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The Magazine of Rice University

Winter 2019

ALSO CELEBRATING 25 YEARS The Baker Institute inspires civil dialogue and debate A MINDFUL RETREAT A Rice program fosters renewal and adventure


Barack Obama was the guest of honor at the Baker Institute’s 25th anniversary gala. He and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III spoke for nearly an hour in a conversation moderated by presidential historian Jon Meacham. See our story on Page 28. Photo by Michael Stravato

The Magazine of Rice University

winter 2019

Contents F EATUR ES



By Deborah Lynn Blumberg

By Ruth Oh Reitmeier ’92

A BOLD STEP Rice has dramatically expanded its financial aid policy, making college more affordable for students from middle- and lower-income families.


THE THOUGHT FACTORY By Franz Brotzen ’80

We look back at the story behind the founding of Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the 25 years of growth that have fueled the institute’s rise in reputation and ranking.

IN PURSUIT OF NOTHING What happens when a Rice staff member and working mom trades heels for hiking boots on a five-day mountain retreat?


NIGHT OWL By Alice Levitt

Tim Faust ’09 manages Party World Rasslin’, an Austin-based act that combines amateur wrestling, performance art and a party atmosphere for a one-of-akind show.



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


SCOREBOARD Dispatches from Rice Athletics


A B ST R ACT  Findings, research and more




ARTS & LETTERS  Creative ideas and endeavors


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


on the web Featured Contributors Franz Brotzen ’80 (“The Thought Factory”) is a freelance writer living in Houston and frequent contributor to Rice Magazine. He worked as an editor in print and broadcast journalism and was previously a news and media specialist at Rice.


Big Changes News of The Rice Investment dropped in September and has been making waves ever since. Watch the official announcement video that first explained the transformative changes to Rice’s financial aid policies.


A Night to Remember Take a look at the highlights from the conversation between former President Barack Obama and James A. Baker III at the Baker Institute’s 25th anniversary gala.


Podcasts and Perspectives “Tête-à-Tête” is a new podcast series created by Rice Architecture, featuring conversations with renowned and unconventional figures from the field of architecture.


Stretchy Energy Rice engineers are always working on revolutionary technology. Get a glimpse of the newly developed flexible organic solar cells that could provide energy where constant, lowpower generation is most needed.

Follow Rice Magazine on Instagram and Twitter

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

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Gracia Lam (“In Pursuit of Nothing”) is an awardwinning, Toronto-based illustrator whose work aims to reinvent everyday objects and mundane environments. Illustrator Alex Eben Meyer (“We Don’t Know”) has worked with a wide range of editorial, book and advertising clients. He recently illustrated two children’s books: “Hero vs. Villain” and “Creature vs. Teacher.” Ruth Oh Reitmeier ’92 (“In Pursuit of Nothing”) is a certified leadership coach who manages the various coaching-related programs for Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders.

On the Cover

Alaina Bertram ’21 and Emmett Bertram ’21 were photographed in the Sadie R. Smith Auditorium inside Herzstein Hall. The twins will benefit from The Rice Investment starting this fall. Read more in “A Bold Step” on Page 22. Photo by Jeff Fitlow Lettering and illustration by Katy Holton


The Magazine of Rice University Winter 2019 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











Jade Boyd, Jon-Paul Estrada, Jeff Falk, Jennifer Latson, Brandon Martin, Amy McCaig, Kendall Schoemann, Katharine Shilcutt, Mike Williams INTERNS

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

Read at Your Own Pace


E C AUS E I L I V E I N A N apartment just five blocks from campus, I walk to work. My daily commute begins on Wroxton Court and ambles south along Ashby Street. After a dash across Rice Boulevard, I enter campus via the “Bob Curl gap” — a reference to a well-worn path taken to and from the neighborhood by former resident Robert Curl ’54, University Professor Emeritus. I cross the North Lot and make my way to Allen Center, varying my route according to time and inclination. With luck, I’ll stop for several “sidewalk meetings” along the way. It’s a pace I enjoy and not a bad way to begin a workday — sauntering, chatting with colleagues and appreciating the natural beauty of campus. So here you have a new issue of Rice Magazine. How will you read it? Do you dash through the headlines and photos? Stop to visit with someone you know? Place a copy on the coffee table to be read as time allows? Regardless of your pace, here are some stops we recommend. Last September, when Rice announced revolutionary changes in its financial aid policy, students reported both cheers and tears across campus. For domestic students who depend on financial aid to attend Rice, the announcement was nothing short of miraculous. “It just felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” said sophomore Mai Ton, who was quoted in a

Sept. 26 Rice Thresher story. In this issue, “A Bold Step” delves into the details of The Rice Investment. The most famous faces in this issue belong to the esteemed guests at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy 25th anniversary gala held in November. It’s worth checking out the conversation between former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, moderated by historian Jon Meacham, linked on our website. In “The Thought Factory,” we take stock of the institute’s founding and development into one of the top university think tanks in the country. It was a happy surprise when Ruth Oh Reitmeier ’92 sent us a draft of a personal essay — “In Pursuit of Nothing” — she wrote recounting several days spent on a retreat sponsored by Rice’s Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center. We were hooked by descriptions of hiking in the Appalachian Mountains — a respite from her daily routine at the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. Not into the contemplative? Check out the profile of “Night Owl” Tim Faust ’09 and his wrestling startup called Party World Rasslin’. Oh, he’s also an expert in health care policy. That’s a well-rounded Rice grad. We hope you enjoy your route through this issue’s features and departments, while taking in the incredibly diverse view of the Rice community. As always, send your comments, quibbles and story ideas to  — LYNN GOSNELL

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FALL 2018

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.


I R E C E I V E D T W O I T E M S in the mail that caused a double take. I’m still not sure what to make of this parliament of Gen Next models appearing passionate and purposeful [on the cover of the Fall 2018 issue]. I sense an intentionality of messaging, but I can’t quite determine whether I’m supposed to be inspired about undergarments or higher education at an elite university. Can you help me distinguish between the messaging conveyed by these two images?  — DARRYL STEPHENS ’90 P.S. I enjoyed the young Owl profiles and will share them with my teenage son. 


A S R I C E ’ S O N LY M A S T E R O F wine, I really enjoyed Belinda Chang’s article about matching wines to Rice’s colleges. Amusing and mostly apt. 


Editor’s Note: After reading the Summer 2007 Rice Magazine profile of Stefanowicz — an architect turned wine expert who holds a coveted master of wine certificate — we reached out to her via email for an update. Here are five things we learned.

Editor’s Note: This letter is a HOOT. While we were not jockeying for that marketing message, we did find the juxtaposition to be revealing. Underneath it all, don’t we all aspire to be Owls? Seriously, thanks for sharing these cool stories with your son! Check out the extra profiles online at

Stefanowicz is an expert in sparkling wines.

She is also a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Educators and of the Worshipful Company of Architects in the City of London.

Currently, she is an international wine judge and wine educator in the U.K., France and North America.

Stefanowicz continues to design and manage construction projects, mainly in the U.K., including a winery project in France at La Verriere for Chene Bleu.

The multitalented alumna also makes wine in London from her 14 vines of Madeleine Angevine; in good vintages, she can achieve 20 bottles.

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

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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 POSTMASTE R

Send address changes to: Rice University Development Services–MS 80 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 © February 2019 Rice University

president’s note


What Happens at Rice … Doesn’t Stay at Rice JUST AFTER THANKSGIVING, we hosted a gala celebration of the 25th anniversary of Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The celebratory evening was capped off by a conversation between former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, moderated by historian Jon Meacham, that received national media attention. There was much to celebrate. In a short 25 years, the Baker Institute has become one of the most renowned think tanks in the United States. Indeed, last year, the Baker Institute was ranked the No. 3 university-affiliated think tank in the world, and its Center for Energy Studies was ranked as the best energyand resource-based think tank. The institute has also been influential in other policy areas, including health care, fiscal policy and taxation, science policy and space exploration, to name just a few. Emblazoned on its beautiful building, and taken from the original vision of Baker, are the words “A bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action.” Over the course of its first quarter century, the Baker Institute has become a leading nonpartisan policy institute in large part because of the vision of Baker and the remark-

able leadership of its director, Edward Djerejian. But the Baker Institute is far from the only endeavor at Rice that seeks to have impact — through new ideas, research and discoveries — on our world. Indeed, such endeavors by our faculty and students are present in every corner of the university. Naomi Halas’ research group, for example, focuses on nanoengineered photonics and plasmonics. Halas pursues fundamental inquiries into the nature of matter and applications of cutting-edge knowledge on the interaction of light with molecular structures. She holds 15 patents that will have impact in a range of fields, including medicine and energy. Some are the foundation of a company she started, Nanospectra Biosciences, which has developed a new treatment for prostate cancer using gold-plated nanoshells to precisely heat and destroy cancer cells. The treatment was recently covered by a television station in Houston whose beloved chief meteorologist, Frank Billingsley, showed remarkable progress after undergoing that treatment for his prostate cancer. (Go to to see that report.) This company is just one example of many businesses launched out of scientific discoveries at Rice. This requires that we support faculty through the process of identifying and protecting intellectual property, which we do through the Office of Technology Transfer. More broadly, students are being supported in making new innovations and starting new businesses through the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a recently launched student venture fund. This past fall, the School of Social Sciences announced the creation of the Texas Policy Lab, which will make policy analysis techniques available to enable Texas government agencies to make more data-driven policy decisions. In the humanities, April DeConick used a grant from the Faculty Initiatives Fund to develop the musical scores and performances that might have been heard in conjunction with the gnostic gospels on which she

is a pre-eminent scholar. The Kinder Institute for Urban Research, created just eight years ago, describes itself as “a multidisciplinary think and do tank.” It has already had a significant impact on policy issues within the city of Houston, and aims much more broadly to bring researchdriven analysis and solutions to the problems of the urban environment. And the Data to Knowledge Lab (D2K) was launched last year, which provides experiential learning opportunities in data analysis to our students while they help other research efforts on campus and nonprofits make use of their data. This just begins to scratch the surface. I have written before of the extraordinary work of Rice 360° in bringing new technologies for saving newborns in Africa; of OpenStax, which is providing free and low-cost textbooks to high schools and colleges; and of the Houston Education Research Consortium, which is building on engagement with HISD and other school districts to use data to drive and evaluate educational reform. Our students, faculty and staff are driven to make a difference in the world. That often requires different structures (including institutes and centers) and different resources than more traditional university endeavors. Many of these efforts also require that we bring together disciplines from across the university in new ways. If we don’t support this passion to make a difference, we won’t be able to recruit the best faculty and students. Action and impact have long been part of what universities do, but that has increased both in magnitude and in the speed at which insights and discoveries arising at universities have real impact. The Baker Institute represents one of the first major efforts at Rice to explicitly seek this external impact, and marking its 25 years of achievement was an occasion to celebrate its remarkable successes. Many other endeavors will be celebrating their anniversaries in the years ahead. One thing you can be sure of: What happens at Rice, doesn’t stay at Rice. m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   5



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

Festival of Light

ICE MARKED THE FIRST NIGHT OF HANUKKAH with latkes, jelly-filled sufganiyot and a blowtorch, which President David Leebron used to light the first candle of a 9-foot menorah — a new event on campus. “Tonight we make history as we mark the first menorah lighting at Rice University,” said Rabbi Shmuli Slonim, who along with his wife, Nechama, runs the Rice chapter of Chabad, a Jewish community in the Orthodox tradition. While Leebron climbed a ladder to light the menorah, the MOB played traditional songs for the large crowd gathered in the Graduate Commons outside Valhalla. The menorah was moved to the Central Quad the following day, where the remaining nights of Hanukkah were marked with bright new lights each evening.


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sa l ly p o rt




H E S P I A N S H AV E crafted a significant stage presence on campus, from the creation of the first Rice Dramatic Club to the formation of the student-based Rice Players and eventually the establishment of a formal theater department. After a couple of starts, college theater took off in the mid1960s with the advent of Wiess Tabletop Theater’s 1965 production of “Antigone.” Wiess Tabletop Theater would produce one show every semester until fall 1967, when the group risked its entire budget to produce “Hello, Hamlet!,” a musical parody written by George Greanias ’70. Now, “Hello, Hamlet!” is reprised every four years. “As a living work that evolves with every production, students feel both ownership over the material and pride in its legacy,” said Elisabeth Papadopoulos ’05, who choreographed and penned lyrics for the 2004 “Hello, Hamlet!” In the 1980s, Tabletop added the Freshman One Acts to its annual season. “The Freshman One Acts would break down barriers quickly between upper- and lowerclassmen, forge new friendships and connections, and offer the entire college a way to get to know and celebrate our new members,” Papadopoulos said. In 1970, Baker College established Baker Shakespeare, affectionately called BakerShake, currently the longest-running Shakespeare festival

in Houston. BakerShake has presented one of the playwright’s works every spring, producing popular plays like “The Tempest” and “Romeo and Juliet,” but embracing innovation like casting a female lead in “Henry V” in 2018. Celebrating its 50th season in 2019, BakerShake has been directed by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Actors From the London Stage, one of the oldest touring Shakespeare companies in the world. Mostly though, BakerShake has been led by alumni and student directors like Joseph “Chepe” Lockett ’91, who has participated every year since 1988 and directed it seven times. “Over the years, you can see returning students and newcomers working side by side, passing on knowledge and traditions,” Lockett said. “It’s a welcoming group, secure in its past yet aware that it always needs to welcome new blood to keep going.” The residential colleges, especially the newer ones, have been mounting contemporary — sometimes experimental — shows to satisfy a modern audience. Will Rice College presented the cult classic “The Room” in November, and in April 2018, McMurtry College put on “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” as a parody. In December 2017, Martel and Sid Richardson colleges collaborated on the off-Broadway musical “The Last Five Years,” directed and co-produced by Jake Reinhart ’19. “In my experience, the thing that really drives college theater is that students want to be involved in shows and have their own ideas and passion projects,” Reinhart said. “College theater is great because it allows us to do much more creative and avant-garde shows in a low-risk environment.”  — BRYA N N. DE MOR A E S ’21 From top: BakerShake’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 1995; BakerShake’s 25th anniversary program; Wiess Tabletop Theater’s 1992 program for “Hello, Hamlet!”; a yodeler in a Wiess Tabletop production, year unknown. m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   7

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


1,001 Nights

During her 30-year career, Paula Sanders, a professor of history, has taught countless Rice students about the Islamic world. This is her third time teaching FWIS 125, but each iteration of the class is unique. Shaped by the interests and conversations of students, the syllabus can go through many modifications — just like “The Arabian Nights.”

Your Arabian Nights DEPARTMENT First-Year WritingIntensive Seminar DESCRIPTION “The Arabian Nights” is one of the best known, yet least understood, literary masterpieces. It has been passed down orally and in writing, performance and film; in multiple languages; and with different collections of stories. Students consider these stories through literary, creative and historical lenses. 8 

T H E I NSPI R AT ION FOR the class came from Sanders’ personal research into the reconstruction of medieval cities in the 19th century, when a generalized fascination with the “mystical Orient” made European travelers want to see the Cairo of “The Arabian Nights,” a city reimagined with mythical proportions. “I thought it would be really interesting to teach a course that asked students to think about how cultural creations change over time, and what makes a cultural creation or an iteration of it meaningful to different audiences at different times,” Sanders said. The class has studied literary and cinematic adaptations — including Disney’s “Aladdin” — and focused on how these

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narratives have spread far beyond their original context to become a cross-cultural phenomenon. Some of the readings include versions of the tales authentically dated to the 15th century, along with a few of the orphan tales (including the stories of Sinbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin) that aren’t found in any Arabic manuscript before the 18th century. While part of her objective is to expose her students to “The Arabian Nights,” Sanders’ focus lies primarily on helping her students become critical thinkers, question their underlying assumptions and engage the world in an analytical way. Fueled by her ever-present table of snacks at the front of the classroom (that day consisting of Oreos, popcorn

and Doritos®), Sanders challenges her students to converse about the surprising parallels between “The Arabian Nights” and memes — versatile and compact visual representations of culture. “In a sense, [Husain] Haddawy was an international meme lord,” quipped Kamil Cook, a Brown College freshman, in reference to the translator of the version the class has focused on. “My philosophy on teaching is the same as my philosophy on gardening,” Sanders said. “As a gardener, the most important thing you do is create the right conditions for the plants. And that’s what I try to do as a teacher: create the right conditions for my students to thrive.” 


Chethana Biliyar at the CAVA artisanal market in the Marcory neighborhood of Abidjan.


Salutations Depuis Abidjan! [Greetings From Abidjan] CHETHANA BILIYAR ’08


WAKE UP IN ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, to a blast of heat and humidity, the sound of car horns, endless construction and the smell of grilled fish. My 15-minute commute to work starts with grabbing some food from a street vendor. Since I am not an early riser, breakfast usually involves the last bits of what she has — beans, part of an omelet, leftover stew, potatoes and the signature Ivorian pepper paste. I then pick through the sandy, potholed streets, passing an assortment of shops and stands: upscale


bakeries, car wash stations, Western Union branches as well as vendors selling garba — fried tuna served with diced tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and the ubiquitous cassava side dish, attiétké. Abidjan is a lively city, and I find that the best way to experience it is on foot. Despite my lifelong challenge with navigation, I rarely get lost when walking. I ask for directions and in return make acquaintance-friends who alternate between providing helpful information and sharing blunt, unsolicited advice: “You look tired today. You should wear more lipstick,” for example. What always feels comforting to me is the sense of community — a community that includes me, even as a white woman (though I am Indian-American, in subSaharan Africa, I am considered white). I’ve had positive experiences throughout West Africa, but Abidjan’s unique habit of using French rather than local languages and its historically open postcolonial immigration policy have made

it a particularly easy transition for me and other nonnatives. I am living here through the luck of the draw. My company needed a regional coordinator for a USAID-funded health policy project. By day, I support a team of amazing professionals working with government ministries in six West and Central African countries to build policy platforms to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases like Ebola. Outside the office, I commit to discovering new neighborhoods and enjoying Abidjan’s local music and food scenes. As an anthropology major at Rice, I felt that it was the norm rather than the exception to be drawn to living abroad and adapting to different cultural environments. I am not sure what comes next for me after my current role here ends, but I know this very uncertainty is a natural part of the learning process. The lessons Abidjan has taught me will make me better prepared than ever for the next challenge. 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 Teachers’ Teacher Josh Eyler wanted to be a teacher since he was 5 years old, but it wasn’t until graduate school that he became interested in different teaching approaches and development. As director of Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence, he now directs a robust program of pedagogical training, mentoring and practical experiences.

In his first book, “How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching” (West Virginia University Press, 2018), Eyler identifies five broad themes — curiosity, sociality, emotion, authenticity and failure — and discusses what educators can take away from each to improve students’ learning experiences. C U R IO S I T Y

That’s first in the book because I think, as individuals, that is what moves us to learn more. It’s kind of the fundamental driver of learning — the desire to know more and then following up on that. I actually begin with an account of when my daughter was a baby and watching her fascination with these red coffee cups we had, and I had never seen such purely fundamental curiosity, like curiosity as not just an intellectual exercise but as a need, and that moment just shifted everything for me. What happens to that? It’s a natural part of who we are and it’s driving the way she is interacting with the world, so where does that go? How can we tap into it? How can we use it as a tool? SOCIALITY

[In the book,] I do talk a lot about the biology of learning and what is happening in our brains when we’re learning. And not just what’s happening in our brains, but also how our brains have come to learn in that particu10 

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

lar way. The second chapter is all about social connection and how we as people not only thrive on social connection, but also fundamentally need it. And that extends to our learning as well; we learn much better from other people than we do by ourselves. Part of it is because this is how we have developed as people through those social interactions. The earliest communication was people talking to other people about information that they needed to know. And so those teaching relationships have a very, very long history and do become embedded in the fabric of who we are. E MO T ION

So much of the research on emotion and learning shows that emotion and cognition go hand in hand. For a long time, people thought that one came before the other — that you had to feel before you could think or vice versa — but now we know the different parts of the brain are interacting at some of the emotional parts, some of the cognitive parts, and there are pieces of the brain that are fundamental to both responses. They work in tandem really nicely, so if you think about ways that you can use humor and joy in the classroom — make people experience the joy of the subject matter or you create really warm, welcoming environments in the classroom — those are prime ways that your emotions are tied to learning.


Our brains are really good at picking out what is an artificial learning environment where we don’t have to pay attention, and what is an authentic, real learning environment. Flying an airplane and being in a flight simulator would both be authentic because they are mirroring real settings;

they’re real to the brain. But being given a lecture on how to fly a plane would not be, so they’re two different sorts of things. I could watch the Food Network all I want. That’s not gonna teach me what I need to know until I get in there and start doing it. We have all been in lectures where we’re thinking, “Uh, why do I possibly need to

know this?” And that is the signal — that’s the manifestation of a lack of authenticity. FA I LU R E

Our educational systems all the way up are set up to discourage failure and to stigmatize failure. As scholars in higher education, we know just from our work when we go to do research, we don’t magically come up with the right answer. It’s trial and error over and over again till you come to something that looks close to success. [As scholars, we] intuitively know that, but educational systems are set up in exactly the opposite way — that it’s immediate success in high-stakes environments. We haven’t mined all the possibilities for a productive use of failure and error in the classroom. On a biological level, we’re making mistakes and errors all the time. So it’s a feature, not a bug; this is the way our learning processes work. We also have parts of our brain that are specifically attuned to catching errors and devoting cognitive resources to them. We need to think about that as teachers and embrace it while knowing our students have a dominant fear of failure. This is something that has been cultivated their entire lives.  — INTERVIEW BY

Our brains are really good at picking out what is an artificial learning environment where we don’t have to pay attention, and what is an authentic, real learning environment.


For an expanded version of Unconventional Wisdom, go to 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


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Tim Harrison

A Winning Spirit


Rice volleyball boasts historic season


HEN THE R ICE volleyball starting lineup takes the court, the remaining team members move to the corner of the gym. Once there, they launch into a gamelong litany of cheers and chants with banter that never lets up. If the Owls lose possession, you’ll hear them sing, “Side out! Side out!” During tense moments, it’s “R-I-C-E” — a Tudor Fieldhouse crowd favorite. Their ownership of the gym is total, and their message is clear: This is our house. In their house, the Owls were practically unbeatable. In 2018, they won 13 of 14 matches at home en route to the program’s first Conference USA (C-USA) regular season title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore outside hitter Nicole Lennon won C-USA Player of the Year honors, and Rice finished the season ranked No. 30 in the NCAA’s rating percentage index. Rice’s banner season was not just a rare moment of good fortune, but the result of planned, incremental improvement within an established, successful program. With 24 wins, 2018 marked the Owls’ fifth consecutive 20-win season. “We keep the standards very high in our gym and work toward cultivating a championship mindset,” says head coach Genny Volpe. “This means excelling in everything, all of the time, every day.” Volpe also places considerable emphasis on a less quantifiable characteristic of success: team spirit. “Their focus on team unity has created a cohesiveness that gives us an advantage both on and off the court.”  — SARAH BRENNER JONES

6:30 a.m. Wake up, relax and read.

“Make time. Make time to read about things that you like.”

8:15 a.m.



Breakfast at Baker — five eggs, spinach, Greek yogurt with mangos and tea. Maybe some bacon and oatmeal.

9:25 a.m. Class: U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s


10:50 a.m.


Class: Sales and Revenue Generation





SCOTT PERA You don’t have to ask Tim Harrison ’20 what he’s all about if you’re willing to listen. “I’m in the rough, far from perfect/ But certain I’m gonna make it/ Willing to pay the price, no matter how high the payment,” he raps on one of his singles, “In the Rough.” On the basketball court, the 6-foot-8 forward is what you might call an “energy guy” — a player ready and willing to provide a spark off the bench. Harrison, however, brings that spark everywhere. He also writes and records his own music and is a voracious reader, determined to make himself a little better each day. “They say the worst mistake is being too afraid to make one/ So when I get my shot, I’mma take it.”

“Tuesday is hectic. It’s back-to-backto-back-toback.”

Quick lunch at a South College servery

12:15 p.m. Lab

1 p.m. Class: Developmental Psychology

2:15 p.m. Basketball team lift

3 p.m. Basketball practice, followed by film sessions and more shootaround

5:30 p.m. Eat dinner and chill in the team lounge

7 p.m. Homework

10 p.m. Make time to write and make music

“It’s a good outlet and a good way to be creative.”

“I pride myself on being a good teammate. If I’m not in the game, I’m going to be the loudest one cheering. I’m going to be picking guys up. When I’m in the game, I’m going to give 100 percent effort and try to do what I can.”

Midnight “What time do I go to sleep? I need to work on this, but on a good day, around midnight.”

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


A Composed Assignment

History course combines primary sources and creativity


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T U DE N T S H AV E traded textbooks for primary sources and traditional papers for creative assignments in an innovative history class, Fighting the Atlantic Slave Trade. This firsthand approach to learning inspired Martel College senior Munachimso “Muna” Uzodike, a kinesiology major, to turn a weekly assignment into an original, copyrighted song, “I Will Abstain.” The moving hymn was written from the perspective of a preacher’s wife who was working with an abolitionist society in late 18th-century England.

A role-playing element was central to the design of the class, taught by historian Daniel Domingues. Domingues’ students adopted pseudonyms and developed characters over a series of assignments throughout the semester. Uzodike chose the character of a preacher’s wife. As the daughter of pastors who run a church in The Woodlands, it was in some ways a natural persona for her to assume. Yet it still required a shift in perspective, to that of a woman living in a foreign society some 200 years ago. “It’s another dimension of learning, and I definitely haven’t experienced that in


other classes before,” Uzodike said. All of Domingues’ students consulted primary sources for their research. “In a textbook, what readers get is already an interpretation,” Domingues said. “It’s part of our job here to provide them with these primary sources and to guide students in interpreting them, because that’s one skill we provide here as a department: critical thinking.” In their weekly assignments, students could opt to write

The moving hymn was written from the perspective of a preacher’s wife who was working with an abolitionist society in late 18thcentury England. a standard college paper after reading, for example, a series of abolitionist diary entries or, as an alternative, respond with a poem, sermon, pamphlet, sculpture or some other artistic undertaking. “The character is the wife of an evangelical pastor, but she writes as well,” Uzodike said. “So I felt like socially she probably wouldn’t have been writing a sermon, but a song — something that is meaningful and that she relates to on a faith level, also as a display of her love for writing and her passion toward the movement.” Further inspiration came from a 1788 sermon preached by Thomas Bradshaw and a firsthand account written in 1787 by Ottobah Cugoano, an emancipated slave living in England. “I’ve written papers before and professors thought they were good, but this is a bit different because it’s not just analyzing something — this is something I’ve created,” Uzodike said. 


To hear Uzodike perform “I Will Abstain,” go to

Rice Announces $82M Research Initiative

Funding targets neuroengineering, synthetic biology and physical biology PROVOST MARIE LYNN Miranda said two recurring themes in the strategic planning process that produced Rice’s Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade (V2C2) were the need to establish globally recognized programs and to strengthen local ties, including those with the Texas Medical Center. “Our strategy is to build where we think we can achieve excellence,” Miranda said. “That will serve as a magnet to researchers from a wide variety of institutions.” Neuroengineering, synthetic biology and physical biology are areas where many Rice faculty members already work closely with partners, often on questions that cannot be answered by experts from a single field, Miranda said. She also said elevating graduate training — graduate students are 42 percent of Rice’s student body — is a central focus for each of the initiatives. “Great graduate students are attracted by the best faculty, and top faculty want to work at schools with great graduate students. At the same time, all three of these investments will create outstanding research opportunities for our very talented undergraduates.”

Neuroengineering is a discipline that exploits engineering techniques to understand, repair and manipulate human neural systems and networks for the betterment of the estimated 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from disorders of the nervous system. Behnaam Aazhang, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will lead this area. Synthetic biology brings predictability to the design of biological systems. Synthetic biologists seek to create organisms that can transform medicine, manufacturing, energy, agriculture and more. Gang Bao, the Foyt Family Professor of Bioengineering and professor of chemistry, and Joff Silberg, professor of biosciences and of bioengineering, will lead this initiative. Physical biology seeks to describe and anticipate the properties and behaviors of biological molecules and systems by integrating biology with theoretical physics and chemistry, mathematics and computer science. Leading faculty are José Onuchic, the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science. — JADE BOYD m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   15

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Distraction Actions

Digital device overload linked to first impressions “Our results suggest that media multitasking may be linked to altered person perception in surprising and unintentional ways, with media multitaskers unknowingly taking in otherwise irrelevant information from their surroundings when they observe and make judgments about other people,” he said. Lopez said that this study is a first step in finding links between media multitasking and how individuals perceive other people, and that he hopes future research will explore this topic, particularly among kids and teens. The study was co-authored by Julia Salinger of the University of Colorado Boulder, Todd Heatherton of Dartmouth College and Dylan Wagner of Ohio State University.  — AMY McCAIG


Grief’s Double Whammy Grief can cause inflammation that can kill, according to new research from the Rice lab of psychologist Chris Fagundes. Researchers conducted interviews and examined the blood of people whose spouses had recently died. They compared people who showed symptoms of elevated grief — such as pining for the deceased, difficulty moving on, a sense that life is meaningless — to those who did not exhibit those behaviors. The researchers discovered that widows and widowers with elevated grief symptoms suffered up to 17 percent higher levels of bodily inflammation. “Previous research has shown that inflammation contributes to almost every disease in older adulthood,” Fagundes said. “We also know that depression is linked to higher levels of inflammation, and those who lose a spouse are at considerably higher risk of major depression, heart attack, stroke and premature mortality. However, this is the first study to confirm that grief — regardless of people’s levels of depressive symptoms — can promote inflammation, which in turn can cause negative health outcomes.” 


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RICE RESEARCHERS examined the relationship between people who use multiple digital devices at once (known as media multitaskers) and how they perceive people they have never previously met. They found a link between spending too much time on digital devices and how first impressions are formed. “As a result of smartphones, tablets and other devices being embedded in our lives, our attention is in high demand as we switch between multiple devices,” said Richard Lopez, a postdoctoral research fellow in psychology and the study’s lead author. “Because this form of activity is new to us, its impact on how we perceive and interact with the world and those around us is not well known. This is why we were prompted to explore this topic and conduct this study.

In Good Company


Rice is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a group of 62 leading U.S. research universities that earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for academic research and award more than half of all U.S. doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and social sciences, yet make up only 8 percent of all four-year Ph.D.-granting universities. In 2016–2017, Rice President David Leebron served as AAU chair. At the time of his election, Leebron said, “We must continue to nourish the research that advances understanding of our world and our humanity and, through that knowledge, produces the scientific and social innovations that address the challenges we face.”


How Heart Valve Disease Starts

Jane Grande-Allen, the Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering, is unraveling the mysteries of heart valve disease. ONE OF THE BIG PROBLEMS in my field is that the early stages of heart valve disease are a mystery. Even people who have regular checkups can develop valve disorders unexpectedly. So how do we catch it in the earlier stages and effectively treat or even prevent it? Right now, we’re doing pretty well when it comes to figuring out heart valve mechanics, but cell biology is an infant field. From an engineering perspective, heart valves are pretty fascinating. They’re these little flaps of tissue, but they’re very stretchy and strong. With disease, they can change dramatically, becoming stiff and weak, which can cause the valve to tear or crumble. If it does, the valve won’t close correctly and the heart will have to work harder to pump blood in the right direction. Valve mechanics are very important to the proper function of the heart and cardiovascular system.

A major challenge we face is that valve tissue is unlike all the other tissue in the cardiovascular system, like arteries, veins and the heart itself. Most of those structures have tiny blood vessels inside them that supply their cells with oxygen — but valves don’t. They soak up oxygen and nutrients directly from passing blood and have a very different type of cell metabolism that’s really understudied. It’s still not clear how valve cells survive. Understanding that could help us figure out which processes are involved in starting valve disease and help develop new drugs to stop it in its tracks. It would be a huge deal if patients could be treated with just medication — at the moment, the only real option to repair valve disease in most patients is with open-heart surgery.  — AS TOLD TO DAVID LEVIN


Energy in Balance

Study shows increasing importance of wind and solar energy to Texas’ power production TIMING AND PLACEMENT OF WIND AND SOLAR power facilities are critical factors for Texas electricity providers that juggle their output with other resources to provide a balanced flow of energy. Rice researchers have some suggestions on how they can integrate widely varying sources more efficiently. Joanna Slusarewicz ’20, along with environmental engineer Daniel Cohan, performed an analysis of recent peaks in production from West


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and South Texas renewable resources and suggested that the state’s power production can be made more reliable by adjusting where and when those resources are deployed. While established wind and a growing set of solar generators provided about 18 percent of Texas’ power in 2017, judicious use could help grow these resources as coal-fired power plants leave the landscape, the researchers wrote. (Three Texas coal plants closed in 2018 and a fourth closure is anticipated.) Slusarewicz studied weather data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and records compiled by the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas from 2007 to 2013 that tracked wind power from West and South Texas as well as statewide commercial solar generation. She determined the most reliable power production going forward will come from the combination of solar and West Texas wind, but coastal wind has a significant role to play as well. South Texas’ coastal winds, she found, are most active when power is needed most, at peak usage on hot summer days. “A major problem with clean energy is that it’s not necessarily reliable,” said Slusarewicz. “Sun and wind, by their nature, are not going to consistently provide power when you know you need it.” Cohan said Texas presents a unique opportunity to learn how to balance energy resources because of several factors: First, because the state’s energy grid is largely self-contained, and second, because of its size and range of climates. “There’s a legacy in Texas to identify the most sensible places to locate wind power, but that hasn’t carried over yet to where solar farms should best be located or how to bridge some of the coastal wind sites to West Texas transmission zones,” Cohan said. “Only in the past couple of years has solar become competitive with wind. Now Texas has two strong renewable options. That’s why this is the time to look at integrating these sources so they can do better than either can do on its own.” — MIKE WILLIAMS


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BOO K S | a b s t r ac t

The Astronaut Maker: How One Mysterious Engineer Ran Human Spaceflight for a Generation By Michael Cassutt (Chicago Review Press, 2018)

GE OR GE A B B E Y’S R I S E through the ranks at NASA, from lowly engineer to director of the Johnson Space Center, was meteoric — although not without controversy. When some of his colleagues referred to him as the godfather of spaceflight, they meant it in the Corleone sense, according to Michael Cassutt’s “The Astronaut Maker: How One Mysterious Engineer Ran Human Spaceflight for a Generation.” But Abbey, the titular “mysterious engineer,” now the senior fellow in space policy at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, is also widely revered as a brilliant manager who “saved the space program four times,” Cassutt writes. The book — published in August 2018 and based on hours of interviews with Abbey, along with his friends, family and former colleagues — spans Abbey’s nearly 40-year NASA career, with all its peaks and valleys. He played an instrumental role in NASA’s recovery from the 1967 Apollo 1 disaster, when a fire during a test launch killed all three crew members. He also helped orchestrate the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew after an explosion crippled their spacecraft in 1970. After becoming the director of flight operations at the Johnson Space Center in 1976, Abbey worked to diversify NASA’s ranks, recruiting some of the space program’s first minority and female astronauts, including Sally Ride. His ability to recognize and reward talent, along with the ingenuity to solve problems on the fly and under immense stress, kept him on course despite office politics that persisted even at zero gravity. So while some of Abbey’s subordinates complained that they were treated like children, many were grateful for his patronage — they saw him less as the godfather than as a benevolent father figure who helped them launch a career path that reached to the stars. — JENNIFER LATSON

The Reckonings Essays By Lacy Johnson (Scribner, 2018)

L AC Y JOH NS ON’S third book — a collection of 12 essays — is a follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2014 memoir “The Other Side.” Each essay aims to answer one of the most common questions Johnson has heard since publishing the harrowing memoir that chronicled her kidnapping, imprisonment and rape at the hands of her boyfriend — a man who has since fled to a country with no extradition to the United States. The oft-repeated question is, What justice would she have served to the man who brought so much violence into her life? Johnson’s answers are often Socratic: What is the purpose of justice? Does visiting more violence upon an offender erase a victim’s pain? And if not, why do we pursue such punitive measures instead of finding ways to remediate, restore or relieve those who have been wronged? In other words, why not seek the recuperative power of reckonings rather than the cyclic, destructive vengeance of retribution? But how do we reckon with this ourselves? By speaking the truth, by being open to hearing the truth in others’ stories and by helping to restore joy into the world in those places where it has been extinguished, Johnson said. “Because the ways that injustice robs joy from us are myriad and diverse, service to other people’s joy should take myriad and diverse forms as well,” she added. In one essay, she writes about a burning landfill in St. Louis. “This one is particularly nasty because it contains nearly 50,000 tons of nuclear waste left over from the Manhattan Project that was dumped there illegally in 1973.” Those who live near the Missouri landfill today have a host of illnesses that may have been caused by chronic exposure to the radiation. It also may have altered their DNA “in ways they pass on to their children, and their children’s children,” Johnson said. “This is a multigenerational injustice, resulting from the reckless pursuit of a weapon so powerful that it could annihilate hundreds of thousands of people in the blink of an eye — which is itself an injustice that requires our attention. “Having spoken with the communities in St. Louis that are affected by this waste, what they want is for the government to publicly acknowledge its role in harming them, to take responsibility for that and to offer a formal apology,” she said. “In other words, telling the truth is the first step.” Of course, it’s only after the truth is told and acknowledged that any action toward restoration can begin. Sometimes that truth comes crashing down upon us; other times, it’s cracked open slowly as people become more receptive over a period of time. Her new book encourages an openness to it all. — KATHARINE SHILCUTT

Johnson is an assistant professor of creative writing at Rice. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   19



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Wise Trees

Photo by Tommy LaVergne AS STUDENTS MAKE their way across campus, Rice’s 4,000-plus trees provide welcome shade when it’s hot and a shower of golden hues as cooler months ensue. Designated as a “Tree Campus USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2012, Rice is one of nine colleges and universities across Texas to make the list. The program honors schools that use sustainable practices and engage students, faculty and staff in tree planting and conservation initiatives. A team of 31 groundskeepers, arborists and other specialists regularly maintain the trees at Rice, which include many species of oaks and two “moon trees,” a loblolly pine and a sycamore, grown from seeds taken into space on the Apollo 14 mission to the moon.  — TRACEY RHOADES m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   21

A Bold Step How do you lessen the burden of college debt? Last fall, President David Leebron announced that Rice would dramatically expand its financial aid policy, making college more affordable for students from middle- and lower-income families. The plan — termed The Rice Investment — builds on the legacy of Rice’s founding vision. By Deborah Lynn Blumberg Illustration by Brian Stauffer m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   23


hen Lorena Gauthereau graduated from Rice in 2004, she headed off into the world armed with a bachelor’s degree in English and political science, but she and her parents were saddled with thousands of dollars in student debt. As a teenager, Gauthereau remembers her Mexicanimmigrant parents being adamant about her and her two siblings going to college, even as they struggled to get by on her father’s modest salary from his work as a lab technologist at the only hospital in town. Gauthereau, who grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas, a small city nestled alongside the Rio Grande, was able to attend Rice because of a generous package of financial aid, but it didn’t cover the full costs of college — or off-campus learning and service trips. So she and her parents

Lorena Gauthereau ’04 reads with her son, Travis.


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took out loans. Then, when Lorena’s siblings enrolled in college, the Gauthereaus borrowed even more. “It was a huge financial burden for my parents to send me and my siblings to college,” says Gauthereau, who eventually earned her Ph.D. at Rice and is now a Chicano literary studies scholar at the University of Houston. “We’re still paying back the loans.” When she learned that there’s now help for Rice students just like her through The Rice Investment, Gauthereau was overjoyed. Rice’s ambitious new initiative — announced in September — dramatically expands financial aid for incoming and current undergraduate students. It’s part of a larger strategic plan to make a Rice education more accessible and affordable, and it’s at the forefront of other colleges and universities across the country that are unveiling similar efforts. Many of these efforts

alleviate costs for lower-income families. Rice’s plan provides targeted and generous support to the middle class as well. It’s a segment of society that’s been left in financial aid limbo — with too much income to qualify for aid, but not wealthy enough to afford tuition at a top-rated higher education institution without loans or sacrifices. The contours of The Rice Investment are particularly straightforward. Undergraduate students with a family income between $65,000 and $130,000 get full tuition scholarships at Rice. Those with a family income below $65,000 receive aid covering full tuition, room and board, plus other fees. And students with family income between $130,000 and $200,000 receive grants covering at least 50 percent of tuition. Families must have what Rice is calling “typical assets” — in other words, assets that are not above what’s typical for their income level. Beginning in the next academic year, degree-seeking undergraduate students from families with incomes up to $200,000 who qualify for The Rice Investment will no longer be required to take out loans as part of their need-based financial aid packages. Instead, loans will be replaced by scholarships and grants. There’s no cap on the number of students who can apply. The program will be funded by a special distribution from Rice’s endowment but will be made permanent by a fundraising effort that seeks to raise $150 million for financial aid endowments. Over the years, Rice has steadily improved its financial aid support and is well-known for its “need-blind” admissions policy — meaning qualified applicants may be admitted regardless of their family’s ability to pay for college. With 38 percent of Rice undergraduates receiving some kind of need-based assistance, the average financial aid award totaled $40,285 last year. Beginning in 2008, Rice instituted changes to address the growing issue of student loan debt. Freshmen with family incomes below $80,000 were not required to take out loans as part of their financial aid package. Rice also started limiting federal loan debt for other students to $10,000 over four years. Such financial aid policies factor into a consistent history of high rankings by college guidebooks, such as the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” guidebook, where a key measure is a university’s financial resources. Last year, Rice ranked No. 16 among national universities. In announcing expanded aid, Rice President David Leebron said, “Talent deserves opportunity. We’ve built on our already generous financial aid to provide more support to lowerincome and middle-class families and ensure that these students have access to the best in private higher education.” Prompted in part by alumni concerns about rising tuition, administrators first started mulling over what more they could do several years ago. College tuition had been rising steadily over the last few decades. In the meantime, student debt had skyrocketed from about $600 billion 10 years ago

to today’s more than $1.5 trillion held by over 44 million Americans, according to the Federal Reserve. “With concerns about middle-income families and the squeeze they’re feeling, we felt we could do more,” says Vice President for Enrollment Yvonne Romero Da Silva, who joined Rice in 2017. Families shouldn’t have to struggle with saving for retirement or covering health care bills while also trying to educate their children, she adds. Almost immediately, the response was overwhelming. Alumni and high school counselors alike have lauded the initiative, Romero Da Silva says, and excitement from students at high school college fairs has been palpable. Both early decision and regular applications to Rice are up as well, and alumni have already contributed almost a third of the $150 million goal to support the program. “It’s really hit a chord,” she says. “Hands down, this is one of the greatest initiatives I’ve had a chance to be a part of.” Susan Rexford, director of college guidance at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Md., has been tracking Rice’s financial aid policy for her students. “The one thing you always look for is the asterisk,” she says. “What are the conditions? And Rice’s conditions are pretty straightforward. Rice has always been a generous school. This is going to make it even more attractive.” For her part, Gauthereau has started touting Rice’s virtues to her 7-year-old son, Travis, even though he’s still in grade school.

“With concerns about middleincome families and the squeeze they’re feeling, we felt we could do more.”


— Yvonne Romero Da Silva

Building on a Legacy The Rice Investment builds off Rice’s founding tradition of not charging tuition. It was not until 1965 that Rice students started paying tuition, the result of a lengthy legal process that sought two major changes in the university’s founding charter from 1891 — not only seeking to charge tuition, but also ending a shameful policy of segregation, opening Rice admissions to all students based on merit. Association of Rice Alumni (ARA) President-elect Frank Jones ’63 benefited during Rice’s tuition-free days, as did his mother, Grace Griffith Jones ’38, brother Donald Jones ’66 and three of his uncles. Frank, who’s been watching college tuition costs soar, has poured money into college savings accounts for his grandchildren. He’s proud of Rice for investing in a larger swath of students. “I think it’s wonderful,” he says. “We’ve been missing out on a group of students who are very qualified, but whose parents just don’t have the wherewithal to pay the tuition.” At KIPP Houston High School in Alief, Texas, college transition adviser Jennifer Dewhirst says that four times as many seniors applied to Rice in 2018 after the tuition announcement compared to 2017. “There was definitely a ripple of interest m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   25


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as application season started,” Dewhirst says. “Having Rice do something like this so close to home is a game changer for many Houston families who don’t want their children to go far away for college,” she adds. “It’ll push students to choose Rice over other schools.” At KIPP, where 80 percent of students qualify for a free or reduced lunch, many students receive aid, but there are still gaps to fill and loans are often the only answer. “We have alums in their 30s with well-paying jobs who’ve moved back in with their parents,” says Dewhirst. “They’re struggling with crippling student debt.” Recently, one KIPP Houston High School student enrolled in a two-year community college rather than the four-year college she was accepted to because her parents wouldn’t let her go into debt to cover costs. “Her parents freaked out,” Dewhirst says. They’re not alone. Nearly three in five people believe “affordability of a college education” is a “very big” national problem, a jump of around 11 percent from 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. The issue of affordability is something countless current and former Rice students have experienced firsthand. “[The Rice Investment] is really important for lower-income students, a category I was in when I went to Rice,” says Matt Haynie ’03, a former ARA president. “Rice made it possible for me to attend. Now, with increases in tuition across the higher education landscape, I think universities have to do more to make it accessible. I think it’s going to make a big difference in attracting talent.” From the mid-1980s to the 2015–2016 school year, college tuition rose more than twice the rate of inflation. Gradually, the possibility of going into debt became one of the biggest factors keeping students from applying to top private universities. “This new generation is more conscious than ever of student debt,” says Martin Van Der Werf, associate director for editorial and postsecondary policy at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “They’re trying to avoid it.” Institutions nationwide are tuned into these fears, and they’ve responded. Top national universities like Harvard, Princeton and Stanford have all retooled their financial aid policies with an eye toward access and affordability. Recently, prestigious public universities like the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina and The University of Texas all announced generous new financial aid policies for students from both Left: Twins Alaina Bertram ’21 and low-income and middle-income famiEmmett Bertram lies. Dartmouth and Amherst College ’21, photographed recently announced expanded scholarin Alaina’s Duncan ship aid as well. dorm room, will “This [expanded income-based finanbenefit from The Rice Investment. cial aid] is something we’re seeing more

and more of,” says Van Der Werf, “and it certainly helps from a competitive standpoint.” The initiative will help current students like Alaina Bertram ’21 and her twin brother, Emmett ’21, the children of a public high school math teacher and a stay-at-home mom who are from Tomball, Texas. For the Bertrams, affordability was the biggest factor when deciding on a college. “We never had that much money,” Alaina says. Both she and Emmett applied early to Rice and received aid. Without it, she adds, they wouldn’t have been able to enroll at all. Even so, the Bertrams were looking at the likelihood of additional loans. “I thought I’d have to pull out tens of thousands of dollars in loans. But with The Rice Investment, I may not have to take out any.”


Gradually, the possibility of going into debt became one of the biggest factors keeping students from applying to top private universities.

Increased Interest

Ariana Engles ’20, president of the Student Association, has spoken extensively with fellow students and student leaders about the initiative. “It’s a wonderful move forward for low-income and middle-income students, one that will help generations to come and put Rice in the forefront of people’s minds,” says Engles. As a middle-income student, Engles says that having the investment when she applied to college would have made her feel more secure in her decision to apply to Rice. Engles, however, echoes a sentiment expressed by many students who hoped the initiative would also apply to international students. It doesn’t, in part because what’s classified as a middle-class salary in the U.S. may well translate into an upper-class salary in another country, says Romero Da Silva. “It’s important to continue with the mindset of making Rice accessible for all students,” Engles says. International students, however, can still receive need-based financial aid. At The Kinkaid School in Houston, senior Dani Knobloch had been fretting about financing her college education ever since her parents divorced in 2016 and she and her mother moved into a friend’s house. “I didn’t know if my dad would be paying anything,” she says. The Rice Investment made her feel confident about applying early, a decision she’d been wavering on. With the money saved, “we’d be able to get our own place and save up a little more,” Knobloch says. Quenby Mott, the head upper school dean at Kinkaid, values Rice’s focus on the middle class, an important group to have on campus to bridge the gap between lower-income and more affluent students. She also values Rice’s transparency. “That makes it so much more powerful than a lot of other highly selective institutions’ efforts,” she says. More Kinkaid students now see Rice as a viable opportunity, Mott adds. Romero Da Silva hopes the initiative will prompt additional institutions to follow suit in offering more robust aid to students. “I’m hoping we lead the way and shift the conversation about financial aid.” ◆ m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   27

Thought Factory The

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In 1993, Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy was founded to build a bridge between “the world of ideas and the world of action.” Through research, analysis and advocacy, the institute’s scholars and fellows have sought answers to the world’s most daunting policy issues — and their expertise has been sought after by journalists and policymakers alike. But perhaps the Baker Institute’s enduring legacy is as a home for ideas and their free expression. As the political world erupts in partisanship, the Baker Institute’s founding values of nonpartisanship, open dialogue and civil conversation are needed now more than ever.

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controversial topics. “Most public policy issues, after all, are part of our political debate. That’s what it means to live in a democracy,” he said. “For the institute to avoid them would undermine the very reason for its existence.” For 25 years, the Baker Institute has been diving into the fray of our national conversations — on health care, immigration, energy, illegal drugs, wars, conflicts and more — lending scholarly expertise, empirical research and insights born of firsthand experience. By engaging these topics, the Baker Institute aims to arm policymakers with the research they need to craft solutions. But policymakers aren’t the only audience — Rice students benefit from having a policy-oriented “thought factory” on campus. For the general public, the Baker Institute is best known for its dynamic, wideranging (and often free) speaker series. “We add an independent voice to whatever issues are being debated in our country — and globally,” said Baker Institute Director Edward P. Djerejian during a recent interview. “Independent, nonpartisan think tanks,” he added, “can add knowledge, data and studied opinions on issues that you just don’t find on the extremes — either the left or the right.” Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III named Edward P. Djerejian founding director of Rice’s Baker Institute. Baker is the honorary chair of his namesake institute.


WO POLITICAL VETERANS shared the stage at the Baker Institute to discuss electoral reform. But the fun really began when they turned their attention to contemporary politics. It was spring 2008, when then-Sen. Barack Obama was emerging as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III urged the Democrats to offer the vice presidential slot to Obama’s main rival for the nomination, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. “I think it would be highly unlikely for Obama to ask her to take [the vice president’s position],” said the other person on the stage, former President Jimmy Carter, “because I don’t see how it would help his ticket.” It would be a “strong ticket,” Baker countered, saying it would heal the divisions among Democrats opened up in the lengthy nomination process. “That would be the ticket the Republicans favor, I think,” Carter said. Both men laughed. The scene, featuring two rivals who played major roles in the recent political history of the United States, models a pledge Baker made in 1994 at the opening ceremony of the think tank that bears his name. “Let me make one point very, very clear: The institute will be strictly nonpartisan.” Being nonpartisan, Baker explained, did not mean it would avoid

Growth and Change Selections from the Baker Institute’s 25th anniversary timeline 30 

June 2, 1992 In a letter to former Rice President George Rupp, political scientist Richard Stoll proposes the idea of an Institute for the Study of Policy bearing James A. Baker III’s name.

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A THINK TANK STARTUP The origins of the Baker Institute go back to the 1980s and the Rice Institute for Policy Analysis (RIPA), which was headed by former Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire. James Pomerantz, who served as dean of the School of Social Sciences, remembered that the reason Rice wanted a fullscale think tank was simple: “We just wanted a better RIPA, one that would draw national or international attention for its scholarship and policy impact.”

March 31, 1993 “My vision for the institute is simple: to build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action.” — James A. Baker III in an address at Rice University May 19, 1994 James A. Baker III calls Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, whom he named to head the institute, “Simply one of the best diplomats I know.”

The first efforts to bring a public policy institute to Rice centered on then-President George H.W. Bush. Not long after he took office, he was presented with a proposal to locate the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on or near the Rice campus. “We had several discussions about the location of the public portion of the presidential library and the concern that locating it on campus, with thousands of visitors, might overwhelm the campus and the neighborhood,” recalled former Glasscock School of Continuing Studies Dean Mary McIntire, who was dean of the School of Humanities at the time. When Bush declined the offer, the focus shifted to his secretary of state. During his 1991 commencement address, Baker underscored his long-standing ties to Rice, beginning with his grandfather, Capt. James A. Baker, whose pivotal role in the university’s founding has become the stuff of legend. One of those paying particular attention to that speech was Richard Stoll, the Albert Thomas Chair in Political Science. Pomerantz said Stoll tipped him off in late 1992 that Bush could well lose his re-election bid, thus making Baker available to help launch the institute. “Ric turned out to be correct,” Pomerantz said. “I gave him our Bush library proposal, and he worked Clockwise, from top: with the faculty to develop it into a fullBaker and former President Jimmy fledged Baker Institute proposal.” Carter at Rice for Stoll put together a memo (a framed a public hearing in copy of which is on display in the Baker 2005; Nobel laureate and former Institute lobby) that he sent to George Israeli Prime MinisRupp, Rice’s president. Rupp responded ter Shimon Peres at in a handwritten note at the bottom, “I do the Baker Institute in 2006; Madeleine think it is worth pursuing.” Baker agreed Albright, the first to the proposal, and ground was broken female secretary for the Baker Institute Oct. 20, 1994. of state, delivered a major public policy Djerejian pointed out that in the early address at Rice in years, the think tank “concentrated 1997; Yasser Arafat, largely on a research agenda based on then-president of the Palestinian the principle of comparative advantage: National Authority, What did we have here that we could at the Baker Institute build on?” Rice’s physical proximity in 1997.

Oct. 15, 1997 James A. Baker III Hall dedication

Oct. 26, 1999 “I never wanted to be regarded as an angel. I am an ordinary man with weaknesses. I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying.” — Nelson Mandela

Nov. 14, 2001 “For our part, we have already taken steps to overcome the obstacles of the past, and now we expect constructive steps to be taken not just by the U.S. administration, but also by the American business community.” — Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin

2003 The Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program is designed to help undergraduates develop their interest in public policy.

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From top: U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as speaker of the House, discussed women in politics in 2014; Condoleezza Rice delivered the keynote address at the Baker Institute’s 15th anniversary gala.

to Mexico, the Texas Medical Center and the global capital of the energy industry provided three areas for programmatic focus. Djerejian’s expertise in the Middle East — he served as a diplomat under eight administrations, including as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, as well as U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel — led to the creation of the Center for the Middle East.

EXPERTISE TO GO Today, the Baker Institute’s programmatic focus has expanded exponentially: 16 research centers and programs with more than 50 research fellows, scholars and research staff working from its stately headquarters on the west quadrangle of Rice’s campus. That doesn’t include the dozens of Rice faculty members who hold appointments at the Baker Institute as well. It’s these subject matter experts who make up the engine of the institute — serving up data and policy recommendations in the original areas of Middle East policy, health, energy and Mexico studies but also now in entrepreneurship, biomedical research, China studies, children’s health and public finance, for example. “Fellows produce and publish research, host events, make media appearances, provide recommendations to policymakers, inform the public, and work to further the reach and impact of their policy center or program,” said Allen Matusow, the William Gaines Twyman Professor Emeritus of History and the director of academic affairs at the Baker Institute. Last year, Baker fellows met more than a dozen times with representatives from state and federal agencies — or legislators and their staff — and also testified at state and federal committee hearings. Likewise, local, state and national media turn to Baker scholars to go on record with informed commentary and context for the news of the day.

Nov. 7, 2005 “The vitality of our society depends on our ability to inspire and to educate these kids. It’s up to all of us to elevate the value that our society puts on science.” — Sally Ride, the first American woman in space

Feb. 8, 2007 “You have more power ‘to do’ than any group of Americans ever had, and there’s plenty of doing that needs to be done.” — Former President Bill Clinton in a speech to Rice students

Oct. 31, 2009 Five of the principal decisionmakers who navigated German reunification commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

May 1, 2007 His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speaks at the Baker Institute.

“Nearly a dozen different fellows from the Baker Institute have been either quoted in Texas Tribune stories or written pieces for TribTalk, our opinion page,” said Aman Batheja, the Tribune’s political editor. “It speaks both to the breadth of the institute’s policy experts and their commitment to making sure Texans across the state are being exposed to their research and analyses.” In the most recent fiscal year, the think tank tallied some 20,000 media citations. All this activity and public engagement has led to a steady rise, to third place worldwide, in the latest ranking of university-affiliated think tanks. The ranking, published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, places Baker just behind the London School of Economics’ IDEAS center and the Belfer Center at Harvard. “That’s very good company,” Djerejian said. A HOME FOR FUTURE POLICYMAKERS Djerejian cited the expansion of the Baker Institute’s role at Rice as the most important change in his quarter of a century at the helm. “I think the biggest evolution really has been our integration into the teaching functions of Rice and the student engagement across the board,” he said. One of the most visible efforts to reach out to the undergraduate community From top: Gen. was the creation of the Jesse Jones Colin Powell, the former chairman of Leadership Center Summer in D.C. the Joint Chiefs of Policy Research Internship Program. Staff who became Between six and 12 students are chosen secretary of state, was honored in 1995 to participate every year, said Steven with a Distinguished Lewis, the C.V. Starr Transnational Public Service China Fellow and the program’s Award; in 2012, Nobel laureate and coordinator. Liberian President One of them was Eli Mensing ’20, who Ellen Johnson went to Washington, D.C., last summer Sirleaf spoke at the Chevron Excelto work at the National Association of lence in Leadership Criminal Defense Lawyers. As preparaEnergy Lecture tion for the D.C. experience, all interns Series.

Oct. 1, 2013 Building on the achievements of its first two decades, the Baker Institute establishes the Center for the Middle East, the Mexico Center and the Center for Energy Studies.

Nov. 8, 2013 Two former presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, help the Baker Institute commemorate its 20th anniversary.

June 2014 James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker establish an endowed fellowship to honor founding director Edward Djerejian and his wife, Françoise. The Djerejians direct the endowment to Tony Payan, director of the Baker Institute’s Mexico Center.

April 10, 2015 L.E. and Virginia Simmons award the James A. Baker III Prize for Excellence in Leadership. The event also marks the establishment of the Center for Health and Biosciences.

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attend a series of seminars on political philosophy led by Lewis. The discussion models include the kind of civil dialogue that’s mostly missing in D.C. of late. “We were dealing with sensitive and often divisive topics,” Mensing said, “but discussion never got out of hand or became contests of who could say their opinion the loudest over everyone else.” The Baker Institute Student Forum nurtures student research at the undergraduate level. The best papers are published in Rice’s Journal of Public Policy, said Joe Barnes, the Bonner Means Baker Fellow and a faculty adviser. Since 2014, graduate students have found new opportunities via graduate degree programs in global affairs and in energy economics.

Clockwise, from top: The Baker Institute’s resident scholars and fellows, and their areas of expertise, include Vivian Ho (health care policy), Ken Medlock (energy studies), Mark Jones (political science), Kristian Coates Ulrichsen (Middle East) and Tony Payan (U.S.– Mexico border).

WORLDS OF IDEAS In Houston, at least, the general public is probably most likely to come into contact with the Baker Institute through its speaking events. Over the years, a long list of prominent statesmen, diplomats, religious leaders, writers, scientists and artists have been invited to speak on campus. Speakers have included Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat (1997), Russian President Vladimir Putin (2001), future Israeli President Shimon Peres (2006) and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (2011). At separate events in 2007, former President Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama drew overflow crowds to Autry Court. One of the most inspiring guest speakers was former South African President Nelson Mandela. Baker recalled that he [Baker] was “one of the first, if not the very first, foreign leader to meet with Nelson Mandela after he was freed from prison in 1990.” Nine years later, Baker cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States at the time, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, to bring Mandela to Rice.

March 9, 2017 The Baker Institute launches the Center for Public Finance, its sixth major research center.

Sept. 23, 2015 A gift from Robert and Janice McNair establishes the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Aug. 1, 2015 The first class of graduates from the Master of Global Affairs program and the Master of Energy Economics program.


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Sept. 16, 2016 Former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden speak on the administration’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative to provide new cancer treatments to patients.


One question from the audience especially struck Djerejian. “It was from a 12th-grader who asked, ‘Who are you really, Mr. Mandela, and how do you think history will judge you?’” Djerejian remembered. “Mandela paused and then said, ‘I never wanted to be regarded as an angel. I am an ordinary man with weaknesses. I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying.’ You could hear a pin drop in the hall and then a standing ovation. Unforgettable!” Looking back at his more than half a century at Rice, Matusow argued that the Baker Institute has done a lot to change the Rice culture. “For decades in my time here, people talked about Rice behind the hedges, which was a metaphor for the monastic isolation of the place,” he said. “The Baker Institute brought the world outside the hedges onto the campus. On almost any day of the week, statesmen, politicians, opinion leaders and scholars visit Baker to discuss issues that matter nationally and globally.” Matusow added, “We offer a variety of opportunities to an eager undergraduate constituency interested in public policy. We offer our student interns the chance to do serious policy research. Our fellows offer well-reviewed policy courses in the academic departments. Rice has always been a great educational institution. The Baker Institute made it better.” Looking ahead, Djerejian said he hopes the Baker Institute will remain “an agile instrument that can start programs, end programs, bring in talent, and be flexible and move with the times.” A new five-year plan for the future will ensure the Baker Institute continues to be “an instrument of creative change.” ◆

Jan. 31, 2018 The institute is ranked No. 3 among the best university-affiliated think tanks in the world.

Nov. 27, 2018 Former President Barack Obama is the guest of honor at the institute’s 25th anniversary gala. The fundraising gala features a moderated discussion between James A. Baker III and Obama on the importance of bipartisanship and shared values in a time of political discord.



ORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III spoke for nearly an hour in a conversation moderated by presidential historian Jon Meacham. The Nov. 27 event marked the 25th anniversary of Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The institute has now hosted every living former president of the United States since its inception in 1993. “The motto we have chosen for this anniversary, ‘A Quarter Century — ­ Making History,’ bears particular resonance tonight,” said Baker Institute Director Edward P. Djerejian. “It symbolizes the culmination of our commitment to strive for excellence and nonpartisanship.” The gala raised $5.4 million to further the think tank’s research and programming. Obama and Baker — who served in a series of top-level staff and cabinet positions under former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — devoted most of their conversation to the causes of heightened partisanship that developed between Baker’s first years in Washington and Obama’s presidency decades later. They largely agreed that a changing media landscape and partisan redistricting have caused the parties to diverge. “The responsible center in American politics has disappeared,” said Baker, the institute’s honorary chair. “You have the advent of the internet, and that really makes it easy to be divisive. Divisiveness sells.” In a discussion on foreign policy, Baker expressed concern over the state of international institutions and the current global standing of the U.S. “American leadership in the world is absolutely imperative; no other country can do it,” he said, underscoring that the U.S. won the Cold War “because we had alliances.” Obama, who praised Baker’s accomplishments in international diplomacy, agreed. “We have a stake in making sure that we have our act together enough,” he said. “Because everybody else, whether they admit it or not, tends to follow our lead.” Watch a video of the conversation at  — JEFF FALK m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   35


“You can never have too much sky.” — Sandra Cisneros



e stepped out of the woods into the sunshine and were immediately swarmed by gnats, likely attracted by the collective stench of our merry band of hikers. Finding a place to set up and eat our lunch in peace was going to be a challenge. Our long morning hike sharpened my appetite, and I was ready to take off my outer layers — until the gnats attacked! One of the guides shouted from somewhere above us. An observation tower offered our group the perfect place to sit and break bread — high above the clouds of gnats and with magnificent views of the forest canopy and mountain ridges. But there was yellow caution tape wrapped around the tower’s base, and it was a steep climb up a narrow steel stairway. My acrophobia reared its head as, one by one, my fellow hikers ducked under the tape and ascended the open stairs. Did I really come this far to let an irrational fear of falling and a little caution tape stop me now? Just a week earlier, a casual conversation with my friend and colleague, Elizabeth Slator, led to an impulsive decision to book a flight to Asheville, N.C. Elizabeth was leading a group on a retreat named Rediscover Your Wild Side. I swooned at her description of the mindfulness retreat in the wilderness, and she assured me it wasn’t too late to join the group. My brain immediately generated a dozen reasons why I couldn’t go, but a little voice inside was whispering the phrase made famous by Nike, “Just do it.”

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F O R F I V E G L O R I O U S D AY S , M Y L I F E S L O W E D D O W N . N O M U LT I TA S KING, NO ELECTRONICS, NO HURRIED MEALS WHILE CARPOOLING TO LACROSSE GAMES AND VIOLIN LESSONS. NO MEETINGS AND NO DEADLINES. running along one side of the property was swollen and dark from recent rains. No website or travel brochure could have done the place justice. For five glorious days, my life slowed down. No multitasking, no electronics, no hurried meals while carpooling to lacrosse games and violin lessons. No meetings and no deadlines. My world contracted and expanded at the same time. The only residents of this small world were the eight other Rice colleagues who signed up for the trip — Norma, Cindy, Catherine, George, Anthea, Kris, Rebecca and Elizabeth, our leader. Every day, we fell into an easy and natural rhythm. Sunlight filtering into my yurt woke me


Life had been so loud and so fast recently that the prospect of getting away from the noise and escaping the swirl of responsibilities was alluring. As a working mom of three, going away for five days on my own seemed ridiculously selfish and irresponsible. There was no way to rationalize this trip as benefiting work or family. Neither was it a girlfriend trip nor a romantic getaway. It was just me doing something for me. Like a computer with too many windows open and too many programs running, I just wanted to shut it all down and find a hard reset. The “great escape” (as I privately renamed the trip) presented a rare and fleeting opportunity. Before I could change my mind, I booked a flight to Asheville. I pulled out a suitcase as a visual reminder of an act that felt rebellious. For good measure, I temporarily deleted my work email account from my phone. In the airport terminal, I texted my husband and kids to remind them that I really would be out of pocket and off duty. From the Asheville airport, we drove a few hours to our campsite, where we were greeted by a row of yurts peeking out from the pristine expanse of the Appalachian Mountains. A refurbished barn served as communal space and shelter. The stream

before the alarm. Journaling and meditation before breakfast. Long hikes through the woods and quiet conversations around the campfire. Sipping yerba mate in the morning and playing cards at night. Fireflies dancing in the fields and stars glinting at us from above. A stunning double rainbow bridging the stream after a sudden summer shower. Birdsong every morning and crackling fires before bedtime. Each day was a feast for the senses. By the third day, I was awakening to the realization that I am so often driven to be a planner, to make decisions, to manage schedules or to direct other people. I am focused and strategic and attempt to squeeze the most out of every day. By escaping from my daily life and routine, I was learning how to be still and to shift from doing to being. How to surrender control and be open to what comes next. It felt uncomfortable and unfamiliar. It was also liberating. Without the usual distractions and work and family obligations, I had the energy and the bandwidth to have deeper conversations with people. It has been 25 years since I graduated from Rice, and I still find my Rice friends and colleagues to be the most intellectually interesting people to converse with. They think and care deeply and make me want to be a better version of myself. It seems too obvious to point out, but the lack of electronics and limited electricity created an intimacy and sense of connection that is increasingly elusive in our 24/7 plugged-in world. On our last day, a planned rafting trip was canceled due to rough waters. We devised a plan B and took a long, beautiful drive along quiet country roads until crossing the state line. The hiking trail took us deep into the woods where the air was cool and reverent. It was as if I had crossed the bridge to Terabithia, into a magical sanctuary of my imagination. After three hours of hiking, we arrived at a shallow brook into which we plunged our tired feet to cool off. We waded into the stream to build cairns with the wide, flat rocks harvested from the riverbed. One by one, the teetering towers arose from the water, memorializing the beauty of God’s creation and reminding us that slowing down to be mindful can bring our lives back into balance. I love my job at the Doerr Institute, a missiondriven startup committed to developing the next generation of leaders. Each new year brings more students, more opportunities and more work to do. I thrive on challenges and my brain buzzes with adrenaline when I’m getting things done. But like many Rice students, I often get swept along in the fast-moving rapids of productivity, losing sight of priorities and skimming along the surface of relationships.

At first, this great escape felt like a reckless indulgence, but it gave me some much-needed perspective on my work, my relationships, and my daily habits and impulses. It also recharged my battery in a way that no ordinary vacation, packed with relational expectations and logistical needs, could have done. I often come home from travels with a rock or

B Y E S C A P I N G F R O M M Y D A I LY LIFE A ND R O U TINE , I WA S LE A R NIN G HOW TO BE STILL AND TO SHIFT FROM DOING TO BEING. two in my bag. They end up on my nightstand, next to my office computer, on the edge of the bathtub or in the bottom of my purse. I hold the cool weight and remember where I first saw it, what I was doing when I found it and who I was with when I stooped to pick it up. A striped metamorphic chunk from a state park we visited now sits on my desk at work. It tells the story of millions of years of collision and compression between continental plates. It symbolizes the complicated and layered beauty that is forged under heat and pressure. It takes me back to that cool forest stream where it first caught my eye. It instills a dose of quiet and calm when the noise and chaos begin to rise around me. And it’s a quiet reminder of the importance of replenishing my own body and spirit so I can continue to give myself to the people and work I love. ◆

Reitmeier is the assistant director of coaching at the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. Elizabeth Slator leads mindfulness stress reduction classes and retreats in her role as the associate director of programs at the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center. To learn more, go to

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A series that profiles Owls whose work takes flight at night

t a M e On th By Alice Levitt


. Party World R S IS DEA D E V I U Q Y M IM ris Monica is commissioner Ch R) W (P ’ lin ss Ra fact during the attendees of this rm fo in to y rr so ’s first Houston stling promotion re w ed as -b tin us A rward to [being really looking fo as w e “H . ow sh . “They shipped car,” he explains t ho a in m hi are carried to the here], but we left mortal remains is H .” re he er ov ivers is revived him as he was restling magic, Qu w rk da le litt a t. This is not the ring, and with atches of the nigh m e th ce un no ed to death, and and ready to an He’s been slamm d. re pi ex s ha s er first time Quiv ilada verde. iated on an ench e genera l manonce even asphyx Ti m Faust ’09, th of n io nt ve in e Qu ivers is th ateu r w restling, oss between am cr a is ch g hi w y. Before join in ager of PW R, , a travel ing pa rt ah ye d, an t ud ar st t Rice, he performance to perform ing. A er ng ra st no ch as su w recting PW R, Faust in ni ng roles or di el l as theater, w esus Ch rist “J d an ied histor y as w “R hi noceros” ,” ds oo W e th o e even ea rlier. plays as “Int tered Faust’s lif en g lin st re w t at me, he’d do a Supersta r.” Bu y dad was mad m n he w d, ki a tive says of the “W hen I was enasha, Wis., na M e th ” n, sio es i. Cr usher impr gi na ld Lisowsk w restler, née Re al. “First pe ap nt re fa med Wisconsin ffe ci rcle has a di d re ua sq e th t, ust jokes. “I like As an adul inar ily du mb,” Fa rd ao tr ex bs it’ t, es w ith the du m and foremos e big moral battl es th t go a ve of u’ g yo the conjur in the idea that e things include es Th g.” in it en su a pp a Lycr est things ha chunky man in ster — actual ly a een the vi ltw be e shiny sy rup mon ttl Or perhaps a ba . on st ou H h at gg in head, whom — from bene ppet na med Pu pu a d an ar gl Zi year -old boy.” la inous Da n as “a real live 8to rs fe re hly ng e back ya rd bi rt Faust un fa ili ed to PW R at th uc od tr in e st th e fir ar Faust was ith Mon ica, au, who, along w de on Bl d ng re ci Ja un no day pa rty of ic and bega n an rs. “I took the m beca me a s pe ro d event’s co -founde an s time, bucket In . lls ca re t us e, moved to New the show,” Fa in Austin for a tim ed liv ho w t, us rsity ’s Robert F. real ring. Fa New York Unive at d ie ud to st he . He’s continued York, where of Publ ic Serv ice ol ho Sc te en ev ua , ad show Wag ner Gr t for ever y PW R om the Northeas bigger and t go s make the tr ip fr ow sh Boston. “Our to d te ca e lo re ’s now that he ed forward in tim mber. We travel du d an r e be m m sa e du bigger and ar we did th then the next ye ts, bo ro e th t ns to war agai


Faust. modern times,” says show but it was [set in] about to include a crew of PW R has ba llooned s pa id ff. Though “no one get 120 volunteers and sta . Th is is gets a small stipend rea l well,” everyone with ve con sideri ng that, pa rticu larly impressi er, tob Oc in t bu de Hous ton the exception of the do to s lve rse ou sh e all pu all shows are free. “W le ab ion est qu for s ng ting thi ver y difficu lt, ex haus retur n,” he says. y funds av ail able to pa The rea son there are ld ou cou is the merch table. “Y members of the crew with a ny pa com g sh irt-sellin arg ue that we are a ozies ,” Faust says. Shirts, ko performance art aspect ists. In desig ned by Austin art and even frisbees are Reaper n depicting the Gr im the ma rket for fashio ull spea pile of skeletons? Sk rid ing Cerberus over ng for has dra fted just the thi cia list Nat Brad ford Slam. R show know n as Necro you, created for a PW for it accord ing to Faust, is The dream for PW R, proposirent. It’s an un likely to cover somebody ’s 4th Tap shows take place at tion, though. Austi n nce “in has room for an audie Brew ing Co -op, which

“FIRS T AND FORE MOS T, IT’S EXTR AOR DINA RILY DUM B. I LIKE THE IDEA THAT YOU’ VE GOT THES E BIG MOR AL BATT LES WITH THE DUM BEST THIN GS HAPP ENIN G.” nues in Austin s.” A fter that, ve the low thousa nd ust, which PW R e 10,000, says Fa cl imb to more lik ent shows aren’t to fill. More frequ could never hope month s to book . It ta kes th ree to an option, either low performers mater ia l and al te ha e matches, w rite w , es to. (Y h as they need ee hr “T rehearse as muc .) se hear u, but they do re to brea k it to yo at, have a br ief th do to e ough tim . months is just en it,” Faust explains d and get back at it, ts pu refractor y perio he As a serious side. Faust does have l health ca re na tio na a] y is [bei ng “My other hobb been to 37 st ates e pa st year, he’s th spea ker.” In th A mer ican heal e inequities in en ev ’ll ta lk ing about th he , year fix them . Th is ca re and how to ice Now: Si ngle st Ju lth ea titled “H release a book, t Comes Next.” Payer and W ha rewards come that his greatest But Faust ad m its ople put together fu n to watch pe , from PW R. “It’s ibly compl icated dicrou s, incred ideas that are lu g.” rin the f***ing na il it in and watch them

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La Calisto’s Modern Allure


By Amy McCaig

A S T FA L L , the Shepherd School of Music’s Opera Studies Department and Chamber Orchestra presented “La Calisto,” Francesco Cavalli’s exploration of impossible love and postwar apocalypse. It was the first production under Michael Heaston, the director of Rice’s Opera Studies Program. “Though this piece is nearly 400 years old and is based on a Greco-Roman myth, ‘La Calisto’ is an opera that speaks fervently to a 21st-century audience,” Heaston said. At the center of the opera lies the nymph Calisto, a follower of the virgin goddess Diana, who has caught the eye of Jupiter, the most powerful of gods. Initially rebuffed by Calisto, Jupiter turns to his most brilliant disguise yet: dressing up as Diana and


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c reat ive i deas a nd e ndeavo r s


seducing Calisto with the promise of chaste kisses. Diana herself, however, is also struggling with her vows of chastity, having recently fallen in love with a young astronomer and poet, Endimione. The plot thickens with the addition of several demigods and satyrs, whose leader, Pan, is inconsolably in love with Diana — though he’s unaware whether it’s the real Diana or “Jupiter as Diana” he’s courting. Things finally come to a head when Juno, Jupiter’s wife, descends to Earth to figure out what her husband is up to and exacts her revenge on the deceived Calisto. These sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious plot twists are set against a bleak, arid world. In the heat of battle, Jupiter showered the world with thunderbolts, destroying all natural life. “As these characters grapple with the horrendous destruction of war, it is love, both literally and figuratively, that restores beauty to their universe and allows everything around them to bloom once again,” said David Paul, guest stage director.

“With the combined efforts of university staff, guest collaborators and the students involved, this production was born out of a continuously evolving and collaborative environment that inspired me to push my own boundaries as a performer and musician,” said Sydney Baedke ’19, a Shepherd School graduate student who played the role of Calisto. “Whether by intense character development sessions, studying the style of early Baroque music or methodically working through the physical manifestations of stagecraft, ‘La Calisto’ was a dense project that was incredibly valuable to me as a young singer moving forward into the diverse professional world of opera, and is one that I will reflect on fondly after my time at Rice comes to an end,” Baedke added. Gary Thor Wedow conducted the orchestra. The opera was sung in Italian with English surtitles. Set design was by Liz Freese, costumes by Sara Jean Tosetti and lighting design by Gary Echelmeyer.

UPCOMING EVENTS “Susannah” by Carlisle Floyd Shepherd School Opera and Chamber Orchestra

Wortham Opera Theatre March 4, 6 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call 713-348-8000.

Graduate Students Scenes Program Scenes from favorite operas performed with piano Wortham Opera Theatre April 5 at 5:30 p.m.

Undergraduate Students Scenes Program Scenes from favorite operas performed with piano Wortham Opera Theatre April 11 at 5:30 p.m.

To learn more about the spring 2019 opera schedule at Rice, visit

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

Good Form

Form and Dichroic Light: Scott Hall at Carnegie Mellon University By Michelle LaFoe ’89 and Isaac Campbell ’89 (Leete’s Island Books, 2018)

turn. But the couple, who met at Rice, saw their youth and size as an asset that made them nimbler than the big firms. “The postrecession has allowed firms like ours to emerge and be competitive on a national scale,” Campbell told The Oregonian in 2013. “Why? We’re retooling and rethinking how we work. We may be smaller, but we also have the freedom to be more selective.” It also gave them the boldness to take big risks. Although the competition called for a seven-story tower, Campbell and LaFoe “questioned how the problem was conceptually framed,” writes Michael J. Crosbie, former chair of the University of Hartford’s architecture department, in his introduction to LaFoe and Campbell’s informative book detailing the Scott Hall architectural process and product. Instead — at the risk of disqualifying their entry — they proposed building much of the science center underground, topped with a state-of-the-art green roof and a crystalline pavilion that leads into a light-filled atrium. Using dichroic glass, the designers created subtle variations of color and light that change throughout the day. The risk paid off. Scott Hall was officially complete in 2017 and stands, says Crosbie, as “a model for design exploration that focuses like a laser on the nature of the problem.”  — JENNIFER LATSON 44 

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When a prestigious design competition pitted their startup architecture firm against some of the biggest names in the field, Michelle LaFoe ’89 and Isaac Campbell ’89 found a way to set themselves apart: They threw out the rules. Campbell and LaFoe had only recently opened their Portland studio, OFFICE 52 Architecture, when they entered the 2011 competition to design an $82 million nanoscience, bioscience and energy technologies building at Carnegie Mellon University. Winning would have been a coup for any small firm — even more so during the building industry’s postrecession down-

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


By Jeffrey Stuart Kerr ’79

Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management

(Texas Tech University Press, 2017)

(Harvard University Press, 2018)

The year is 1835, and the Texas Revolution is in full swing. Edward Fontaine, secretary to Mirabeau Lamar, and his slave, Jacob, get swept up in the Battle of the Alamo and deeply involved in Lamar’s subsequent struggles against Sam Houston for control over the new Republic of Texas. Jeffrey Kerr ’79 uses the contrasting perspectives of Fontaine and Jacob to create an engaging retelling of some of the most important events in Texas history, focusing especially on the strengths and flaws that made Lamar and Houston such iconic figures.

By Caitlin Rosenthal ’05 Caitlin Rosenthal ’05 draws from her background in political science and history to present a new perspective on the complicated relationship between New World slavery and capitalism. By analyzing the quantitative management practices, accounting documents, and business innovations of West Indian and Southern plantations, Rosenthal presents thought-provoking comparisons that reveal the similarities between the cutthroat practices of slaveholders and the ethical dilemmas facing modern businesses.

Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought

The Entrepreneurial Muse: Inspiring Your Career in Classical Music

By Rachel Fulton Brown ’86

By Jeffrey Nytch ’94 (Oxford University Press, 2018)

In addition to the technical aspect of playing an instrument for a living, being a professional musician involves a degree of entrepreneurship and business acumen many often underestimate. In “The Entrepreneurial Muse,” Jeffrey Nytch ’94 offers strategies and tools designed to aid readers in forming a career path in music, realizing their professional goals and acquiring entrepreneurial skills useful in any workplace. Nytch’s approach is based on his own experiences navigating the ever-changing landscape of professional musicianship and reveals how entrepreneurship and musical creativity can both coexist and foster each other’s development.

(Columbia University Press, 2018)

Through a combination of comprehensive historical scholarship, new interpretations of medieval sources and philosophical perspectives on prayer, Rachel Fulton Brown ’86 creates a spiritual and thoughtful work on Marian worship. Each section focuses on a different prayer, reading or ritual centered on the Virgin Mary, giving the reader insights into the devotional lives of medieval Christians and reflecting key aspects of the timelessness of faith. 


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The Education of Ben Rhodes

Just seven years after graduating from Rice, Ben Rhodes ’00 became a speechwriter for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and began his ascent into Obama’s inner circle of aides. Last summer, he published a memoir recounting his singular experience in a historic presidency. D E S P I T E D OU B L E M A JO R I NG in English and political science, and then earning an MFA in creative writing from NYU prior to working in politics, Rhodes never cared much for the political memoir genre and had no immediate plans to write his own. It was not until after the presidential transition did Rhodes think to work on his memoir. “I realized that I had a unique entry point for a political memoir, because I was a relatively anonymous 29-year46 

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old when I went to work for Obama. I felt like if I could focus on my personal experience and transformation in the job, I could give a reader a sense of what it’s like to work in the White House,” he said. Rhodes served in speechwriting, communications and national security adviser roles during Obama’s eight years in office. “And I felt like offering an honest and open portrayal of how the presidency used to work would be of value in a world where the presidency

— under Trump — operates so differently.” Rhodes’ book is an intimate look inside the Obama White House. He chronicles his favorite part of the job, including international trips to Cuba, Germany and Austria; walks the reader through the intelligence conversations that occurred before the Osama bin Laden raid; and shares anecdotes about falling asleep on Air Force One only to be woken up by his boss, the president of the United States. But the book is as much about Rhodes’ professional and personal growth as it is about the Obama administration. He shares his trajectory as a newto-Washington, D.C., young adult blossoming into a seasoned political adviser. Along the way, we see just how quickly his career took off. After several promotions, the White House installed a communications system in his two-bedroom apartment. When he mentioned to colleagues how noisy the system was and how it took up a large chunk of his living room, he realized that his peers were not having the same noise issues because they had the space to store the devices much farther from their bedrooms. Meanwhile, he was still living in “a young person’s home.” Obama became known for his oratory skills, eloquence and famous speeches, while Rhodes quickly became one of the individuals working fervently behind the scenes to perfect each speech. To prepare, he read and reread Obama’s books, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” and “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.” According to Rhodes, the experience of writing the words Obama would deliver was both thrilling and intimidating. “Thrilling, because you get to work for someone who takes speeches seriously, and who commands an audience when he speaks,” he said. “Intimidating, because people have very high expectations for an Obama speech. For that reason, I felt a great sense of responsibility. When he would give a speech in a foreign country, for instance, even if it wasn’t going to be a big deal in the United States, it meant an enormous amount to the people in


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

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


The World as It Is

A Memoir of the Obama White House


that country — both because he was an American president, but also because of who he was. So even though I wrote probably a thousand speeches for Obama, I still felt a great sense of responsibility — and stress — for the last speech I wrote for him,” said Rhodes. “The World as It Is” takes readers from Chicago to D.C. and countless countries over a nine-year period. Now that Rhodes’ term in the White House has ended, he is working on more writing, helping his friends at Crooked Media with their podcasts, serving as an NBC contributor and doing his part to support Democrats. Both Rice and the Baker Institute, as well as Rhodes’ brother David Rhodes ’96, make cameos in the memoir. Of his decision to attend Rice, Rhodes said, “Coming from New York City to Houston helped broaden my sense of the country in ways that were useful.” Rhodes’ advice for current Rice students is, “The best plan for your career is to have no plan — that’s what allowed me to make some pretty dramatic shifts in my 20s, and ultimately led me to the Obama campaign and the White House.” — COURTNEY STEFANCYK (A version of this article originally appeared in the new Rice School of Social Sciences newsletter.)

moved to Washington in the spring of 2002, as the drumbeat for war in Iraq was sounding louder. I moved because I was a New Yorker and 9/11 upended everything I had been thinking about what I was going to do with my life. I had been teaching at a community college during the day, getting a master’s in fiction writing at night, and working on a city council campaign. On September 11, 2001, I was handing out flyers at a polling site on a north Brooklyn street when I saw the second plane hit, stared at plumes of black smoke billowing in the sky, and then watched the first tower crumple to the ground. Mobile phone service was down and I didn’t know if lower Manhattan had been destroyed. A man with some kind of European accent grabbed my arm and said, over and over, “This is sabotage.” For days after, the air had the acrid smell of seared metal, melted wires, and death. I wanted to be a part of what happened next, and I was repelled by the reflexive liberalism of my New York University surroundings—the professor who suggested that we sing “God Bless Afghanistan” to the tune of “God Bless America,” the preemptive protests against American military intervention, the reflexive distrust of Bush. I visited an Army recruiter under the Queensboro Bridge. After leaving with a pile of materials and getting a few follow-up phone calls, I decided that I couldn’t see myself in uniform. Instead, I would move to Washington to write about the events reshaping my world. I had never considered being a speechwriter, and I had never heard

of Lee Hamilton, but one reference led to another and soon I found myself at the Wilson Center, one small cog in the vast machinery of people who think, talk, and write about American foreign policy. I was a liberal, skeptical of military adventurism in our history, and something seemed off about toppling Saddam Hussein because of something done by Osama bin Laden. But when you’re putting on a tie and riding the D.C. metro with a bunch of other twenty-five-year-olds to a think tank a few blocks from the White House, angry about 9/11 and determined to be taken seriously, you listen to what the older, more experienced people say. The moment Colin Powell made his case for war to the United Nations, I was on board. Now here I was, a few years later, seeing what that war had wrought. We began writing the Iraq Study Group report by committee, but after a few drafts, Baker’s staff guy called me and asked me to take the lead. I’d stay up all night agonizing over sentence structure and whether the group was going far enough in calling for an end to the war. The first sentence of the report said “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating,” and the report called for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops. Instead, Bush put more troops into the country. To me, the experience clarified two things: First, the people who were supposed to know better had gotten us into a moral and strategic disaster; second, you can’t change things unless you change the people making the decisions. I had a decent policy job, but I wanted to get into politics. And I wanted to work for Barack Obama.

From the book “The World as It Is,” by Ben Rhodes. Copyright © 2018 by Perry Merrill LLC. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All Rights Reserved. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   47


Burt McMurtry The True Philanthropist By Kyndall Krist


T ’S A N U N DE R S TAT E M E N T to say that Burt McMurtry ’56, who passed away Sept. 2, 2018, left a lasting impact on Rice. At the heart of the McMurtry legacy is a love story. Burt and his wife of 62 years, Deedee ’56, met at Houston’s Lamar High School and began dating when they were sophomores at Rice. In addition to classes and “library dates,” as Deedee called them, they were active in various clubs and organizations on campus. During their senior year, Burt was the Student Association president and Deedee was vice president. Burt was also a student representative on the 1955 committee that established the original mission and basic organizational design of Rice’s residential colleges. After Rice, Burt conducted laser research and development while pursuing his master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at Stanford. Continuing to reside in California, Burt went on to become an early leader in the venture capital industry and a highly influential philanthropist. A passion for giving back was something Burt and Deedee shared. “The first thing we did when we had any expendable 48 

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funds was to create scholarships in our parents’ names. Those were our first gifts to Rice,” Deedee said. “We felt very lucky to have those great, free educations. We both went to Rice because there was no tuition, [which was] important to our families. When you are privileged like that, it’s natural to give back when you can.” The McMurtrys’ accomplishments and philanthropic efforts are innumerable, but their gifts were not only monetary in nature. Burt served on the Rice board from 1987 to 2004, which was a significant period of growth and transition for the university. In that time, Rice’s charter was altered to modernize its governance and business structures. For instance, the number of voting trustees expanded from seven to 25, term limits were established in place of lifetime terms and strategies were developed to increase financial efficiency. The number of students and buildings on campus was also growing. “Burt’s guidance and leadership were invaluable in this period of change,” said Melissa Kean ’00, Rice’s centennial historian. “He was one of the most important trustees we’ve ever had in the history of this institution.” The McMurtry name is all over campus — including two endowed scholarships, two endowed professorships and McMurtry Auditorium — but their most recognizable namesake is McMurtry College. In 2006, the McMurtrys pledged $32 million to Rice, a portion of which was combined with the couple’s earlier undesignated gifts to create a long-term operating and maintenance fund supporting the residential college system. Their contributions also led to the establishment of Rice’s 10th residential college, which opened its doors in 2009. Deedee has fond memories of the college’s dedication ceremony. “At the opening of the college, each of us talked a little bit. I said, ‘I don’t know what you guys are going to do with this name for a yell or anything. McMurtry is such a long, difficult name.’ So [the students] came up with Murts — they are so clever and funny.” It’s this endearing connection with the students that embodies the McMurtrys’ legacy on campus. “The students were very moved by Burt’s passing and put together a book of memories to send to Deedee,” said Margaret Beier, a McMurtry College magister. “They took pictures of their favorite places in the college and wrote about what those places and memories mean to them. They wanted to thank the family for the generosity that has enabled them to live in this community. The impact they’ve had on these students is really something special.” Burt’s influence continues to reach far and wide, and we thank him for all he did for Rice. “His generosity is legendary,” Kean said, “but it was his incisive intelligence and independence of mind that were his greatest contribution to his alma mater.”

UNLIMITED David Senter ’20 and his siblings were raised on their family’s farm in Tennessee. His mother and father prioritized education from the start, even leaving the farm to be closer to good schools. “My parents sacrificed a lot for our education,” David says. “We knew that our grades were important and that we needed to work hard to qualify for scholarships.” Today, the computer science major has found his groove as he prepares for a career in tech management, leads campus tours for middle school students and serves on Baker College’s cabinet. “The day that I got into Rice was an amazing day. Not only did I have acceptance into my dream school, I also had this amazing financial package that was going to cover just about everything. It was all that I ever wanted.” With the support of the Rice community, The Rice Investment will significantly expand scholarship support for low- and middleincome students. Visit thericeinvestment to watch a video about David’s story and to learn why your support is vital to the success of The Rice Investment.

unconventional. unlimited. uncharted. unmatched. m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   3

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Sneak Peek

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THE FOLKS AT RICE MAGAZINE’S CENTRAL HEADQUARTERS have been keeping a secret. Since last summer, we’ve been working behind the scenes on a redesign project. Why? In brief, our goals include sharing the diverse student life experience as well as capturing the inspiration that surrounds us on a daily basis — in the lab, the field, the studio and the classroom. We also want to reconnect alumni to Rice then and now. We’ll have more to say about what’s behind these changes in the next issue, where you’ll see a refreshed editorial flow and a bolder design. And while we’re not yet ready for the “big reveal,” here’s a teaser. The curtain goes up in May, but watch our social media channels for more sneak peeks until then.

Profile for Rice University

Rice Magazine | Winter 2019  

Rice Magazine | Winter 2019