SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
CONNECTIONS BETWEEN STUDENTS AND ALUMNI
CONNECTIONS BETWEEN STUDENTS AND ALUMNI The Gateway program in the Rice University School of Social Sciences is a platform that generates opportunities for students to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world while connecting with alumni, scholars, and leaders around the globe. The Gateway students serve as international ambassadors or summer fellows when participating in internships or studying abroad. The core goals of all Gateway programs are to foster curiosity through mentorship, develop leadership through communications, and create opportunities for students to learn from the experiences of others. As ambassadors and fellows, the students meet and interview alumni in cities around the globe including some within the United States who help them get acclimated to new environments and connect them to colleagues in various fields. It has been a transformative experience so far for students who would not have made the unique connections otherwise in countries such as Brazil, Turkey, France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, The Czech Republic, Egypt, Spain, Belgium, China and many others. In this booklet, we share interview reflections from some of the students who reached out to select alumni, developed better understanding of their career journeys, and built rewarding friendships along the way. Ipek Martinez Director, Gateway Program for Undergraduate Research, Internships, International Ambassadorships, and Study of Leadership
ALUMNI MENTORS Chris Keller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Richard Langstaff, ‘80 – London, England Amanda Kupchella . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Eric Nelson, ‘83 – San Jose, Costa Rica Eric Li . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Lindsay Germano, ‘01 – London, England Jessica McElroy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Madeline Currie, ‘07 – New York City, USA Dylan McNally. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Paul Luther, ‘87 – Washington, D.C., USA Christine Pao . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Dr. Francesca Zacchi, ‘98 – Florence, Italy Rachel Peterson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 William Bickford, Jr., ‘87 – Guatemala City, Guatemala Andrea Romero . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Erin Gainer, ‘95 – Paris, France Jennifer Shafer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Gloria Tarpley, ‘81 – Dallas, USA Ruchir Shah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Vivek Rao, ‘99 – Delhi, India Pedro Silva . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Eduardo Prado, ‘99 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Tara Slough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Kevin Bailey, ‘04 – Washington, D.C., USA Hannah Thalenberg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Dr. Bruce Grant, ‘93 – New York City, USA Enstin Ye. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Dr. Stephen Doty, ‘61 – New York City, USA Jen Zhao . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Dr. Courtney LeBauer, ‘96 – Dusseldorf, Germany Special Thanks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
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Gateway International Ambassador
CHRIS KELLER Political Science Sarasota, FL
Alumnus Richard Langstaff, ’80, Founder and former president of SAV Credit, Ltd. London, England Richard Langstaff is the founder of SAV Credit, Ltd. Mr. Langstaff graduated from Rice in 1980 with a BA in History and Political Science. He went on to earn an MA in International Business from the University of Kentucky, a JD from the University of Denver, and an MA in Ottoman History from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Mr. Langstaff has served on the advisory boards for both the School of Humanities as well as the School of Social Sciences at Rice. He and his family have lived in London since 1995. I was paired with Richard because of our mutual interest in international affairs and our particular interest in Turkey. My interest in Turkey developed over a weeklong program studying and touring Istanbul, but Richard’s path was not so direct. Richard explained that during his time at Rice, he did not have nearly as many international opportunities, thus his interest came mostly from his studies of nonUS history. Nonetheless, Richard found himself wanting to explore world affairs through the lens of the social sciences.
istory professors Francis Lowenheim and Gale Stokes, and political science professor John Ambler were Richard’s favorite instructors. Professor Ambler happens to be one of my favorite professors at Rice as well. He teaches courses on comparative government and politics, with a special focus on French politics, and he apparently has impressed Rice students with his superior knowledge for over thirty years now! Richard and I both have great respect for his teaching style; we both found him to be much more of a straight shooter in his lecturing style than other Rice professors. Interestingly enough, Richard and I both unintentionally followed in Professor Ambler’s steps by studying French language while at Rice and then studying in France during our time at Rice. This inspired Richard to study languages and international history, and it was after that experience that he decided law school was not what he wanted to do right after Rice. Instead, he looked into international programs such as the Fletcher School of International Studies at Tufts. He knew he had a euro-centric focus due to his coursework and his background of Spanish and French language. Richard had not yet discovered
his interest in Turkey, with Professor Stoke’s course on Balkan history and politics being as close as he came to Ottoman history. From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East, by William Dalrymple, was most likely the spark that lighted his interest in Ottoman Turkish history, Richard recounted. He explained that Dalrymple was one of the first travel-historians: a researcher who “took some historic text or person as a starting point” and then walked through the journey of the text to gain an understanding of ancient life. Dalrymple’s subject in From the Holy Mountain followed an individual in the eighth century CE on a pilgrimage through Turkey, Syria and Lebanon to St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt. Dalrymple’s own telling of his journey “brought home how fascinating that part of the world was” for Richard, and spurred him to read more into the history of the Middle East. As it later turned out four years ago, Richard was living in London about ten minutes from the University of London and its School of Oriental and African Studies, which has a “one-year taught Masters with a short dissertation at the end of it,” a perfect fit for Richard’s
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life at the time. Richard’s research focused specifically on Mihrimah Sultan, the only daughter of the great Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Through his studies, Richard found that Mihrimah was at one time the wealthiest woman in the world and also one of the most influential women in the history of the Ottoman Empire. “The footsteps of Mihrimah are pretty much all in Istanbul, so I did spend some time there,” Richard recounts. We both expressed awe at the beauty of the city of Istanbul, which I learned from Richard was in no small part thanks to the work of Mihrimah Sultan. Turning to his career in banking, Richard mentioned that much of his interest in banking was a function of timing. Indeed, one of the lessons I learned from Richard, especially as a liberal arts student, is to always keep your options open and keep actively taking advantages of the things that seem interesting to you at each particular moment in your life. After leaving Rice, Richard had admittedly little business experience, but he found he wanted to know more about what international businesses do. He took what he described as a “pretty serious”
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By pursuing your interests, wherever they may take you, you can really build any kind of life and career that you find suitably appealing
one of the lessons I learned from Richard, especially as a liberal arts student, is to always keep your options open and keep actively taking advantages of the things that seem interesting to you at each particular moment in your life
internship in New York at the international treasury department of a major tobacco company, which gave him a great first experience in the world of finance. He then found he was interested in banks, returning to Texas to train to be part of the international division of a bank based in Dallas. It was with this bank that he received three months of training in business, banking, finance, and accounting, and he discovered he was pretty good with numbers, something he had little experience with at Rice. He took the opportunity to get involved, found that he really enjoyed banking, and has been involved with banking and finance ever since. In reflecting on my personal goals, Richard recommended I decide relatively early on whether or not I would like to live abroad as he does, and tailor my post-undergraduate path to that goal. Something that he said that inspired me was, “You could be a real Turkish expert if that is the path you’d like to take.” By pursuing your interests, wherever they may take you, you can really build any kind of life and career that you find suitably appealing, he insisted. Richard himself is testament to the fact that, even without all of the international opportunities Rice now offers, you can go anywhere with a Rice degree. The quality of intellectual stimulation Rice offers has been superior since its inception, and it is one of Richard’s hopes to see more graduates represent Rice abroad, and help elevate its international profile, as he has for nearly twenty years here in London.
Gateway International Ambassador
Mathematical Economic Analysis and Statistics Scituate, MA
Alumnus Eric Nelson, ’83, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica San Jose, Costa Rica Eric Nelson graduated from Rice in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. For the next two years he served as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching math and science in Liberia, West Africa. He obtained his MBA degree from UT Austin in 1988 and worked as a marketing and finance consultant to U.S. Agency for International Development projects in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Liberia. He has been part of the Foreign Services since 1990. He served as the U.S. Consul General in Munich, Germany (2006-2009), as Deputy Management Counselor in Uslamabad, Pakistan, and as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Costa Rica (2010-Present). Mr. Nelson has received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award three times and the Meritorious Honor Award seven times. Mr. Nelson has been around the world and back again, and I was very excited to get the chance to speak with him. In my classes I was learning so much about current Costa Rican issues and realized that I could learn a lot more from Mr. Nelson’s perspective as a US government employee. I’m already seeing that there are many different ways to look at any issue, and it all depends on where you’re coming from and who you work for.
or the interview I went to the Embassy. In the middle of the dirty, bustling capital city I found this piece of my home country, complete with huge iron gates. Upon entering the lobby I signed my name again and received a visitor’s badge. Mr. Nelson’s assistant met me there and took me to his office, which shares a common space with the Ambassador herself. It was great to get to see a little piece of the US government in action, and despite all the formalities it felt comfortable and fitting to be in an English speaking space after five weeks in unfamiliar environments. I think that a career in the Foreign Services is a unique job. Although you could be in a wide variety of exotic countries, you are working for the United States, protecting and serving Americans. Since being in Costa Rica I have been realizing what a large influence the United States has here and everywhere in the world, both economically and culturally. Therefore the people representing the USA that are making decisions about trade, making public announcements, or coming to agreements about laws
and regulations – those people are shaping the way the world is today. Mr. Nelson is one of those world influencers, and so I was interested in what kinds of changes were his highest priorities. Mr. Nelson brought up something I had hoped he would: globalization. I had recently heard this term referred to as “Westernization”, from a speaker that believed it was a few countries using the rest for their own benefit and implementing their policies on others for better or worse. But from talking with Mr. Nelson I realized that of course there are many different ways of analyzing this complicated issue, and there is no right answer. He said that it is crucial for world markets to be connected because “you can’t think that you can have closed markets and prosper.” He said that CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) was an important but difficult step – Costa Rica was very reluctant to sign. Mr. Nelson said “People have to bounce from job to job more frequently like we’re used to in the US but they aren’t used to. But they are dealing with it, and they do have a competitive advantage but they have to keep
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competing. The world is changing around them and they have to change to prosper”. We talked about adjusting to other cultures. Mr. Nelson has lived in 10 different countries apart from the United States, so clearly he has had a lot of experience living and working with people very different from him. Though I had traveled a lot before coming here and thought of myself a cultured, open minded person,staying in a foreign country for an extended period of time is a totally new experience. I have been more aware of the way I think and how different it might be from someone else’s thoughts on a simple social situation or a broader issue. Mr. Nelson said thathe’s never felt that he’s reached a point of complete understanding with another culture. He said that you just have to accept that you’ll never fully understand, be careful, listen, and seek advice from people who understand the culture better than you. With his frequent moving I wondered if it got easier every time or if it was like starting over. He said that there’s always lessons you’ve learned, but that doesn’t mean each move is not tedious.
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so proud of my university for having such accomplished alumni
those people are shaping the way the world is today
I feel so lucky to have had the chance to meet with someone as important as Eric Nelson, and also so proud of my university for having such accomplished alumni. It gives me confidence that I can go wherever I like with my degree, and also that I have time to decide exactly what I want to do. I’m also glad that I got to hear the American government perspective on some current Latin American issues, because I’ve heard a lot of criticism from countering points of view. I now know a lot more about the way the US Foreign Services work and what their purpose is, as well as their role in this quickly changing world. Spending so much time in a different country has made me become more aware of my own perspective and the things that shape it, and I hope to continue to learn and seek other perspectives in my next interviews.
Gateway International Ambassador
ERIC LI Economics Katy, TX
Alumnus Lindsay Germano, ’01, Associate in the Corporate Department of Weil, Gotshal, and Manges LLP London, England Lindsay Germano is an Associate in the Corporate Department of the London office of Weil, Gotshal, and Manges LLP. She received her B.A. in kinesiology from Rice in 2001, and she completed her J.D. at Southern Methodist University in 2004. Her professional work centers on complex corporate and transactional matters including the representation of private equity firms and corporates involved in acquisitions, divestitures and other investment transactions. When I first received an email from Lindsay volunteering to do an interview for the Ambassador program, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since my previous interactions with corporate lawyers resulted in headaches induced by legal jargon. Fortunately, in the first five minutes of my interview, I realized that Lindsay, as a former Rice Owl, wouldn’t fit the traditional image of a corporate lawyer or the traditional image of anything really.
he very first question of the interview (“Did you have an expected life experience?”) set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Though Lindsay stayed close to home by attending Rice, she admitted that no one would have expected her to become a lawyer, or move to Hong Kong or London. “It wasn’t even on MY radar, let alone anyone else’s,” she said. This pattern of doing the unexpected, of being untraditional repeated itself in other areas of her life and is something that I greatly admire given the popularity of well-worn paths that are more easily followed. Another area in which Lindsay broke with the mold is her line of work. As a corporate lawyer who primarily works in private equity, she is one of a few females in a male-dominated industry. However, her dedication to her role, the support of her colleagues, and the understanding of her clients allowed her to establish great relationships with clients. Eventually she had clients saying, “Just ask Lindsay, just ask Lindsay,” for transactions she was not even working on. Additionally, with some of the event planning skills developed in RPC and design skills honed through her Campanile involvement, she has the unconventional experience of helping to launch the firm’s Hong Kong office.
After discussing her professional experiences, we moved on to her Rice experiences. I wish I could say she had her sights set on Rice from a young age, but instead she confessed that her dad made her apply. “I actually thought I’d go to Princeton, but I didn’t get in.” In hindsight, however, she admits that, “at the end of the day, Rice was the best decision for me.” When asked why, she admits that it was the people, and interacting and lear ning with the diverse set of Rice students. Furthermore, when asked what she learned from her numerous leadership experiences at Rice—Hanszen President, O-Week adviser, O-Week coordinator, and O-Week campus coordinator—she returns to people in her answer: I realized that you always need to look at things from different perspectives. Everybody comes in with their own opinion and I think it is important to understand why they have that opinion and what is most important to them so I can then figure out how to adjust to their approach. I’ve found that no matter where I go, the people I meet are adamant about more important than very different things and understanding where they are coming from is very important, and often, it is this perspective that is whatever opinion or view they may actually have. I concluded the interview by asking her if
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don’t really sweat the small stuff, but do take advantage of the opportunities that you have
there’s anything she knows now that she wishes she knew in college. She said there were probably many things that she could have let go of to enjoy the experience a little bit more. In other words, “don’t really sweat the small stuff, but do take advantage of the opportunities that you have. You’re in this environment where you have so many things to take advantage of so you have to make the most of it.” Given the sometimes obsessive and OCD nature of many Rice students, this advice definitely seemed applicable. My personal reaction to this, and a personal realization during my study abroad experience, is that a laid back, big-picture mindset can go a long way in terms of allowing you to get the most of the current experience while driving toward a great destination down the road.
Gateway Summer Fellow
Sociology and Policy Studies Houston, TX Alumna Madeline Currie, ’07, Associate Account Executive at Frank Crystal & Company New York City, USA Madeline Currie’s first job out of college was in Washington D.C. with the Corporate Executive Board in their sales department. She stuck through it for ten months, then decided that she was not interested in continuing or moving up in that company. She had another job in D.C. at the Center for International Private Enterprise, which involved a lot of research and writing reports. She then took time off to travel to Sydney, Australia. Madeline wanted to get some sort of part-time work while she was there, but was unable to find anything due to the depressed economy and holiday season. She said she did virtually nothing in Australia, spending her time on the beach and traveling around, which was all very relaxing and rejuvenating. After three months in Sydney, she went back home to Texas to regroup and then moved back to D.C. for a few months. Shortly after, she got her current job as at Frank Crystal & Co. in New York City. For my alumni interview I was matched with Madeline Currie, a 2007 graduate from Jones College who is now living and working in New York City. We made contact shortly after I arrived in New York, then I took the train into the city the Sunday after my first week at the internship to see her. I knew immediately that we would get along when she recommended meeting at Café Grumpy, a coffee shop with great latte art near Penn Station. Beyond being coffee lovers, Madeline and I found that we have a lot in common. We are both Sociology and Policy Studies majors, we both spent our whole lives in Houston, and we went to nearby high schools.
he School of Social Sciences connected me with Madeline because we are both Sociology and Policy Studies double majors. I saw my interview with Madeline not only as a chance to make an acquaintance with an alumna, which would be valuable on its own, but also to hear her thoughts about her Rice experience in retrospect. We turned out to have many commonalities, even beyond our majors, and it was interesting to speak to someone who recently had been through the life stage I’m in now and hear her thoughts about her chosen path. It was interesting to hear what had stuck with her (and what didn’t) about her college experience several years down the road. It put my worries in perspective and inspired me to make the most of the many valuable resources available to me in my remaining time at Rice. When I asked her about her best academic
memory of Rice, she recalled a History class where they were assigned to read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. She knew social science was right for her in the self-described “nerd moment,” when she became absorbed in Weber’s sociological theory, fascinatedby its explanatory power, and emerged with an altered perspective on the world. I thought it was really interesting that a course reading was so impactful that she specifically recalledit four years after college. Madeline said her favorite professor was probably Dr. Bridget Gorman, who taught her Medical Sociology class. I asked Madeline if she had any mentors in her life, and she said that there has been no one in particular since Rice. The strongest connection she made at Rice was Matt Taylor, when she worked in his office, and she recently met with him at Brochstein when she was visiting campus. She imparted a piece
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reach out to professors and other role models as much as possible
that of advice that she said she wished she had followed more herself, which was to reach have more well-rounded backgrounds,” Paul advises. “We would always joke, my friends and I who were new lawyers, that we all had an alternative out to professors and other role models as much as possible. She said that those people always more interested in talking to you than you would expect, and conversations with them are very beneficial. When I asked her what her next step will be, she said she is thinking about applying to business school and going to work on her MBA full-time. To end the interview, I asked her, “If you had to pick one word to explain what drives you or what matters most to you, what would it be?” Her response was, “change.” She said that she seeks a wide breadth of experiences andconstant growth and change. She said she’s not the kind of person to have a detailed long-term plan, because one thing she has learned in her life is that everything always works out.
Gateway Summer Fellow
Hispanic Studies and Political Science Dawsonville, GA Alumnus Paul Luther, ’87, Partner at Baker Botts L.L.P. Washington, D.C., USA Paul Luther graduated from Rice University summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1987 with a B.A. in Spanish and managerial studies. A native Houstonian and graduate of Memorial High School, he now lives in Northern Virginia and works for Baker Botts L.L.P., a leading full-service international law firm. Although I am currently reconsidering my plans to go to law school, I was particularly interested in Paul’s experiences in international law, as well as his application of his Spanish degree. I met him at his office after work on a Wednesday afternoon, and despite being tired from a long day at the Embassy and a sweaty 20-minute walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I had a great time chatting with Paul and hearing about his life.
principal aspect of Paul’s work, especially earlier in his career, is public international law. Specifically, he worked to resolve Yemen’s boundary and territory disputes with Saudi Arabia and Eritrea. More broadly, Paul enjoys the counseling and problem-solving aspects of his job the most. While a solution to the border dispute took years to precipitate, he says the magnitude of the project and all the consultation he provided was well worth the wait. These days, however, much of his work with corporate clients is more methodical, and while he loved the sheer importance of the Yemen project, he appreciates providing counsel in more constrained situations where resolutions develop relatively quickly. When Paul mentioned working with international borders, I brought up my interest in migration and border towns in Mexico. Thanks to our common academic interests, we talked for a bit about the Department of Hispanic Studies at Rice. The department has definitely changed in the past 25 years, but the general philosophy toward allowing students a lot of intellectual freedom has remained intact. Paul and I have taken classesfrom two of the same professors at Rice: Dr. Bernardo Pérez and the late Dr. Jim Castañeda. Like many Rice students, Paul reveals that he had planned on studying engineering, but he became interested in
Spanish in junior high school. He says the Hispanic Diaspora in Texasencouraged his curiosity in the language and culture, and that his interest developed more through high school and college: “It wasn’t one of those cases where I couldn’t wait to be rid of the topic, like physics, for example. I actually wanted to keep going.” Paul remembers his major studies fondly, particularly with respect to Medieval Spain. Upon receiving his Bachelor’s degree, he began master’slevel coursework in Hispanic studies at Rice. However, Paul never completed his master’s degree and instead sought professional training at the University of Texas School of Law. Compared to his undergraduate experience, Paul did not find law school particularly satisfying in intellectual terms, but he did enjoy his courses on international law. These topics directed him to his current international work in Washington, and he is glad he went through three years of relatively boring material in order to get where he is today. “I was cautious going into [law school],” he explains, “but I ended up finding something I really liked.” He then urged me to fully explore my other academic and career interests before heading to law school, if at all. “There are a lot of very successful people here [at Baker Botts] who started out in things like the Foreign Service and business. I’ll tell you that, in terms of hiring, I personally look for people
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The Baker family legacy at Rice directed the conversation back to Paul’s own experiences inside the hedges. Paul assured me that Lovett had the worst living conditions on campus even in the mid80s, but in general, things seemed a bit crazier and less posh back then. He mentions burning mattresses falling from the sixth floor of Lovett and less-thanmediocre food. “Do they still at least serve the churros that were the great projectiles?” he asks with a sense of bitter nostalgia. Of course, the dining options at Rice have improved dramatically since Paul’s days as an undergrad. He had me pull up Google Maps on his computer to show him the new East Servery attached to Lovett. I think I convinced him to give the serveries a second chance, and I hope to have lunch together at Lovett the next time Paul is in Houston.
I personally look for people that have more well-rounded backgrounds
career path—the fallback career,” Paul says. He was not immediately sure what that career would be at this point in his life, but he now says he would like to spend a fair amount of time back in school studying classical literatures and languages and then entering academia as a history professor. Paul is sure to highlight that he would never want to be a politician: “One of my favorite lines about Washington from Jay Leno: ‘Washing ton is Hollywood for ugly people.’ It really is true. These people get so excited about seeing these politicians, and I just think, ‘Who cares?’” He does, however, mention his admiration for a co-worker involved in politics: “We have a former Secretary of State who works with us, and that’s somebody I really find interesting. Every time he speaks, it’s just amazing.” I was a bit surprised by Paul’s ordinary tone when describing someone so important not only to Baker Botts but also to American foreign policy and Rice University. Of course, he was referring to James A. Baker, III, whose great-grandfather, the namesake of Rice’s James A. Baker College, joined the Gray and Botts law firm in 1872.
Gateway International Ambassador
CHRISTINE PAO English and Psychology Temple City, CA
Alumna Dr. Francesca Zacchi, ’98, Brand Manager in the Marketing Department at Eli Lilly and Company Florence, Italy Born in New York and raised in Italy, Dr. Francesca Zacchi is currently the Brand Manager in the Marketing Department at Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company based in Indianapolis. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Florence and received her doctorate at Rice University in Biology in 1998. Working in the lab of Dr. Joan Strassman and Dr. David Queller, her research focused on the behavior of wasps in the nest. I sat down with Dr. Zacchi not knowing what to expect—she received her PhD in biology at Rice University, while I hope to obtain my undergraduate degree in the social sciences and humanities. Perhaps this air of uncertainty that we would be able to find common ground, combined with my general sense of disorientation from recently arriving in a foreign city, contributed to my lack of preconceived notions about what to expect from the interview. Our conversation thus began on general terms. I quickly discovered, however, that despite our apparent differences, it was easy to relate to Dr. Zacchi on several levels.
bout 12 years ago, Dr. Zacchi left the University of Florence with a fellowship to go to Rice University as a visiting scholar. After joining the lab of Dr. Strassman and Dr. Queller, who work in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, Dr. Zacchi decided to stay longer in order to complete her PhD. The focus of the research at that time was the application of molecular biology to animals and insects, particularly wasps, a species that Dr. Zacchi had previously studied in Italy as well. During her time at Rice, Dr. Zacchi told me that she spent much of her time at the lab, where her and her fellow researchers made up a very multinational group; she joked that “there was only one American guy, who felt as if he was the one abroad and we were the ones at home!” Our conversation then shifted toward cultural perceptions and ethnic stereotypes, morespecifically the differences she observed between Americans and Italians. Most prominent in her observations is the notion that Italians identify greatly with the city in which they born,whereas American pride lies in the solidarity of being from the
United States in general. Dr. Zacchi commented that “in Italy, you are born in a city; you live there, you stay your whole life there, you go to school there, you go to university there. And then you try as much as you can to work where you were born.” In contrast, Dr. Zacchi noticed that people from the United States are “not tied or bound to the city where you grew up.” Turning towards her current job at Eli Lilly and Company, Dr. Zacchi ended the conversation with her views on achieving and maintaining a successful career. To Dr. Zacchi, the most important quality is having a positive attitude and always putting effort into everythingyou do, something that employers are quick to recognize. But perhaps her best advice had to do with the dilemma of choosing majors and career paths that everyone faces at least once in their lives. While in Kenya two years ago, Dr. Zacchi told me that she worked with a colleague doing biological research on crabs. At that point she began to regret joining the pharmaceutical industry as a career, because not too long ago, she had to decide between a life ofacademic research work or a more stable, practical job. After careful consideration, however, Dr. Zacchi realized
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the most important quality is having a positive attitude and always putting effort into everything you do
that she had indeed made the right choice. She explained that, when at a crossroads, “You just look at all the options you have, evaluate the pros and the cons of every single thing, and take the one that you believe is best. And from that point on, you just follow that road.” She also poignantly emphasized, “There’s no point in looking back. Only look forward.” It was a pleasure and a truly eye-opening experience to hear Dr. Zacchi’s worldly viewpoints and perspectives on all of these subjects. Our conversation couldn’t have happened at a better time, because talking to her reinforced my decision to come abroad and study in Italy, a decision I was questioning during the beginning of my stay. Perhaps no other quote encapsulates Dr. Zacchi’s philosophy as well as the following: “I believe in choosing for myself what I want to do. As long as I respect other people and don’t walk all over, and I respect myself and what I believe—then everything comes after that.”
Gateway International Ambassador
Anthropology and Policy Studies Temple, TX Alumnus William Bickford, Jr., ’87, CEO of Grupo Precon Guatemala City, Guatemala William (Billy) Bickford Jr. is CEO of Grupo Precon, one of Guatemala’s largest and most successful construction companies. In an infrastructure-heavy country liked Guatemala, Grupo Precon assists with the construction of projects from the country’s Aurora National Airport to Highways in Chimaltenango to new commercial centers in the heart of the city’s capital. Billy Bickford was my assigned interview because he completed his undergraduate degree at Rice University and is the CEO of one of the largest and most respected construction companies in Guatemala. A Guatemalan by birth, Billy Bickford has attained a level of international recognition for his successfuloperations throughout the country, including the construction of Guatemala’s national Airport Aurara. He earned his Bachelors degree in Economics (which he loved) and Electrical Engineering (which he studied for his parents) in 1987.
because you have to be a servant to everyone,” a refreshing change from life as Director of one of the largest companies in the country. Grupo PRECON has operations in countries from Mexico to Colombia (14 countries in all) and now Billy is considering opportunities that just opened up in Houston, to which he adds “I am looking into it with a lot of passion due to my ties to Rice and the City.” Regarding his strengths, Billy said he’s very good at being on boards and also enjoys it because it allows him to travel. Billy feels that a large portion of his life has been “mistakes butnot mistakes — you learn. You have to keep the balance positive.” All and all, Billy is a very encouraging example of someone who carries out various successful business ventures in spite of a hostile political and social climate. He also is a good model for someone whose immense people skills have enabled him to be successful not only in the office, but also in the hotel, restaurant, and surf shop.
You have to keep the balance positive
illy chose to go to Rice because when his grandfather would get sick, he would fly to the Medical Center, where Billy would look out the window and see the beautiful campus. While he originally wanted to go to Stanford, he is glad he chose Rice. He says he made lots of Latin American friends at Rice and went from shy to not-as-shy and finally, “now I should be more shy.” Billy is a very outgoing people-person. Billy said that he considered pursuing a Master’s degree, but realized you couldn’t get a MA in “the real world,” so chose to go straight into Grupo PRECON immediately after graduating Rice where he has worked ever since. He worked his way up all the way from a lowlevel employee to the director he is today. Billy is a good example of someone who did not necessarily need a higher degree to be financially successful in life. After serving on the board of Grupo Precon and spending “too many hours” in the office isolated from people, Billy decided to get his feet wet in the service world. Beyond his involvement with Grupo Precon, Billy also owned (recently sold) one of the most well-known and luxury hotels in Guatemala, Casa Palopó, which is located in the small village of Santa Catarina Palopó on Lake Atitlán. He also owns one of the top-rated restaurant in Guatemala City (Tamarindos), as well as a surf shop, although he does not surf himself. He likes the service industry
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Gateway International Ambassador
Economics and Art History Porter, TX
Alumna Erin Gainer, ’95, CEO of HRA Pharma Paris, France Erin Gainer is a Rice alumnus. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology and English at Rice University, a master’s degree in public health at John Hopkins University, a Ph.D. in epidemiology at the University of Paris, and an executive MBA at Insead. Currently, she serves as CEO of HRA Pharma in Paris, France. The Gateway international ambassador program is a unique way of meeting people and feeling connected with Rice while studying abroad. Having the chance to meet and interview a Rice alumnus is a very eye opening experience. Being at Rice and hearing your classmates talk about their plans and dreams or going to alumni lectures is one thing, but actually having a one-on-one conversation with someone who was once where I now find myself is completely different.
from Rice, she realized her education period was not over; her decision to join the Peace Corps is, I think, a perfect example of facing a real challenge while benefiting others and yourself. As a CEO of a private company, Ms. Gainer talked about the challenges of getting products to reach the you are going in the right direction.” She went on to add that in a small company “you can’t just sit here and give orders; you have to benvolved and take things on yourself.” I agree that this attitude of leading by example is defnitely a skill that every great leader must possess.
Listening is a big skill that tends to be underestimated, perhaps undervalued... you need to make sure that you not just hear, but listen
oon after I arrived in France, I contacted Ms. Gainer. For our first meeting, I went to her office in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris; we went to eat lunch at a nearby restaurant to get acquainted with each other. Rice is an amazing thing to have in common with another person, especially in a foreign country. It might be the first time you meet, but there is so much to talk about. We spent the hour talking about how much the university has changed since she had been there and about our impressions of France; at the end, we settled a date for the formal interview. I knew from our first meeting that she had joined the Peace Corps as a teacher in Zimbabwe. Before I could bring it up, she started talking about it as response to my question about her first feeling of the real world. She referred to it as a “life school.” Her experience in the Peace Corps was right after Rice and before going to graduate school. She says “…by making thatdecision, of joining the Peace Corps, it gave me something to wrap my mind around for two and a half years; then you don’t have to tackle those bigger, broader questions of ‘what am I going to do next?’ I did it step by step.” I found this very comforting. I have met so many people whose idea of life is: college, graduate school, and land the perfect job; no room for anything else in between. Ms. Gainer expressed to me that after graduating
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Finally I asked Ms. Gainer what she would advise a graduating senior in college. She recommends â€œtraveling, going abroad, leaving your comfort zone, just breaking away from what you have come to take for granted because you learn what is important, you learn about yourself and how to interact with people.â€? I think she is right; from my study abroad experience thus far, I would say that being able to immerse yourself in another culture and see your own from afar at the same time is an important life skill. I was very glad I had a chance to talk to Ms. Gainer and see what a Rice alumnus does so far away from the hedges, how she got there, and the lessons she learned along the way.
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Gateway Summer Fellow
JENNIFER SHAFER Psychology Carrizozo, NM
Alumna Gloria Tarpley, ’81, President of the Association of Rice Alumni Dallas, USA Gloria Tarpley is the newest president of the Association of Rice Alumni. Born and raised in Mexico City, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Rice in Political Science and Managerial Studies in 1981. She earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston and practiced law from 1984-1990. After starting a family, Mrs. Tarpley opted to become a full-time homemaker, but remained involved in community affairs. Her civic responsibilities have included everything from president of the school board at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School to commissioner on the City of Dallas Ethics Commission and now the City of Dallas Planning Commission, to chairing a fundraiser for The Chiapas Project, a microfinance organization serving southern Mexico and South America. Mrs. Tarpley proved to be a helpful contact, and a great person to spend time with and learn from. When crafting my interview questions, I tried to take advantage of our important commonality: Rice. In a place where people come and go in cycles of three to five years, it is valuable and informative to get the perspective of someone who has seen Rice grow and change over decades.
rs. Tarpley was an international student and acknowledged that coming to college in the United States “… was a complete culture shock. I went to school in Mexico City, and, although my parents were American, my culture was Mexican.” Prior to college, she had never even been on a date that wasn’t chaperoned! Making this transition could have been completely overwhelming, but Mrs. Tarpley never regretted her decision to come to Rice and acclimated very quickly. She explained that “… the college system made all the difference; it made me feel very welcome, to feel like I belonged,” emphasizing the family atmosphere of the residential colleges can be a comfort to students far from home. Along with her Rice career, I was also eager to learn about Mrs. Tarpley’s professional experience and civic involvement. Curious to know if gender issues affected Mrs. Tarpley during her career, I asked her about the work environment for female lawyers in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. I was pleased to find that gender issues were never a problem for Mrs. Tarpley. Her law school class had been about 40% female, and her firms, particularly her first firm in Houston, had “a very open
environment.” Mrs. Tarpley supported this saying, “I never thought of myself as a girl lawyer, I thought of myself as a lawyer, and I was treated accordingly.” After practicing law for six years and being made a partner at her law firm, Cowles & Thompson in Dallas, Mrs. Tarpley transitioned from her law career to full-time motherhood, and she now has many responsibilities relating to her extensive civic involvement. When asked which civic position in the Dallas community she found to be most stimulating and rewarding, Mrs. Tarpley quickly responded, “Being a planning commissioner allows me to have the greatest impact.” As I wasnot familiar with the responsibilities of a planning commissioner, she explained to me that the position requires her to balance the needs of the planning department, city developers, and people in the neighborhoods affected by the development. After learning about the nature of a planning commissioner’s role, it does not surprise me that Mrs. Tarpley, with her legal training and excellent communication skills, finds this position to be particularly gratifying. Throughout the interview I was struck by Mrs. Tarpley’s adaptability, positivity, and confidence. These qualities were particularly evident when I asked
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about the transition from Mexico to the United States as a teenager and then moving “beyond the hedges” into the real world after college graduation. Also, I was impressed by her conviction from the time she was 14 or 15 to earn a law degree. Originally, she had seen a law degree as a “means to an end,” as stepping-stone on her path to a career in international relations, but she knew that she wanted to attend law school. As someone who changes her future plans almost monthly, I find people who have such clear goals from a relatively early age intriguing, yetfrustrating because they bypass all the stress and anxiety that accompany the struggle to decide how to spend your future. Mrs. Tarpley did have solid guidance for the irresolute, though: take classes in different areas, find great professors and learn from them, and choose summer
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never thought of myself as a girl lawyer, I thought of myself as a lawyer, and I was treated accordingly
Be intellectually curious about everything, but remember to be selective
jobs that will give you genuine work experience. “Be intellectually curious about everything, but remember to be selective,” Mrs. Tarpley advised. Even though Mrs. Tarpley graduated in 1981, and I will graduate in 2013, our Rice careers are still somewhat analogous. For instance, this year I am a Wiess Orientation Week Fellow, a position once also held by Mrs. Tarpley. We know some of the same professors, we talked about unique Rice traditions that have remained intact, like jacks and water balloon fights, and, most importantly, we both expressed our love for our university. Rice is still just as quirky and charming as ever, and I agree with Mrs. Tarpley, “The best part of Rice is the people.”
Gateway International Ambassador
RUCHIR SHAH Area Major Barrington, RI
Alumnus Vivek Rao, ’99, Senior Management at Vodafone Delhi, India Mr. Rao was originally from Delhi, India and came to Rice to study electrical engineering. He ultimately finished his studies in four years, graduating with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering- ultimately as Rice’s youngest student to graduate with a Master’s degree. Following Rice, he spent several years working for an electronics hardware company before pursuing an MBA with Columbia Business School. Soon after, he worked in investment banking and venture capital, ultimately moving back to India to work in the rapidly emerging and rapidly growing Indian private equity marketplace. More recently, he has begun working in a senior management position with Vodafone, taking advantage of both his technical and financial backgrounds. This is actually one of the things that he stressed several times- the value of having both a technical and a business background together to achieve success. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with and interview Vivek Rao, a Rice graduate from 1999. This was a really cool opportunity! I chose to interview Mr. Rao, because he is one of the few Rice alumni who has been living and working in Mumbai, India. I was able to discuss Mr. Rao’s Rice experience, his career opportunities, and his perspectives on the changing Indian economic landscape.
immediately brought up the number of Rice alumni in India, and particularly the number in Mumbai. Unfortunately, there seem to be very few Rice alumni living and working in India. According to Mr. Rao, there were definitely many alumni who traveled and passed through Mumbai for business reasons, but, for the most part, Rice’s presence in the country is very limited. One notable exception was the US Consulate General to Mumbai, who for many years was a Rice alum. Mr. Rao also discussed how President Leebron had made several visits to Mumbai to try and improve the India-Rice relationship. This is an issue that I have discussed with President Leebron as well- there are substantial opportunities for additional collaboration between Rice and India, through more exchange opportunities, additional research involvement, and more sponsorship for international internships. This is something that I look forward to spending more time on when I return to Rice. Soon after this, our discussion turned back to Rice. I asked Mr. Rao- what were some of his best experiences and opportunities at Rice? What would he recommend to a current student about how to
best prepare for the real business world? Mr. Rao was full of praise for the university- he said, again and again, that Rice prepared him in many different ways for a successful career. In particular, he compared Rice’s liberal arts education with universities in India, such as IIT Bombay, where students are forced to only take courses in the discipline that they have selected. He said that the opportunity to take a wide and diverse variety of courses has been instrumentalin gaining a broad perspective, a perspective that is invaluable in the world of international business. While Mr. Rao had majored in electrical engineering at Rice, he said that his most valuable courses were from the school of social sciences — in Economics. His favorite courses at Rice were ECON 370 and ECON 375, courses he said were lots of fun and, ultimately, invaluable in the real world. Mr. Rao recommended that Rice students pursue their passions and take any courses that they might find interesting– regardless of the discipline. We ended the interview with an interesting discussion about the future of India. While many people used to leave India to work in the United States, this has recently been changing. Like Mr.
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there are substantial opportunities for additional collaboration between Rice and India
Rao, many young people have been coming to India to work, as the economy is booming beyond belief. This was very interesting for me, in particular, as I have had an amazing experience in India and look forward to possibly living and working in Mumbai at some point in the future. Mr. Rao was also able to recommend me to one of his friends- a Rice alum and his former roommate at Columbia Business Schoolâ€” working at an energy venture capital firm in New York City. I may have a summer internship because of this. The Rice network is truly incredible!
Gateway International Ambassador
Economics and Mathematical Economic Analysis Weslaco, TX Alumnus Eduardo Prado, ’99 Partner at Diferencial Energia Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Eduardo grew up in Brazil and got his professional start working for his family’s business (which dealt in the petroleum equipment industry). He knew he wanted to stay in the energy business, and started thinking about an MBA at Rice since it is internationally known for placing its students well into energy jobs. After Rice, he worked at El Paso Energy, then started Diferencial Energia, which deals in energy trading, energy consulting, project development, and investments in the energy industry. I chose Eduardo because we shared the Rice connection – being such a small school, it can be hard to find Rice alumni in international locations like Rio. But Eduardo was also a great candidate for an interview because he deals on the finance side of the energy business, which is precisely the area I am interested in. This means we had a great connection during our interview, and I could relate to the stories and advice he shared with me.
he interview was very informal and laid back – more like a conversation than an actual interview. We got sidetracked a number of times. For example, at one point we began talking about the current state of financial markets, foreign direct investment in Brazil, and differences between the American and Brazilian energy markets. The coolest part was when I drew a sketch of energy production in the U.S. as a function of time of the day (something I had learned from taking Energy Economics at Rice). In the U.S., most of the energy is produced at the hottest points of the day, when people are at work using their computers and blasting the A/C. But Eduardo quickly stole the paper from me and drew his own graph of power output in Brazil. He explained that because most of Brazil’s power comes from hydroelectric plants, there is very little difference between the amount of energy produced at night and during the day. After all, it’s expensive to stop a hydroelectric plant, since you have to stop the water from flowingthrough the dam in order to do that. He also talked about trends in the Brazilian market and how much demand is growing, in part due to A/C usage. When I got to his office, I was drenched in sweat and had to spend a few minutes in the bathroom drying myself off. The air conditioning
in the conference room was a Godsend. “More and more companies can afford to install and run these now”, he said. Fans and windows are being replaced by air conditioning, and the boom in the Brazilian economy is causing energy demand to skyrocket. This is also how Eduardo justified his firm’s latest investment, into a multi-million dollar deal in a new power plant that would supply some of the power to meet this soaring demand. He talked about the intricacies of partnering up with other investors to make the project happen, and gave me some insight into how these things work in Brazil. But we also talked about other, more personal things. I asked him about his favorite thing at Rice (the professors, because they are so knowledgeable and accessible), whether he enjoys his job (he loves it), his family (married with kids), whether it’s hard to maintain a work-lifebalance (no since he has partners to share the work with), and other things of the sort. Towards the end of the interview, I asked him for advice. As someone who will be interning at an oil & gas investment banking group next summer, I was very interested in Eduardo’s work and asked him if he had any tips for someone looking to eventually come to Brazil and break into his kind of business. He gave me some great advice: “Always seek the industries
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that are booming. If you join the army in times of peace, it takes forever to become a general. But if you and asked him if he had any tips for someone looking to eventually come to Brazil and break into his kind of business. He gave me some great advice: “Always seek the industries that are booming. If you join the army in times of peace, it takes forever to become a general. But if you join in times of war, you
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Results can’t be guaranteed, but effort can
get there more quickly. But take some time to learn some things before you throw yourself in the water. Spend a couple of years in a large company after undergrad, since it’s hard to get a job like that once you’re an experienced hire. That way, you can learn the economics of the business, then go out and start your own.” His last piece of advice was to focus always on the quality of your work, not the results achieved. Results can’t be guaranteed, but effort can. By giving 110% in everything you do, you can at least guarantee you’ve done all you could. Overall, my interview with Eduardo was a great experience. We lost track of time and ended up spending almost two hours chatting in the conference room. After the interview he gave me a tour of the office, including his trading floor, and I went on my way home knowing a lot more than I did before the interview.
Gateway Summer Fellow
Political Science Portage, MI
Alumnus Kevin Bailey, ’04, Senior Policy Advisor at the United States Department of the Treasury Washington, D.C., USA Kevin Bailey, a 2004 Alumnus of Rice University, currently serves as a Senior Policy Advisor at the United States Department of the Treasury where he works on domestic economic policy. After graduating from Rice University with a degree in political science and economics, he joined BP’s Energy Trading Development Program and earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. He worked for the Obama presidential campaign in 2008 and was consequently invited to join the White House staff as Special Assistant to the Ron Klain, Vice President Biden’s Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2010. In the fall of 2010, Bailey accepted his current position at the Treasury Department, where his portfolio includes financial institutions and small business policies. Kevin’s experiences as a recent alumnus of Rice gave me the opportunity to learn more about how Rice has changed in the past decade through our discussion of the university but also allowed me to trace the career of a very successful young adult.
t was a pleasure to interview Kevin Bailey because of our common educational background. In addition to covering the interview questions, we were able to discuss common Rice experiences and he seemed eager for updates on how Rice has changed since 2004. Kevin served as a Rice Student Association Senator from Brown College during his sophomore year (20012002). In his position and with two other colleagues, he helped initiate the discussions that ultimately led to the formation of the Baker Institute Student Forum. I updated him on the successes of this student organization. Kevin indicated to me that during college he “had a tough time limiting [himself] down to two tracks” and that he “delayed this decision as long as [he] could.” I struggle with many of the same challenges. Kevin effectively transitioned this challenge into the workforce however, taking advantage of each successive opportunity that presented itself. His words echoed the words of many other leaders in Washington DC who I heard speak who implored students to take every available opportunity and excel in that position. Kevin is still in his twenties and clearly exemplifies this message. I hope to emulate this approach in all of my workforce engagements.
Kevin’s openness to opportunities that are offered to him highlights the flexibility that he exhibits in his career. While he currently works in the public sector in his position at the Department of Treasury, he emphasized that he considers himself a “private sector person,” noting that he has only worked in the public sector on-and-off since 2009. (He worked in the private sector from 2004-several years between first and eighth grade, with teaching him never to settle for less than his best. Further, he acknowledges a high school teacher, Jenny Carroll, for 2009.) This sort of flexibility offers for a varied career with different opportunities and in different environments. I hope to attain a similarly varied career. Kevin feels that it is “critically important that people to bring fresh private sector expertise into government at various points in their career.” As such, Kevin will not rule out a future stint in government. Kevin’s gratitude to his educators is immediately apparent. Aside from his immediate family, he cited two of his former teachers as the individuals who made the biggest impact on his life before the age of twenty-five. He credits Carol Newman, a teacher whom he had for several years between first and eighth grade, with teaching him never to settle for less than his best. Further, he
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acknowledges a high school teacher, Jenny Carroll, for “shepherding his transition from a shy, quiet person to a fairly effective leader in student government and other [activities].” His continuing gratitude to his educators demonstrates a deep humility. It wa refreshing to see this sort of humility among all the characters that one meets in Washington D.C. Kevin further developed his leadership capacities through college and in the workplace and reflected on what he has learned. He suggested that, in order to be a good leader, one must also be a good listener and a good follower. Yet, though a leader must be inclusive
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critically important that people to bring fresh private sector expertise into government at various points in their career
and listen to other opinions, he/she “must know … [when] to cut off debate and make a decision.” Further, he argued that strong leaders must be willing to change course when necessary, though this requires a “willingness to acknowledge weaknesses and acknowledge mistakes.” Not only is this essential to growth, but it further reflects humility and points to a distinct strength of humble leaders. Finally, we were able to discuss the presence and visibility of Rice graduates in Washington D.C. Kevin feels strongly that Rice is underperforming compared to its peer schools, particularly those on the East Coast, in terms of placing alumni in high positions in government in D.C. As he says, “it is critical to have skilled alumni in Washington D.C. where policies are made that will affect the country for decades to come. We need more of us to play in this space!” He commended the growth of Rice programs that support students who choose to spend the summer in unpaid internships in Washington D.C., particularly the Baker Institute Summer in DC program and the Gateway Summer Fellowship program. These programs will hopefully inspire more talented Rice students to pursue careers in public service and hopefully inspire them to work in Washington DC.
Gateway Summer Fellow
HANNAH THALENBERG History and Anthropology Kennesaw, GA
Alumnus Dr. Bruce Grant, ’93, Professor of Anthropology at New York University New York City, USA After earning his Ph.D. in anthropology from Rice in 1993, Dr. Grant (or Bruce, as he prefers it) taught anthropology at Swarthmore College for twelve years and has been at New York University for the past six, his research having focused on Soviet cultural construction in Siberia and the exercise of sovereignty in the Caucasus region. Upon the start of my summer as a Gateway Fellow in New York City, I had the opportunity to interview Bruce Grant, a Rice alumnus who has the very career I aspire to one day pursue. Looking back, I am grateful for what was not only a delightful conversation, but also a chance to learn more about the trajectory of becoming an anthropologist.
hen asked about what drew him to Rice, Bruce calls it fate. With no knowledge of the American university system, he was pointed by his advisor to two potential graduate schools based on his interest in interdisciplinary programs that addressed culture and literary writing. Of the two schools, Rice was the one to accept him, so the choice to come to Houston was easy. Given the nature of his academic curiosity and more mundane matters of availability, Bruce was assigned to work with George Marcus, who at the time had recently published the article “Ethnographies as Texts” examining the questions of representation and narrative in ethnography. This relationship, along with learning under Michael Fischer and Stephen Tyler, is among the things that most impacted him during his time at Rice. According to Bruce, the way that Dr. Marcus’s intellectual life hinged on the notion of what is new, what was coming around the bend, and on the search of things to learn that we didn’talready know (continually questioning existing knowledge regimes), gave him something to shoot for. Dr. Fischer, in turn, gave him valuable knowledge of what constitutes a comparative perspective and of how to draw insights from juxtaposition, while Dr. Tyler showed that “you could learn and be deep without having to put on a show,” making students lead his
graduate seminars with their own questions. The friendships Bruce cultivated at Rice were also crucial, not only because they made his experience immensely enjoyable but also because of all that he gained from “an enormous amount of sitting around and talking and figuring out things together”—something that I can relate to even as an undergraduate more than two decades later! Fate appears to be a recurring element in Bruce Grant’s life, since there is no other way to explain how he ended up doing fieldwork for his dissertation on the Nivkhi people of Sakhalin Island in Siberia. During the six months he spent in Mexico City learning Spanish while waiting foracceptance into a graduate program, Bruce came upon an unusually high concentration of Russian novels in a local library and became fascinated with the fact that, through their vocabulary, they seemed to describe a world in which he had already participated. Thus, he decided to research the formation of popular culture as a national project in the Soviet Union—a jump across the Iron Curtain from his original plan to study American popular culture. Bruce intended to do a project in Moscow, since it was an easy destination and an obvious stage for Soviet patriotic ritual. In 1989, however, the Soviet Academy of Sciences shot down his idea, telling him that his only way to get permission to stay in the
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country would be to write a different proposal and work with an indigenous group, which had never been his interest. He was given the option to go to the Far East or the Caucasus region, and his choice of the latter was nixed, so once again, fate seemed to rule: off he went to an island of “hyper-studied people” in eastern Siberia, returning frequently to Russia over the few years following his six months of fieldwork. Fortunately for Bruce, the end of the Soviet Union put Russia in the news all the time and gave it the same sort of “sex appeal” that the Middle East has today, which helped hisprospects for fellowships, work, etc. such that he eventually became a scholar of cultural history and politics of the former USSR despite not having wanted to be an academic.
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Your brain is a muscle that needs rest and a change, like everything else
Bruce gave me invaluable advice about anthropology as a profession and reassurance about my current “career plan,” which is to throw myself out into the world for a considerable amount of time after college and see what happens, diversifying my life experience before eventually going back into academia. As Director of Graduate Studies at NYU’s Anthropology department, he told me that people in graduate admissions will want to see that I got away from school for a while so that, when I come back, they know that I’m doing so for my own informed reasons and am psychologically ready for spending a large chunk of my life in grad school. Besides, he stated, “Your brain is a muscle that needs rest and a change, like everything else.” As for teaching, which Bruce adores, he stressed the importance of changing syllabi and even entire courses in order to keep materials fresh and meaningful, even though there is not much incentive to do so. Professors have an easy propensity to overwork, he explained, but they get extraordinary freedom and the privilege to “spend [their] adult life being possessed by ideas.” My interview with Bruce Grant lasted less than an hour, but the insights and advice Iobtained from it will last me a lifetime as I trace my own path as a Rice Owl and an anthropologist. Who knows what fate has in store for me, but it helps to hear from someone who has already made the journey to which I am looking ahead.
Gateway Summer Fellow
Psychology Houston, TX Alumnus Dr. Stephen Doty, ’61, ’65, Senior Orthopedic Scientist at the Hospital for Special Surgery New York City, USA Dr. Stephen Doty graduated from Rice with a BA in Biology in 1961, and was also very involved in the residential college system as president of Wiess College. Dr. Doty then continued his education at Rice, completing his PhD in 1965. He is currently a senior orthopedic scientist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. His research interest is in the morphological evaluation of bone, cartilage, and connective tissues, and he frequently collaborates with NASA to conduct experiments in space. In addition, he holds appointments as director of the Analytical Microscopy Laboratory at the Hospital for Special Surgery, adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery, and Grant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the City University of New York. Dr. Doty operates a lab at the Hospital for Special Surgery that focuses on bone and musculoskeletal research. The Hospital for Special Surgery is quite a reputable hospital in the United States, in fact ranked #1 in orthopedics by the U.S. News and World Report this year. I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the Analytical Microscopy Laboratory by the director himself, and he also introduced me to some of the other researchers who were in the midst of their work. Then, we sat down in Dr. Doty’s office to chat a bit about Rice and research.
n New York, Dr. Doty worked at Columbia University researching and teaching before he settled down doing work at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). “And I’ve been here ever since,” he said. “So that’s how life is. You just bounce back and forth until you find a slot you fit in.” At HSS, Dr. Doty is director of the Analytical Microscopy Lab, which is a core facility that specializes in the musculoskeletal system. As a “core facility”, the lab provides technology and services for the entire research division at the hospital; so many different people and projects pass through the lab every day. As aresult, there is no “typical day at work”. What happens each day depends on what project is a priority, and Dr. Doty interactwith various postdocs, research fellows, and clinicians on a daily basis to work on projects. However, the research projects Dr. Doty works on are not limited to his lab or even planet Earth. Dr. Doty has been collaborating with NASA on experiments for years. Knowledge gained from
bone loss experiments in space can help people who are not astronauts too. Dr. Doty gave an example, “We’ve been able to work with a compound that will actually prevent the loss of bone to some extent for the astronauts, and this compound has been used in postmenopausal women or people who have had bone loss due to some metabolic disease or who have cancer that has gone to the bone. We can use this same medication to prevent bone loss.” His work withNASA has led Dr. Doty to remain connected to Houston, where he has to travel occasionally for meetings. But that is not Dr. Doty’s only connection to Houston. He remains a dedicated Rice alumnus and looks back fondly at his time at Rice. When asked for advice to give Rice students today, he emphasized learning to write well. “Really being able to write, to express yourself through words, means so much especially today… I think today in education there is less and less emphasis on writing because we have so many other ways to communicate. It’s too bad
Creating Global Connections | 28
that people can’t spend more time writing so they can expressthemselves better and get their ideas out there.” To improve writing skills, Dr. Doty suggests, “You just have to do a lot of it. You do a lot of it and get it critiqued”. He also recommends that students take advantage of their time at Rice by talking to the wonderful faculty and just taking the time to sit down and really listen to what they have to say.
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You just bounce back and forth until you find a slot you fit in
I appreciated getting the chance to sit down and talk to Dr. Stephen Doty at his lab that morning. Although humble, he is witty and intelligent, leading a successful career in research that is still continuing. He had a lot to say and despite my attempt, this summary does not do the actual interview justice. So, I will end with the most important bit of wisdom I learned from this interview with Dr. Doty. Many things in life are purely accidental, including discovering a lifelong interest or landing a fitting job, so our task at hand is to work hard and stay open-minded so we will be prepared when the right opportunity comes along.
Gateway International Ambassador
Biochemistry/Cell Biology and Psychology Marlboro, NJ Alumna Dr. Courtney LeBauer, ’96, Professor of Music at Städtische Clara-Schumann Musikschule Dusseldorf, Germany Dr. LeBauer grew up in North Carolina, and graduated from Rice University in 1996 with a Bachelor’s in Music, and went on to obtain a Masters from the University of Michigan. After spending a year in Germany under the Fulbright Program studying with Ida Bieler, she went on to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music to get her doctorate in Musical Arts. She now teaches at the Städtische Clara-Schumann Musikschule (Municipal ClaraSchumann Music School) in Dusseldorf, Germany, and performs with orchestras and chamber groups in the area. A typical day for Dr. LeBauer fluctuates, but generally involves teaching in the afternoons and evenings, conducting twice a week, concerts in the evenings, and when there’s time, going out with the girls. I am generally decently comfortable at communicating with people, and am not afraid to probe at deeper questions, especially if the interviewee likes to talk. Thus, the interview with Rice alum Dr. Courtney LeBauer went very smoothly, and we even made plans to meet up in the future.
r. LeBauer had not always been set on following a musical career path. Growing up in a family of doctors, she initially wanted to follow in their footsteps to study medicine. Her decision came down to a moment when she was fifteen, playing Mahler’s first symphony in orchestra: “I remember thinking to myself: I’ve got to do this… until then, I really did think I was going to study medicine.” Dr. LeBauer spent her freshman year at Oberlin College, studying with Kathleen Winker, but when her professor transferred to Rice, she reluctantly followed. Now, there are no regrets. Despite her qualms about relocating to the South, Dr. LeBauer had absolutely no doubts about the quality of the Shepherd education. She and her professor, along with many other students from Oberlin joined Rice the year after the opening of the Shepherd School of Music. That year, Rice took an initiative to offer positions to talented professors from across the nation, which certainly contributed to Shepherd’s high quality education from the start. The best part about this interview was is that Dr. LeBauer ended up answering most of the questions I had planned before I even got a chance to ask them. Of these, the most impressive was regarding an obstacle that she
had to overcome to get the place she is now. While studying in Germany on her Fulbright program, Dr. LeBauer had a bicycling accident that resulted in injury to her parietal lobe, and experienced amnesia. Even after being escorted back to America, one of the main lingering symptoms of the incident was her spatial manipulation, including her ability to play the violin. As this occurred just two and a half months before the start of her doctorate program, this was obviously an incredibly frustrating and scary time for her. The idea of losing the ability to do something she had done since the age of six is remarkably traumatizing. Slowly, Dr. LeBauer re-taught herself how to play the violin, right from the very basics such as familiarizing herself with the length of the bow. When asked why she decided to move to Germany, Dr. LeBauer’s primary reason was that she felt like she belonged. This, of course, is one of those feelings (much like love) that are seemingly unrealistic, but of course we are in no state to judge if we haven’t experienced it yet. Growing up in a Jewish Eastern European family made her feel out of place in America, and in a much better fit in Europe, where her parents descend from, though neither from Germany. Perhaps it is this awe-inspiring experience
Creating Global Connections | 30
or her courage to uproot to a foreign country or even her rush to point out to me real Bier Bike along the streets of Düsseldorf, but after spending just a couple
31 | Social Sciences Gateway Program
A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for
hours with Dr. LeBauer, our final segment about her favorite quotes and advice to live by did not come as a surprise. “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.” Few of us have bragging rights to actually living up to our favorite quotes, but as someone who left her home country to live in a place with no guarantee of prospects, I’d say Dr. LeBauer is an exception. She comments on her decision by saying, “I wouldn’t have come back to Germany to try and live, had I not heard myself say to someone in conversation, ‘ I think the only thing I would regret on my deathbed, is not having tried something just because I was afraid to try it.’ And when I heard myself say that, ‘--I’ve got to go to Germany.’” And really, life is all about taking chances.
SPECIAL THANKS Maria Fidalgo Cortalezzi Evan Van Ness Roger Ford Michelle Glassman Bock Maisie Chou Chaffin Eduardo Prado Mark Davis David Price, Ph.D. Karen Adler Ka Tai Leong Delia Poon Ka Fai Chan JP Lopez Gregg Miller Gregory Pfleger Jr. Eric Nelson Dr. Pavel J. Chraska Alhamd Alkhayat Laurent Viola Mario Cerda Erin Gainer Matthew Grabelsky Karen Nickel Anhalt Dr. Courtney LeBauer William (Billy) Bickford Jr. Vivek Rao Upal Roy Dr. Francesca Zacchi Jean-Francois Aron Jacob Laading Anders & Susan Hickman Skoe Jose A. Llontop Gregory (GH) Kahn
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