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The Magazine of Rice University

Spring 2018


ALSO THE LIFE OF FACTS Scientia parses the meaning of facts RICE’S VILLAGE A source of nostalgia for Rice alumni undergoes a face-lift


arching over Rice’s campus was a welcome sight after days of heavy rain and widespread flooding. Photo by senior university photographer Tommy LaVergne.

The Magazine of Rice University


Contents F EATUR ES



By Roxanna Asgarian Scientia invited Rice faculty and distinguished researchers to parse the meaning of facts, evidence and knowledge in an engaging series of lectures.



By James Costanzo With the help of Antonio Merlo, Rice’s club water polo teams are making a splash.



By Deborah Lynn Blumberg The Village is a source of nostalgia and great memories for alumni; now plans are underway to revitalize the area for generations to come.



By Kendall Schoemann Catch this act. Comedian Matthew Broussard ’10 celebrates his nerdy side.

D EPA RTM EN TS P R E S I D E N T ’S N OT E  In the 1950s, restaurants like La Villita, which was located at 2433 Times Blvd., drew students to Rice Village. Today, a mix of new eating and shopping destinations mesh with old favorites. Read the story on Page 36.

S A L LY P O R T  News and views from campus

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SCOREBOARD Dispatches from Rice Athletics


A B ST R ACT  Findings, research and more


SCENE A glimpse at campus life


ARTS & LETTERS  Creative ideas and endeavors


FA M I LY A L B U M  From Rice’s archive



Featured Contributors Roxanna Asgarian (“The Life of Facts”) is a freelance journalist based in Houston. She has been an associate editor and writer at Houstonia and a stringer for the New York Daily News. James Costanzo (“In the Zone”) is the presidential stewardship writer in the Office of Development at Rice. As a journalist, he’s covered sports for The Troy Record and The Saratogian.


From coaching a high school girls’ basketball team to twin sisters performing in a Shepherd School orchestra, Rice seniors have found ways to leave their mark on the world. ABSTRACT EXTRA


Visiting scholar Carroll Parrott Blue led a collaboration that created an interactive map of 45 oral histories of Hurricane Harvey. The resulting story map titled “Damaged and Defiant” was published in the Houston Chronicle. STUDENT RESEARCH


The Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen provides a space for students to explore real-world problems. Each spring, student teams show off their incredible inventions and compete for prizes. ALUMNI PROFILE VIDEO


Check out our conversation with the very funny Matthew Broussard ’10 during his visit to Rice’s campus last year.

Amy C. Evans (“Rice’s Village”) is an award-winning artist, writer, educator and documentarian based in Houston. Her paintings have appeared in Southern Living and Southern Cultures. Deborah Lynn Blumberg (“Rice’s Village”) is an award-winning writer and journalist with expertise in business, finance, and health and wellness. She has reported for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, MarketWatch and The Christian Science Monitor.

Follow Rice Magazine on Instagram and Twitter

On the Cover

Do you tweet? Rice Magazine shares news and views — and connects with alumni around the world — via our Twitter account. @RiceMagazine

Water polo player Haley Kurisky ’18 Photo by Jeff Fitlow


Are you more of a visual person? Would you like to see more of Rice’s beautiful campus? Catch our behind-the-scenes photos, campus shots and more via Instagram. @Rice_Magazine

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Your Memories, Here. The Magazine of Rice University SPRING 2018 Rice Magazine is published four times a year and is sent to university alumni, faculty, staff, parents of undergraduates and friends of the university. Published by the Office of Public Affairs Linda Thrane, vice president EDITOR













B.J. Almond, Jade Boyd, James Costanzo, Jon-Paul Estrada, Jeff Falk, Jennifer Latson, Brandon Martin, Kendall Schoemann, Katharine Shilcutt, John Sullivan, Mike Williams INTERN

Taegan Howells ’18

BEFORE I MOVED to Houston six years ago, a co-worker and Rice grad passed along a tip. “Check out The Ginger Man — a great old pub with character.” Opened in 1985, the pub is hardly “old” by Rice Village standards, but as my co-worker’s advice indicated, it had earned the status of beloved icon — the kind of place and experience you want to share with others. Soon enough, I was a Village regular — carefully carrying a latte through the crowded tables of Croissant-Brioche, meeting new friends at Salento and browsing for bargains at Half Price Books. The Rice Village is home to many iconic places — El Meson, British Isles, Dromgoole’s, Main Street Theater — or to their lasting memories — Alfred’s Deli, Variety Fair 5 & 10 and the Cultured Cow, for example. In recent months, the Village has seen a great deal of change as a result of steps taken by the Rice Management Company (RMC), the investment arm of Rice’s endowment. More outdoor seating, new shops and restaurants, public art and — to the consternation of some — parking meters have sprung up. What’s the goal? “Rice Village should be, and it needs to be, one of the best urban shopping districts in the country,” said Ceci Mesta Arreola ’09, real estate manager for RMC. These days, the Village’s eclectic mix of local, regional and national offerings are indispensable to my Houston life — where else can you get your clothes cleaned, your car inspected and pick up a to-go order of tacos within a three-block radius? And there’s even a Gap! Read about this multimillion-dollar investment project in our story, “Rice’s Village.” Next, turn your attention to Scientia, a faculty-led institute that sponsors an annual colloquia of ideas. Each lecture draws a crowd of faculty and students who are hungry for thoughtful and expert insights into timely topics. This year’s topic — facts — was turned over and examined from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.

The results were thought-provoking and frequently entertaining to boot. “The key to deciding what information to accept involves being clear about the standards of evidence, but not all facts are subject to the same standards and oftentimes those standards are disputed. What then to believe?” asked Rick Wilson, Scientia director. Read “The Life of Facts,” check out the videos and decide for yourself. Writing about team sports offers an opportunity to go beyond the scoreboard to explore themes of commitment, competition and endurance. You can find these stories in any sport, played at every level. For this issue, we just happened to find one in the aspirations of Rice’s club water polo teams. Check out our story, “In the Zone.” We hope you enjoy these features as well as our regular departments exploring research, creative achievements, campus life and alumni accomplishments. Send your feedback to Addendum: We want to give a shout out to proud denizen of Lovett College, MOBster and intern extraordinaire Taegan Howells ’18 for her valuable assistance over the past two years. Quite literally, we could not put together each issue of the magazine without the help of students who perform so many vital — and, let’s be honest, thankless and boring — tasks. (Hello, campus magazine distribution.) Taegan’s first byline appeared in the Fall 2016 issue. When students stick with us for a few years, they become deeply embedded in the story development and production process. Selfishly, we hate to see them go — even if they do have a weird affinity for the serial comma or roll their eyes at our jokes. But of course, are we so proud? Owl say!  — LYNN GOSNELL m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   3


A S A L O N G T I M E T R A F F I C reporter in Houston and San Diego, I was pleased to see the article “Night Owl” (Winter 2018) on traffic reporter Katherine Whaley ’04. I got my start in broadcast journalism even before attending Rice doing public service radio programs for several stations in the metro Houston area. Although I enjoyed my two years at Rice — especially my filmmaking classes — I ended up graduating from San Diego State University. After retiring from the California Highway Patrol in 2005, where I often appeared on the air representing the CHP, I went to work as a traffic, special reports and breaking news reporter for several San Diego outlets. It was nice to see this recognition. — PHIL KONSTANTIN ’78

Editor’s Note: See Konstantin in action as a traffic reporter at


W H I L E R E A D I N G A B O U T Professor Moshe Vardi’s research in “We Don’t Know” (Winter 2018), I noted his statement: “If we make reliable self-driving cars, that would have a huge impact.” I certainly was “struck” by his comment.  — STEPHEN M. COHEN ’89 I JUST C AUG H T UP ON

the Fall 2017 issue of Rice Magazine. I was delighted to learn that a Rice grad directed the “Hello, Dolly!” orchestra (“You’re Looking Swell”). I was lucky to snag a fifthrow seat with a partial view of the orchestra and had no idea I was hearing the work of a fellow Owl, Andy Einhorn ’04. The music was sensational. — KATY TURNER ’10

Reader response from the online quarterly survey: Winter 2018 COVER COMMENTARY

“The cover graphic reminded me of how I felt as a student.” MOST-READ DEPARTMENT Sallyport

MOST-READ FEATURE The Jefferson Paradox: Interview with John Boles ’65 by Allen Matusow

“This [story] might help people get interested in studying Jefferson and how the Constitution was written.”

Have a comment, criticism or story idea? Write to us at 4 

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Robert B. Tudor III, chairman; Edward B. “Teddy” Adams Jr.; J.D. Bucky Allshouse; Nancy Packer Carlson; Albert Chao; T. Jay Collins; Mark D. Dankberg; Ann Doerr; Douglas Lee Foshee; Terrence Gee; Lawrence H. Guffey; James T. Hackett; Tommy Huie; Patti Lipoma Kraft; Robert T. Ladd; L. Charles Landgraf; Brian Patterson; David Rhodes; Ruth J. Simmons; Jeffery A. Smisek; Amy L. Sutton; Gloria Meckel Tarpley; Guillermo Treviño; Scott Wise; Huda Y. Zoghbi. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE RS

David W. Leebron, president; Marie Lynn Miranda, provost; Kathy Collins, vice president for Finance; Klara Jelinkova, vice president for IT and chief information officer; Kevin Kirby, vice president for Administration; Caroline Levander, vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Digital Education; Yvonne Romero Da Silva, vice president for Enrollment; Allison Kendrick Thacker, vice president for Investments and treasurer; Linda Thrane, vice president for Public Affairs; Richard A. Zansitis, vice president and general counsel; Darrow Zeidenstein, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. E DITORIAL OFFICES

Creative Services–MS 95 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 Phone: 713-348-6768 POSTMASTE R

Send address changes to: Rice University Development Services–MS 80 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 © May 2018 Rice University

president’s note DAVID W. LEEBRON

Town Hall

Since spring 2007, President David W. Leebron has held regular Town Hall meetings to discuss campus issues and challenges, announce university initiatives and goals, and celebrate Rice’s accomplishments, including individual achievements of staff and faculty. This April, Leebron spoke to a standing-room only crowd, praising Rice’s resiliency and sense of community in what was a difficult year for Houston and the campus and citing examples that demonstrated the university’s unique sense of community. “I think what draws people to Rice and keeps them here is that extraordinary sense of community, and that is very much reflected in this room,” Leebron said. What follows are some excerpts from the event. VISION FOR SECOND CENTURY, SECOND DECADE (V2C2)

How does Rice make an impact on the world? Building on the Vision for the Second Century, the Rice community recently underwent a strategic visioning process. This vision, the V2C2 (Second Decade), has been formalized and adopted by university leadership and the Rice Board of Trustees. “When we thought about this 13 years ago, what we concluded was that increasing our student body population would be the best way for Rice to make an impact on the world,” Leebron said. “As we revisited that question, this time, we came to a different set of conclusions: using online education, extending our global presence, activating our alumni network. Those are ways we can improve our impact on the world.” V2C2 GOALS

Provide transformative undergraduate education. Build internationally renowned graduate and Ph.D. programs. Invest in faculty to achieve preemincence. Expand access, diversity and inclusiveness. Elevate research achievement and reputation. Extend Rice’s reach and impact through digital education, global presence and alumni involvement. Engage Houston and help empower its success.



“I think it’s important to remind ourselves that over the last decade in many ways, we have been transformed as a university — in terms of being a research university, of being involved in graduate education and increases in doctoral degrees (46 percent) and master’s degrees across the university,” Leebron said. “A number of our graduate departments are in the top 25 across the nation.”

Leebron also announced that the groundbreaking for the new social sciences building will happen in the next school year. The building will be located on the Inner Loop across from the Baker Institute for Public Policy, forming “an exciting new policy corridor involving the School of Social Sciences, the Baker Institute and the Jones [Graduate] School [of Business].”



“This year, we’ve had almost 21,000 applications,” Leebron said. Rice admitted 11 percent of applicants. “One of the things that we need to continue to invest in is financial aid,” Leebron said. “This is a serious problem across the wider middle class — we have to figure out how we can do more.” He continued, “One of the priorities that we set as part of the V2C2 is not just making sure those students can come to Rice, but making sure that every student who comes here has the opportunity to take full advantage of every opportunity that we offer.”

Rice offers online courses for learners of all ages. “Rice’s online enrollment numbers have soared to more than 2.5 million, including more than 150,000 in fiscal year 2017,” Leebron said. “We intend to maintain a relatively small student environment on campus here — that’s part of who we are as a community,” Leebron said. “That doesn’t need to be a constraint on the reach and impact of our university.” Learn more at

To watch the spring Town Hall, go to m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   5


N e ws a n d VIEWS f ro m Ca mp u s

Spidey Sense

“The bed is actually PVC,” said Martel College senior Gigi Rill, a mechanical engineering major who’s been in charge of Martel’s Beer Bike build for the last three years. “Everything needed to be light.” This year’s build, located inside the Martel Commons, was a replica of comic book hero Peter Parker’s bedroom. Step inside, strike a pose on the floor, have a friend snap your photo, rotate it 180 degrees and voila! You’re suspended from the ceiling like Spider-Man. “The way I describe Rice to people is, ‘Rice is a school of happy nerds,’” she said. “They’re also pretty happy and willing to come out and help us build an upside-down room purely for the sake of getting really good pictures.”  — KATHARINE SHILCUTT 6 

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sa l ly p o rt


Disorientation Welcome to Rice






freshmen, Orientation Week is the first time they set foot on the Rice campus. Over the years, the nature of the welcome has changed. Bob Toone ’67 remembers arriving in 1962 to an unair-conditioned Will Rice College and voracious mosquitoes. He also had a special guest speaker during what was then called Freshman Week. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous “we choose to go to the moon” speech before Toone and his classmates. Another highlight, Toone remembers, was Freshman Slime Parade. “Wearing our freshman beanies, we snaked south on South Main, starting somewhere between the campus

and the Medical Center buildings and ending up at the Shamrock Hotel for a pep rally,” Toone said. “Upperclassmen would pelt us with eggs and liquids as we traveled down the street, but I don’t remember it being too bad — more fun than anything.” When Malcolm Gillis became president of Rice in 1993, his reputation as a gentleman farmer preceded him. At his first matriculation ceremony, some

upperclassmen released chickens in front of the podium. Alex Gonzalez ’97 remembers the hubbub as “folks stood and craned their necks to get a better view, which created more commotion than the chickens themselves.” Gillis dealt with the disruption with aplomb. The new president “proceeded to identify the breeds of some of the chickens and maybe even sang a line or two about chickens from a tune I didn’t recognize,” Gonzalez recalled. For Gonzalez and his classmates, Gillis had passed his first test. “His reaction showed that he was quick on his feet, but more importantly, showed that he could embrace the silly, quirky side of Rice culture.” Freshman Week gradually morphed into Orientation Week, which came to be referred to as simply O-Week. Today’s freshmen are unlikely to experience slime or chickens during their first days at Rice, but that doesn’t mean they don’t engage in shenanigans. Each college has its own customs these days. Brown freshmen, for instance, are urged to get a good night’s sleep Tuesday because they will be treated to a catered breakfast at President David Leebron’s house early the next morning. But around 3 a.m., they are roused from their slumbers by loud music and advisers pounding on their doors. Those who are willing go out into the night engage in a series of silly tasks — like bobbing for apples in a vat of maple syrup — that ends at dawn. Brown College sophomore Zach Hutchings thinks that such traditions create bonds that last beyond O-Week. “One thing that’s unique about Rice orientation,” he said, “is it helps you make friends, not just meet people.” — FRANZ BROTZEN ’80 m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   7

sa l ly p o rt | sy l l a b u s


Reality-World Learning In 2013, “Survivor” became the longest-running reality competition series on television. The show, anchored by seemingly ageless host Jeff Probst, continues to attract new audiences every year — and not just in America. Back home in Shanghai, sophomore Candice Liu became a fan of the show as a middle schooler, enjoying episodes in the evenings with her family. By the time she was in high school, she’d taken an active role in promoting it across her own nation. “I was very into American reality shows, so I was doing subtitles for the shows so more Chinese viewers could watch them,” Liu says. Liu is a two-time student instructor of Survivor: Social Strategies, a popular “college course” originally developed and taught by Franklin Shen ’17.

COLL 108 Survivor: Social Strategies (Spring 2018)

DEPARTMENT College Courses DESCRIPTION Survivor: Social Strategies asks students to reflect on the successful and unsuccessful strategies used in the show “Survivor,” then apply them by practicing social interaction and interpreting world conflicts and solutions in real life.

PROFESSORS IN TRAINING College courses provide undergraduates a chance to teach their peers and take classes in nontraditional subjects, thereby supplementing the Rice curriculum. These courses are offered for one credit hour on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. This spring, 19 students meet every Tuesday night in a Rayzor Hall classroom to discuss the previous week’s homework — typically watching a couple of older episodes from a previous season along with related readings. The discussion touches on larger cultural questions presented by the show: Is the show sexist? When does assertiveness stop being an asset in communal settings and become a social hindrance? How are strong bonds built within the confines of a mentormentee relationship versus a romantic one? GAME ON So what is the real reason this college course is so popular with students? The chance to participate in their very own version of “Survivor.” Once all of her students arrive, Liu cues the dramatic music that scores the end of each episode, while members of Tribe Starbuck convene for a tribal council vote. (The previous challenge win went to Tribe Jerks.) After one senior is voted off — sent to join her fellow castaways on the jury — there’s a break to discuss homework before gearing up for the week’s physical challenge, a version of tag played in the corridors of Rayzor Hall. Liu warns the class that things are about to get a little intense. “On the show, people get $1 million if they win, but here people get nothing. Rice students take everything very seriously.” VOTED OFF/STAYING IN Junior Natalie Dickman, the self-described “hardcore fan” of “Survivor,” is sanguine about being voted off, confessing that the class had begun to get “actively stressful” as the semester went on. Alliances were formed and broken, and tribes were tested. As she watches her fellow classmates race down the halls in hot pursuit of one another, she’s utterly relaxed. “This is really fun,” she says. “I’ve been watching the new season and there’s an understanding now. I don’t judge as harshly as I used to.” 


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G’day From Cairns RACHEL BUISSERETH ’17


N THE NIGHT OF THE lunar eclipse, I sat with my host family on the roof of a pickup truck watching the supermoon towering above us. Green tree frogs, cicadas and crickets filled the air with a symphony of night sounds. I took a deep breath of the crisp night air and bathed in the moon’s light. I’ve been living with an Australian family in a small town outside of Cairns in Far North Queensland. During the day, when we open our doors and windows to the breeze and share our backyard with native Australian wildlife, my host family shows me the Australian way. As a Fulbright scholar, I spend the majority of my days studying Australian indigenous relations. My work over the next year will take me to Western Australia, where I will collaborate with indigenous groups as they document local knowledge and make important land and water management decisions. This project stems from the need to PHOTO BY BRIAN CASSEY

improve communication between indigenous communities and organizations, nonindigenous organizations and the government. As an environmental science and theatre double major, I find it fascinating that Australian indigenous worldviews are centered around storytelling “on country” (out in nature). Finally, I am able to see the connection between my passion for performing arts and the environment. Now, I spend my days collaborating with indigenous groups who want to use their local knowledge to make tangible environmental and social change and make their stories heard. When I’m not at work, I’m often with my new family. I love planning elaborate dinners for us to eat together and hosting dinner parties for their friends and family. On the weekends, we often visit friends or spend time at a local watering hole with a picnic lunch. We spend the evenings talking, learning about each other, joking around and planning our next big event. In late January, we

celebrated Australia Day by inviting friends and neighbors over for a potluck Australian “barbie” (barbecue). We made fresh burgers and skewers on the grill and listened to oldie Australian bands while the rainforest hummed around us. I’m learning that a hearty laugh can go a long way because Australians never take themselves too seriously. They are not afraid to be silly and make a joke at their own (or others’) expense. My days and nights are filled with laughter. At work, at home, at the beach, at the supermarket — wherever I am, I keep a smile on my face. Though I’ve only been here a short time, I already know that I will be sad to leave at the end of the year. I’m drawn to this country’s culture and ecology, but the real charm of Australia is in the charismatic and exceptionally welcoming people and culture. The Australian way — enjoy what you do, spend time with those you love and laugh lots — is what I will carry with me forever. m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   9

sa l ly p o rt | U nc o n ve n t i o na l wi s d o m

The Classroom Innovator If you have the idea that courses in various science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are boring and dry, let us introduce you to M IK E GUSTIN. An accomplished researcher in the fields of molecular genetics and cell biology, Gustin is perhaps best known as an innovative teacher who thinks deeply about student learning. “I’m constantly viewing teaching as a type of problem-solving — to not only think about how students

learn, but also how they engage with the material,” he said. Gustin’s teaching honors are numerous: He has received the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching so many times that he’s now retired from the competition, and he was selected as a Piper Professor by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation in 2017. We recruited fellow Rice biologist Scott Solomon to interview Gustin about what he’s learned in the classroom. W H Y WOU L D A S T U DE N T C OM E T O R IC E?

It’s not because of the buildings — it’s really about a connection with a professor and student. Rice has an advantage over some institutions in that it’s one of the top research universities, but it’s also one of the smallest. Smaller means you can be slightly more agile in changing what you do in the classroom. If you have an idea, you can talk to people, and they’re generally supportive. I’ve always felt like the chairs and the deans above them have been super supportive of whatever I’ve thought about doing in terms of experimentation or going in a new direction. A CURRENT C L A S S R O OM EXPERIMENT

I’m teaching an interdisciplinary class called Monster [BIOC 368: Conceiving and Misconceiving the Monstrous in Fiction and in Art, in Medicine and in Bioscience] with Deborah Harter from classical and European studies. I’m 10 

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U nc o n ve n t i o na l wi s d o m | sa l ly p o rt

teaching this as a bioscientist. I wanted it to be totally a discussion-based class. I did not want to stand up there and lecture them about things related to evolutionary theory, infectious disease or disorders of sexual development. I wanted to have provocative readings to discuss — a mixture of science, personal story and literature. With science, we know there’s an objective reality out there — at least we think that’s the case — so we’re trying to discover that. But in a discussion situation, do you start off with the facts as we know them, or do you have discussions? I find myself varying between different types of discussion and seeing how they’re working. ON T H E E MO T ION OF T H E C L A S S R O OM

As a teacher, you’re trying to get students to walk away from the class having engaged a body of knowledge or way of thinking. But the emotional component of a learning environment is — I don’t want to say it is equally weighted to learning, but it’s in there. I’m excited about what I’m talking about, and I hope that’s infectious. T H E WAY T O G E T S T U DE N TS T O D O T H E I R A S S IG N M E N TS

Students have crazily busy lives. It’s affected me in all the courses I teach. I feel like if you don’t demand the time from your students, they don’t do the assignment. They will get to it, some way or another, if you demand that they do it. It is

a competitive environment for students’ time, and you have to be demanding at some level. H AV E LU NC H W I T H T H E P R OF

As an associate at Wiess College, I’m entitled to eat lunch at any of the colleges. So in my large Introductory Biology class, one way to get to know students is to invite them to have lunch with

that work? What do they do there? I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in other courses at Rice, and how do those fit with students who are taking them? So if I run into students whom I’m advising, maybe I can give them advice about what level of preparation is required. Which things are particularly problematic? It’s a way that I can be a more valuable mentor to people.

I think the idea is that when you’re teaching, you’re not only teaching, but you’re also learning all the time. me at their college! So every semester, for the last five or 10 years, I eat lunch with my students at the different colleges. The freedom of having a faculty associate affiliation allows me to do that, and it’s a more connected experience rather than some random faculty member from some academic discipline sitting at a table with a bunch of students from wherever. If we’re all connected through a course, it makes a lot of sense. B E I NG A B E T T E R M E N T OR

I also find that when I meet people in small groups or individually, sometimes I’ll ask them questions about their other courses. How’s


I’m thinking a lot about mindsets. Whether or not you have a “growth mindset” versus a fixed or “performance mindset” affects you as you’re moving through professional life. No one wants to fail, but the reality is that a lot of times things don’t go so well. How you react to that is affected by your view of yourself and processes — like working hard versus being called “smart” a lot. The latter promotes a fixed or performance mindset and affects your ability to rebound from failure. I think that’s a really interesting area.

The way I’ve incorporated this mindset idea into my teaching is I track people’s grades during the semester. At the end of this semester, as I do every semester I teach the Intro Bio class, I will send a note to people whose grades have steadily gotten better. In the email, I say something like, “You’ve worked hard, and it shows.” Oftentimes they’ll send back a fairly wordy email talking about all the things they did and expressing appreciation that I acknowledged their hard work. Praising and reinforcing the process is a big deal. T RY I NG N E W T H I NG S I N T H E C L A S S R O OM

I think the idea is that when you’re teaching, you’re not only teaching, but you’re also learning all the time. There are two types of learning. One is the subject material — I’ve always wanted it to be very fluid. I don’t want to look at and say the same stuff. I want to bring in new materials that keep my brain alive. I’m definitely a seeker of novelty. The other type of learning is how to engage the class too. So both of those are kind of challenging. I don’t hit a plateau. I keep learning. I keep trying to find out new cool things.


This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and format. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   11

di spat c h e s f ro m ric e at h l e t ic s

T H E R ICE SOCCE R T EA M H AS T R AV EL E D to play games all over the country, but in March the team took its longest “road trip” in program history with a cultural and educational visit to Spain during spring break. Not only did the Owls post a 1-1 record playing two exhibition matches against teams from Spain’s professional women’s league, but also the team toured a host of historic sites in the cities of Barcelona and Valencia during the weeklong excursion. The team was the Conference USA regular season champion and finished the season with a 12-4-2 record.  — JOHN SULLIVAN


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Road Trip!

s c o re b oa rd


Ayane “Aya” Rossano ’18 TUESDAYS








Rice students are known for pushing themselves to succeed, and Aya Rossano ’18 is no exception. After a wrist injury ended her gymnastics career the summer before she started high school, she became captivated with pole vaulting. She recently won a silver medal at the 2018 C-USA Indoor Championships, following her two silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 C-USA Outdoor Championships. Rossano is similarly ambitious in her academics as she prepares for a career in medicine. She compares being a Rice student to a particularly tough workout: “It hits you hard, all at once. But you learn to adapt and push yourself to work hard each and every day to become a better student, athlete and person.” PHOTOS BY TOMMY LAVERGNE

6:45 a.m.

12:15 p.m.

5:30 p.m.

Get out of bed and fix up a bowl of oatmeal for fuel

Peer Academic Advisors meeting and lunch

Treatment and foam roll

7:20 a.m.

1 p.m.

6 p.m.

Foam roll and weights at Tudor

Class: Psychological Aspects of Sport and Exercise

Heat up dinner that I meal-prepped Sunday

“It’s a 5minute walk from my offcampus place to Tudor. I love it.”

“I scout out recipes on or ask my mom for one of her recipes. I pick something that looks nutritious and satisfying.”

8:45 a.m.

“It’s very applicable to my sport. What I’ve learned has influenced how I prepare for competition.”

Quick shower and make breakfast — “scrambled eggs and toast, my favorite”

3 p.m.

7 p.m.

Dynamic warmup with technical coach David Butler

Free time: homework, planning events or catching up with friends

9:30 a.m.

4:30 p.m.

Sports medicine internship at the Houston Methodist Orthopedic Biomechanics Research Laboratory

Sprint and core workout with Funmi Jimoh ’06, the women’s track and field assistant coach

11:30 p.m. Check social media, watch funny videos and sports highlights before lights out

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F i n di ng s , Re s e a r c h and m o re

Carroll Parrott Blue stands on the banks of Brays Bayou near the Bill Coats Bridge in Houston


Latitude, Longitude, Story Visiting scholar maps Houston’s stories


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ARROLL PARROTT BLUE is a big fan of collaboration. The award-winning filmmaker and scholar has devoted much of the last four decades to documenting neighborhood histories by bringing together those who live, work and study in those communities. A decade ago, Blue employed a then-new technology to preserve the stories of the Third Ward — story mapping, which plots the oral histories of residents captured on audio or video on a map of the area. With the help of Rice, she has been using similar technology to tell the stories of Hurricane Harvey. A recent story map, “Damaged and Defiant:

Houston Stories,” was published in the Houston Chronicle in December. Blue began the project by sifting through 200 oral histories of Hurricane Harvey — along with the help of Houston Chronicle staff, software company ESRI, University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business and others. In the end, Blue and her team selected 45 stories, each plotted with ESRI’s ArcGIS software on a map of Greater Houston and tied to the exact location where it was first told. The map shows short narratives gathered by Chronicle staffers from people across the area — from Crosby to Kingwood to Katy — each a unique


perspective on the storm; told together, they’re the collective account of a city that experienced one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. “Everybody flooded — the rich, the poor, the in-between, the immigrants — no one was spared,” Blue said. “Houston has now become a different kind of city, and that’s one reason why this project is important.”

For Blue, being a visiting scholar at Rice was instrumental in bringing these story maps together for the Chronicle — and not just because of the mapping expertise available at Fondren Library’s GIS/Data Center or the resources at the Digital Media Commons. “What Fondren has done is given me the freedom to do the work,” she said. As one of the Lynette S. Autrey Visiting Scholars at the Humanities Research Center between 2016 and 2017, Blue also worked closely with Fondren on creating a map that showed a toxic waste dump’s alarming proximity to two schools and two parks. Blue is now Rice’s 2018 Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning scholar-in-residence at the African American Library at the Gregory School and Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center Special Collections and Archives. She is producing an upcoming story map for the Chronicle — this one focused on two of Houston’s toxic waste sites and their vulnerability to floods. — KATHARINE SHILCUTT


Chemical Catalysts Are Key to Clean Water




“Everybody flooded — the rich, the poor, the in-between, the immigrants — no one was spared. Houston has now become a different kind of city, and that’s one reason why this project is important.”


E NGI N E E R S AT T H E Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Center have found a catalyst that cleans toxic nitrates from drinking water by converting them into air and water. Michael Wong, a Rice chemical engineer and the lead scientist on the study, said the goal is to work with industrial partners and other researchers to turn the process into a commercially viable water-treatment system. “Nitrates come mainly from agricultural runoff, which affects farming communities all over the world,” said Wong. “Nitrates are both an environmental problem and health problem. There are ion-exchange filters that can remove them from water, but these need to be flushed every few months to reuse them, and when that happens, the flushed water just returns a concentrated dose of nitrates right back into the water supply.” Wong’s lab specializes in developing nanoparticle-based catalysts — submicroscopic bits

of metal that speed up chemical reactions. “Ultimately, the best way to remove nitrates is a catalytic process that breaks them completely apart into nitrogen and oxygen, or in our case, nitrogen and water, because we add a little hydrogen,” he said. From their previous work, Wong’s team knew that goldpalladium nanoparticles were poor catalysts for breaking apart nitrates. A search of published scientific literature turned up another possibility: indium and palladium. “We found that covering about 40 percent of a palladium sphere’s surface with indium gave us our most active catalyst,” said co-author Kim Heck, a research scientist in Wong’s lab. “It was about 50 percent more efficient than anything else we found in previously published studies.” Indium speeds up the breakdown of nitrates, while the palladium apparently keeps the indium from being permanently oxidized.  — JADE BOYD m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   15

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Graphene on Toast

Rice scientists create patterned graphene onto food, paper, cloth and more. American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano demonstrated that laser-induced graphene (LIG) can be burned into paper, cardboard, cloth, coal and certain foods — even toast. (The bread is toasted first to “carbonize” the surface.) The process happens in air at ambient temperatures. “Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” Tour said. “Perhaps all food will have a tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin, and

the path it took to get to your table.” He said LIG tags could also be sensors that detect E. coli or other microorganisms on food. “They could light up and give you a signal that you don’t want to eat this,” Tour said. Tour said flexible, wearable electronics may be an early market for the technique. “This has applications to put conductive traces on clothing,” he said, “whether you want to heat the clothing or add a sensor or conductive pattern.” The Air Force Office of Scientific Research supported the research. — MIKE WILLIAMS


THE R ICE LAB OF CHEMIST James Tour, which once turned Girl Scout cookies into graphene, is investigating ways to write graphene patterns onto food and other materials to quickly embed conductive identification tags and sensors into the products themselves. “This is not ink,” Tour said. “This is taking the material itself and converting it into graphene.” The process is an extension of the Tour lab’s contention that anything with the proper carbon content can be turned into graphene. The new work reported in the


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HOW TO NEGOTIATE One strategy that works is to get angry — but not too angry, say researchers. Displaying a moderate amount of anger during a negotiation process is perceived as being “tough,” say Hajo Adam, who teaches management at Rice, and Jeanne Brett of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. In a recent paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, they report that losing your cool and tipping over into “high-intensity” anger is perceived as inappropriate. Too much anger is less effective in terms of gaining concessions than anger of moderate intensity. But what about displaying positive emotions, like happiness? Wait for it. “It would be interesting to explore the influence of intensity with respect to emotions that are common in negotiations besides anger, such as happiness, disappointment or pride, to develop a more thorough understanding of how intensity levels influence the social effects of emotions,” the authors wrote.


How to Engineer Large Organisms

Associate Professor of BioSciences Matthew Bennett explores the boundaries between experimental and theoretical molecular systems biology. SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY is really an engineering discipline, but what we can’t do right now is engineer large organisms. What if we could create a snake to go into rubble to find survivors of an earthquake or engineer a tree to grow into a house? Can we use synthetic biology to terraform planets and make them habitable for us? We think all these things are possible, but we don’t know how to get there. At this stage, synthetic biology is very localized. We can change one or two genes to alter a genetic pathway and influence behavior in a small way. At the molecular level, we still have lots to learn — every cell has many thousands of genes, and we don’t know what a large portion of them do, nor do we understand

the intricate relationship between genes and proteins within a cell. We’ll need to figure all that out before we can engineer large-scale behavior into cells. It’s not a matter of if we can do that — it’s a matter of when. Life all around us has already done it for millions of years. It’s why we have massive baobab trees or cuttlefish with incredible skin that can change color instantly. We could have a huge impact on human health if we could engineer safe crops that could better feed the world or make synthetic probiotics to treat disease. One of the exciting things for me is that we might be able to start engineering these forms ourselves for practical applications.  — DAVID LEVIN


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Four Houses: Design for Change by William Cannady

(Architecture at Rice, 2017)

HOUS E S A R E A S PE R F E C T A S T H E A R C H I T E C TS W HO DE S IGN T H E M — which is to say, never quite perfect. William Cannady, the award-winning Houston-born architect who has taught at the Rice School of Architecture since 1964, shares this and other lessons in “Four Houses: Design for Change.” Above all, the book is an exploration of the imperfections you don’t see in the glamorous, glossy photos in architecture magazines — and what can be learned from them. Framed around the four homes he designed for himself, his wife and two daughters from 1970 to the turn of the 21st century, the book documents both the evolution of Cannady’s family life and the shifting trends in American architecture during those decades. As Sarah Whiting, dean of the School of Architecture, writes in the foreword, “It’s a book about four houses that grew up alongside their family of four. It documents intentions and realities, and the space that sometimes separates the two.” Here are excerpts from the insights that accompany each of Cannady’s houses:  — JENNIFER LATSON

House Two

“I had not fully considered the reality of using a double-height space directly linking public and private functions. As we soon came to realize, one cannot peacefully live in a house with more than one person, much less small children, and have a two-story volume where one major room overlooks another. The problems we encountered were these: if one wants to sleep late, while others want to work or play downstairs or utilize the kitchen, noise inevitably wakes the sleeper upstairs. Similarly, if a group wants to stay up late, one sleeping upstairs is disturbed. Children are another unforeseen factor in the equation. I had not considered that toddlers would climb guard railings and possibly fall to the floor below. As our fears mounted, we decided to glass in the upstairs, completely separating the first and second floor spaces.”

“I needed House One to get to work. I wanted House Two to get away from the work. While I prefer living in the city with its vitality, dynamic art scene, and academic life, after working long hours seven days a week for a number of years, I found that I needed to spend more time with my family. In 1974, we bought 40 acres … near the small town (population 86) of Round Top, Texas, on which to build a weekend retreat. … Both Mollie’s and my parents loved to visit, and some holidays we had 12 to 16 people at the dinner table, a table I designed. It was built of antique pine, pecan and oak by a Brenham craftsman, and around which we continue to build kitchens, not to mention celebrations.”


House One


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House Three “Typical stucco finishes employ metal expansion joints every 120 square feet to eliminate cracking. I prefer to remove the metal joints … for I firmly believe that metal is the culprit which causes cracking. Most of the stucco houses in Houston that are fifty-plus years old do not have metal expansion joints and have few cracks. Several years ago Philip Johnson was driving by the house and noticed the long, unbroken white stucco walls. His office called me to inquire about the technique, for he was in the process of designing a chapel with large stucco walls for the University of St. Thomas and wanted to know how to build it without metal joints. ‘Pray frequently,’ I replied.”

House Four “Shortly after moving into House Four in the late summer of 1997, we hosted a wedding reception for over 300 guests. Because of unpredictable weather conditions in early October, we erected a tent over the auto court to provide cover for outdoor dining, a bandstand, and a dance floor. The garage became a café, with a large bar and a number of small cabaret tables. The guest quarters were perfect for the bride’s dressing area.” m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   19

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Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People and Being Ecological by Timothy Morton (Verso, 2017) and (MIT Press, 2018)

Power Moves: Transportation, Politics, and Development in Houston by Kyle Shelton (University of Texas Press, 2017)

T R A NS P ORTAT ION DE C I S IONS have been pivotal in shaping Houston’s physical and political landscape, says Kyle Shelton, the director of strategic partnerships and a fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. In “Power Moves,” Shelton explores some of the milestones in Houston’s transportation history since World War II and how these carved the city into what it is today. Each decision — where to build a highway, for example, or how to design a public transit system — had ripple effects across the city, leading to other infrastructure choices that affected development throughout the greater metropolitan area. More than the built environment, however, these decisions — and the debates surrounding them — helped shape political participation in the Bayou City. Houstonians with a stake in transportation choices, both rich and poor, made their voices heard through what Shelton terms “infrastructural citizenship,” most notably in the form of transportation activism: They wrote letters, spoke at meetings and organized protests; they lobbied officials and launched historical preservation campaigns. “Even if those efforts failed to achieve their desired outcomes, as many did, the simple act of projecting their hopes onto the structures allowed citizens to reshape their meaning,” Shelton writes. “Over 65 years, Houston transitioned from a city dominated, but not controlled, by a small cohort of white elites into a metropolitan area whose multiethnic electorate weighed in on the choices of both the city and the wider region.” 20 

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HOW W E T R E AT other species is a fundamental part of what makes us human — and navigating our relationship with nonhuman species is more important now than ever, according to Timothy Morton, an “objectoriented philosopher” and the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English. He explores our kinship with other living beings, from different angles, in two recent books, “Humankind” and “Being Ecological.” “Humankind” was inspired, in part, by the 2015 killing of Cecil the lion, an internationally beloved animal who roamed Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, by an American dentist and big-game hunter. The wave of outrage that erupted on social media, followed by United Nations resolutions calling for the American’s extradition to face charges in Zimbabwe, was a hopeful sign during a period in which our relationship with nonhuman species has been largely destructive — a period Morton and others have called the Anthropocene, in which humans have committed ecological atrocities and ushered in the sixth mass extinction in our planet’s history. “The year 2015 was when a very large number of humans figured out that they had more in common with a lion than with a dentist,” Morton writes. In “Being Ecological,” he argues that we need to do more to bridge the gulf separating us from our nonhuman neighbors on the planet. “Morton thinks we need to break through the ‘massive firewall’ our Neolithic ancestors built between humans and non-humans some 12,000 years ago, as they began creating agriculture and theistic religions,” writes author PD Smith in a review of the book for The Guardian. “Today we need to abandon the arrogance of anthropocentrism.”

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Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think by Elaine Howard Ecklund and Christopher P. Scheitle (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Varieties of African American Religious Experience: Toward a Comparative Black Theology by Anthony B. Pinn (Fortress Press, 2017)

T H E OL O GI A NS H AV E L ONG overlooked the non-Christian varieties of African-American religious experience. Anthony B. Pinn, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of religion, endeavored to correct that oversight in 1997, examining four other types of belief — Voodoo, Santeria, Islam and humanism — that play vital roles in black religious life. In a new preface for the book’s 20th anniversary edition, he writes, “‘Varieties of African American Religious Experience’ acknowledged the religious landscape of African American communities as rich, thick, contradictory and vibrant, and it was among the first books to articulate this vision in theological terms.” Previously, he writes, these nonChristian traditions were seen as the purview of anthropologists, sociologists and religious historians, as opposed to theologians. “This is tragic,” he argues, “in that theologians are best equipped to explore the theological issues underlying the practices of these traditions. Without attention to these traditions by theologians and other scholars of religion, our understanding of religion within African American communities contains an unhealthy limitation on its scope and vision.”

E L A I N E HOWA R D E C K LU N D, the Herbert S. Autrey Chair and professor of sociology, doesn’t believe faith and science are mutually exclusive. In her 2012 book, “Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think,” she investigated the presumed antagonism between the two by surveying nearly 1,700 scientists — and found that their reputation as religious skeptics was overstated. Nearly half were religious themselves, and only a few showed outright disdain for religion. In “Religion vs. Science,” Ecklund and co-author Christopher P. Scheitle, a sociologist at West Virginia University, examine the issue from the opposite side. From 2010 to 2015, they conducted the largest study of how religious people view science, spending hundreds of hours in places of worship, from evangelical churches to historic synagogues to mosques attended largely by immigrants. They surveyed more than 10,000 Americans and conducted more than 300 in-depth interviews with congregants from 23 organizations. Their findings disprove a number of popular presumptions about people of faith: that they universally dislike science and scientists, that they oppose scientific technology, and that they all deny climate change and identify as young-Earth creationists. In fact, Ecklund and Scheitle write, “Jews, Muslims, and most Christians … show similar or higher levels of interest in science than do nonreligious Americans.” Why is it important to debunk these myths? Because finding common ground can help build trust and encourage collaboration, which will benefit both sides of what the authors see as a false dichotomy between science and religion. “If scientists can better understand and speak to the real, specific concerns of religious individuals — and perhaps even show how science can be used to promote religious ideals — they will have a better shot at both building bridges and advancing science in the process,” they write.  — JENNIFER LATSON m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   21


Perennial Pathways THE AZALEA BUSHES in full bloom across Rice’s campus are always a welcome sight and a sure sign that spring has sprung. This year’s bounty of color — from varying shades of magenta, to pink and a smattering of white — didn’t disappoint. While the total number of the springtime perennials that enhance the university’s 300plus acres is unknown, one of the first azaleas was planted in 1937 in honor of the 80th birthday of Agnes Cohen, the namesake of Cohen House. In the early 1940s, Tony Martino, Rice’s first gardener, began populating the landscape with clusters of the bushes. At the time, the plants were small and expensive, but his care and dedication to the flowering shrubs would be the beginning of an annual occurrence that graces every corner of campus and prompts a photo or two, like this one by university photographer Jeff Fitlow.  — TRACEY RHOADES 22 

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By Roxanna Asgarian Illustration by Mark Smith 24 

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N JAN. 20, 2017,

Donald Trump took an oath of office and was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. The crowds, according to White House staff, were enormous. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” thenPress Secretary Sean Spicer told the White House press pool two days afterward. President Trump had raised the issue of the crowds himself. The day of the inauguration, many news networks showed an aerial shot of the National Mall juxtaposed with the same image from Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, which made clear that the new president’s crowd was dwarfed by that of the former president. “I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field,” Trump said to the media on the second day of his presidency. “Wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, a million-and-a-half people.” News outlets published more photos and video evidence. They tallied the public transport numbers in Washington, D.C. In a now-famous exchange with Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press,” in which he pressed Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway to explain the falsehood, Conway said, “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. … Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.” Thus was ushered in our current era of “alternative facts,” a topic that’s been the subject of countless news stories, heated opinion pieces and social media wars. In this moment of handwringing, some Rice scholars have taken a different approach to the topic. To them, it’s a perfect moment to think critically about facts.


Rice President David Leebron doesn’t think “alternative facts” is a particularly contentious notion. Leebron is a lawyer, after all, and practicing law, at its most basic level, consists of two sides arguing about which notions of fact are most correct. “I was puzzled by the reaction to the words ‘alternative facts’ in a way,” he told a room full of listeners at Duncan Hall earlier this semester. “We live in a world of alternative facts and alternative stories, and that’s why we have triers of fact, and people to make those decisions.” The law has structured processes, Leebron said, that decide facts: rules of evidence, burdens of proof and an authority, like a judge or a jury, to reach a conclusion. The problem with Conway’s assertion, Leebron said, “wasn’t that there could be no alternate facts, but that there was no alternative evidence.” Leebron’s talk was part of a yearlong series of colloquia that explored the idea of facts from the perspectives of law, science, philosophy, psychology and political science. The series is sponsored by Scientia. Members of the Scientia committee pick a topic each year to explore from various viewpoints. Previous years’ colloquia topics included privacy, inequality, ideas, failure — broad concepts that can be looked at in different and surprising ways. 26 

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This year’s colloquia, simply titled “Facts,” were designed to ask a number of pertinent questions: What is a fact? How do we decide that certain information is reliable? What standards of evidence should we use? Who cares about facts? During the 2017–2018 academic year, seven distinguished thinkers sought to tell the truth about facts. Four of this year’s speakers were Rice faculty. The series also featured Katharine Hayhoe, the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University; Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology and law professor at the University of California, Irvine and an expert in memory; and Johanna Dunaway, an associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University. (All presentations were recorded and posted at “We live in an age where facts are apparently in dispute, so we thought, who better to talk about facts than the people who try to use them all the time?” said Rick Wilson, the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Political Science and current director of Scientia. “Our primary charge is to make sure people from around campus get rid of their disciplinary blinders for an hour.”


Scientia started with a tussle over a library book. In 1980, Salomon Bochner, who was a professor of mathematics at Rice, wanted to use the collected works of German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler in his research. Rice historian Albert Van Helden was researching the history of astronomy and also wanted the book. There was only one copy and, according to an account of the group’s history by one of its founding members, Ronny Wells, a “modest conflict” ensued. The university proposed that they form an institute; in this way, they could get a dedicated room in Fondren Library and share the book there. Bochner and Van Helden christened the institute Scientia. The group has remained small and dedicated — in the 1980s, the initial membership totaled five, and now there are about 20 faculty from a range of disciplines. “Since we specialize in looking at important topics through this interdisciplinary lens, we want representation from members of all different schools — architecture, engineering, music,” said Susan McIntosh, who has also served as a Scientia director. Sarah Whiting, the dean of the School of Architecture, discovered Scientia when the group approached her to give a lecture; she found herself continuing to attend the talks, enjoying a rare opportunity to get to know faculty in other disciplines. “These talks are a moment where there’s no obligation, yet it’s a chance to connect across campus. It’s a solid group of super-interesting people from other disciplines, and I always have great conversations with them.”


While it seems obvious that a fact is “a piece of information presented as having objective reality,” according to Webster, facts are actually a muddled mess that exposes the complex way we take in information. It starts with the word fact itself,

which shares a Latin root with the words manufacture, factory, vigilance and a need for skepticism. The same thing is true of facilitate — meaning to do or make. Rice philosophy professor conspiracy theories,” he added. “There are many more of those Richard Grandy, in his lecture “Theories About Facts,” argued than there are conspiracies.” that the root of the word is crucial to understanding how facts And in a White House that seems suspect of facts and suswork in our brain. “We can better grasp what facts are and why ceptible to conspiracy theories, it becomes harder to get the they have authority if we can understand them as manufaccorrect information at the table where the policy decisions are tured, rather than found or created,” Grandy said. being made. Neal Lane, senior fellow in science and technolWhat we understand as a fact isn’t inherent in the fact itself, ogy policy at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, formerly he added. Rather, it’s the complex result of how our minds served as director of the National Science Foundation, where process the information, which is influenced by our memohe advised the Clinton administration on matters like stem ries, perceptions, ability to reason and the social information cell research and the Human Genome Project. “Facts and we’ve been logging throughout our lives. Thus, a fact is more truth matter when crafting policy, but they’re not enough. of a changeable thing than Facts get muddled accidenmany believe. “Most of what tally and on purpose,” Lane we believe strongly is probsaid. The key, Lane said, is to able, not certain,” Grandy said. be able to translate between “‘Fact’ has too much of a conthe realms of science and WE LIVE IN AN AGE WHERE notation of certainty. ‘Theory’ policy, explaining clearly has too much of a connotation why the science matters from FACTS ARE APPARENTLY IN of speculation. We don’t have a political standpoint. That DISPUTE, SO WE THOUGHT, WHO task, in this political climate, a word for a theory that’s been tested and is highly probable BETTER TO TALK ABOUT FACTS is harder than ever. based on a great deal of reliAdding to this already THAN THE PEOPLE WHO TRY able evidence gathered in an muddied water, where facts TO USE THEM ALL THE TIME? informed, relatively openbecome malleable depending minded way.” upon who’s wielding them,  — RICK WILSON In science, even theories there’s the real problem of that have undergone rigorwhat you — personally — ous testing and have achieved know to be true. near-universal agreement still Loftus used her lecture aren’t accepted by the larger to explain just how faulty public as fact. In her lecture, Hayhoe said there are 26,500 our memories can be. “Do you think that I could make you separate indicators of a warming planet. remember things that didn’t happen?” she asked the room. “The world is getting warmer. That is a fact,” she said. Hayhoe She explained the research of her team and others, which pointed to research showing that burning fossil fuels led to a includes planting false memories in subjects, sometimes of warming climate that dated back to the late 1800s. NASA said consequential events. The ability to manipulate memory or that 97 percent of climate scientists agree on climate change, misremember important facts can have dire consequences — yet in 2014, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “For of the 354 cases of wrongful conviction the Innocence Project everybody who thinks it’s warming, I can find somebody who has found, 70 percent of them involved eyewitness misidentithinks it isn’t,” adding, “Each side has their scientists.” fication. “Memory, like liberty, is a fragile thing,” Loftus said. Why, in this case, can’t facts sway the unbelievers? “We are Winding through the talks at Duncan Hall are a couple of not blank slates, waiting for the correct facts to be written on,” shared threads — facts are vital to our human understandHayhoe said. “Whom we associate with, whom we identify ing of the world, and they are much more nebulous than we with, is the No. 1 predictor of our opinions on climate change.” think they are. That tendency to entrench with people who agree with us “In this world of complexity around facts, we have to have isn’t new. In his lecture on rhetoric and conspiracy theories, a whole range of mechanisms, and each discipline may need Wilson pointed out that there has been liberal use of both tactics its own system of mechanisms,” Leebron told his attentive throughout time. But with the internet and social media disaudience. Still, there’s a danger when even basic facts are up seminating information — and misinformation — around the for debate. “This whole notion of contestability and doubt that world with lightning speed, we’ve reached a point where there has crept into our notion of what a fact is threatens us in some is easy access to “each side’s scientists,” and a firmer barrier way,” Leebron said. “Because if you don’t have some idea of between the truth and the person who doesn’t want to hear it. shared truth, then you really have a problem in society.” “Politics isn’t about truth, it’s about power,” Wilson said. It’s pretty clear that it’s not “just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe The goal of political rhetoric, whether it be to undermine the Friday’s famous saying from “Dragnet” goes. Or, as Leebron opposition, rally the base or misdirect away from one’s own pointed out in his lecture, how we think the saying goes. It bad deeds, is often successful. And, he points out, conspiraturns out, the real quote is, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” cies do indeed happen (think Watergate). “There’s a need for A tall order, indeed. ◆ m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   27



Two years removed from last place, Rice’s club water polo teams are competing — and winning. What’s driving this newfound success?



Antonio Merlo is the soundtrack that plays at every Rice club water polo game. His voice reverberates above the frenetic splashing of legs and arms. It carries over cheering parents and referees’ whistles and, on this rainy, humid day in mid-February, it can be heard beyond Ultimate Frisbee practice on the neighboring intramural field.

“Ah, so close!” he yells, jumping and turning in midair. It is the Rice women’s team’s 2018 season opener against Texas A&M University’s “B team,” and they’ve just blown their fourth “man-up” opportunity (think power play in hockey) of the first quarter. Merlo knows that being 0-for-4 on such chances is an unfortunate feat of statistical improbability. He knows that, in practice for instance, his team regularly converts at least 50 percent of their man-up opportunities. “Butterflies in stomach,” he says, brushing it off. As the quarter ends, he gathers his players and kneels poolside. “I’ll tell you why you’re not scoring,” he says, imploring them to stick to what they’ve practiced. To beat teams that are bigger and stronger — and the Aggies might just be the biggest and strongest of the bunch — Rice cannot be stationary. Movement, Merlo says, is the key ingredient. “It’s the first game of the season,” he finishes, closing the huddle, “the scoring will come.” He removes his blue and gray windbreaker — the one with “Coach Merlo” stitched onto the chest — and tosses it aside. He knows how hard his team has practiced and how far they’ve come. The Owls are down 3-0, but the game is just beginning.

Sink or Swim

Previous spread: Players Meg Brigman ’18 and Ellie Dullea ’20 in a game against Texas A&M. Left: Coach Merlo surrounded by team members

Three seasons ago, the Rice women’s club water polo team did not win a single game. The Owls finished last in the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Texas Division and barely had enough players to field a starting lineup, let alone compete — regularly forfeiting games. The program reached a nadir when, because of a rule requiring a minimum of four players to show up at each tournament, it was nearly kicked out of the league for two seasons (a fate that recently befell TCU). In fact, this story would end here, if not for a few students who skipped Beer Bike just to attend, and ultimately forfeit, a tournament at Texas Tech in order to meet the minimum-player requirement. “I was on the bike track at Beer Bike, and I remember getting all these texts saying, ‘Somebody has to drive up there now,’” recalls Haley Kurisky, who was a freshman at the time and is now a senior captain for the Owls. “The fear was very real that we weren’t even going to have a team.” Merlo came to Rice in 2014 to serve as chair of the economics department and act as founding director of the Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics. In 2016, he became dean of Rice’s School of Social Sciences. As a renowned political economist, Merlo’s field of research, at its most basic level, asks the question: How do institutions function, and

why do certain institutions succeed while others fail? This can be studied at any level from small groups of people, teams, companies and firms to governments and countries. A first-generation immigrant and the first in his family to go to college, he’s applied those questions to the political system of his home country of Italy. As chair of the economics department, he’s applied them to his faculty team. As dean of social sciences, he’s applied them to all seven departments he governs. What motivates each individual? When you put them in an environment where they’re not just by themselves, how do you organize their interactions in a way that you achieve superior outcomes? “This is part of who I am,” Merlo says. “It’s deeply inside of me.” The only thing more inextricably a part of Merlo is water polo.

“You guys are smart,” he says, applauding their improvements over the course of the first half. “This is what it’s like coaching at Rice — you don’t have to say anything twice.” After scoring its first goal of the game with just under three minutes left in the second quarter, Rice surrenders another goal to fall back behind by three. In an unlucky turn of events, a missed shot by the Owls turned into a fast break scoring opportunity for the Aggies. Merlo chuckles and says, “It could’ve been 3-2, but now it’s 4-1. That’s water polo.” However, with 11 seconds left, senior captain Helen Wei is fouled inside the 5-meter line and is allowed a penalty shot on goal. She scores. As time expires, Merlo exclaims, “You’re playing wonderfully!” and collects the team to make halftime adjustments. He notes, again, that their strength is not being static. “You guys are smart,” he says, applauding their improvements over the course of the first half. “This is what it’s like coaching at Rice — you don’t have to say anything twice.” At halftime, the Owls trail 4-2.

Turning the Tide The water polo community, as anyone in it will tell you, is small and close-knit. Those who truly love the sport talk about it like a sweet summer romance

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Clockwise from top: Meg Brigman against Texas A&M; Isabela Walkin ’20 empties a water jug while treading water in practice; goalie Claire Young ’19 against Texas A&M


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or, well, read for yourself: “I always joke that water polo is kind of a virus. People who are infected by it get it for life,” says USA Water Polo CEO Chris Ramsey. “In a good way, of course.” Bill Smith, who has been involved with the sport for more than 40 years as an athlete, coach and club director, started playing water polo in college at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and established the very first Ivy League Water Polo Championships there. “I tried water polo in college, and, I’ll tell you, it was love at first sight,” he says. “I went from nothing to doing it six days a week. It was like, ‘Where has this been my whole life?’” Merlo’s fascination with water polo, or “pallanuoto” in Italian, began at the age of 12 in the small town of Busto Arsizio, Italy, outside Milan. He was a swimmer back then, but his peers quickly outgrew him. The size disadvantage, which is hard to overcome in competitive swimming, along with the wise words of a coach, pushed him toward water polo. “Antonio, in the water, you are as tall as you want to be,” said the former coach — words that have stuck with Merlo to this day. He competed for his local club team, Busto Pallanuoto — all youth sports in Italy are organized through club programs, not schools or universities — until 1987, during which time he also played for the Italian youth national team and lost an agonizing national championship game. After coming to the U.S. to get his doctorate at New York University in 1988, Merlo played on and off with the New York Athletic Club and then for a club team called the Nordics when he was an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. While in Minnesota, he got his first taste of coaching; and then, after returning to NYU as an associate professor in 1998, he established their club water polo program and served as their head coach. In 2008, he started coaching at the University of Pennsylvania and, in 2013, led their men’s team to the Ivy League Collegiate Championship, placed fifth at the National Collegiate Club Championship and won coach of the year. When he came to Rice, coaching water polo wasn’t something he expected to do. Or, at least, that’s his alibi. “Coaching at Rice was definitely not on my radar screen. In fact, I was not even sure they would have a club team,” he says, pausing for a moment before cracking a joke. “Well, that’s not true, I did look on the website.” What drew Merlo to Rice is ultimately what drew him to Rice water polo. He is, at heart, a team builder. “The reason I do this is because it’s a sport I love,” he says. “I don’t care where a team is, I want to take them to where they can be. If I have a cham-

pionship team, then the goal is to take them to the championship. If I have a team that has never had a winning season, my goal is to get them there. It’s so rewarding and so amazingly worth it.” At first, Merlo attended a few Rice club games and could see they needed guidance. Michael Shashoua, a four-time NCAA water polo national champion while an undergraduate at the University of Southern California and a former player on Merlo’s championship Penn team, transferred to Rice and started playing for the men’s club team. So, Merlo agreed to help out. He officially became the men’s coach at the start of the 2016 season and the following season started coaching the women, too. Since then, both teams

“Before, the other teams never saw us as a threat. They loved playing against us. Now, they’re actually starting to pay attention to us.”

have improved dramatically. The men went from last place in the Texas Division in 2015 to third in 2017. The women, who had not won a game in two years, not only didn’t have to forfeit any in 2017, they actually won some. In Merlo’s first season at the helm, they went from last place to fourth. “Before, the other teams never saw us as a threat. They loved playing against us,” says Kurisky. “Now, they’re actually starting to pay attention to us. They’re giving us the respect we deserve. I was immensely proud. It’s fun to win, you know?” The offensive flood gates open for Rice during the third quarter. Sophomore Ellie Dullea, a swimmer who had never picked up a water polo ball until joining the team as a freshman, scores twice. Wei scores again with less than 30 seconds remaining to give Rice its first lead, but the Aggies respond almost immediately with a goal of their own. “It’s back to 0-0!” Merlo yells. “Let’s see which team has more in the tank.” The Owls and Aggies are tied, 5-5, heading into the fourth quarter.

Back to the Basics The sport of water polo starts, well, in the water. Yes, this is a key, yet sometimes missed, detail about the sport so many love. “To this day, people have said to me, ‘What do you do with the horses

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Clockwise from left: Ellen McMullen ’20, Ellie Dullea and graduate student Alyssa Mullery

after the match?’” says Smith. “Well, I answer, that’s a different type of polo.” For the uninitiated, the basics of water polo are as follows: Each game is divided into four, seven-minute quarters. Each team has seven players — one goalie and six “field” players. Every athlete — and this is another detail that tends to surprise — is treading water or swimming the entire time. Water polo is played only in the deep end. The object of the game is to advance the ball the length of the pool and score by throwing it into the net past the opponent’s goalie. No player, apart from the goalie, is allowed to use two hands to catch or secure the ball. On defense, one hand needs to be in the water at all times. Water polo’s closest sports cousin is European handball, which, like water polo, isn’t exactly mainstream. But it does bear a passing resemblance to a number of major American sports, save for baseball. There are 20-second player ejections on certain fouls and power plays or “man-up” opportunities like in hockey. There are penalty shots or 5-meter shots on goal like in soccer. Offenses also function very


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similarly to basketball with specific movements and plays designed to open up space for shooters. Believe it or not, water polo is among the fastestgrowing sports in the U.S., according to data from USA Water Polo and the National Federation of State High School Associations. Over the past eight years, nationwide membership rose nearly 67 percent and is at an all-time high. At the Olympic level, no one in the world is better than the U.S. women, who won their second-straight gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2018, beating their opponents by an average of seven goals per game. Over their six games in Rio, they trailed for a grand total of 44 seconds. Merlo’s philosophy is to design a system that meshes well with the strengths and weaknesses of the players on his roster. That is why he uses the versatility and speed of his smaller players to create space and movement against bigger, stronger, more static teams who prefer to slow down and space the pool. “I have them play the way I used to play in Italy, and no one is ready for it,” Merlo says. “I know how to play with a small team. I’ve been there.” After spending two full seasons coaching the men, who play during the fall, and a season and half with the women, whose spring season is still ongoing, Merlo has gotten bigger ideas for Rice water polo — he would like to take Rice’s club program to the varsity level. If this were to happen, Rice would have the only Division I varsity water polo program in the state of Texas. Merlo sees the teams competing against Ivy League teams. Furthermore, because of his connections in the water polo community, particularly from his time at Penn, Merlo has already secured a place for Rice

Club Sports’ Competitive Style


in the Ivy League along with Harvard, Brown and Princeton. This is the key selling point for Merlo — Rice would have a chance to compete with the Ivies in athletics as well as in the classroom. “I will say, we would welcome Rice, very much so, into the fold. It’s a brethren-type school, one with a lot of similarities,” says Smith, who is on the USA Water Polo board of directors and is the incoming president of Fédération Internationale de Natation, which governs all aquatic Olympic sports. There are, of course, many obstacles to consider, such as the complications of travel, equipment needs, filling coaching and training staffs, not to mention Title IX requirements. The university administration, including Athletics Director Joe Karlgaard, has also given no indication that they’re willing to add another varsity sport in the coming years — let alone whether it would be water polo if and when they did. No matter what, Rice’s success in the pool at the club level, especially for its size, is a point of excitement as well as pride. “Having Coach Merlo there to keep us motivated is incredible,” says Wei. “I just completed a ton of med school interviews, and one of the questions they ask is, ‘What is your proudest moment in college?’ I talk about water polo.” Dullea breaks the tie in the fourth quarter, scoring for Rice on a perfectly executed ball-side drive — a play Merlo has practiced relentlessly with the Owls in order to score on bigger, more predictable teams. “Ellie is on fire! She’s a beast today!” Merlo yells, his voice once again raising above the crowd. Dullea scores again, her fifth goal of the game, and it appears as if the Owls are pulling away until the Aggies cut Rice’s lead to one with 1 minute, 22 seconds remaining. Merlo stands at the edge of the pool, his eyes fixed on the clock. When the final second ticks away, he raises both arms before balling a fist and punching the air. Before his team leaves for the locker room, he says, “What a pleasure to watch you play water polo. Thank you.” The Owls win, 7-6. ◆

Rice students compete in a smorgasbord of competitive club team sports. Men’s soccer? Goal. Rugby? Bring it. Ballroom dancing? Why not? Ultimate Frisbee? They’re national champs. More than 20 men’s, women’s or coed teams in 16 sports travel to other colleges and universities for competitions. Club teams, which are open to all Rice students through tryouts, are subject to stringent self-governance rules. “The clubs receive money allocated from the university, but they also collect membership dues and fundraise for travel,” said Chris Watkins, assistant director for competitive sports at the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center. Students on competitive club teams are serious about training, playing and winning. Recently, two club rugby players received alumni scholarships to travel to New Zealand for training with the famous All Blacks national team last summer. “Anyone can support the teams,” Watkins said, “either in person at games or financially through donations to help purchase equipment or travel to tournaments.” For men’s soccer player Julio Soto ’18, playing on a club team fuels a longtime passion. “We talk about soccer teams, players and leagues all the time,” said Soto, who has played club soccer since he was a freshman. Now the team president, Soto and the team’s captains are in charge of scheduling, strategy — and unlike their opponents from larger Texas schools, even coaching. “Sometimes I have to coach from the field,” Soto said, “but at the same time, I like that we can run things as a team.” Rice club teams have achieved national recognition in recent years. Women’s club soccer has competed in national championship tournaments. Perhaps the most lauded of the club teams is women’s Ultimate Frisbee. They’ve taken home club national championships two out of the last three years and are one of the longest-running club teams in Rice history. For a full list of the university’s teams, both competitive and recreational, go to 


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Rice’s Village Reuben sandwiches. Green beer. Vinyl. Dresses and suits.

For generations of Rice students and faculty, a walk to the nearby Village offered access to all the necessities — and more — of college life.

Deborah Lynn Blumberg Illustration by Amy C. Evans

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Previous page: Origami Owl sculpture by artist Nathan Mabry, 2018. This page from top: Mural on Amherst Street by artist Michael C. Rodriguez, 2018; Skiers at J. Rich Sports, 1978; University Boulevard, year unknown



he Wednesday after Thanksgiving, hundreds of Houstonians gathered alongside a cappella groups outfitted in Santa hats in front of the Rice Village Christmas tree. They’d come for the Village’s first annual sing-off, emceed by Tony Dovolani of “Dancing With the Stars.” Songs, from “Silver Bells” to “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” prompted Rice students and community members alike to dance as fake snow fell from the sky. After the winner was announced and the tree lit, students, couples and families dispersed into the Village. Some made their way up Morningside Drive to Helen Greek Food and Wine, named one of the “21 Best New Restaurants in America” by Eater, while others wandered down the block for loaded fries and craft beer at the newly opened Hopdoddy Burger Bar. Along the way, pedestrians paying attention might have marveled at a new blue aluminum owl sculpture on Kelvin Drive or

outdoor seating areas that hadn’t been there months before. They may have doubled back to examine stores’ new, modern fixtures, and looked out for signs about the upcoming openings of the popular New York-based Shake Shack burger joint or SusieCakes, a tasty California-based bakery. The Village was abuzz with activity, and that’s just what organizers had hoped for. The sing-off was one of dozens of new initiatives, programs and big changes dreamed up by Trademark Property Co., the property management group that now looks after the real estate of Rice Management Company (RMC), the steward and investment office for Rice University’s nearly $6 billion endowment and the Village’s largest property owner. For retailers, “we want the best of the best,” said Tommy Miller, managing director for Trademark, who, with his team, has been tasked with reimagining the Village to create a more modern shopping and dining experience for visitors. Since the 1990s, the Village, long known for its eclectic mix of shops and sometimes quirky shopkeepers, assumed more of a shopping mall feel. Under the watch of the prior developer, Weingarten Realty Investors, big-name brand stores like the Gap and Banana Republic moved in, architecture became more uniform, and wear and tear set in. Now, plans are underway to revitalize the area, while staying true to its roots. Ceci Mesta Arreola ’09, real estate manager for RMC, envisions Rice Village becoming Houston’s go-to shopping destination. Boston has its Newbury Street; New York City has Madison Avenue. “Our goal is pretty lofty,” Arreola said. “Rice Village should be, and it needs to be, one of the best urban shopping districts in the country.”


A Multimillion-Dollar Project

In 2014, RMC tapped Trademark to help run its holdings in the Village, the majority of which are located between Kirby and Morningside drives and University and Times boulevards. Rice had just purchased the brick-faced Village Arcade retail center that stretched two blocks on University Boulevard, giving RMC more control over the properties that it ground leased to Weingarten in the 1990s and setting off a multimillion-dollar renovation project. The goal was to refresh the area while helping grow Rice’s endowment, which provides nearly 40 percent of the university’s annual operating budget and helps support student scholarships. Already, new tenants have helped bump up the RMC’s rental income, Arreola said. “First and foremost, we’re the stewards of the endowment,” said Arreola. “We’re working for student scholarship. Not only for today’s students, but for students for years to come. The Village also has this nostalgic element to it that we have to help preserve.”

With its lack of an anchor store and location nestled among homes near the university, the Village is unique. It’s Houston’s only walkable grid shopping area. It has appeared in films — parts of the 1994 movie “The Chase” were filmed there — and has created countless memories since shops like Rice Boulevard Food Market opened in the late 1930s.

Right: Don and Alice Klinger, owners of Variety Fair 5 & 10, 1980

Special Memories

Every alumnus has their own unique story or memory about the Village. For Arreola, it’s celebrating classmates’ birthdays at Mi Luna and sipping green beers at Brian O’Neill’s [now The Gorgeous Gael] on St. Patrick’s Day. For Pedro Garcia, chef and owner of El Meson Restaurant on University Boulevard, it’s Reuben sandwiches from the former Alfred’s Deli on Rice, or the typeball he bought at Dromgoole’s Fine Writing Instruments — in the Village since 1961 — to whip up El Meson menus on his electric typewriter. Garcia, a New York native who was named Restaurateur of the Year in 2016 by the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, has been serving favorites like paella and pulled pork at El Meson for the last 36 years. He has watched generations pass through his doors. Recently, as president of the Rice Village Alliance, Garcia helped brainstorm programming ideas akin to the sing-off: fashion shows and food festivals, events that will draw crowds. “The Village is moving back to more individuality, to more eclectic shops,” Garcia said. Other alumni reminisce over nights at The Ginger Man, the Village’s first bar, which now includes locations across Texas and up the East Coast. Some recall squeamishly sampling chocolate-covered ants and grasshoppers at Kahn’s Deli. The Poor Man’s Country Club, a beer joint; Rat Records; and Iowa, a seller of Iowa folk art, were also favorites. In the 1960s, haircuts for Rice students went for $1.75 at the Times Barber Shop. David Gibbs ’70, who owns several properties in the Village, has been frequenting Village shops for more than 50 years. In m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   39

A Major Face-Lift

At the top of management’s to-do list: refresh store facades, add more outdoor seating areas, and improve landscaping and parking. The installation of more than 300 parking meters has been Trademark’s most controversial change thus far, but one management says was sorely needed. Free parking spots in front of stores were 40 

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Clockwise from top left: Larry Dromgoole, third-generation owner of Dromgoole’s, with his wife, Christine, and son Larry, 2018; British Isles, 2018; Mi Luna restaurant, 2018; Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Kahn, Alfred’s Delicatessen, 1959

exacerbating traffic, Arreola said, as shoppers waiting for a spot circled the area. Pedestrians trying to cross at poorly marked crosswalks were at risk. “We had a study done that showed we have enough parking, it just wasn’t being properly allocated,” she said. Now, shoppers who want to park in front of stores pay $1 per hour on weekdays and $2 per hour on weekends at a meter. In one of the Village’s two garages, parking is free for the first two hours and maxes out at $5 a day. Trademark has revitalized crosswalks and also carved out a handful of parking spots near Hopdoddy to create Morningside Plaza, an outdoor gravel-covered area with seating, free Wi-Fi and games like Cornhole. Plans are in the works to create similar open spaces around other properties.


the 1980s, he acquired two properties along with fellow alumni Guy Jackson ’71 and Chuck Reid ’47 and Rice architecture professor Will Cannady that the foursome developed into Village Square at Rice Boulevard and Morningside Drive. Gibbs has fond memories of browsing ski apparel at J. Rich Sports in the 1970s and sipping smoothies at the Cultured Cow in the 1980s. When Rebecca Greene Udden ’73, executive artistic director of the Main Street Theater, was a Rice student, she regularly popped down to the Village to buy props and costume accessories at Variety Fair 5 & 10 for her Baker Shakespeare Theatre productions and dined with friends at Dairy Queen on Sunday nights. “Store owners in the Village are like a family,” said Udden, who recently helped to oversee a major renovation at Main Street Theater. “It’s a community here.”

New tenants continue to roll in, though long-term leases — the Gap’s, for example, goes through 2023 — will keep certain stores around for a while. Similar retailers, like Chico’s and Soma, have been relocated and grouped together. This approach “makes merchandising more rational,” Arreola said. On Amherst Street between Kirby and Kelvin, renovations have included deconstructing the singular brick facade to give stores their own unique look with a variety of textures and materials. They’ve added more trees, grass and seating and installed additional public art. An inviting highend Starbucks with leather chairs that serves alcohol reopened on Amherst in December. Shake Shack opened in February and Rice Athletics — selling Rice apparel like T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts — opened in February. Left, from top: An employee at The Bead Shop, 1970; a young patron at G & G Model Shop, 1970. Right: The new Rice Athletics store on Amherst Street, 2018

stocked with tea sets and other British-inspired gifts. He has noticed more foot traffic since new residential buildings were constructed in the last few years, including the Hanover Rice Village apartments on Dunstan Road in 2014. Streatfeild’s current Village favorites include coffee and scones at the Mercantile on Morningside, and the Croissant-Brioche bakery and Hungry’s located on Rice Boulevard. On Kirby at the Chloe DAO boutique, owner Chloe Dao, the winner of “Project Runway” season two, is among merchants helping bring to life new, innovative outdoor events in the Village. When Dao moved back to her native Houston from New York almost 18 years ago, she knew she wanted to set up shop in the Village. “The Village has the closest vibe to New York,” she said. “It’s really eclectic, and it’s one of few walkable shopping centers. It definitely needed a face-lift, and I love the makeover.” Most recently, Dao helped plan an outdoor fashion show. Other event ideas include a block party and a food and wine festival. El Meson’s Garcia is convinced that experiences like these will help businesses compete. “People are shopping online,” he said, “but they’ll come out for unique experiences and specialty stores. That’s going to be the saving grace of the brick-and-mortar industry.” Arreola sees it all as part of the Village experience. “We’re making it a place where people want to come and stay,” she said. “We’re focused on making this a fabulous place for everyone at the university and everyone in the community to enjoy.” ◆

L E F T: H O U STO N P O ST C O L L ECT I O N ( 2 ) R I G H T: TO M M Y L AV E R G N E

In other areas, columns and ceilings have been raised along sidewalks, making them more walkable and spacious. “We’ve been peeling things away,” said Arreola.

Keeping It Quirky

On Rice Boulevard at the British Isles, longtime store owner Guy Streatfeild is pleased with recent changes, even the parking meters. He arrived in the Village in the 1990s to revive what had formerly been the British Market. “The Village is always changing,” Streatfeild said from behind the counter of his specialty shop m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   41

NIGHT OWL A series that profiles Owls whose work takes flight at night

Comedy Tonight By Kendall Schoemann


U N DE R STA N D T H AT B E F OR E I E V E N started talking most of you already didn’t like me, and that’s OK because ’80s movies have taught you not to trust someone with my hair and bone structure,” said Matthew Broussard ’10 in introducing his stand-up set on “Conan” in July 2016. “I recently joined a support group for people who peaked in high school — it’s called CrossFit.” Broussard, originally from Atlanta and currently residing in New York City by way of Los Angeles, poked fun at the fact that he looks more like a quintessential high school quarterback than a hip comedian. “I try to have fun with it though,” he said in his set that aired on Comedy Central’s “The Half Hour” in October 2016. “During my lunch breaks, I like to throw on a letter jacket and stop by local high schools and cruise the cafeteria.” Back in 2010, as a recent grad with a degree in computational and applied mathematics, Broussard had never taken an improv class, dabbled in theater or attempted stand-up comedy. He took a job as a financial analyst and, on a whim, decided to try an open mic night. “I started the way anyone starts stand-up — I showed up at a random open mic with three to five minutes of material,” Broussard said. “I tried it and didn’t totally bomb, so I kept doing it.” Bored at his day job, Broussard also began sketching word puzzle puns and posting them to social media. They were so well-received, he launched a webcomic, “Monday Punday,” where he posts a new word puzzle every Monday. “In high school, one of my teachers had this inventory of word puzzle puns that we would start the class with,” he said. “I would draw those for her and kept doing them casually when I had the time. They’re meant to be challenging, and they tend to catch on at places like Rice.” In 2012, just a year after his first open mic performance, Broussard won The Laff Stop’s Houston’s Funniest Person Competition. “That was a wake-up call to me — I realized there was a chance I could succeed at this if I worked really hard,” he said. “I told myself I would move to Los Angeles a year later.” And he did. Broussard’s knack for academically charged


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jokes led him to apply to the college circuit, and that success supported his move. “The college crowds are really smart, and you tend to develop your jokes around your audience,” he said. “The focus of my first album, ‘Pedantic,’ was to see how much academic material I could squeeze in and still have an entertaining hour of comedy.” A few years after moving to LA, Broussard landed an appearance on “Conan.” Broussard said there were several milestones that led up to his comedic success. While still living in Houston, he got a showcase in Cap City, a comedy club in Austin. That showcase led to a Comedy Central set, which landed him representation. “Doing Comedy Central’s ‘The Half Hour’ was a really surreal moment — it was something I watched as a kid,” he said. “And with my ‘Conan’ set, my goal was to see how much of the set I could fill with gynecology jokes — three minutes and 50 seconds out of my five minutes were medically accurate vagina jokes, which is one of my prouder moments.” Because Broussard’s parents are both scientists and somewhat leery of their son’s comedy career, he tries to create comedy that’s on the nerdy side. “Rice taught me the value of knowledge and learning that I try to take with me into stand-up. I like jokes that may educate you on something you didn’t know before.” Broussard’s creative process for writing academic jokes typically starts with research. “I’ll go down a research wormhole and start to notice interesting things,” he said. “Typically the details that are funny are minute — things right under the surface that go unnoticed. One of the jokes on my last album was about the revelation that every part of the female anatomy that is named after a person, is named after a man. I found that funny and started to write around that. I think there’s so much untapped humor in academic subjects.” He also uses Facebook and Twitter to gauge reactions to jokes before potentially incorporating them into his set. On gig days, Broussard’s schedule starts late and ends early. “There’s no regularity to my schedule, but a show that starts before 8 p.m. is rare and undesirable,” he said. After getting in a workout, he typically spends his time before shows drawing “Monday Punday” or sculpting to “open up” his brain, working on jokes or going to auditions. He also takes the occasional acting gig. Broussard plans to keep building his stand-up career in ways that allow him to both entertain and educate audiences. “Comedian satirists have become the most respectable [news] sources — the people we turn to most quickly.”

Are you a night owl? Does your work schedule typically begin when the sun goes down? Send us a note at


Typically the details that are funny are minute — things right under the surface that go unnoticed.

c reat ive i deas a nd e ndeavo rs

The Universe Re-Imagined This spring, artist Josiah McElheny’s sculptures and lectures explored paths to alternative futures and different, imagined universes at the Moody Center for the Arts.


H AT P O S S I B L E C O R R E L AT I O N I S there among poet Paul Scheerbart (1863–1915), architect Bruno Taut (1880–1938), painters Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) and Blinky Palermo (1943–1977), and musicians Sun Ra (1914–1993) and Pauline Oliveros (1932–2016)? The answer: “imaginary modernism.” You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard the term before, said Josiah McElheny, a prolific visual artist, writer, curator and filmmaker. “It’s a term that, with these lectures collectively, I’m trying to define.” This year’s Campbell Lecture Series — a prestigious three-night event held March 20–22 — incorporated audio, video and a live jazz performance as a means of exploring alternative paths in the history of 20th-century art, architecture and music. As the invited speaker, McElheny delivered three talks that engaged the eyes, ears and imaginations of the audience. But the lecture series was not the only opportunity for Rice students, faculty and


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a rt s & L e t t e rs

staff and the Houston community to engage with McElheny. In a creative collaboration between the Moody and the School of Humanities, McElheny was invited to not only speak at the university, but also to present a solo exhibition of his work in the Moody’s Brown Foundation and Media Arts galleries. Through June 2, McElheny’s monumental installation — “Island Universe” — is on view at the Moody Center for the Arts. The futuristic structures, comprising five hanging sculptures composed of chromed metal, handblown glass and light, are modeled on an iconic midcentury design object: the chandeliers of the Metropolitan Opera in New York made by J. & L. Lobmeyr in Vienna in 1965. Each sculpture pictures a different potential universe

where their spheres represent clusters of galaxies and their lights evoke quasars — the brightest objects in the universe — all carefully placed according to measurements marking the history of time. The lectures opened with a discussion of the collaborations between poet-theorist Scheerbart and activist-architect Taut and how their ideas speak to the present. On the second night, McElheny introduced the audience to painters Klint and Palermo and discussed their attempts to make visible a world beyond. The final night of the series focused on two seemingly unrelated musicians: Sun Ra, the Alabama-born jazz composer and bandleader whose cosmic philosophy, sound and aesthetic was at its peak during his work with the well-known musical collective The Arkestra during the 1950s, and Houston-born Oliveros, a composer, accordionist and central figure in the development of electronic and experimental art music during the 1960s. “The reason I wanted to speak about these two composers, musicians and philosophers together is because of how they blended politics and aesthetics and how they both thought on a cosmic and planetary scale,” McElheny said. Both took their main inspiration from seemingly opposite sources, but shared the ability to move easily between cosmic realms and more earthly, practical concerns, he said. “In other words, their activities include irreconcilable sets of contradictions and a strangeness to us today.” And that, McElheny said, is what defines imaginary modernism: “a nonsystem of contradictions.” In creating such wildly innovative pieces that demanded as much energy from their audience as they put into their own work, Sun Ra and Oliveros both left a legacy that’s a tribute to what they saw as an infinite universe full of ideas. Think bigger; think bolder; think on a planetary scale, but also on a human scale; listen more; give more — these are the instructions left to us by these two visionaries.  — KATHARINE SHILCUTT Check out the Moody Center for the Arts for additional programming related to Josiah McElheny’s “Island Universe” at The Campbell Lecture Series was made possible by a $1 million contribution from T.C. Campbell ’34, who wanted to further the study of literature and the humanities with a 20-year annual series of public lectures. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   45

a rt s & l e t t e rs | A lu m n i b o o k s

Author Q&A

How does your writing reflect your culture?

Anna Meriano ’13

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble (Walden Pond Press, 2018)

First of all, the whole idea of the book’s family magic is tied to MexicanAmerican culture and traditions, and I wanted that heritage to be a source of power and joy for Leo and her sisters. At the same time, Leo worries that she won’t fit into her family’s tradition, especially because she can’t speak Spanish as well as her older sisters. This uncertainty reflects my own feelings being both Latina and white and growing up in Texas, surrounded by so many other people with Latino heritage. Ultimately, I hope the book affirms that there are many different ways to express or connect to culture, and that there is strength in tradition and heritage.

You’ve said in previous interviews that you like translating English songs into Spanish and American Sign Language. Do you think language is important for diversity? ANNA MERIANO ’13 MAY DO MOST of her work in a classroom as a tutor and

part-time creative writing teacher, but she can certainly write her way around a bakery. Meriano’s debut novel, “Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble,” stars 11-year-old Leonora “Leo” Logroño, who discovers that the women in her family are brujas — witches of Mexican ancestry. Caught up in a world of magic, Leo must decide what to do with her newfound powers. Meriano weaves a story of family, friendship and magic in a novel that will enchant readers of all ages.

Did you always want to be a children’s author?

I always wanted to make up stories. I started writing before I knew which way the letters faced, and I made and illustrated a picture book when I was 4 years old. I’m drawn to children’s literature because that’s still what I love reading. I find that children’s writers tend to feel their responsibilities to their audiences more keenly than do adult writers. We want to write books that turn kids into readers. I think this focus on the audience keeps children’s literature fun, earnest and entertaining, which is why the books can be so enjoyable for people of all ages. 46 

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What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration for the story came from Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, the founders of CAKE Literary (a book packaging and literary development company with a commitment to diversity). When I first met with them to discuss the project, what drew me in was the way culture, tradition and magic blended together to become a real celebration of family and heritage. I’ve always loved books about girls discovering powers they never knew they had, so I knew pretty quickly that I absolutely wanted to write this book.

I do. I love seeing how different languages mix in communities or even small groups where many members are multilingual. As someone whose goal is to manipulate language and create characters with different viewpoints, it never hurts to gather new ideas from a wide range of sources.

How did you nurture your literary aspirations at Rice?

I stubbornly took and retook all the fiction courses in the creative writing track. I even convinced some of my English professors to let me write stories instead of essays for my finals. For my senior thesis, I worked on a collection of short stories with Ian Schimmel [lecturer of English] as my adviser, which helped me develop enough material to apply for creative writing MFA programs. Rice ended up being a great place for me to write, even though I had to be a little creative about my path. 


A lu m n i b o o k s | a rt s & L e t t e rs

ON THE BOOKSHELF Nairobi Days Shelina Shariff-Zia ’85 (Dog Ear Publishing, 2017)

The Which Way Tree Elizabeth Crook ’82 (Little, Brown and Company, 2018)

It’s an early morning in Civil War-era Texas when 6-year-old Samantha is mauled by a panther. She survives but is horribly disfigured, and her mother perishes in her attempt to save Sam’s life. Years later, Sam and her half-brother, Benjamin, set out to hunt and kill the panther that attacked their family. Teaming up with a Tejano outlaw, a preacher and his tracking dog, this tale of adventure on the frontier takes readers across the Lone Star State with Sam’s singular mission at the forefront: vengeance. Elizabeth Crook ’82 employs rich storytelling to highlight the unconditional strength of the siblings’ bond and humankind’s ongoing struggle to dominate the wild world around us.

Drawing from personal and family history, Shelina Shariff-Zia ’85 crafts the fictional narrative of Shaza, a young Indian woman growing up in Kenya. “Nairobi Days” chronicles Shaza’s coming-of-age story as she manages her strict family life, a forbidden romance and the country’s political turmoil. Rice enters the scene when Shaza attends the university in the 1980s, where she must acclimate to a dramatically different lifestyle. Shaza struggles to fit in and is shocked by some Rice traditions like Baker 13, but she joins KTRU and begins to find her way. Shariff-Zia made her career in journalism and currently teaches at Bronx Community College.

Constructing Houston’s Future: The Architecture of Arthur Evan Jones & Lloyd Morgan Jones Ben Koush ’02 (Houston Mod, 2017)

Architect Ben Koush ’02 celebrates Arthur Evan Jones ’47, whose firm, Lloyd Morgan Jones, played a key role in shaping some of Houston’s most iconic structures, such as the Astrodome, and several buildings on Rice’s campus, including Rice Stadium, Jones College, Sewall Hall and more. The book is organized into two sections, one that profiles the developers and other architects who helped make Jones’ dream possible, and another that highlights the history behind 50 of his structures, complete with photographs and blueprints. Koush emphasizes Jones’ unrelenting modernism, wise business partnerships and commitment to the progressive vision he had for Houston.

Because I’d Hate to Just Disappear: My Cancer, My Self, Our Story Don Hardy ’88 with Heather Hardy ’74 (University of Nevada Press, 2018)

“Because I’d Hate to Just Disappear” recounts the true story of Don Hardy’s ’88 battle with cancer. In a departure from the traditional memoir, the reader gets two perspectives in each chapter: Don’s narrative as well as a response from his wife, Heather Hardy ’74. The Hardys combine their linguistic talents to offer an honest, philosophical, yet charmingly witty telling of Don’s “progression from prediagnosed naïveté to post-treatment introspection.” Don and Heather are retired and living in Reno, Nev., after accomplished careers in higher education.  — KYNDALL KRIST m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   47


Woodson Turns 50

AT THE HEART OF FONDREN LIBRARY, the Woodson Research Center Special Collections and Archives is a treasure trove of artifacts, including rare photos, documents and memorabilia that range from the quirky and fun to the somber and informative. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodson, which was ranked among the 20 most impressive university special collections by Online Education Database. With the help of Melissa Kean ’00, centennial historian, we examined a few unique pieces to showcase Woodson’s dedication to preserving Rice history and to honor the center’s 50 years of service to the university.

Lovett’s Spectacles


HandCarved Rice Owl Toilet Seat


In this version of Monopoly, players can buy Lovett College, Baker College, Fondren Library or even Willy’s statue for up to $4,000 “Owl-opoly” bucks. But first, choose to play as President David Leebron, William Marsh Rice or your favorite mascot, Sammy! We applaud whomever came up with this ingenious idea.

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Who could have come up with the idea of a Rice Owl toilet seat? We don’t know either, but we can thank Jeff E. Ross ’75, who, at the suggestion of his wife, donated the toilet seat that had been gathering dust in their garage. He apparently bought it at a garage sale about four decades ago. Although its true origin remains a mystery, we’re grateful that this quirky piece has a new home at Woodson.

Computer Panel

At one corner of the archives stands a large glass panel. A complicated web of cables runs within. The panel is one of 20 that were constructed for a computer built by Rice students between 1958 and 1961 to support research that, as the story goes, would have been impossible without it. The computer itself remained in operation through the late 1960s as a model of how they should be built. Kean discovered the panel in a storage closet in Abercrombie Engineering Laboratory and had it moved to Woodson.  — A version of this article first appeared on


At the far end of the archives is a box containing objects that were on the desk of Rice’s first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, at the time of his death in 1957. The box includes an address book filled with pages of his tiny, neat handwriting. There are documents, books, a pen and a paperweight, among other things. But what may really impress the history buff is his pair of foldable, round spectacles, which are still intact. Lovett continued to have an office on campus as president emeritus years after he stepped down as president.

Above: Russ in front of the Pitman Oculus at the Moody Center for the Arts, 2017 Framed photo: Russ as a Rice senior, 1958

Russ Pitman ’58 has enjoyed what one might call an “Owl’s-eye view” of Rice University over the last half-century — a perspective that can only come from deep personal experience. An alumnus, former staff member and dedicated supporter, Russ chooses to give back using a wide variety of gift planning tools. For example, he has established more than 50 charitable gift annuities, which provide immediate and future support for the university he loves. “I consider Rice to be my family and my second home,” says Russ. “I’ve enjoyed establishing charitable gift annuities because they enable me to create funds in honor of my friends, while supporting the future of Rice.”

To learn more about To Rice Be True, the flagship initiative for gift planning at Rice, visit m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   3

Rice University, Creative Services–MS 95 P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892

One Small Sip Photo of Giant Leap Coffee barista Ryan Murray by Trevor Wiggins

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Permit #7549 Houston, Texas

IN CREATING GIANT LEAP COFFEE, Logan Beck ’09 drew inspiration from far, far away to bring this space-themed café down to Earth — or, more specifically, to Houston’s East End. With a visual arts degree from Rice and a background in photography and sculpture, he established a design and fabrication company called rootlab, through which Beck helped design local businesses like Boomtown Coffee and Catalina Coffee. Earlier this year, Beck launched his own café, Giant Leap, which combines sleek, futuristic decor with locally roasted coffee. Read about his tips for crafting the perfect coffee shop in the Summer 2018 issue, which will focus on beverages — and the passionate, entrepreneurial alumni who create them. From flavorful cups of coffee to wines and spirits of distinction, Rice Owls are crafting and selling delicious drinks for all seasons.

Profile for Rice University

Rice Magazine | Spring 2018  

Rice Magazine | Spring 2018