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The Magazine of Rice University

FALL 2018

GEN NEXT

A parliament of “20 Under 30” Owls who are building lives with passion and purpose

ALSO WAYNE GRAHAM Paying tribute to a baseball legend JOSH EARNEST In conversation with political scientist Robert Stein


The Magazine of Rice University

Fall 2018

Contents F EATUR ES

22

31

By James Costanzo

By Holly Beretto, Deborah Lynn Blumberg, James Costanzo, Lynn Gosnell, Sarah Brenner Jones and Kendall Schoemann

END OF AN ERA

Legendary baseball coach Wayne Graham has retired after 27 seasons at Rice, but his legacy continues. In this photo essay, we honor Graham’s illustrious career.

28

NONSTOP FROM D.C. Interview by Robert Stein

Political science professor Robert Stein sits down with Josh Earnest ’97 to discuss Earnest’s previous role as White House press secretary and his current gig as chief communications officer for United Airlines.

20 UNDER 30

Meet 20 young alumni who are building their careers with creativity, purpose and enthusiasm. Through a wide variety of pursuits — including filmmaking, podcasting, athletics, politics and more — these Owls have left the nest to achieve great things.

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NIGHT OWL

By Aaron Jaco

As an opera singer, Anna Christy Stepp ’98 travels the globe to perform on some of the world’s most famous stages.

D EPA RTM EN TS

JOSH EAR NEST

at the United Airlines headquarters in Chicago. Photo by Sara Stathas

P R E S I D E N T ’ S N OT E 

5

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

6

SCOREBOARD Dispatches from Rice Athletics

12

A B ST R ACT  Findings, research and more

14

ARTS & LETTERS  Creative ideas and endeavors

44

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

48


on the web magazine.rice.edu

Featured Contributors WATCH

A GRAND NEW GARDEN

Catch a glimpse of the Betty and Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden, where teams of students led by Joe Novak gain firsthand knowledge about irrigation, crop rotation, pest control and growing produce, with a focus on sustainability and inclusivity. LISTEN

VIRTUOSITY AND HUMOR

Operatic soprano Anna Christy Stepp ’98 stuns audiences around the world with her powerful performances and mesmerizing voice. Watch a clip of her performance as Morgana in the Sante Fe Opera’s production of Handel’s “Alcina.” WATCH

O-WEEK REWIND

From move in to matriculation, hit rewind and experience the excitement of O-Week 2018 as a new generation of first-year students begin their life at Rice with fun, friends and fireworks. WATCH

THE AMAZING HYDRA

Scientists at Rice and the University of California, Davis are studying a tiny invertebrate with amazing regenerative properties. Hydra could become a star in the research lab universe.

Daniel Ford (“A Murder, a Mystery and a Vision”) is a marketing writer in Rice’s Department of Development and Alumni Relations. A native Texan, he’s lived in Houston for 12 years. Anje Jager (“20 Under 30”) is an award-winning illustrator based in Berlin. Her clients include Stanford Business Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Greenpeace and Monocle, among others. Sarah Brenner Jones (“20 Under 30”) is a native Texan who has taught writing and rhetoric, worked as a marketing director and is currently a development writer at Rice. Sara Stathas (“Nonstop From D.C.”) is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Time magazine.

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 2 

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

R i c e M a g a z i n e | Fa l l 2 0 1 8

Photo by Tommy LaVergne

Clockwise from far left: Andrew McDermott ’10, Audra Herrera ’12, Gabe Baker ’14, Alicia Dugar Stephenson ’12 and Erika Kwee ’12


foreword A fall constant — Rice Powderpuff games

The Magazine of Rice University FALL 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

Lynn Gosnell ART DIRECTOR

Alese Pickering CREATIVE SERVICES

Jeff Cox SENIOR DIRECTOR

Dean Mackey SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Jackie Limbaugh GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Tracey Rhoades EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Kyndall Krist ASSISTANT EDITOR

Tommy LaVergne SENIOR UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHER

Jeff Fitlow UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHER

Jenny Rozelle ’00 PROOFREADER CONTRIBUTING

P H OTO BY TO M M Y L AV E R G N E

STAFF

Holly Beretto, Jade Boyd, James Costanzo, Jon-Paul Estrada, Jeff Falk, Jennifer Latson, Brandon Martin, Kendall Schoemann, Katharine Shilcutt, Mike Williams INTERNS

Isaiah Rodriguez ’19 Mariana Najera ’21 Bryan N. Demoraes ’21

All-Season Issue

L

IKE MOST OF our quarterly magazines, this one combines long-term planning and pure serendipity. Last winter, we put out a call for nominations for our very first “20 under 30” alumni feature. Our invitation was simple: Tell us about young alumni who are “accomplished, focused, inspiring and whose stories evoke a bit of Rice’s unconventional wisdom.” We are so grateful to the many Rice alumni who responded with a sense of obvious pride about their fellow classmates, former students and friends. Ultimately, we assembled a group of young alumni who do exemplify unconventional wisdom with pursuits as diverse as the performing arts, civil

engineering, writing, global health, social justice, military service, entrepreneurship, journalism, architecture and more. Needless to say, we learned about more young alumni than we could include in this feature. (Stay tuned — an annual roundup is under discussion.) We hope you enjoy this inaugural effort and perhaps see someone you know. As the spring unfolded, we discussed ways to honor Rice’s legendary baseball coach Wayne Graham. Our photo essay not only highlights Graham’s 27 years at Rice, but also his connection to baseball’s golden age, as our writer points out. Summer brought us an unexpected opportunity to bring together one of Rice’s most distinguished

teachers with an accomplished former student for a one-of-a-kind conversation. Through fortunate circumstances and the generosity of the participants themselves, Rice political scientist Robert Stein interviewed former White House press secretary Josh Earnest ’97. Our excerpts of two lively conversations give readers a peek into a very public position and a pivotal moment in U.S. history. Finally, fall brought huge news about Rice’s ongoing commitment to its students. A new initiative, The Rice Investment, will dramatically expand financial aid to low- and middle-income students. As President David Leebron notes, while Rice’s financial aid policies are generous, the university can do more — especially for students from middleincome families. Turn to his column to read about this milestone announcement. As we go to press, semester midterms are wreaking havoc with sleep cycles, but fall break is just around the corner. Houston is still waiting for a cool front to justify ordering one of the Rice Coffeehouse’s pumpkin spice specialties (Basic Witch, Mochus Pocus or Spoopynut). Welcome to a new academic year and an issue for all seasons.  — LYNN GOSNELL

m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   3


letters YOU R A RT IC L E ON T H E R IC E Village spoke volumes to me and my family. How great to see Kegg’s Candies on your Village marquee illustration. There is probably more tie-in to Rice than you know. My father, Robert Kegg ’42, opened that store with his brother, David Kegg ’39, after they attended Rice. My sister, Colleen Kegg ’73, and I worked at Kegg’s in the 1970s when we were students at Rice. My son and daughter, Andy ’07 and Sally Johnson ’08, remember the legacy as they attended Rice. Of course, we all hung out in the Village while in school. I went on to open my own chocolate shop in Santa Barbara with my husband, Tim Johnson ’74. After 38 years, we recently closed this shop. We stay in touch with many former Kegg’s customers and Rice alumni through seasonal ordering of these great chocolates. Thanks for the memories! — KAREN KEGG ’76 SUMMER 2018 SPRING 2018

A S A ’ 76 G R A D UAT E , I can say that I have observed the history of the Village through its ups and downs. We recently moved to the Hanover Southampton building after decades in West U. I love the Village, it’s always been an important part of my life in Houston. In the last year I have noticed way too many empty storefronts. Many of these spaces have remained unleased for far too long. Monday through Thursday, the streets and the stores are quiet. Additionally, I talk to retailers, young and old, recent and longtimers, local and national businesses, and have found few happy souls. The reasons? I was given a mix of higher rents, obtrusive meters including on the ground floor of the garage, and landlords who don’t readily respond to concerns. I have no connections to any retailers. Granted, there are multiple landlords in the Village, but Rice has an overriding responsibility, as it sets policy and others appear to follow. The bright updates and the events on Morningside Plaza are welcomed — noticeable empty spaces are not. 

— NABILA CRONFEL KINGHORN ’76

THE PHOTO OF THE I N T E R I O R of Valhalla in the Summer 2018 issue brought back nostalgic memories for me. I was a new grad student in chemistry when I learned of the effort to convert the old paint shop to what became Valhalla. The project was spearheaded by Tom Nichols ’71 and Kurt Alex ’72, a chemistry postdoc. Dozens of us worked in our spare time to complete the transformation. The oak-paneled seats were taken from storage after Lovett Hall was renovated. The first foosball table was purchased with monies loaned by two grad students, Carl Christensen ’73 and Bob Loewenstein ’67, and their spouses. I recall making regular restocking runs to Houston Restaurant Supply on Old Spanish Trail, and when Valhalla opened at 4 p.m. on Fridays, I was one of the original TGIF bartenders. The others were Rich Gandour ’72, Scott Glaspie ’74 and Charles V. “Skip” Smith ’70. It has been gratifying to realize that we had a hand in the beginning of an enduring Rice tradition. — DAVID BISHOP ’75

Have a comment, criticism or story idea? Write to us at ricemagazine@rice.edu. 4 

R i c e M a g a z i n e | FALL 2 0 1 8

THE RICE UNIVE RSITY BOARD OF TRUSTE ES

Robert B. Tudor III, chairman; Edward B. “Teddy” Adams Jr.; J.D. Bucky Allshouse; Donald Bowers; Bart Broadman; Nancy Packer Carlson; Albert Chao; Mark D. Dankberg; Ann Doerr; Douglas Lee Foshee; Terrence Gee; Lawrence H. Guffey; James T. Hackett; Tommy Huie; Patti Lipoma Kraft; Robert T. Ladd; Holli Ladhani; L. Charles Landgraf; Brian Patterson; David Rhodes; Jeffery A. Smisek; 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 International Operations and IT and chief information officer; Kevin Kirby, vice president for Administration; Caroline Levander, vice president for Global and Digital Strategy; 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 ricemagazine@rice.edu POSTMASTE R

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

I L LU ST R AT I O N BY A M Y C. E VA N S ; P H OTO BY TO M M Y L AV E R G N E

Dear Editors:


president’s note DAVID W. LEEBRON

Back to the Future

S

IX YEARS AGO, we celebrated the centennial of the opening of Rice University. There was a great deal to celebrate. This included not only all we had achieved over a century — all the students we had educated and the impactful research we had conducted — but also a great future ahead. This was made possible in no small measure by the generosity of our alumni and friends, who contributed over $1 billion to the future success of our university during our Centennial Campaign. Three years ago, we passed another milestone, albeit one we admittedly took little notice of. The year 2015 marked 50 years since Rice, which had been tuition-free since its founding, started charging tuition. At the time this decision was made, Rice’s endowment was not especially large, and the additional resources were necessary if Rice were to be able to continue providing the best quality education and pursuing its aspirations to be one of the nation’s top research universities. Why had Rice been free in the first place? Our original benefactor, William Marsh Rice; our founding president, Edgar Odell Lovett; and our first board of trustees recognized a need to extend educational opportunity to young people, especially in Texas, who otherwise could not afford it. There was little in the way of educational scholarships in the early 20th century. One might sum up the basic founding philosophy of Rice in three words: Talent deserves opportunity. For over half a century, Rice provided that opportunity to all it admitted, regardless of their means, by not charging tuition. That approach ended in 1965 after Rice changed its charter to allow it to charge tuition. But immediately with that decision, Rice also started to provide scholarship assistance. In the 50 years since, many things have changed across the landscape of higher education. Tuition has increased to high levels. Debt burdens have for some become unsustainable, and have affected the choices available to graduates. Rice has had one of the most generous financial aid programs. Particularly in recent years, we have made it more affordable to those from low-income families, providing more generous financial aid and not requiring students from families earning less than $80,000 a year to take out loans to pay their educational costs. What has become increasingly clear across America is that while very substantial resources have been made available to low-income students, students from middle-income fami-

lies, and even above, are being squeezed and often believe they cannot afford an institution like Rice. We determined that Rice should lead on this issue by taking, if you will, a step backward into the future. In September, we announced The Rice Investment. We use investment here in several senses. It refers to the original investment that founded Rice over a century ago. It refers to the continued investment that has made our success possible and helped fund generations of deserving students. It refers to our confidence in the necessary investment our alumni and friends will make in the future. And most of all, it refers to our investment in the promising young women and men who, armed with a Rice education, will move our world forward.

Middle-income students from families earning between $65,000 and $130,000 will receive a financial aid award that covers full tuition. The basic elements are relatively simple and transparent. Students from families who earn less than $65,000 (with typical assets) will receive financial aid that covers tuition, fees, room and board. Middle-income students from families earning between $65,000 and $130,000 (with typical assets) will receive a financial aid award that covers full tuition, making the Rice education affordable for a large swath of American families. And families earning between $130,000 and $200,000 will receive a financial aid package in the amount of at least half tuition. Students receiving these awards will not be required to borrow to fund their education.  We believe this bold step reflects our founding principles. Candidly, taking this step before we have raised all the funding entails some risk. But we have seen time and again our alumni and friends step forward to enable Rice to be at the forefront of education and research, and to enable Rice and our students to contribute to the betterment of our world. At Rice, we see firsthand the difference that students from every background can make in every human endeavor. It is the very essence of our university that Rice must remain affordable for every student who can earn admission. Why? Because talent deserves opportunity. m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   5


SALLYPORT

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

PHOTO BY TOMMY LAVERGNE


sa l ly p o rt

BY THE NUMBERS TRADITIONS

Ready, Set, GO-Week WELCOMING INCOMING freshmen to Rice is a yearlong

project supervised by dozens of students, staff and volunteers who create welcome vide-Os, portfoli-Os and, best of all, dozens of punny O-Week themes. Here’s the scenari-O. Three students who have signed up to be O-Week coordinators from each college get together during the spring semester to choose a theme, explained Duncan senior Jason Barton. Barton, along with Rachel Wiggans ’18, was in charge of the campuswide O-Week — a paid position that lasts almost a year. “The students usually brainstorm themes that resonate with their mission statements, visions and goals for O-Week,” he said. One widely observed rule is that the theme must end in the sound of the letter O. Points for cleverness abound. In 2010’s freshman handbook, Will Rice went with “Uh-Oh Week: An O-Week of Bad Ideas” and used an image of a fork approaching an electrical socket. Sid Rich’s 2008 motto was “Trashy Talk ShO-Week.” The themes set the tone for each college’s O-Week activities. Decorations are prepared, props are set up, and T-shirts designed and printed. Some themes seek to be timely: McMurtry’s 2010 “RonaldOWeek” referenced one of that summer’s World Cup stars. Pop culture puns are perennial faves. Jones’ 2011 theme was “Pikachu GO-Week,” and Sid Rich’s 2004 subject was “Carmen SandiegO-Week,” playing off a PBS children’s show. While literary and movie themes are extremely popular, the award for most cinematic citations probably goes to “Star Wars,” which has enthralled generations of O-Week coordinators. There have been at least three “Hans SolO-Weeks” over the years: Will Rice 1996, Duncan 2010 and Brown 2016. Among the 2018 crop of themes, Wiggans calls out Baker College’s “Oh the Places You’ll GO-Week,” inspired by the Dr. Seuss classic. “It really embodies the transition these students are making coming to Rice and emphasizes all the future opportunities that come along with it,” she said. Barton is partial to Duncan’s “CheeriO-Week: Be Happy, Be Healthy,” “because they wanted to emphasize the importance of mental and physical health on college campuses.” Wiess College takes a different approach. Its theme, every year, is simply “Team Family Wiess.” — FRANZ BROTZEN ’80

OUR NEWEST OWLS (FRESHMEN AND TRANSFERS)

16%

872

increase in applicants over previous year

U.S. students TOP STATES Texas (387)

11%

California (82) New York (33)

acceptance rate

Florida (29)

959

Illinois (25)

39

international students

126

first-time students

transfer students

TOP COUNTRIES

37

China (59) South Korea (7) Mexico (5)

countries represented

Taiwan (5)

DIVERSITY: FRESHMAN CLASS* 10% Black or AfricanAmerican

20% Latino or Hispanic

6% Two or more races, nonHispanic

36% White

28% Asian

American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and Unknown: < 1%

See all of the 2018 O-Week T-shirts at magazine.rice.edu. *Based on federal categories for race/ethnicity for domestic students only; numbers are rounded to nearest percent. m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   7


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

ANATOMY OF A RICE CLASS

Tracing City Histories MORE THAN 7 BILLION PEOPLE LIVE on our planet at this moment. Slightly half of those people live in cities, and that number is rising by the day. “By the year 2050, we’ll have about 10 billion people on the planet, and about 70 percent of them will live in cities,” said Richard Johnson ’92, a sustainability expert and professor at Rice. “That’s 7 billion people.” And while 32 years may seem like a lifetime away to some, others — such as the students who visited Paris and London with Johnson during a summer course designed to examine urban sustainability efforts — will be tackling this issue during the prime of their lives. This was the third summer Johnson took students to study abroad for the fiveweek Seminar in Urban Sustainability and Livability Research Methods and Applications.

ENST 445

Seminar in Urban Sustainability and Livability Research Methods and Applications DEPARTMENT Environmental Studies DESCRIPTION Students visit Paris and London over a five-week summer course to study techniques and methods for achieving sustainable growth applied in actual urban settings.

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PARIS AND LONDON, the dual sites of this summer’s program, offered drastically different takes on urban planning and design, challenging the idea that there exists a one-size-fitsall approach to creating livable urban centers. “A lot of what we think about as Paris was a deliberate act of authoritarian urbanism in the mid-to-late 19th century under Napoleon III,” said Johnson. Paris had previously been a dark maze of twisting medieval streets plagued by sewage and other perils of overpopulation, until the grand avenues and broad-fronted buildings of urban planner Georges-Eugène Haussmann utterly transformed the landscape of the city between 1853 and 1870. But this was no mere beautification project. “Part of the motivation for doing this was to improve circulation

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around the city, to open the city up, to provide more light and air, to connect the new technology of the rail stations with each other, to provide infrastructure for water and sewage, and to end the massive cholera outbreaks,” said Johnson. And in London? “The Crown was never willing to have that same heavy hand,” said Johnson. “So you have this city that’s continued to grow up on this medieval street pattern — these small, twisty, windy roads — and they’ve had to figure out over time how to keep the city modern and relevant.” Put another way, Johnson said, “Paris offers these complete ensembles; in London, you can explore layers of history in a single block.” And it’s this dichotomy that afforded students the chance to examine, in context, the best and worst

responses to the cities’ growing populations over centuries of economic booms and environmental busts. A dozen students made the trip in total, engaging in handson learning through everything from visiting public parks with local urban planning experts to taking a tour of London’s loos. “I saw many aspects of urban sustainability implemented more effectively than they have been in Houston,” said senior Allison Yelvington. “This gave me both hope and ideas for what could be possible in American cities.”  — KATHARINE SHILCUTT Richard Johnson is the director of Rice’s Administrative Center for Sustainability and Energy Management and a professor in the practice of environmental studies.


Stopping by this neighborhood fruit stand to visit Mrs. Peng has become a daily ritual for Zach Bielak.

你好 WRITING HOME

[Greetings From China] ZACH BIELAK ’15

I

TRY TO SNEAK BY, but even in the bustling morning crowds she manages to spot me. “早上好,” she calls in Chinese. “Come look at my fresh fruit today.” As her excitement and beaming smile draw me in, I prepare answers to some of the usual questions: How are my friends? How is my family back in the U.S.? And even though I haven’t yet touched the kilogram of fruit I bought yesterday, I pick out more. By this point, Mrs. Peng is no longer just the fruit stand owner below my apartment; she’s a long-lost aunt. Today’s special is lychee, and as always, she throws in an extra piece.

PHOTO BY THEODORE KAYE

China doesn’t have a reputation for being a terribly friendly country, but in my eyes, it is. It’s what first lured me to Shenzhen — a sprawling “midsized” city of 20 million people that neighbors Hong Kong — and what has convinced me to not leave anytime soon. Here, I work as a mechanical engineer and project manager for a small consumer electronics design house. It’s fascinating work, as I get to design alongside both Chinese and “foreign” engineers, developing products that eventually touch all corners of the globe. It also has me constantly visiting workshops in the bona fide “factory of the world,” where I get to meet the people who make it possible. The iPhone you’re holding in your hand? Yep, it’s made in Shenzhen. Beyond the engineering marvels, the city operates at the speed of light: Its same-day shipping (often for free) puts Amazon to shame, and it has more electric buses than the total number of buses in the U.S. And yet, as a huge domestic immigration hub for Chinese people, it keeps

alive so many of the rich cultural traditions that vary from province to province — reminiscent of the diversity found in Houston, which happens to be Shenzhen’s sister city. Perhaps most fascinatingly, Shenzhen manages to maintain the feeling of an urban village where shopkeepers often know you by name. But of course, it’s not all peachy keen. Having only an intermediate understanding of Mandarin, I can only understand a fraction of the advertisements I see, the groceries I purchase and the deliverymen who demand step-bystep directions to my apartment. What’s more, the recent increase in diplomatic tensions sometimes makes me wonder how much longer my work visa will continue to be renewed. But to me, it’s worth it. Learning about the Chinese culture, language and important current events from the inside is priceless — if for nothing else than to better understand 1.4 billion of my fellow passengers on spaceship Earth. And, of course, to eat some fantastic lychee every morning. 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 Idea Engineer Bioengineer Maria Oden brings an enthusiastic, scholarly and deeply collaborative perspective to the multifaceted issue of global health inequities and challenges. Since 2008, Oden has served as director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) — Rice’s engineering prototyping powerhouse. More than 1,300 students per year and dozens of courses have used the OEDK’s state-of-the-art facilities to develop engineering solutions to a wide variety of real-world challenges.

Oden is also co-director of Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, where students and staff work to develop technical solutions to global health challenges. Rice 360° is the lead of NEST360°, an international team of medical professionals and scientists dedicated to reducing newborn deaths in Africa. Last year, NEST360° was named a MacArthur Foundation 100&Change finalist and received a $15 million grant for continued work. Oden is a two-time recipient of the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching. ON G R OW I NG U P I N B R A Z I L ...

I spent my early years in São Paulo, from when I was born until just before high school. When we moved to the States, for me, it was like moving away from home. Growing up in São Paulo, I was exposed to much inequality. When we moved to a suburb of Chicago, the kids in the community weren’t really as aware of the world as I think young people are today. I was the girl from Brazil and endured a lot of funny questions, like “Do you live in a treehouse?” … A N D HOW I T SHAPED MY CAREER P H I L O S OP H Y

It influenced the way I think about partnering with communities. I think we, as Americans, tend to have the idea that we’re going to go somewhere and fix things — but while this approach might result in a short-term impact, it may be for the wrong reasons. I believe 10 

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ILLUSTRATION BY ADAM CRUFT


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

that working collaboratively with key local partners will allow solutions to become institutionalized, resulting in a long-term difference. FA I L I NG B E T T E R

At the OEDK, we have adopted the “fail early and often for sooner success” concept. Try things out, and if they don’t work, stop. Do that quickly in rapid succession so you can triage the good from the bad before you’ve gotten to the end of the course. I try to keep the focus on really solving the problem. Now instead of going into senior year where the capstone class is their first opportunity to work on a real-world project, half of the students are seasoned, having worked on design projects as underclassmen. DE S IG N F OR G L OB A L H E A LT H

The global health work I do is completely aligned with the OEDK because it involves real-world projects. Now we’re partnering with universities in Africa and Brazil. They’re building engineering design studios like the design kitchen. That’s a really exciting next step. The University of Malawi Polytechnic has officially changed their curriculum for bioengineers and electrical engineers to include some aspect of openended design in all years — a departure from a very traditional British system that didn’t accommodate openended problems very well. R E AC H I NG B E YON D E NG I N E E R I NG

My personal passion for

real-world projects is in the area of global health. My personal passion in terms of teaching is to enable excellent engineering teaching through using real-world problems. For me, the global health piece reaches beyond engineering, because we have many students who are not engineers. I just taught the global health design capstone class, and I said, “I’ll talk about the engineering design process. Most of you in the room

science or policy studies. There’s a little bit of team management involved. I tell them, “You have one product to deliver. Figure out how you’re going to work best together. Engineer or not, you’re all problem-solvers. Nonengineers, you’re going to have to stretch and learn some things that you might not know. And guess what, engineers? You’re going to have to stretch and learn some things you might not know, so get after it.”

I believe that working collaboratively with key local partners will allow solutions to become institutionalized, resulting in a long-term difference.

are not engineers.” This is a problem-solving process, and everybody brings their perspective to the table to solve these problems. If it were just a technical challenge, it probably would’ve been solved, but there are social implications, policy implications and many other things that should be thought about as we create solutions to these problems. I N T E R DI S C I P L I NA RY TEAMS

Sometimes we put global health students on teams with engineers, sometimes we don’t. There might be students majoring in biosciences, kinesiology, cognitive

T H E N E S T360o C H A L L E NG E

As a finalist for the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition, we were awarded a $15 million grant toward the NEST360o goal, which is to halve the number of newborn deaths in sub-Saharan Africa within the next 10 years. Isn’t that amazing? The challenge for us is that we put together a $100 million plan with really audacious goals and many different partners doing many different activities. We’re engineers, we can do that. We’re educators, we can do that. Who else do we need to be partnering with

to solve this problem? We have 13 different institutions that bring together a vast expertise to solve this major crisis in Africa. Even more importantly, we had a really good plan for a $100 million project. We didn’t win that, but we’re going forward with the plan. L E V E R AG I NG A $15 M I L L ION AWA R D

We’ve been working with the MacArthur Foundation and some other foundations in an attempt to pull together a group of donors to fund the whole plan. We don’t have that commitment yet, but we’re talking to people who are interested in having that conversation. By the end of this academic year, I think it’ll be pretty clear to us if we’ve been able to raise more funds and what the steps forward are. No matter what, we’re going to start doing the NEST plan, including continuing to develop technologies and getting them commercially available to improve in-country, clinical and technical education as well as scaling, putting the NEST technologies in a number of hospitals and other countries. — INTERVIEW BY LYNN GOSNELL

An expanded version of this interview can be found at magazine.rice.edu.

To learn more about the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, visit oedk.rice.edu. Learn more about the Rice 360o Institute for Global Health at rice360.rice.edu. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   11


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

Meet Matt Bragga Rice’s 21st head baseball coach takes over.

I

T D OE S N’ T TA K E long before Rice baseball’s new head coach is up from his desk chair, legs bent, hands back, gripping an imaginary bat. He’s hunting fastballs. “In any count before two strikes, you’re hunting fastballs,” Matt Bragga says, describing the plan his hitters will take to the plate. He flips over a notebook and draws the strike zone, dividing and numbering each section, one to nine. At the most basic level, he wants his players to look for pitches in zones five and six — middle away. He’s always ready to coach at a moment’s notice.

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PHOTO BY TOMMY LAVERGNE


M A R I S S A TO P O LS K I P H OTO BY M A R I A LYS A K E R

“When a guy gets to the plate, he needs to be on autopilot. We need the plan to be so ingrained that they’re not thinking about it. It’s a part of who they are,” Bragga says. It’s easy to see why athletic director Joe Karlgaard and the Rice administration tapped Bragga to succeed Wayne Graham as the next head coach of Rice baseball. For one thing, he’s good at first impressions. His passion is contagious; his energy, electric. It’s the first thing anyone notices about him. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation where Coach Bragga stayed in his chair the whole time,” says Paul Janish ’05, an assistant coach for the Owls, nine-year major league veteran and member of Rice’s national championship team in 2003. Then there are Bragga’s credentials. In 15 seasons as the head coach at Tennessee Tech, he won 446 games, the second-most in school history; won Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year four times; made three NCAA Tournament appearances; and set a school record for wins (53) in 2017. His calling card has been a high-powered offense. Last season, his team led the nation in eight offensive categories, including batting average, runs, home runs and on-base percentage. In taking over for a living legend, Bragga may have the hardest job at the university. Under Graham, the Owls won the school’s only national title and made seven College World Series appearances and 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. “I have high expectations. This program needs to be back in Omaha, where Coach Graham had it many, many times,” says Bragga, who has spoken to Graham on multiple occasions, even getting a personal tour of the facilities from the Rice legend. “I have the utmost respect for what Coach Graham has done. We’re going to continue the legacy that he built. I believe that with every bit of my being.”  — JAMES COSTANZO

DAY IN THE LIFE

Marissa Topolski TUESDAYS 5:25 a.m. Wake up and give roommate a ride to campus

“It wouldn’t be that hard without a 5:25 a.m. wake-up time. If we have an early practice, I’m napping at some point.”

6 a.m. Hourlong session in the training room, getting ankles taped or other treatment

7 a.m. Practice with the team and coach Nicky Adams SPORT

WOMEN’S SOCCER HOMETOWN

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. COLLEGE

MCMURTRY MAJOR

COGNITIVE SCIENCES WITH A BUSINESS MINOR COACH

NICKY ADAMS

Whether she’s traveling with the soccer team, training for a track meet or prepping for a job as an investment banker, Marissa Topolski ’19 channels drive and discipline into the student– athlete balance, achieving honors such as earning a Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal and being on the C-USA Academic Honor Roll since 2015. “It definitely is a full-time job being an athlete, and then having school on top of it. But looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” said Topolski.

8:30 a.m. Weights, followed by a quick shower

10 a.m. Study and do homework at Fondren or the locker room

Noon Class: Shamans, Saints and Sages

“I have an awesome schedule this year — I don’t have class until noon.”

2:30 p.m. Class: Philosophy of Psychology

3:45 p.m. “I’d never taken a religion class at Rice, but it’s honestly my favorite class.”

Coffee chats, emails or calls related to investment banking recruiting

5 p.m. Soccer meeting, training and film

6:30 p.m. Dinner at home — meal prep is key

8 p.m. Homework

Midnight Bedtime

“If I get to bed by midnight, that was a job well done. I won’t stay up any later than 1 a.m. if I have practice.”

— MARIANA NAJERA ’21

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

HI STORY

Unearthing a Tragedy The discovery of unmarked graves believed to contain the remains of African-American workers conscripted into the brutal convict-leasing system helps spotlight an activist’s archive. Above: Reginald Moore at the gravesite Right: “Prisoners on a construction site, Convict Leasing Photograph 13,” from Woodson Research Center at Fondren Library

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W

HAT IS CONVICT LEASING? Why do we know so little about it? The answers to these questions can be found in the Woodson Research Center’s Reginald Moore Sugar Land Convict Leasing System Research Collection. After slavery ended, forced labor was still legal if a person had been convicted of some offense. Trumped-up charges fed many AfricanAmericans into the post-Civil War prison system, where they could then be leased out as convict labor. Essentially, convict leasing was legalized slavery in a post-Civil War nation. The system continued for 36 years, ending officially in 1914. Following the April 2018 discovery of 95 bodies buried on land that once belonged to the Imperial State Prison Farm in Sugar Land, convict leasing hit the national media spotlight. Digging at a construction site for a new Fort Bend Independent School District building yielded the pinewood boxes and skeletal remains bearing signs of the era’s brutal work conditions. It was vindication for Reginald Moore, a native Houstonian who had once served as a corrections officer at Fort Bend’s Jester Unit. It was there that Moore first became interested in the history of the county’s prison farms — particularly the Imperial State Prison Farm, later renamed the Central Unit

PHOTO BY TOMMY LAVERGNE


H U R R I CA N E H A R V E Y P H OTO BY B R A N D O N M A RT I N

before it closed in 2011. The prisoners who died while working for the prison were buried on-site at the Old Imperial Farm Cemetery. But where were the many more who perished under the punishing conditions of the convict-leasing system? From his years of research into prison documents, land records and historic texts, Moore knew those bodies must lie buried in unmarked graves — perhaps at the very plantations and farms to which the prisoners had been leased. Despite his persistence, Moore was unsuccessful in persuading Sugar Land and Fort Bend County leaders to do the work necessary to locate the graves. History Professor Lora Wildenthal first met Moore when he approached Rice in 2015 about helping with efforts to preserve the Old Imperial

Farm Cemetery and his own documentation about the convict-leasing system. The resulting Sugar Land Convict Leasing Project was created by Wildenthal and a team of students under the auspices of the Center for Civic Leadership’s Houston Action Research Team (HART) program. Since discovering the remains in Sugar Land, the archive has performed a valuable service. “Journalists come in to get more contextual information about [Moore’s] advocacy and the story of convict leasing, as there’s not a wealth of information readily out there,” said archivist Amanda Focke. Wildenthal and Focke hope that the recent discovery of human remains, as substantial proof of the nature of the convict-leasing activities that facilitated the early growth of Fort Bend County, will propel greater public recognition of this part of Texas history and further investigation into the legacies of the convict-leasing era for prison policy today. — KATHARINE SHILCUTT

H ISTORY

Hurricane History

A digital archive is preserving memories of Hurricane Harvey. THE GOAL OF THE HARVEY Memories Project is to build an open-access digital repository to collect, preserve and publish community-contributed memories of the storm in multiple formats, including photos of storm preparations and cleanup, audio and video recordings of the storm in progress, survivors’ narratives and even art. “Everyone was on social media during Hurricane Harvey,” said Caleb McDaniel, associate professor of history and one of the eight Rice collaborators on the project. “It was probably the most digitally mediated natural disaster in U.S. history.” Time magazine called the August 2017 hurricane the nation’s “first social media storm.” Inspired by such projects as the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, which houses artifacts from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Boston Marathon bombing digital archive Our Marathon, the Harvey Memories Project was created. “You don’t want all that stuff to get lost and never preserved or archived in a way that future

generations can access and learn from,” said McDaniel. “That’s where librarians come in,” said Lisa Spiro, executive director of digital scholarship services for Fondren Library. Any photos, videos, oral histories or other digital donations to the Harvey Memories Project will be professionally processed, cataloged and archived at Rice. Online, the archive is both permanent and easily accessible. Spiro and the team are planning outreach events at local libraries and community centers to reach those whose stories have not yet been shared or heard. In the meantime, the Harvey Memories Project is open for those who are in search of a place to tell their own tales. Many of those affected by the storm have only recently begun to get back on their feet, let alone process or preserve the memories of what happened when 30 trillion gallons of water fell along the Gulf Coast. “We also hope that this will help people to heal,” Spiro said. For more information, visit harveymemories.org.  — KATHARINE SHILCUTT

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M AR K E T IN G

Shopping Impulse? Reflect First. A simple method may counteract a consumer’s desire to buy.

B I OS CI E NC E S

To Protect Trees, Protect Lemurs Widespread logging and hunting have endangered virtually all of Madagascar’s 100-plus species of iconic lemurs. A STUDY BY R ICE ECOLOGISTS illustrates how saving lemurs may also be key to saving Madagascar’s largest trees. “Not only are we facing the loss of these unique, charismatic animals, we’re also losing their role in the ecosystem,” said Amy Dunham, associate professor of biosciences and co-author of a paper published in the International Journal of Primatology. “Without lemurs, the rainforests themselves will change because the lemurs alone disperse the seeds of many of the forests’ largest hardwoods,” said Dunham. The study builds upon nearly a decade of collaborative work by Dunham and lead author Onja Razafindratsima at the island nation’s Ranomafana National Park. In earlier work, Razafindratsima meticulously tracked 24 groups of lemurs for three years and showed that the seeds of one species of canopy tree had a 300 percent greater chance of sprouting and becoming a sapling when they were dispersed by lemurs through their scat as opposed to simply falling to the ground.

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“In the latest study, we wanted to take a broader approach to understanding how the forest might change with lemur loss,” Dunham said. In 2016, then-undergraduate Anecia Gentles ’18 joined Dunham’s research group and spent a year examining characteristics of rainforest trees and programming computational models to estimate how the forest would change if lemurs disappeared. Rice graduate student Andrea Drager also joined the effort, and the team showed that lemurs are not only important as gardeners of the forest, but also likely play an important role in forest carbon sequestration. The models explored how the makeup of the forests might change in different scenarios, ranging from one in which lemur-dispersed trees declined by 25 percent to an extreme case where all lemur-dispersed trees were wiped out. “There’s growing evidence that we need to think more holistically about conserving functioning ecosystems in order to save forests,” Dunham said.  — JADE BOYD

Consumers who reflected on their recently used personal belongings experienced less desire for an unexpectedly encountered product, were less likely to buy impulsively and expressed a lower willingness to pay for new products, said Utpal Dholakia, the George R. Brown Chair of Marketing and Professor of Management. Along with doctoral students Jihye Jung and Nivriti Chowdhry, Dholakia studies the theory that the desire to consume, like willpower, may function as a limited motivational resource that becomes depleted upon reflecting about favored personal possessions. “Reflection is about thinking deeply and remembering in detail how you used any one of your possessions recently,” Dholakia said.  — JEFF FALK


a b s t r ac t

MAN AGE ME NT

Daydream Believer Daydreaming can take up as much as half of a typical workday. Some research suggests this may be a good thing. Wandering minds can help us adapt to prob-

I L LU ST R AT I O N BY A L E X E B E N M E Y E R

WE DON’T KNOW

lems, because by briefly changing our focus, we can solve problems more creatively. That’s not to say daydreaming is always benign. We want the ER surgeon to focus, for example. When it comes to one-time tasks, daydreaming is suboptimal. Erik Dane, an associate professor of management, has tried to bridge these two different views of mind wandering at work. He suggests that while daydreaming can undermine productivity, it is also a critical problem-solving tool. He concluded that a wandering mind can be positive if it wanders to work-related topics, helping employees conceive of possibilities not previously considered.  

Is There Life Beyond Earth? Adrian Lenardic, professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences, wonders, ‘Are we alone?’

IS THERE LIFE ANYWHERE else other than Earth, either now or in the past? When I was a graduate student some 20–30 years ago, that was really just a philosophical question. But now, with the next generation of space telescopes, we’re at a point where we might actually be able to make scientific observations and detect evidence for life on planets orbiting stars other than our own. We would do that by looking first at those planets’ atmospheres. The various molecules that make up each atmosphere absorb specific frequencies of light, so if you use a space telescope to look at them when they pass in front of the star they orbit, you can analyze the spectrum of light that reaches you to determine what the atmosphere is made of. Understanding the range of atmospheric chemistry that can serve as a signature for some form of life existing on a planet has become a key research objective to help guide us in our

future searches for life beyond Earth. Exploration of our own solar system is also changing our views about life potential. Mars doesn’t have liquid water on its surface, a key factor for life as we know it, but evidence is suggesting it once did. Europa, a moon of Jupiter, has an icy outer shell, but there’s evidence that there’s liquid water below it that could support life. On Earth, we’ve started to find life in weird places, like deep-sea volcanic vents, and that has changed the way we think about the potential for life on other planets. We’re also getting more evidence that planetary geology can be affected by living things; that all aspects of a planet are linked together. That’s why we need biologists to talk to geologists to talk to astronomers, and develop ways to look at distant planets from a number of different perspectives. That’s really the exciting part for me.  — AS TOLD TO DAVID LEVIN

— JENNIFER LATSON

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a b s t r ac t

BI OCHEMISTRY

How Effective Will the H3N2 Flu Vaccine Be? Learn what ‘efficacy’ means to understand these researchers’ predictions.

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E N G IN E E R IN G

The Amazing Ageless Hydra A MONG T H E A M A Z I NG PROPE RT I E S of the tiny invertebrate known as the hydra is this showstopper — if you cut one in two, both parts live. They don’t age, and their unique regenerative qualities invite additional research, says Rice electrical and computer engineer Jacob Robinson. Robinson and his team have developed methods to corral the tiny, squid-like hydrae and perform the first comprehensive characterization of relationships between neural activity and muscle movements in these creatures. Their results appeared in Lab on a Chip, the Royal Society of Chemistry journal.   Robinson is a neuroengineer with expertise in microfluidics, the manipulation of fluids and their contents at small scales. His lab has developed an array of chip-based systems that let scientists control movements and even sequester biological systems — cells and small animals — to study them up close and over long periods of time. Because the best way to characterize a hydra is to watch it for about a week, the lab is building a camera-laden array of See hydrae in action at magazine.rice.edu. microfluidic chips to produce time-lapse movies of up to 100 animals at once. “If you look at them with the naked eye, they just sit there,” Robinson said. “They’re kind of boring. But if you speed things up with time-lapse imaging, they’re performing all kinds of interesting behaviors. They’re sampling their environment; they’re moving back and forth.” The team hopes to connect neural activity and muscle response to learn about similar connections in other members of the animal kingdom. “By looking at organisms in different parts of the phylogenetic tree, we can think about what’s common to all animals with nervous systems,” said Robinson. “Why do we have a nervous system? What is it good for? What are the things that a hydra can do that worms and humans can also do? What are the things they can’t do? These kinds of questions will help us understand how we’ve evolved the nervous system we have.”  — MIKE WILLIAMS

P H OTO BY B R A N D O N M A RT I N

A STUDY BY RICE BIOENGINEERS and physicists predicts that this fall’s flu vaccine — a new H3N2 formulation for the first time since 2015 — will be about as effective as the disappointing vaccines of the past two years. Flu vaccines are prepared months in advance based on predictions about the flu strain that’s expected to dominate the coming year. Vaccine efficacy is measured by how well it prevents the flu from spreading. This year’s 22 percent efficacy means that in the vaccinated population, 22 percent fewer people will get the flu compared to the unvaccinated population. “The vaccine was changed for 2018–2019, but unfortunately it still is a mismatch for many of the circulating strains of the virus,” said Michael Deem, Rice’s John W. Cox Professor of Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and professor of physics and astronomy. A newly updated analysis for 2018–2019 suggests that a new cluster of virus strains is emerging. The Rice method predicts that the current vaccine will not protect against these newly emerging strains. Predicting flu vaccine efficacy has historically been time-consuming and expensive, but over the past 12 years Deem has developed a rapid computational test known as pEpitope (pronounced PEE-epih-tope) that can predict vaccine efficacy within hours using readily available genetic sequence data. The method accurately predicted the efficacy of 2016 and 2017 vaccines.  — JADE BOYD


a b s t r ac t

The Continuous City: Fourteen Essays on Architecture and Urbanization

Talk City: A Chronicle of Political Life in an AllAmerican Town

By Lars Lerup

By William Fulton

(Park Books, 2018)

(Solimar Books, 2017)

T H E N E E D T O R E DE F I N E the concept of a city, and to find solutions in architecture for the impending catastrophes of modern society, drive the narrative in “The Continuous City,” the third book by Swedish-American architect Lars Lerup, the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture. In a series of essays on urban structures and conditions, Lerup posits that the word “urban” applies to nearly everything we experience. “The urban is inescapable. The city is everywhere,” he writes. “It is continuous both spatially and temporally. Even the so-called wilderness is urban. A hiker standing on a peak in the Sierra is decked out in the latest gear purchased in the urbanized valley below.” Lerup’s previous work has focused on the intersection of the natural world and human culture in urban environments — especially Houston — and it still does, but its horizons are broader. Here, he argues that by thinking of the world in outdated binaries — urban vs. rural, city vs. suburb, natural vs. man-made — we limit our ability to think differently about some of the problems urbanization has generated: problems like climate change, resource scarcity and socioeconomic disparity. Lerup is optimistic that architecture can help us chart a path forward, but only if we accept that the boundaries established long ago, when the city was “a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill surrounded by a … wall,” no longer exist and that, as he puts it, “everything flows.”

WILLIAM F U LT ON, the director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, cut his teeth on urban affairs in municipal government, first as director of planning and economic development in San Diego, then as a city council member in Ventura, Calif., where he ultimately became mayor. The glamorous — or maybe not so glamorous — life of a public servant is the subject of “Talk City.” Based on a blog Fulton describes as “a pretty interesting chronicle of what it was like to serve as an underpaid, overstressed, part-time local elected official during hard times,” the book gives readers an inside look at five-hour meetings on parking management, planning ordinances and efforts to keep the city solvent during the 2008 recession. It’s more fun than it sounds, thanks to Ventura’s “lively, colorful and sharp-elbowed political scene.” Trying to keep all sides happy was a quixotic task, and Fulton sometimes laments constituents’ inherent skepticism of the methods, motives and sincerity of their elected officials. Ultimately, however, he proves himself to be a politician of the people. One time, he was approached by a man “wearing all black with several tattoos … accompanied by his wife and daughter, both of whom were dressed in all black with heavy dark makeup. ‘Mayor Fulton,’ he said, ‘I just wanted to say we love what you’re doing. … We were wondering — how can the Goth community get more involved?”

Muslims in America: Examining the Facts By Craig Considine (ABC-CLIO, 2018)

A R E M US L I M I M M IGR A N TS a security risk? Is the U.S. home to a bunch of “radical” mosques? Are Muslim women oppressed? Craig Considine’s new book sets out to address these and other controversial questions — 31 in total — about Muslim-Americans. It’s the latest title in the Contemporary Debates series of reference books. Think of it as a sociological version of “MythBusters.” Considine, a sociology lecturer at Rice who happens to be Catholic, has devoted a good deal of his research to Islamophobia and to ChristianMuslim relations in the U.S. and throughout the world. “There has never been an America without the presence of Muslims,” he writes. “Yet American Muslims have been increasingly branded as an ‘un-American’ and unassimilable population that poses a societal and security threat to the United States.” Using a simple Q&A format (Question 14: “Are there actual jihad training camps in the U.S.?” Answer: “No.”), Considine springboards from straightforward yes-or-no answers into a richly nuanced, thoroughly researched selection of studies and statistics to provide context for the controversies. The disturbing takeaway: The more these misconceptions circulate unchecked, the more dangerous America becomes for Muslims — and for all Americans.  — JENNIFER LATSON

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Scene

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Inch by Inch, Row by Row Photo by Jeff Fitlow SOMEONE ONCE SAID, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.” In Rice’s Betty and Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden, you get 24 different types of tomatoes as well as a plethora of other vegetables, herbs, flowers, and an orchard of fig and citrus trees in the half-acre site. Located next to the Rice Media Center, the garden is maintained by Joe Novak, a leading horticulture expert, and Sam Stamport, a Texas gardening aficionado. Novak, who coined the term “sociohorticulture,” which examines the psychosocial effects plants and gardening have on humans, works with a rotating crew of volunteers to assemble irrigation systems, fertilize, plant, prune and pick as well as perform routine maintenance. Much of the garden’s produce ends up in Rice’s serveries, and for those undergraduates who want to dig a little deeper, Novak teaches Environmental Sustainability: The Design and Practice of Community Agriculture, a one-hour course offered each spring and fall. For information about volunteering, email sociohorticulture.rice@gmail. com.  — TRACEY RHOADES m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   21


END OF AN ERA

On the occasion of baseball coach Wayne Graham’s retirement, we take a look back at his long and eventful career. 22 

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By James Costanzo Photos by Tommy LaVergne


By James Costanzo Photos by Tommy LaVergne m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u â&#x20AC;&#x192; 23


Wayne Graham is a product of baseball’s golden age. A time when the game stood, unquestioned, as the nation’s pastime, and those who played it were hailed as heroes, never farther than 60 feet, 6 inches from glory. His peers were giants named Mantle and Mays. His coach was “the Ol’ Professor,” the legendary Casey Stengel. It’s a time now lost to the back of baseball cards and Ken Burns documentaries, but it was, ultimately, here where the godfather of Rice baseball earned his stripes and learned that, above all else, winning is sacrosanct. “I can’t think of anyone who wants to win more than Coach Graham,” says Philip Humber ’05, a former major leaguer and member of Rice’s 2003 national championship team. He echoes a refrain repeated by countless former Owls players and coaches. Put another way: “Coach Graham was just an outrageous competitor,” says Paul Janish ’05, a teammate of Humber and current Rice assistant coach. “While he loved winning, he hated losing more.” 24 

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Much like Stengel, a figure he once called “the most astute baseball man I ever knew,” Graham was never known to mince words or play favorites. He was old school, a grizzled man of baseball who spent 11 seasons riding buses in the minor leagues to get a total of 55 major league at bats. Graham didn’t much care for small talk or pleasantries. You were never confused about where you stood. Yet, you wouldn’t dare ask a question you didn’t want his honest answer to. He wasn’t without his quirks. His players like to note that he’d go home every day for lunch — always a peanut butter sandwich and tuna on crackers — to watch soap operas with his wife, Tanya. He was a competitive handball player and a notorious fan of sci-fi and fantasy novels, known around the clubhouse for more than one “Game of Thrones” spoiler. One of his dogs is named Casey, and he wore No. 37, in part, to honor his former coach. Ultimately, however, Graham was about winning baseball games, and he did it better than almost anyone else. “When you talked to him, coach wanted to talk about baseball,” says Joe Savery ’08, another in a long list of former Owls to make the major leagues under Graham. “There weren’t a whole lot of conversations about where you vacationed as a kid or what you wanted to do after baseball. Everything he did was about winning games. I don’t think that was a bad thing.” In 27 seasons at Rice, Graham, 82, won 1,173 games, which included a streak of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (the third longest behind Florida State and Cal State Fullerton), 21 conference championships and, in 2003, the school’s only national title. Many people, including a number of former players, attribute the continued existence of Rice Athletics at the Division I level solely to Graham and his success on the diamond. “I think there’s a better case for it than against it,” says Savery. There will come a time when Graham is more mythology than man. His qualities exaggerated, his accomplishments embellished. The Owls roster will soon be replaced with young men who will never have played for him — a strange reality. But this is not new. Mantle, Mays, Stengel, even Babe Ruth, are now memories kept alive through the stories of those who knew them and witnessed their greatness. “When I think about someone like Casey Stengel, I automatically picture him in black and white. I don’t think of him in real life,” says Humber. “Coach was real for me. I’ll always be proud that I got to play for him.” It’s true, the game waits for no one. Golden ages fade, but at Rice, Wayne Graham will remain in living color. ◆


Previous page: Graham when he played for the Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers in the early 1960s. This page, clockwise from top: A dog-pile celebration after winning the 2003 College World Series for the first time in Rice history; Graham drafting one of his famous handwritten lineups in the Reckling Park dugout; Graham, Tanya, former Rice President Malcolm Gillis and the championship team meeting then-President George W. Bush at the White House.


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Previous page, clockwise from top: Graham stoically watching from the dugout of the NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional game against LSU in 2009; Graham at the College World Series; Graham responding to local media after his 1,000th career win in February 2014 — he won his first Rice baseball game as head coach in 1992. This page, clockwise from top: Game day at Reckling Park; Graham on the field for a pregame introduction; Graham getting his point across to catcher Justin Collins ’21 in the dugout during the 2018 season.

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NONSTOP FROM D.C.

JOSH EARNEST ’97 TALKS CANDIDLY WITH HIS FORMER PROFESSOR ROBERT STEIN ABOUT THE JOB OF WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, THE PERNICIOUS TRIBALISM INFECTING CIVIC DISCOURSE, LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM BEER BIKE AND HIS NEW BASE IN CHICAGO.

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Robert Stein and Josh Earnest got together in May 2018 in Stein’s Herzstein Hall office.

P H OTO BY TO M M Y L AV E R G N E

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NE OF THE JOYS OF BEING A PROFESSOR IS SEEING students turn their academic focus into a career path after graduation. In some cases, the relationship can turn into a lifelong bond as former students turn into colleagues and friends. When political scientist Robert Stein gets together with former student Josh Earnest, this dynamic plays out in the liveliest of dialogues. Both Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, and Earnest, who was a political science and policy studies major, are passionate about politics and American political history. And both know how to command a room. Stein, who has an exuberant personality and deep knowledge of public policy, is as entertaining in the classroom as he is informative. As the White House press secretary and spokesperson for former President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017, Earnest faced a decidedly less enthralled audience on a regular basis. A calm and confident demeanor helped him make the case for the president’s policies and earned the respect of reporters — not to mention that of his boss, who appeared at Earnest’s last press briefing, saying, “He is not only a great press secretary, but, more importantly, he is a really good man, and I’m really, really proud of him.” It was Stein who introduced Earnest to the world of local political campaigns. Soon after graduation, Earnest volunteered for Lee Brown’s 1997 mayoral campaign and then went on to work for U.S. Rep. Marion Berry and in Michael Bloomberg’s first campaign for New York City mayor. After a stint at the Democratic National Committee, he worked on Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign. Next he joined Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007, and subsequently went to work on the White House communications staff for both terms, taking over the podium in 2014. Last May, Earnest was among the recipients of the Association of Rice Alumni’s Distinguished Alumni Award. We were delighted that both professor and former student made themselves available during Earnest’s Houston visit for a wide-ranging on-the-record conversation. With characteristic enthusiasm, Stein drew out Earnest’s student memories as well as his reflections on White House service and thoughts about his new job as senior vice president and chief communications officer at United Airlines. Earnest and his wife, Natalie Wyeth Earnest, and their two children recently moved from D.C. to Chicago.

RS: What led you to want to attend Rice? JE: I went to a small prep school in Kansas City, so I only had 32 students in my graduating class. The smaller feel of Rice and the residential college system that made it feel even smaller was a big attraction to me. Getting outside of KC and seeing more of the world was an ambition that I had and certainly one my parents were strongly supportive of. I still remember coming into Hobby Airport when I was a senior in high school and going to spend the weekend with a student and hearing the announcements being repeated in Spanish. Houston was a very different place than where I’d grown up. RS: Other than your studies in political science and public policy, what experiences outside the classroom helped you? JE: The thing that is so interesting about my experience at Rice, and I think it’s probably typical of a lot of students, is that I was in an environment where I could experiment and try out some different things. Rice is the kind of place where you could be a kid who never played football, but I could still coach the women’s Powderpuff team. It could be a place where you’d never traveled outside the United States, but my senior year I spent 10 days in Israel, including several nights with a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem to learn about their situation. Also, I was the co-chair of Beer Bike — even though I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was like 12 years old. I loved it and had a great experience. So this kind of environment where you are able to explore and try new things and get a shot to succeed was an important foundation for me as I began to pursue my career. RS: Were there opportunities for you to venture out in the city in ways you might not have been able to do elsewhere? JE: I took Bill Martin’s Sociology of Religion class, and one of the assignments was to go to four different houses of worship in Houston. I remember all the places I went, including to Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, where we were so warmly welcomed. We went to a Pentecostal church, to a mosque and also a synagogue close to Rice. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   29


RS: How would you describe the relationship between the press secretary and the president? JE: My predecessor, Mike McCurry, who was President Clinton’s press secretary, made note of the geography in the West Wing: The office that is traditionally inhabited by the press secretary in the West Wing is equidistant from the Oval Office and the White House briefing room. And he thought that that was a pretty good illustration of the role of the press secretary — which is to try to protect the relationship between the institution of the press and the institution of the presidency. RS: And also with the press? JE: The way I looked at it was, in any relationship between the White House press corps and the president, there will be friction. And the day that there isn’t that friction is the day that people on one side or the other aren’t doing their job. So I tried to look for opportunities to allow that friction to be there, but not to let it get so hot that it clouds coverage of the White House.

RS: You started work in the White House on the Obama administration’s first day in 2009, but you weren’t named press secretary until 2014. How did that apprenticeship prepare you for that role? JE: One of the biggest advantages that I had walking into the job as press secretary was that I had spent over five years watching the daily briefing when it was led by Robert Gibbs and Jay Carney. So I had a lot of institutional knowledge built up about our policy positions and about how we had described them publicly. When I was the deputy press secretary, I was on the road a lot with President Obama, so I heard the president talk about his thoughts and opinions and perspectives and views on a whole wide range of things. I could at least give people a clear sense of or a broad sense of what the president thought about something. RS: What did you do when you were asked a question at a press conference for which you just didn’t know the answer? JE: One good piece of advice that I got was to not be afraid to say “I don’t know.” It is much worse to guess and guess wrong in that kind of setting than it is to acknowledge that you don’t know. But if I said that I didn’t know about something, I would generally commit to following up and getting an answer. That kind of candor and trying to minimize the amount of game playing and Kabuki theater involved was helpful for my credibility. At least I was being honest and direct about the fact that I wasn’t able to be honest and direct about the information they were seeking. 30 

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RS: Do you see similarities between the job of press secretary and your new role at United Airlines? JE: The thing that I loved most about the White House is that I would wake up in the morning, get ready to go to work and not know exactly what I was going to learn about that day. In this role, I’ll have opportunities to learn a lot about the day-today challenges of running a global Fortune 100 company. It feels like the right next step and stage of my career. … When I was working in the White House, my job was always a source of fascination, whether you’re Democrat or Republican. I’m finding that the airline business is sort of the same way. Everybody’s got an opinion about the airline that they regularly fly. Everyone has a story. RS: Rice encourages today’s students to pursue what’s called experiential learning — you were doing that well before it was common. How did it pay off? JE: Bob, I still remember coming to your office in March of 1997. I tell people all the time that my classmates were getting great jobs at Enron, you know. You were so generous with your invitation to introduce me to people and to help me find my footing in the local political scene in Houston. I recognized what a tremendous opportunity that was, and that if I put in the effort then I was likely to see that pay off. It did in ways that I still benefit from to this day.

Read about Earnest’s best and worst days at the White House, how he balanced work and family life, and more about the relationship between the press and the White House in an extended version of this interview at magazine.rice.edu. ◆

P H OTO BY S A R A STAT H A S

Earnest at the United Airlines offices in Chicago in August 2018.


We had a hard time narrowing our list to 20! Visit magazine.rice.edu to meet six more rising stars.

STORIES BY HOLLY BERETTO, DEBORAH LYNN BLUMBERG, JAMES COSTANZO, LYNN GOSNELL, SARAH BRENNER JONES AND KENDALL SCHOEMANN ILLUSTRATIONS BY ANJE JAGER

Meet a group of young alumni who are bringing uncommon enthusiasm, focus and passion to their unfolding lives — whether as young professionals in law, medicine and government service, or budding artists who are making their way (and creating a buzz) in the filmmaking or classical music worlds. You’ll meet social justice advocates and entrepreneurs, not to mention some serious athletes. Like all young adults, the pursuits and careers of these young Owls are works in progress. We think they’re ones to watch.

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COMICALLY TALENTED

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uchir Shah ’12 is an entrepreneur, comic book author, stand-up comedian and a recent graduate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. His accomplishments are an intriguing blend of the technical and the creative, with a good dash of the unexpected. Ultimately, all of his endeavors prioritize learning — his work seeks to ease the process of understanding difficult concepts. In high school, Shah started EZ Comics, a series of educational comic books aimed at making learning fun for kids. Once at Rice, he nurtured opportunities to expand this venture, working with Rice partners to bring comic books to the classroom. Shah took all of his interests — engineering, Earth science and politics — and put them together into a custombuilt energy studies program at Rice. After graduation, Shah deferred his Stanford acceptance and founded Learn to Drill, a company that provides online courses and games to train oil and gas workers and whose clients include Halliburton and BP. Four years later, Shah left the business in his father’s hands and entered Stanford as a successful entrepreneur. Shah’s next big project is in what he calls “the guidance space.” He’s developing an online “smart mirror” that uses machine learning to augment how-to videos in fields like makeup, physical therapy and dance. “Rice taught me to be comfortable taking risks,” Shah shared. “I learned that if I set a goal, there is always a way to make it happen.”

CREATIVITY LIVES HERE

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think about the hierarchy of power in film and television, in the media we consume and in the information we share,” said Paige Polk ’15, a writer and filmmaker. Polk is making a career out of an innate fascination with storytelling. A self-described quiet child who immersed herself in books, Polk’s creative career evolved through what she calls a series of fortuitous accidents and intuitive leaps. Her studies in visual anthropology at Rice provided a foundation for confident risktaking and experimentation. Both at the university and while studying abroad, Polk was motivated by the freedom to work with multiple forms of narrative amongst a background of people whose thinking challenged and changed her. Now, living in New York City, Polk is a graduate student in media studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She’s also building an impressive creative resume, including as cocreative director of the Journey Project, an interactive documentary for Google exploring race and its intersections. Her current passion project is a web series titled “Not Yet,” written by Polk herself. Told in six episodes, “Not Yet” will explore the almost impossible idea of growing up. “Many of us imagine there is ‘one more thing’ that stands between us and genuine adulthood,” Polk explained. “I wrote about what it feels like to reach for a tangible sign that you’ve somehow arrived — you’ve grown up.”


DIPLOMAT IN TRAINING

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PA I G E P O L K P H OTO BY C L É M E N C E P O L È S ; A U D R A H E R R E R A P H OTO BY J E F F F I T LO W

hile Rebecca Satterfield ’15 dreamed of working abroad ever since her study abroad opportunities at Rice, she never imagined she would join the U.S. Foreign Service at such a young age. She took the Foreign Service Officer Test as a senior and found out two years later that she was one of the 2–3 percent of applicants who were offered positions — and on her first attempt. After nearly a year of Spanish and consular training in Washington, D.C., she was posted to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to serve as a consular officer at the U.S.–Mexico border. “It was a shock,” she said. “It’s so different than what I expected. I had been to Mexico before, but the border really is its own world.” She works in the American Citizen Services section, which issues passports and helps Americans who are in trouble. There is currently a travel advisory for Americans visiting Nuevo Laredo as the cartel violence makes it an extremely dangerous place to live. “While it’s certainly been challenging, what I love about the Foreign Service is that I get to experience a different culture for a few years.” The job has its difficulties, such as visiting American citizens in prison, but Satterfield focuses on the positives. “My job is to serve the American people,” she said. “One of my favorite things is to document American citizens who have never had a passport before.” After her two-year post in Mexico, she’ll complete nine months of training before moving to Riga, Latvia, for another two-year post, this time pursuing public diplomacy work. Long term, Satterfield aims to serve as a public affairs officer in Germany, representing the embassy to the media.

LAUNCHING A LEGAL CAREER

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t was late in the day when teacher Audra Herrera ’12 got a call she’d been waiting years for. She didn’t answer. After glancing at the 617 area code, the recent college grad returned to the task at hand — leading elementary school students in math and science activities. Herrera learned she’d been admitted to Harvard Law School by voicemail. Herrera’s dreams of a legal career began long before she walked through the Sallyport. Her parents, Denise and John, modeled the importance of service and generosity to the family. “My brother, Jonathan, and I were volunteering all the time,” said Herrera, who grew up in New Mexico. Over the years, her mom worked on behalf of victims of domestic violence and individuals with disabilities. Herrera learned that “legal advice can have a really powerful impact.” At Rice, a college course in the then-emerging area of cyberlaw and cybercrime taught by attorney Rudy Ramirez ’01 would have a lasting influence on her legal studies. Herrera served as editor of the Baker Institute Student Forum’s Rice Cultivator, cheered on the Rice Owls Dance Team and played the flute in the Rice Symphonic Band. Heeding the advice of friends and mentors, she opted to take some time off after college. Back home in Albuquerque, Herrera spearheaded a STEM-focused after-school program at her neighborhood elementary school and served as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for two sisters in foster care. “I was really happy to be able to help the girls stay together and get adopted by their foster parents,” Herrera said. While at Harvard, Herrera served as a legal intern for the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, tying back to her earlier interest in cyberlaw. As a new associate at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP in Houston, the bulk of Herrera’s practice “involves helping cities, counties and school districts with transactional work.” But she’s also getting involved in cybersecurity and data protection issues there — another area of law that can have a really powerful impact.


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A SUBMARINE LIFE MECHANICAL WIZARD

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y day, Mike Schubert ’14 is a plant engineer at Airgas, where he oversees large-scale projects, installing new equipment, tracking production and figuring out how to make things run more efficiently. When he’s off the clock, you’ll find him on Seattle’s improv stages. And if you can’t get out to Seattle, no worries — Schubert launched a podcast a few years ago. Its subject? Harry Potter. “It’s called ‘Potterless,’ and it’s about me discovering the ‘Harry Potter’ books,” he said. Turns out, Schubert is not a fan of fantasy novels. “I always preferred [books] where I could see myself in the situations.” Schubert cites the much-lauded children’s book “Holes” by Louis Sachar as a favorite. Another factor in Schubert’s lack of Hogwarts knowledge: His older sister loved the “Harry Potter” books, so Schubert was against them on principle; she also loved the C.S. Lewis classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which he read on her suggestion and hated. When the series’ popularity launched J.K. Rowling into superstardom, Schubert felt that if he started reading the books, he’d just be following the herd. But when he decided to create a podcast, Schubert began looking for a popular subject that people felt passionate about. “I knew people have incredibly strong feelings about ‘Harry Potter,’ but I hadn’t read the series,” he said. “And then I knew — that’s the podcast.” “Potterless” explores each book in chronological order. Along with invited guests (basically his friends and fellow podcasters), Schubert unpacks the themes, characters and plotlines that define the series. He also points out any plot holes he comes across and makes various — often incorrect — predictions about what will happen next. Each book makes for multiple episodes. As of late August, “Potterless” has 50,000 subscribers who listen regularly and 6.5 million total downloads. “I think I knew I’d love doing this,” he said about the podcast. “But I’m really surprised I love it as much as I do.” There’s someone else who loves it: Schubert’s sister, who’s excited the siblings can finally talk about the books together. “She’ll be a guest soon,” Schubert promised. 34 

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t. j.g. Ricardo Marquez ’16 is working on earning his dolphins, a major milestone in the life of a young Naval officer. Earning this gold breast pin has been a singular goal for more than two years, but it’s really the culmination of an even longer stint of training to be a submarine officer. After earning a degree in electrical engineering, completing the Navy’s famously intense Nuclear Power School, along with numerous other courses in safety and operations, Marquez will be fully trained and qualified as a submarine officer on the USS Nebraska, a ballistic missile submarine. This is what Marquez has been working toward since the day he graduated from Rice, which was incidentally the very same day he and a handful of Navy ROTC (NROTC) graduates were commissioned as officers in the U.S. Navy. The ceremony was held at the Rice Memorial Chapel. “We had so many family members there,” Marquez recalled during a FaceTime interview from his home on Puget Sound. Last April, Marquez experienced his first submarine deployment. These deployments can last up to three months. While there are work rotations built into the day, the mission is to be “on patrol and on alert 24/7,” Marquez said. “We’re always training, always sharpening the saw; the goal is to be perfect.” When living in such close quarters, communication and hanging out with shipmates is important — especially playing cribbage, the unofficial game of submariners. “To me, being a submariner is like being an astronaut and being on a spaceship.” Then there’s another way that life below the ocean compares to life above the Earth, and that’s in the sheer quotient of awe. There are occasions when the submarine surfaces far from land. “I remember being on the bridge and looking around and seeing the Pacific Ocean — there’s nothing around you. You can see how the Earth curves,” Marquez said. “Those are little things that you don’t get to experience anywhere else.”


AT THE FRONT DOOR OF THE WHITE HOUSE

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elissa Fwu ’12 remembers visiting Washington, D.C., as a child and wondering what happens inside the White House. Now as a White House employee, she no longer wonders. “As a daughter of two immigrants, working in the White House is a dream come true for me,” she said. “I feel like I’m living the American dream — it’s a privilege to work alongside the most powerful people in our country.” Fwu first delved into politics by hunting down her local state representative, whom she worked for until the end of the Texas Legislature session. After that, she spent two years with the Republican Party of Texas as the very first director for Asian-American engagement doing coalitions work. Two years ahead of the 2016 presidential election, she joined the Republican National Committee in Virginia as a regional director and worked her way up to deputy state director. Fwu is now an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison, one of the White House’s external-facing units. “We are the front door of the White House, so to speak,” she said. “We work with stakeholders and community groups to amplify and advocate for the president’s policies.” With a portfolio focused on trade, tax reform and workforce issues, Fwu and her team coordinate events with the president, from roundtable conversations to storytelling remarks. A lot of people ask her if she has future plans to run for office. “I don’t think so,” she said. “I really love public policy — to be able to create policies that improve people’s lives. I hope to continue to have a role that advocates for positive change.”

GATEWAYS TO SUCCESS

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uick-witted and engaging, James Carter ’17 is all charm backed up by a razor-sharp intellect. He is passionate about understanding the way diversity functions in the workplace, and he has a goal, a plan, and the tenacity and talent to pursue it. In fact, Carter has been planning, working and seeking opportunity since youth. As a sixth grader, he became involved with Breakthrough Central Texas, a nonprofit that helps children from low-income communities build a path to college. By high school, Carter, with Breakthrough’s help, landed a coveted spot at a private boarding school in Austin. Looking back, he remembered, “Boarding school was a great college prep experience, but it also prompted a lot of questions. I became focused on studying income and racial inequality.” At Rice, Carter started research in Mikki Hebl’s psychology lab as a freshman, delving into diversity and discrimination in organizations. He took advantage of every research opportunity that came his way, working with English professors, participating in the Gateway Study of Leadership and completing a psychology undergraduate honors thesis. In each instance, Carter was solidifying his research interest in diversity in organizations, intersectionality, social mobility and leadership. Carter is now a Ph.D. student in management at the Columbia Business School, where he’s involved in a number of projects that seek to understand the psychological mechanisms that influence how people recognize and interact with diversity and intergroup relations. His goal is to teach at a research university, but he is also committed to giving back to educational opportunity organizations and offering other kids the vision and means to pursue their dreams. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   35


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WALKING LIFE

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was persuaded by two friends at Rice to try a half-marathon,” remembered Arindam Sarkar ’11 of his undergraduate days. Enjoying the camaraderie and physical benefits of running, he stuck with his new hobby through medical school at Baylor College of Medicine. When he became a volunteer for United in Stride, an organization that provides marathon trainers for people who are blind or visually impaired, he realized that combining his passion for service and exercise was key to his own sense of fulfillment. Most recently, Sarkar started a Walk With a Doc program at T.C. Jester Park, close to the Northwest Health Center where he’s doing his residency in family and community medicine. The first Saturday of each month, Sarkar and his colleagues offer a quick wellness lecture and join patients and friends for a 2-mile walk. Participants ask medical questions ranging from eating habits to complex medical concerns. “Not only am I doing something that helps me to be fulfilled and healthy, but I can also see how this work is making an impact on the lives of others.” After residency, Sarkar plans on continuing as a primary care physician in Houston. His work with the Harris Health System has afforded him a broad and comprehensive patient base, which has helped him to appreciate the diversity of Houston. “I’m incredibly enthusiastic about the process of listening to patients talk about their lives and needs,” Sarkar explained.

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SOUND MASTERS

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he world sat up and took notice of the four chamber music upstarts who swept the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition. The Dover Quartet would, in short order, go on to win the Avery Fisher Career Grant and be named a Cleveland Quartet Award winner. But before they were any of those things, they were two pairs of undergraduates at the Curtis Institute of Music. Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, the quartet’s violist, and Camden Shaw, its cellist, met during their first week at Curtis. Violinists Bryan Lee and Joel Link had known each other since they were 13. The group came together in 2008, and they all earned master’s degrees at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music in 2013. The group averages about 130 concerts every year. During the 2018–2019 concert season, they are playing in Portland, San Francisco and Hong Kong, among dozens of other cities. (Next spring, they’ll be back on campus with a program called “Love Stories,” featuring works by Anton Webern, Alban Berg and Robert Schumann.) When we talked to them for this story, they were huddled around Shaw’s cellphone in a hotel room in Norway. “People assume [the life of a musician] is glamorous and amazing,” laughed Pajaro-van de Stadt. “It’s always amazing to be doing what you love, but a lot of days, it involves brutally early mornings and crossing through three or four time zones, then rehearsing and playing. But if you want to sustain this career, you can’t be in one place.” The group is in agreement that they love the intimacy that comes from being a quartet, both as fellow musicians and for the bonds audiences can create with them and the music they play. There’s an energy created that can be both powerful and up close in a way that is different from symphonies and selections scored for much larger groups. The Dover Quartet has become known for its precision and passion. They’ve been called a “must-hear” by The Washington Post and “the young American string quartet of the moment” by The New Yorker. If it seems a lot to take in from the outside, this ensemble takes it in stride, knowing that they’re doing all they ever wanted to do: play music.


HEALTHY COLLABORATION

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llory Matzner Monks ’12 double majored in civil and environmental engineering and policy studies because she wanted to use engineering as a springboard for creating a more sustainable world. In 2016, she co-founded her own company, The Atlas Marketplace, an online community where cities share their success stories, learn what’s working in other cities and build relationships with partners who can help. “More than 1,500 city officials visit the site every month, and we have 100 partner cities now,” Monks said. “And while we do work with big cities, our partners are mostly medium-sized cities — like Gary, Ind., or Providence, R.I.” For example, via Atlas, city leaders in Providence connected with startup companies that test and analyze lead in drinking water and help find ways to replace aging systems more efficiently without breaking the bank. “You learn so much about yourself when you’re building a business. One of the most important things is having colleagues who share a vision of what our company can and should do.” Monks matriculated at Rice just as Hurricane Ike slammed into Houston. The storm’s impact would spur the launching of Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center. But before the center was even up and running, she interned for SSPEED co-director Jim Blackburn and took classes in resilience with Phil Bedient. Following graduation, Monks headed to Washington, D.C., for a fellowship with the Science and Technology Policy Institute, where she advised the Obama administration’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on a wide range of infrastructure, climate and resilience issues. Now based in San Diego, she and husband Sean Monks ’08 (until recently, an active duty U.S. Marine Corps officer, now a lawyer and serving in the Reserve) spend as much time in nature as possible — hiking with their dog, shopping at farmers markets, gardening and cooking. For Monks, outdoor hobbies are about connecting to her community and to the natural world, activities that, in turn, inspire her work. “At its core, it’s about being in pursuit of a bigger vision.”

WILD HEART

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mong 2010 graduate Ashley Thompson’s achievements — earning an architecture degree from Rice and a master’s in design studies from Harvard as well as being a U.S. Air Force officer — there is a wildness, a penchant to explore new territory and forge paths less traveled. As an Air Force officer, Thompson served three years as a civil engineer in Japan. Now, she intersperses Air Force contract work in Germany with world travel as she moves from peak to peak during mountaineering season. An endurance athlete and an avowed outdoor enthusiast, she began doing excursions into the wilderness in her early 20s, but more recently she has dedicated her free time to monthslong mountain climbing adventures. A year ago, she took on her first big climb at Mount Rainier. This year she hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, spent a month in the Everest Region of Nepal to summit Island Peak and was back on Rainier working on a more technical route. Next year, she has set her sights on Denali, the highest peak in North America. Academically, professionally and personally, Thompson is driven to push for political, social and environmental equity. Her graduate work at the Harvard Graduate School of Design focused on social equity and gender inclusion. Following the Gorkha earthquake in 2015, Thompson launched fieldwork in Kathmandu that promoted relief and resiliency efforts via community partnerships and locally based innovations, concentrating on projects that included and empowered women. “In all of the work that I’m doing,” Thompson explained, “I’m interested in reasserting the perspectives and stories of people who are present, working and achieving, but who aren’t necessarily heard. I’m interested in changing who controls the narrative.” m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   37


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ON THE RECORD

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ice seemed like a place where you could be yourself,” said Rose Cahalan ’10, managing editor of The Texas Observer, about her first impression of the campus. When she arrived on campus in fall 2006, she was drawn to English classes. With parents who were both English professors, it was a case of the apple not falling far from the tree. But unlike her parents, Cahalan’s experience would lead her to the newsroom instead of the classroom. Her first internship, which would also be her first journalism job, was with My Table magazine, a now-digital publication exploring Houston’s evergrowing food and restaurant scene. Cahalan calls her road to professional journalism “a meandering path,” one that took her first to the University of Texas at Austin alumni magazine, the Alcalde, and through several overlapping freelance assignments before she landed at The Texas Observer in 2016. “The Observer is one of a kind,” she said. “We’re a small team. I really get to do some of everything. And our publication takes an unapologetically progressive point of view on social justice issues. It sounds cheesy and idealistic, but I love being able to tell stories that can make a difference.” Cahalan keenly feels the responsibility she has to her readers, as well as to those who share their stories with her. Whether she’s writing a film review about a documentary that focuses on a strike in Texas in 1938 or a profile about the best places for raspas in South Texas, she hews to a personal code of taking every story seriously, even if it might seem like lighthearted fare. Her path to journalism may not have been traditional, and she’s fine with that. “Reading long, complicated articles for class and having to discuss them has shaped me and the way I approach my own writing.” Cahalan is a fan of long-form stories — 2,000–3,000 words — a length that allows her to really open up on a subject. “Writing,” she said, “allows me to have an adventure every time I set out on a new story.” 38 

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A PASSION FOR YOGA

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licia Dugar Stephenson ’12 was one year into her engineering major when a lupus diagnosis forced her to change direction. “I needed a major that made me happy and less stressed,” she said. “Luckily, I found something I enjoyed much more.” She chose French, a subject she enjoyed in high school, and international affairs. These passions led to a study abroad stint at L’Université de Nice in France during her junior year and to the French island of Martinique, where she spent a year teaching English after graduation. When she returned to the States, she was introduced to yoga by chance when her sister passed along a week’s worth of yoga classes. “Practicing yoga changed my life,” she said. “It was my way of enjoying every day. I practiced all the time and signed up for the first available teacher training.” Yoga minimizes Stephenson’s lupus symptoms, an autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation. “Yoga helped me heal myself,” she said. “That’s why I teach — I’m paying it forward.” She became a teacher at YogaWorks, a network of studios, and worked her way up to part of the leadership team. She also has her own company, AfroYoga International, which hosts yoga retreats and online wellness courses, and she is on the executive committee of The Melanin Project, a nonprofit that connects traditionally marginalized communities to emotional wellness. In October, Stephenson is releasing her first self-help book, “Yoga Wife, Happy Life,” which details the role her yoga practice plays in her personal life. She sees several parallels between her education and career path. “Everyone has their own life journey,” she said. “Diplomacy is taking all that diversity and helping people reach a common goal. That’s what I do through yoga.”


A GLOBAL INSPIRATION

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A L I C I A D U G A R ST E P H E N S O N P H OTO BY TO M M Y L AV E R G N E ; A N T H O N Y R E N D O N : G E T T Y I M AG E S

s a Rice undergrad, Lila Kerr ’12 spent her summers abroad testing student-designed medical equipment with Rice 360° Institute for Global Health. She studied sociology and the root causes of disparities in health outcomes, and she began to engage the incredible complexity of finding solutions to global health challenges. Now a graduate student at Yale in a joint master’s in public health and business administration, Kerr has increasingly become interested in how organizational behavior relates to global health. As an intern with Sanergy last summer, she focused on the sanitation crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. Her team aimed to make staffing for their container-based sanitation model more cost efficient — ultimately providing toilets, waste removal and recycling for thousands in the capital city’s informal settlements. “The difficulty I keep seeing is organizational in nature,” Kerr explained. “How can local leadership and doctors access sufficient energy sources? How will they address staffing shortages? What about transportation networks? These questions have motivated me to look at public health through an operational lens.” Kerr is walking in distinguished footprints. She’s quick to credit her success to the talented women who first taught her about global health. “I am so appreciative of the number and quality of female mentors I had while at Rice,” Kerr said. “I feel so lucky to have been guided and taught by them.”

A MAJOR MAJOR LEAGUER

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ven on his best day, Anthony Rendon ’12 would rather not talk about himself. Early last season, the notoriously unassuming Washington Nationals third baseman and former Rice Owl went 6-for-6 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, leading his team to an 18-run victory. At the time, he was just the second person in baseball history to do so. Afterward, media members approached him with caution. “You don’t like talking about yourself, but I’m going to have to do this to you,” a reporter prefaced, wanting something, anything, out of Rendon on his historic day. Rendon deflected all questions, maneuvering a piece of bubble gum around his mouth while talking up his team’s pitching performance. Politely exasperated, the reporter asked: “Can I do anything to get you to comment on your offensive day today?” “No,” said Rendon, a sly smile creeping across his face. The Washington Post once wrote that Rendon “actively avoids attention” and remains “playfully evasive.” “I credit that to my parents. Growing up, they taught me to be humble,” he said. Allow us, then, to brag on his behalf. In six seasons, Rendon has finished in the top six in National League MVP voting twice. He won NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2016 and is regarded as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. This season, he finished in the top three on the Nationals in every major offensive category, leading the team in both batting average and doubles. Meanwhile, he and his wife, Amanda, celebrated the birth of their first child, Emma, in July. While at Rice, Rendon was Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year and the Dick Howser Trophy winner for the nation’s best player — among many other accolades. Coach Wayne Graham once compared his wrists to those of Hank Aaron and his hand-eye coordination to Brooks Robinson’s. It’s the competitiveness and complexity of baseball that inevitably drew him to the sport. “There are so many little games within the bigger game of baseball. There are a lot of little things that have to go together as a team to get you pulling in the same direction to get a win,” he said. “You really can’t have just one individual take over the whole game for a team. One person can’t score 10 runs by themselves, they can’t drive themselves in 10 times.” He paused and chuckled, knowing the inevitable question to come. “I guess I set myself up there.” m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   39


20 30 UND

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BAKING BY THE NUMBERS

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rika Kwee ’12 leads two lives. In one, she’s a product manager for HP Inc., and in another, far more delicious life, she’s the creative mind behind The Pancake Princess, a data-driven baking blog. Kwee started her blog when she had a lot of free time to pursue a hobby after graduation. She said the food genre was sparked by her self-proclaimed sweet tooth and her passions for baking and recipe hunting. A blogging novice at the time, she gave herself a crash course in coding, food photography and branding. “I find it really rewarding when people tell me my research helped them bake the perfect cake for a special event,” she said. “There’s nothing worse than trying a new recipe and having it flop at the last minute.” In a saturated sea of food bloggers, Kwee’s signature bake-off posts make her stand out. The bake-offs, which are loved by her more than 21,000 Instagram followers, consist of 12 or so curated recipes of the same genre, such as “best brownie.” The thorough methodology includes a slew of lucky friends who are invited to taste test and rank. Kwee compiles the results into a data visualization, including scatter plots, bar charts and graphs, an overall ranking and a breakdown of subcategory awards, such as “best cake for least effort” and “most effort for best payoff.” While Kwee doesn’t strive to blog full time, she hopes to use her experience to launch a business that blends food and sustainability. “I feel like I plan bakeoffs like other people plan vacations.” 40 

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WILL WRITE FOR SCIENCE

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n animal lover for as long as he can remember, Jake Krauss ’17 had a lightbulb moment in his freshman-year conservation biology class. “I learned that conservation was something that could be studied and helps save endangered species,” he said. “I took advantage of every research opportunity I could find to get involved in conservation-based research and fieldwork in general.” This passionate drive took him all over the world while at Rice — from Ecuador to Madagascar to Australia. After graduation, he was awarded a Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship that allowed him to work in Peru for a couple of months. He collaborated with an environmental nonprofit near Machu Picchu on a community-based ecotourism project focused on a group of birds called the Andean cock-ofthe-rock. “The birds are really interesting to tourists because of their mating display,” he said. “The males will dance around and perform to attract the attention of the females.” Krauss and his brother, who is a cinematographer, teamed up to produce a short film about the birds. “We spliced together footage of the birds dancing with people from Cusco dancing, and it created this nice imagery that links the people with the environment.” After his Wagoner fellowship, Krauss backpacked through Bolivia and Chile before returning home to Washington, D.C. There, he worked as a science writer at the National Environmental Education Foundation, focusing on environmental marine life issues. “It’s been a great experience to communicate science to the general public,” Krauss said. “I’m passionate about improving scientific literacy and hope to incorporate that into my career.” This year, Krauss embarks on doctoral studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, focusing on conservation biology. His research will study the reintroduction of several types of marsupials to a mountain forest.


A COACHING TEACHER

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G A B E B A K E R P H OTO BY TO M M Y L AV E R G N E

ndrew McDermott ’10 came to Rice as a history major. But sometime during his junior year, he realized that using history as a launch pad to law or politics wasn’t for him. So, instead of going to graduate school after commencement, he applied for Teach for America. “Teaching runs in the family,” he said. “My mom is a teacher. My sister’s a teacher. I have aunts and uncles who teach.” More than that, though, he liked that Teach for America wanted to address inequities in the classroom by placing graduates from top colleges like him in rural or urban schools. As a young teacher, McDermott loved being around students. He taught seventh and eighth grade history. Today, he’s the assistant principal at KIPP Liberation College Preparatory in Houston. “When you’re a classroom teacher, you mostly deal with students and their parents,” he said. “Now, I spend my days with students, parents and teachers, trying to find ways to help them succeed and making sure we’re creating an environment that works for everyone.” Throughout his time as an educator, McDermott has wanted to be sure that his students not only saw themselves in the subject matter, but also understood that they could graduate and go on to college. Helping them find that path to success is something he also hopes to show teachers at KIPP. “I want to be an instructional coach to them,” he said. “I really didn’t want to be a typical administrator.” McDermott served as president of Jones College and took part in Impact Rice, a leadership development program for freshmen and sophomores. “The best part of my day are those moments — and this happens for both teachers and the students — when you see their minds grow, when you realize the thing you’ve been working on with them really clicks. I love that.”

ENGINEERING CHANGE

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t Rice, Gabe Baker ’14 majored in civil and environmental engineering, played in a record-breaking 56 football games and occasionally found time to keep up his cello skills. With the goal of learning more about civil engineering careers, he interned with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s ’71 office. After college, he worked as a roadway engineer for HNTB Corporation, an engineering and construction management firm in Houston. So, when Emmett’s office called last spring, asking if he’d be interested in becoming a flood control policy adviser, it seemed like a job tailor-made for Baker. “It’s purposeful work,” said Baker about his new position. It’s not just that he sees a duty to his community to serve, but that he sees doing so as an extension of his deep Christian faith. Baker recently completed his Master of Theological Studies at the Houston Graduate School of Theology (HGST), something he long felt called to do. “My foundation was a spiritual Christian household,” said Baker, whose mother teaches at HGST. “And my studies gave me an incredible understanding of where people are coming from, philosophically and spiritually.” Baker’s faith drives him to create community, something he thinks his position helps him to do. “There’s a deeper motivation for me in my career than just advancing to another job,” Baker said. Shortly after he was hired by Emmett, he spent time traveling around Houston, talking about the bond measure that would raise $2.5 billion for flood control efforts. His Rice studies allowed him to understand the scope of the projects involved — everything from property buybacks to shoring up reservoirs — but it was his seminary training, he said, that helped him connect with the people whose lives were affected by Hurricane Harvey. “For those who lost their homes, flood control isn’t theoretical,” he said. “This is a real issue in their real lives. Something needs to be done in our region. Being able to speak to people and tune in to their needs is useful.” ◆ m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   41


A series that profiles Owls whose work takes flight at night

At Home on the World’s Stages By Aaron Jaco

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H E L I F E OF A N OPE R A singer has taken Anna Christy Stepp ’98 to the world’s most famous stages — in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Great Britain. But one of her favorite audiences was at the gate of LaGuardia Airport in New York City. It was the day after her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014 — a performance The New York Times later called one of the top 10 concerts of the year — and Stepp (who is known professionally as Anna Christy) was waiting to catch a plane. Her husband, Evan Stepp ’94, was traveling with her, but he’d gone to find the restroom. That’s when the gate attendant offered $25 travel vouchers to anyone who told a joke or sang a song over the PA system. “I was like, ‘You know what, OK,’” she remembers. “I was still on cloud nine from the night before, still flying high on endorphins. So I sang a famous aria by Puccini. Everyone dropped what they were doing and stared at me; and when I finished, they cheered.” Stepp received two travel vouchers out of the deal, and Evan returned to the gate none the wiser. In a career of rave reviews, the impromptu performance reminded her of the pure joy of singing. “There’s something about the physical process that occurs when you take a breath and what you release is not just sound, it’s emotion,” she said. “Singing is universal, and it’s joyful. When my son is playing with cars, or he’s just had a nap or a snack, he’s singing. I used to sing in supermarkets as a child. We do it because it’s fun and more than a little bit addictive.” In a recent performance of Johann Strauss’ comic operetta, “Die Fledermaus,” at the Des Moines Metro Opera company in central Iowa, she played a chambermaid who’s light on her feet and brimming with energy. Her voice sparkled (a staff member described her as “incandescent”) as the character, Adele, shirked her maid’s apron, donned a glittering evening gown stolen from her employer and won the affection of a Russian oligarch at a costume ball. A graduate of Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, Stepp keeps close ties with former classmates and administrators. After Rice, she continued her studies at the University of Cincinnati’s CollegeConservatory of Music. Her career took off immediately — the voice of a “light soprano” being among the first to mature — and she’s reached the heights of stardom, performing numerous roles at The Metropolitan Opera and gracing the stages of countless other opera houses around the world. Accepting a role typically means living away from the Stepp’s Denver home for at least two months. Evan’s career as a physician sometimes affords

P H OTO S BY D U A N E T I N K E Y FO R T H E D E S M O I N E S M E T R O O P E R A

NIGHT OWL


him the flexibility to visit his wife in the far-off locales where she performs. Her children (“little Owls”) often come to live with her on location, especially during the summers. “I have this particular gift that allows me to give my children exposure to the ways people live in different parts of this country and around the world,” Stepp says. “My goal is to help them gain a broad understanding, and I hope they learn to accept people for who they are.” When they travel with her, the kids are often accompanied by a nanny, which allows Stepp to maintain the focus required of a performer. “I do absolutely nothing on performance days,” she says, which is only a slight overstatement: She goes for a run to boost her energy, practices yoga to stay flexible and engages in meditation to keep her mind focused. She avoids spicy foods

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THE PHYSICAL PROCESS THAT OCCURS WHEN YOU TAKE A BREATH AND WHAT YOU RELEASE IS NOT JUST SOUND, IT’S EMOTION.

because they might inflame the vocal chords, eschews sushi and other delicacies that might cause gastric distress and stays away from nightclubs or other areas where she might have to strain to be heard over environmental noise. “The most taxing thing about the job, and the thing we give the most of, is our mental energy,” she says. “Whether you’re singing or not, if you’re onstage, you have to be completely dialed in to totally inhabit that character. When the show’s over, there’s so much adrenaline. I’m so excited and happy.” Whatever time she wakes up, and wherever in the world she rises, she needs only two things to be happy: her craft and her family. “I find a market that I like. I wander the parks and find a playground for my kids — and I never get lonely, ever. Part of it is having the global community of opera. I’m at home everywhere.”


c reat ive i deas a nd e ndeavo r s

An Artful Season

Multifaceted artist’s residency comes to the Moody Center for the Arts and Rice classrooms this fall

A N A RT I S T W HO S E AC C L A I M E D WOR K S

are the product of cross-disciplinary collaborations with scientists, engineers, musicians, architects and programmers is taking over the Moody Center for the Arts this fall. In addition to a site-specific installation with a virtual reality (VR) component that spans two galleries in the Moody, Matthew Ritchie’s work extends across campus to 10 different Rice classrooms during his 2 1/2-month residency. “As the Leslie and Brad Bucher Artist-in44 

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MOODY CENTER FOR THE ARTS Sept. 21 – Dec. 22, 2018 Free admission Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday For directions, parking and more, go to moody.rice.edu.

Residence, [Ritchie] will be on campus working with students and visitors throughout the fall, bringing the work to life and engaging with a diverse array of classes including literary theory, math and musical composition,” said Alison Weaver, the Suzanne Deal Booth Executive Director of the Moody Center. The installation, “The Demon in the Diagram,” launched the Moody’s fall programming Sept. 21 and will run through Dec. 22. A British-born and New York-based artist,

P H OTO BY B R A N D O N M A RT I N

By Katharine Shilcutt


a rt s & L e t t e r s

Ritchie created a site-specific installation that includes paintings, lightboxes, an interactive floor and audio work commissioned for the Moody alongside a VR component. As an exploration of the structures created to map the history of time in the same way Ritchie’s earlier projects examined graphic diagrams of space, this exhibition includes elements from Ritchie’s newest body of work, “Time Diagrams,” an ambitious 100-part sequence of diagrammatic works that attempt to chronicle structural features of human thought over the past 5,000 years. Audiences are invited to engage with two interactive elements commissioned for the Moody. The first is a collaborative 3D sculptural environment that explores music and pedagogy through an interactive soundscape created with Ritchie’s longtime collaborators: musicians Kelley Deal, lead guitarist of the Breeders, and noted composer and clarinetist Evan Ziporyn. The second is an immersive work that inverts the familiar role of VR.

This project, Ritchie’s most complex to date, has been designed specifically for the Moody’s galleries as an open experiment in pedagogy. Both visitors and students will have the opportunity to participate in many aspects of the installation. For example, they can contribute to a durational musical work that will evolve over the fall months. The combination of elements will immerse the viewer in Ritchie’s creative vision of human history as a debatable and reconfigurable space, while encouraging the hands-on exploration of multiple systems LEFT: Matthew of meaning. Ritchie’s installation, Ritchie’s residency “The Demon in the Diagram,” spans is part of a larger protwo galleries at the gram of appearances, Moody Center for performances and guest the Arts. BELOW: Ritchie residencies by acclaimed gave a tour to ar tists. Check the students in a First-Year WritingMoody’s events calenIntensive Seminar dar at moody.rice.edu for on contemporary art more informaton. and environment.

UPCOMING EVENTS George Lewis: “Remains of the Sky” Through Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. James Turrell “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace “Remains of the Sky” is both a sound and light installation. A computer program designed by Lewis and realized by musician and software developer Damon Holzborn collects local weather data from the area around the Skyspace, then translates and compresses that information into a synesthetic performance of color, multichannel sound and rhythm.

Artist-in-Dialogue Discussion With Matthew Ritchie Oct. 25, 6 p.m. Brown Foundation and Central galleries Moody Center for the Arts

P H OTO BY J E F F F I T LO W

“Dimensions Variable” Oct. 27, 6 p.m. Brown Foundation and Central galleries Moody Center for the Arts In response to “The Demon in the Diagram,” San Francisco-based choreographer Hope Mohr and members of her company, in residence for a week, will perform an original work. Kelley Deal and Evan Ziporyn, who collaborated with Ritchie to design an interactive soundscape for “The Demon in the Diagram,” will also perform and discuss the project. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   45


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

Yesterday’s Special Lost Restaurants of Houston

By Paul Galvani and Christiane Galvani ’87 (The History Press, 2018)

If you want to document the history of a food mecca like Houston, it makes sense to focus on its restaurants. That’s the lens through which culinary enthusiasts Christiane Galvani ’87 and her husband, Paul, explore the city’s heritage. “Lost Restaurants of Houston” profiles 24 restaurants that played a key role in Houston’s cultural evolution — and it serves up some fascinating trivia tidbits along with well-loved recipes. We’ve excerpted a few of its foodie findings here.

Houston’s oldest restaurant:

Christie’s Seafood and Steaks, which turned 100 last year. What’s the secret to its longevity? “One of the fundamental reasons is that there’s still a member of the Christie family involved,” says Paul. “Plus, this area thrives on seafood, and they have an interesting mix of the traditional — like the fish sandwich that dates back to the original menu — but they’ve updated it to include more modern things as well.”

Houston’s first Mexican restaurant: The appropriately named Original Mexican Restaurant, which opened on Fannin Street in 1906. As the Galvanis note, ethnic restaurants are as old as the city itself. “In the very early days of Houston, tamale vendors roamed the streets of downtown, and chile stands could be found around Market Square,” they write. In 1899, Houston was home to two French restaurants, six chile stands and nine Chinese restaurants.

The grill that fueled the civil rights movement: Faurice and Ye Old College Inn circa 1920 46 

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Jessie Prince got into the restaurant business after Jessie grew tired of


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

having to go to the back of a local ice cream parlor to get a cone. They opened The Groovey Grill across the street from Texas Southern University in 1947, when segregation was in full force. As the Galvanis write, “It was one of the few places where AfricanAmericans could eat out without fear of intimidation or being threatened.” Their soul food fueled protestors during the sit-ins of the 1960s and became so legendary that it drew celebrities including Muhammad Ali, Jackie Wilson and former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

First restaurant to serve Owls: Ye

Old College Inn, on Main Street in what is now the Texas Medical Center, was a mainstay for the Rice community, especially athletes, from 1920 until it closed in 1978. Well-known Rice players and coaches burnished their names into one of the restaurant’s heavy wooden tables; the “Coaches’ Table” is preserved today in the Owl Club, above Rice Stadium’s south end zone.

How dining out has changed:

In the 1950s, no one went out to eat just because they didn’t feel like cooking. “Eating out was a big deal,” explains Christiane. “You went out for big occasions, like Easter dinner — and you went to certain places again and again. You got to know the menu and the waiters. Today we dine out more often, but we’re more inclined to try new places. It’s this quest for the new and unknown, and also to be the first to try something new — and to take a picture for Instagram.”

Most resilient restaurant type:

Burger joints — of 46 Houston restaurants that are still in business after more than 50 years, nine specialize in hamburgers. They include Champ Burger (opened in 1963), Someburger (1955) and Cream Burger (1946). “I’m not going to say you can’t go wrong with burgers, but it appears it’s harder,” Paul says. 

ON THE BOOKSHELF God, Improv, and the Art of Living By MaryAnn McKibben Dana ’94

The 90-Day Play: The Process and Principles of Playwriting

(William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018)

By Linda Walsh Jenkins ’66

MaryAnn McKibben Dana ’94, an ordained pastor and improv student, explores seven principles of improvisational comedy and applies them to Christianity and day-to-day living. She incorporates personal examples and practical exercises in each chapter, making the material suitable for both individual reading and group discussion. With a straightforward yet playful voice, Dana offers a unique perspective in this “guidebook on the art of living.”

(The 90-Day Novel Press, 2017)

The Kid’s Last American Adventure By Dale Hueppchen ’70

Of Monkey Bridges and Bánh Mì Sandwiches: From Sài Gòn to Texas

(Maine Authors Publishing, 2018)

By Oanh Ngo Usadi ’95

After learning he has less than a year to live due to cancer, Adam (aka the Kid) sets out on a road trip across the U.S. with his friend, Noah, who narrates the duo’s adventures. Along the way, the friends discuss a variety of topics, from art and literature to science and sports. Prolific writer Larry McMurtry ’60 also has a significant presence in their coast-to-coast journey.

Linda Walsh Jenkins ’66, a theater professor at Northwestern University, offers readers a 90-day guide to writing the first draft of a play. A useful tool for aspiring playwrights and teachers alike, the book combines the fundamentals of playwriting with daily exercises for a hands-on learning experience. With this guide, Jenkins achieves the feeling of face-to-face instruction, but from the comfort of one’s own home.

(O&O Press, 2018)

From growing up on an orchard in Vietnam to refugee camps to settling in Port Arthur, Texas, Oanh Ngo Usadi ’95 takes readers on the journey of her childhood in this touching memoir. Juxtaposing the struggles of an immigrant family alongside humorous memories from her youth, Usadi offers insight into what it means to become American — complete with her father’s quirky, bánh mìinspired American dream. 

— KY NDALL KRIST

— JENNIFER LATSON

m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   47


A Murder, a Mystery and a Vision An aging millionaire’s fortune was at stake, and an unlikely pair — a lawyer and a valet — had murder on their minds. By Daniel Ford

T

H E P L A N WA S S I M P L E

enough: Slip mercury pills into the victim’s meals, forge a will and, after the poison did its work, split the cash. Once the body was discovered, it would appear as if the elderly man had died peacefully in his sleep. The murder was calculated, cold — and if not for a sharp-eyed bank employee and the tenacity of a Houston lawyer, a grand vision for “an Institution for the Advancement of Literature, Science, Art, Philosophy and Letters” would have died, too. The visionary, of course, was William Marsh Rice. Rice was born March 14, 1816, in Springfield, Mass. At the age of 15, he dropped out of school and went to work as a clerk at a local grocery store. In his early 20s, Rice opened his own store

Newspaper clippings from the trial reflect testimony that valet Charles Jones hypnotized Rice to get him to change his will.

with the financial backing of his father. He soon sold the business and used the profits to purchase a shipment of goods 48 

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to be delivered by sea to Galveston, where Rice planned to make his fortune in the newly formed Republic of Texas. Upon arriving in Galveston, Rice learned that the vessel carrying his goods had been lost at sea, leaving him completely broke. His luck, though, would soon change. Rice possessed an impressive talent for knowing a lucrative opportunity when he saw one. He made a series of successful partnerships, founded several profitable companies and eventually became one of the richest men in Texas. Rice married twice and, tragically, was widowed twice. His first wife, Margaret

Bremond, died in 1863 almost a month before her 31st birthday. Rice’s second wife, Julia Elizabeth Baldwin, died in 1896, but not before she signed a secret will leaving half of the couple’s estate to her own beneficiaries, contradicting Rice’s will that left the bulk of the estate

to the Rice Institute. During the resulting estate battle, Albert Patrick, a lawyer working on behalf of Elizabeth’s executor, met Charles Jones, Rice’s valet. The two hatched a plan to forge a will leaving most of Rice’s estate to Patrick, murder Rice and steal his millions. The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 put Rice’s Texas holdings in jeopardy, however, and Patrick and Jones needed to act quickly before too much money was lost. They abandoned the daily dosage of poison in favor of fast-acting chloroform. On Sept. 23, 1900, Jones murdered Rice with a chloroform-soaked sponge while he lay sleeping in his New York City apartment. In less than 24 hours, Patrick and Jones’ plan began to fall apart. It started with a forged check made out to “Abert Patrick.” An observant bank clerk caught the misspelling and alerted bank management. Capt. James A. Baker Sr., Rice’s longtime lawyer and trustee of the Rice Institute, was soon notified of his client’s death, the suspicious check and the new will. Everything pointed to foul play. With the help of a handwriting expert, along with a damning court exhibit consisting of glass plates bearing photographic reproductions of the identical forged signatures, Baker was able to prove that the will was fake. The autopsy uncovered signs of arsenic and mercury poisoning. Patrick was found guilty and sentenced to death — though, surprisingly, he was later fully pardoned and released — while Jones was released after providing testimony against his co-conspirator. Ultimately, a settlement was reached with Rice’s late wife’s family and the Rice estate was safe once more. On Sept. 23, 1912, the 12th anniversary of Rice’s murder, Rice Institute’s first class matriculated and a grand vision was realized.

I M AG E S C O U RT E SY O F T H E W O O D S O N R E S E A R C H C E N T E R

FAMILY FAMILYALBUM ALBUM


UNMATCHED “My Rice education has given me the tools and resources I need to make my dreams come true. The scholarships I’ve received have forever changed my world and my future.” In high school, Lily Wulfemeyer ’20 knew Rice was the perfect place to pursue her interests in engineering, creative writing and music. She soon realized that cost might be a barrier. “When I received my acceptance, I was thrilled,” Lily says. “But I needed to figure out if my family could make this work.” A generous financial aid package made Rice possible. Today, she is pursuing a degree in English, leading a student art collective and co-editing a literary arts magazine. Lily illustrates a fundamental Rice value: Talent deserves opportunity. Beginning in fall 2019, a new financial aid initiative — The Rice Investment — will significantly expand support for low- and middleincome families. With a commitment to raise $150 million in need-based, endowed scholarships, Rice is investing in the promise of all students who demonstrate talent, creativity and drive to positively impact the world. Read Lily’s full story and learn more about The Rice Investment at envision.rice.edu/thericeinvestment.

unconventional. unlimited. uncharted. unmatched.

envision.rice.edu 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

A Place for Civil Dialogue

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

RICE’S BAKER INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY has been a respected voice in domestic and foreign

public policy matters for a quarter of a century. Under the leadership of Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, the institute has grown in recognition as one of the world’s premier bipartisan and university-based think tanks. This year, as part of its 25th anniversary commemoration, the Baker Institute invited the public — and distinguished guests — to a wide range of events showcasing the work of its major research centers, policy experts and programs. The lineup included The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, to name a few. The celebration will culminate with a 25th anniversary gala held Nov. 27 with former President Barack Obama as the guest of honor. Obama will take part in a discussion with former Secretary James A. Baker III, whose founding vision “to build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action” continues to guide the institute today. The gala will highlight the Baker Institute’s 25th commemorative year under the theme “A Quarter Century: Making History.”

Rice Magazine | Fall 2018  
Rice Magazine | Fall 2018