, rating her level of concern at nine out of ten.

“It’s just very tumultuous,” Groenewold said. “I hope Pub culture will survive, and I think with the bartenders we’ve hired, I’m optimistic that it will among bartenders, but it’s hard to say what Pub will look like three years from now. with new students.

The reopening of the Pub this year after more than a year without service gave him some hope, Groenewold said.

” I worried [Pub] when we reopened after two years of closure, and it went really well,” Groenewold said. “I hope the love people have for the pub survives all of this, despite all the moving, changing and new spaces. I’ve already seen that it’s possible, so I just hope it will continue to prove that it is.

Jinhee Shin, General Manager of Coffeehouse, said she was delighted with their space in the new student center.

“It’s a bigger space, and overall I think the new student population for the next two years will really enjoy the space,” Shin said. “I hope it will be a functional space, a more functional space for the increase in the student population.”

Along with other memorabilia, Shin said Coffeehouse will be bringing their iconic sign with them.

“Something that is very memorable for us is the Coffeehouse sign that has been there since before we were even at our current RMC location, I think when we started in Hanszen“, Shin said. “It’s something that is very sentimental for us, so we will keep it in our temporary space and we will take it with us to the new RMC.

Groenewold said she wanted Pub to receive a similar extension.

“I’m a little jealous, to be honest, just selfishly because I love Pub and wish the admin cared about Pub that much,” Groenewold said. “But at the same time, if I was in administration, I would want to show the student-run business that is Houston’s busiest coffee shop rather than where our students drink. I understand.

Event spaces in the new CMR

The new main event space will be connected to Ray Courtyard, according to Abad. Ray Courtyard and Rice Memorial Chapel are not part of the ongoing renovation, Gorman said.

“There are additional spaces that are kind of adjacent to [the current Grand Hall] on the Ray Courtyard side that will ideally help create additional programming space,” said Abad. “If you think about our current Great Hall, there’s no front door in that space, it looks like such a beautiful space to be able to have a bit of flow and you just don’t get that in our current space right now.”

When no events are scheduled, this multi-story space will serve as a hangout zone, Gorman said.

Gorman also said the new student center will have an amphitheater on its roof.

“When you walk into a corner, there’s kind of a circular seating area, kind of a stadium, and then there’s this almost rectangular box that pops up where you can project onto it, where you can have evening movies on the roof,” Gorman says.

As RMC nears its demolition in May, the student center will host events to celebrate the current building and provide information about the temporary locations of the relocated offices, according to Kristen Ernst, director of the student center.

“We hope to actively market these alternate locations so that students know exactly where they can find the resources they are accustomed to coming to Student Center to connect with, different departments or different entities that are currently in the building,” Ernst mentioned. .

Abad said she looks forward to seeing how students will enjoy the new spaces in the student center.

“We also have a brand new space on the lower level, which is the fixed 150-200 seat auditorium,” Abad said. “Rice’s students are so creative. I’m excited to see what type of programming that could inspire that we don’t have right now, or what type of programming could happen on a smaller scale so that this space can allow them to do something bigger and better.