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ANTARCTIC JOURNAL During an eventful and demanding research expedition to Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, science writer and photographer Linda Welzenbach chronicled the crew’s progress and daily challenges aboard ship and on icy shores.

Story and photos by Linda Welzenbach


ntarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is enormous, remote, starkly beautiful — and a focal point for global sea level rise predictions. Since 2018, under the auspices of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, eight scientific teams from around the world have been investigating the glacier and its adjacent ocean environment. The massive research project is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council through 2023. The ultimate goal is to collect data that helps scientists and policymakers to understand the past, present and future of glacial melt contribution to sea level rise. Though much has changed for Antarctic explorers in the century since Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott raced to the South Pole, scientific research on the continent remains a grueling and painstaking process. But the rewards are many, says Linda Welzenbach, the science communications specialist in Rice’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. Last January, during the waning days of the Antarctic summer, Welzenbach embarked on the collaboration’s first cruise as part of THOR, short for Thwaites Glacier Offshore Research. A geologist by training and a veteran of two previous Antarctic research trips, Welzenbach served as THOR’s public outreach coordinator, a role that drew on her scientific training as well as her considerable writing and photography skills. Via blog posts, Welzenbach documented the scientific, technological and human aspects of research under extreme conditions. From this unique perch, she also captured moments of sublime beauty at sea and across forbidding landscapes. Welzenbach drew from THOR’s expedition blog and trove of photos to share her journey with Rice Magazine readers.

JAN. 28 After 24 hours of travel from Houston to Punta Arenas, Chile, I arrived exhausted yet excited — and perhaps just a wee bit anxious of the unknown — to be part of something unique. My role on this expedition is to share the scientific discoveries that will come from our journey to Antarctica on board the icebreaker and research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer. Akin to a spacecraft

exploring new frontiers beyond Earth, the ship and her marine operations specialists will navigate safe passage through Antarctica’s icy waters for the next two months. In addition to the nine geologists (including me) assigned to the THOR project, there were two other scientific teams aboard the ship, as well as technical support contractors, the ship’s captain and operating crew, cooks and

On the cover: The Nathaniel B. Palmer breaks through Antarctic sea ice during last year’s THOR expedition. Left: A view of an iceberg as the Palmer speeds toward the Rothera Research Station to address a medical emergency. The blue color signifies highly compacted ice in which there are little or no air bubbles. Deep blue ice is thousands to tens of thousands of years old.

Here: While waiting at Rothera Research Station for a replacement technician, those on board the ship enjoyed a beautiful sunset over Adelaide Island. Facing page, clockwise from top left: Welzenbach poses next to the Palmer in Punta Arenas, Chile, before heading out on the Thwaites Glacier Offshore Research expedition; one of the scientific teams on board the Palmer was charged with “seal tagging,” or attaching small computers to fur that will molt the following summer; the Palmer glides along the face of the Thwaites Glacier ice shelf; Adélie penguins live only on and around the Antarctic coastline.

media personnel. All in all, 58 people, including 22 scientists, would be calling this ship home for the next two months. Owls were well represented on the THOR team — Julia Wellner ’01 is one of two principal investigators. John Anderson, the W. Maurice Ewing Professor Emeritus of Oceanography, serves as a co-investigator. While neither Wellner nor Anderson accompanied this cruise, Becky Totten Minzoni ’14 was on hand to study the offshore seafloor environment

and the historical behavior of tidewater glaciers as a result of climate change. JAN. 31–FEB. 4 With last-minute maintenance accomplished, we are on our journey to the Amundsen Sea and ultimately the Thwaites Glacier, expecting to arrive in seven to 10 days. As we pass through the Straits of Magellan, the seas are already rough with the swells striking the Palmer broadside of the beam. In the early afternoon of Feb. 4, the swells regularly exceed 20


feet. Sea legs nearly acquired, the roll, pitch and yaw still cause a nagging fatigue. By midday, I try to take a nap. Within minutes of hitting my bunk, the port to starboard roll became progressively more pronounced, and at 1:40 p.m. culminated in what became known as “The Big Tilt.” Our cabin door, facing the port side, became a nearhorizontal floor. All our “secured” gear tumbled down a 45-degree incline to the door, my head saved from smacking the bulkhead by my pillow. Miraculously, no

one was hurt. FEB. 10–12 The days’ science activities include sampling the seawater and collecting a core of the seafloor in Ferraro Bay. This is a shakedown activity for all of us newbies. Then we are full steam toward the Edwards and Schaefer Islands, where our two other science teams will be deployed to sample ancient shorelines and to tag seals. The rest of us are left to take in the sound and the overwhelming smell —


a combination of wet dog, ammonia and rotten fish — of Adélie penguins going about the business of raising their young and preparing for the winter ahead. We would spend the next couple days at these islands, many of which have never been touched by humans. FEB. 14–18 When we enter the Amundsen Sea Embayment, we’re just a day away from our main destination, the Thwaites Glacier — but then, the unexpected

happens. Someone is very sick, and the Palmer is already making a U-turn to head north toward the closest port for transport to Chile. At the Palmer’s maximum speed of 13 knots, the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula is four days away. While everyone is concerned with the well-being of the person who is ill, there is an equal and palpable concern about how the team will accomplish all our goals in 10 fewer days. The scientists, used

to overcoming adversity, are already working on adjustments and contingencies. The time would be used to best effort — cleaning data, refining laboratory processes, and establishing collaborations and friendships. There would be more time to observe all the different types of ice, spot whales and seals, and in my case, catch up on blog writing! FEB. 19–21 Rothera Research Station is situated on Adelaide Island. Within minutes of reach-

ing anchorage, a small boat launches from Rothera Point to collect our medical emergency. Now we wait anxiously for the plane’s return with a replacement technician, the mood anticipatory of the immediate departure back to the Amundsen Sea. But it is not to be. The weather in Chile would delay the flight for two days! So plans are made to go ashore again. At Rothera Station, our time is filled with media interviews, station tours, accessing mail — and stocking up on chocolate bars. The following


Here: One of the more memorable sights was the Palmer’s passage into permanent sea ice after a rough crossing through Drake Passage. “What started out looking like white lily pads slowly coalesced to brash ice — a harbinger of the solid ice ahead.” Facing page, clockwise from top left: The Kasten corer, the workhorse of seafloor sampling, being lowered back on the ship; Becky Totten Minzoni, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, was in charge of all coring activities on the ship; a baby Adélie penguin.

afternoon, our new technician is delivered and we are off, speeding back to the Amundsen Sea. The lesson that was brought home is that the safety of our crew is paramount. FEB. 26 The day dawns a deep blue gray, but eerily calm — a perfect backdrop for the towering 30- to 40-meter wall of the eastern ice tongue of our destination, the Thwaites Glacier. Its crystalline face was fractured, glowing deep teal to cobalt in the fissures and cavities. The Palmer glides slowly, 400 meters from the face of the ice shelf.


There was a silent reverence among us all when the glacier finally came into view — and gratitude that the way was not blocked by ice. The Palmer’s previous trip to the Thwaites was in 2000; in 2006, another ship surveyed the area. Neither mission made it farther south of 74 degrees, 50 minutes latitude. On this mission, the Palmer sailed along a new ice-free boundary that is 18 kilometers farther south than in 2006. This is a strong indicator that “climate forcing” is contributing to ice shelf retreat. Scientists have been able to see via satellite rapid changes in ice shelf behavior.

FEB. 28 Sleep deprivation is the No. 1 problem for the THOR crew of scientists, who operate on 12-hour shifts, leaving only a few hours to sleep, exercise or “see the sights” — that is, the world going on outside and around the ship. Since I’m a working scientist as well as a science communicator, my noon to midnight shift is taken up partly with monitoring the sonar mapping process of the seafloor (and below the seafloor). One thing I’m looking for is potential coring sites. Collecting seafloor sediment cores is one of our missions — these samples are key to

understanding the Thwaites Glacier’s historical behavior. When not processing cores, I write my blog, go to the bridge, and take photos or process images. MARCH 3 By now, the THOR team has surveyed more than 1,500 square kilometers of new seafloor in the Amundsen Sea Embayment in front of the Thwaites Glacier. During this time, we are all business with little time for sightseeing. I note areas on the seafloor that look like good targets to core. We collected 14 cores from six sites. The Kasten corer is


no longer an option. About the same time, we received word that we would be granted three extra days to conduct science, so back to the Edwards and Schaefer Islands we would go to collect one more core from an area that hadn’t been sampled in decades. Despite the mayhem behind us, the sea near the islands was a mirror, bringing the sky to the ground, yet allowing us to peer tens of meters below the water’s surface.

the workhorse of seafloor sampling. Its 12-inch square metal barrel can capture up to 9 feet of sediment. With its 15-ton weight on top, it is sent to the seafloor like a straw into a large bowl of pudding, but at speeds of up to 30 meters per second. A fully loaded Kasten core can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, so the entire team is needed to deadlift it onto a cart on deck and roll it into the lab. MARCH 7–13 On March 7, we wake early to find ourselves gone from Thwaites. The Palmer is sitting quietly in the icefree waters of western Pine

Island Bay. When we arrive at Pine Island Glacier, we find the calving front has retreated several kilometers since the last survey in 2017, providing the opportunity to survey newly exposed seafloor. While we are there, we receive satellite imagery of ice movement, a neardaily part of traverse planning. New images show a sudden breakup and dispersal of the far western alligatored edge of the Thwaites ice tongue. Not only was it concerning to everyone on board, but it meant that the conditions around us were beginning to deteriorate. Going back to Thwaites was

MARCH 18–22 The day before the Palmer commits to crossing Drake Passage is bittersweet. The sea is full of brash ice, bringing to mind stories of Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance, but with the comfort of knowing that the Palmer will never get stuck. Southern fur seals are seen swimming among the floes throughout the day, as are many whales. Flocks of petrels and albatross hover around the ship. The marine biologists on the teams think that there is some kind of nutrient upwelling attracting all the wildlife, which also include crabeater seals. Despite the engaging sights, there is a disquiet in

the back of our minds. The Palmer is less much of the fuel that would have added ballast to our trip across the passage. The Palmer skirts ahead of a massive cyclone that produced an amazing tailwind, like a giant hand pushing us to speeds of up to 17 knots. MARCH 24 In contrast to the loud and halting push through ice, the Palmer’s slide into the dock at Punta Arenas was smooth as silk. The only sounds marking our arrival were the raucous cries of seagulls. Everyone was up on the top deck, marveling at the sights and smells of civilization, each of us silently recognizing that something special was over. The lack of pitch, roll and yaw signaled that we not only had arrived, but that the next steps to understand the glacier we left behind would have to be taken back home. ■

More of Welzenbach’s journal entries, photographs and short videos from last year’s Thwaites Glacier expedition can be found at magazine.rice.edu.






Science writer Linda Welzenbach chronicles a research trip to the Thwaites Glacier.

Judge Charles Spain ’81 devotes his legal career to civil rights for all.

RAs make each residential college feel like home for Rice students.

Antarctic Journal


Love and Law

Where Students Become Family







December convocation, KTRU, commencement speaker, literary dystopias, volleyball, student fashion, a cappella group



Slavery and restitution in America, art and architecture, nanotechnology, Ok glacier, effective male allies, faculty books and music



Collages by Kathryn Dunlevie ’74, Juan Sebastian Cruz ’16 at the Alley Theatre, radical hospitality, alumni books

Last Look


Sol LeWitt at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies


FEEDBACK We use an email survey and Google Analytics to gauge what our readers are paying attention to. Here are some reader favorites and comments about the Fall 2019 issue. Please send your feedback about the Winter 2020 issue to lynn.gosnell@rice.edu or ricemagazine@rice.edu.


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“We Don’t Know: How to Add the Sense of Touch to Prosthetic Devices”

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Most-read research story

“The Philosopher Engineer: C. Sidney Burrus” “Dr. Burrus returned to Rice when I was in grad school there. I very much enjoyed his story of early interests and his picking electrical engineering;

in a similar position I picked chemical engineering, knowing very little about what that actually meant.” “He taught me in the ’60s — now I know a lot more about him. Why not give professor profiles to their students so they know more about the person beyond mere credentials?”

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Winter 2020 PUBLISHER




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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; Wanda Gass; Terrence Gee; James T. Hackett; Tommy Huie; Patti Lipoma Kraft; Robert T. Ladd; Holli Ladhani; L. Charles Landgraf; Brian Patterson; David Rhodes; Jeffery A. Smisek; Guillermo Treviño; James Whitehurst; Scott Wise; Huda Y. Zoghbi. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS

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AN INSIDE JOB WE’RE SO FORTUNATE IN this issue to feature the writing, photography, research and artistic skills of several Rice alumni and staff from across the university. Who better to bring to light groundbreaking (or, in the case of our cover story, icebreaking) research and Rice’s unique commitment to residential life than these “insiders”? Linda Welzenbach (“An Antarctic Journey”), the science communications specialist in Rice’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, pulled double duty for the magazine by contributing both photographs and journal entries documenting a two-month research expedition to Antarctica. A geologist by training, Linda helmed public outreach efforts during the Thwaites Glacier Offshore Research cruise in early 2019. This was an exciting story we just had to extend online — go to magazine.rice. edu to learn more about the Thwaites Glacier’s critical role in studying global sea level rise. What’s it like to live with a few hundred undergrads? Our former colleague, Jenny West Rozelle ’00 (“Where Students Become Family”), knows all about residential life at Rice. During her eight years on staff in the Office of Public Affairs, where she wrote for and edited Rice Magazine, she and her husband, Joe Rozelle ’99, also served as RAs at Brown College. Their five-year stint as key members of the Rice residential college system, where they formed lasting relationships

We are thrilled to feature the work of science illustrator Daisy Chung ’14 in this issue (“Rewiring Hearts With Nanotubes”). At Rice, Daisy double majored in biological sciences and visual arts before earning a graduate certificate in science illustration from California State University. with countless students, is evident in Jenny’s authentic portrait of RA life. (In addition to being a talented writer, Jenny also proofreads every single issue of this magazine.) We are thrilled to feature the work of science illustrator Daisy Chung ’14 in this issue (“Rewiring Hearts With Nanotubes”). At Rice, Daisy double majored in biological sciences and visual arts before earning a graduate certificate in science illustration from California State University. Last year, she visited Rice as a guest lecturer and showed slides of her artful and informative science visualizations. Soon after, we started looking for Rice research news that called for a more visual explanation. We found just the story in the lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali, whose pioneering work with carbon nanotube fibers may one day result in new ways to repair damaged heart tissues. We’re thankful for these and so many more talented Owls who inspire us in every issue. Please send letters or comments about this issue to lynn.gosnell@rice.edu.



BUILDING AND REBUILDING RICE JUST AFTER THE holiday break, faculty and staff moved into the new Patricia Lipoma Kraft ’87 and Jonathan A. Kraft Hall for Social Sciences, and in a few weeks we’ll formally celebrate both the opening and the 40th anniversary of Rice’s School of Social Sciences. There has been a lot of building on our campus in recent years, but it’s never about the building. It’s about the possibilities for excellence, opportunity and impact these projects engender. Kraft Hall reflects the increasing importance of the social sciences at Rice. Today, 30% of majors are in the social sciences, and 22% of overall undergraduate credit hours are in social science courses. The school has nearly 100 faculty members, and six of its undergraduate programs have been ranked among the top 15 best colleges for those majors: sport management, psychological sciences, anthropology and sociology (combined), political science and economics. Economics and psychological sciences are among the five most popular majors at Rice. Six of the seven departments have doctoral programs. The school has launched four professional master’s programs — in energy economics, human factors and human-computer interactions, global affairs and social policy evaluation. The Master of Global Affairs is a joint endeavor of the School of Social Sciences and the Baker Institute for Public Policy. Kraft Hall will also house other


extraordinary endeavors focused on impact. These include the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and, under the aegis of the Kinder Institute, the Houston Education Research Consortium, a pathbreaking research collaboration with every school district in the metropolitan area to build research-based policies that fuel educational success. Kraft Hall will also house the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance and the Texas Policy Lab, which will provide data-driven research to help evaluate and guide policies for the state and local governments.

Kraft Hall … is a reflection both of our accomplishment and our ambition. And that is true of every building project at Rice. The campus impact is even broader. The location was chosen in part to create a new “policy corridor” on campus, composed of the Jones Graduate School of Business, the Baker Institute for Public Policy and Kraft Hall for Social Sciences. This will enable closer collaboration in both education and research to address a wide range of critical policy issues. Kraft Hall reflects the evolution of the university from its founding. At that time, Edgar Odell Lovett remarked that although a broad university with a liberal arts orientation was envisioned, we would begin with science and engineering, because that’s what the small but growing city of Houston needed. But the ambition was to build a great university of breadth and excellence with “no upper limit.” The growth of social sciences from the first economics graduates in 1931 is a reflection of that vision. And it’s not only about Houston: Our nation and world need the insights of social sciences to address changes

and challenges in education, equity and equality, work and political systems. In short, the construction of Kraft Hall, the first building at Rice designed for and devoted exclusively to social sciences, is a reflection both of our accomplishment and our ambition. And that is true of every building project at Rice. In December, for example, we opened the Bill and Stephanie Sick Suite in the Jones School’s McNair Hall to house the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The Doerr Institute for New Leaders is also housed in custom-built offices in McNair Hall. These new spaces have allowed these critical endeavors, supporting our strategic priorities in leadership and entrepreneurship education, to flourish. This summer, we will complete the largest current project on campus: the new opera hall that will become the anchor of the Rice University Music and Performing Arts Center. Rice has already achieved preeminence in music education, especially in orchestral performance, and the opera hall will fully enable the success of our opera program. It will also anchor a new arts sector of the campus, which will include the Moody Center for the Arts and a new facility we’re planning for our Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts. With the possibilities created by all these new facilities, we are realizing more fully the words on the university’s seal: “Letters, Science, Art.” We have come a long way since those first four buildings on our campus in 1912. We are incredibly indebted to those who have supported the building projects critical to excellence across every university endeavor. These projects are driven in every case by our ambitions to educate, research and serve in new areas and in new ways. So come and visit, and see the physical manifestations of a university growing to meet the needs of our students and our world.



And You’re Done! Rice hosts inaugural December convocation ceremony for graduates. BY KYNDALL KRIST




December graduate Christen Smajstrla






N DEC. 9, 2019, Rice held its first-ever December convocation ceremony to honor graduates who completed their degrees after the summer or fall semester. The event took place in Stude Concert Hall in the Shepherd School of Music, where Rice’s newest alumni crossed the stage. The ceremony celebrated those who completed a doctorate, a master’s or bachelor’s degree, or a university certificate. Historically, commencement has been most commonly held in May or June, starting with the first ceremony in 1916. During World War II, Rice held commencement in February, October and April, but this is the first ceremony to take place in December, according

“Graduating early gives me a semester to work full time and save up money before graduate school.” to Rice Centennial Historian Melissa Kean ’00. Samantha Cain, a Hanszen College kinesiology major and neuroscience minor, participated in the December convocation because she was able to earn enough credits to graduate a semester early. “Since graduating early isn’t really a common thing at Rice, I didn’t think about it myself until a friend of mine graduated early in December last year,” Cain said. “She inspired me to look into my own degree progress to see if it would be a possibility, and it definitely was!” This year, Cain will begin graduate school for physical therapy. “Graduating early gives me a semester to work full time and save up money before graduate school,” she added.


December graduate Samantha Cain

Christen Smajstrla, a Sid Richardson College economics major and environmental studies minor, has already started working toward her Master of Arts in Teaching at Rice and will be student teaching at Heights High School this semester. “This ceremony allows me to officially be done with undergrad so I can focus on transitioning to a grad student full time,” Smajstrla said. She will also have the opportunity to experience May commencement in 2021 when she completes her master’s degree. “I really like the idea of participating in both ceremonies,” Smajstrla explained. “The December ceremony allowed for a more personal experience, and the one in May will allow me to be with many of my friends.” Students who complete a degree

after the summer or fall semester do so for various reasons. “There are people who graduate a semester early at the undergrad level, or, for a wide variety of circumstances, might be taking a little longer than four years,” said Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman. “Plus, for master’s and doctoral students, their timelines can differ quite a bit.” While the majority of Rice graduates participate in May commencement, the number of students who complete a degree outside of the spring semester time frame has noticeably increased over time. “It seemed like we reached the right moment when it was appropriate to offer [another ceremony],” said Gorman. “It’s just giving those people that moment when they get the ceremonial ‘and you’re done!’”


Life Lessons

Journalist and human rights advocate Nicholas Kristof to speak at May commencement.


Rice’s radio station gets its letters back. Rice’s studentrun radio station regained its former call sign in August after an eight-year hiatus. Harrison Lorenzen, the KTRU operations director, spearheaded the $10,000 buyback after the station that originally acquired the KTRU letters went under new ownership. “After a sixmonthlong process, we were able to gain a low-power designation, KTRU-LP, and the other station remains KTRU-FM,” said Lorenzen, a Will Rice College junior. “KRTU has always been our brand image, and we’ve reenergized our community of students, faculty

and community members by legally restoring our letters.” In May 2011, Rice closed on the sale of the station’s transmission tower, FM frequency and broadcast license to the University of Houston for $9.5 million. The unilateral decision left Rice radio an internet-only station until October 2015 when KTRU returned to FM under the call sign KBLT-LP. An anonymous alumnus and former KTRU staff member donated the funds for the buyback. The station will celebrate its call sign with a campus concert in February.  — KENDALL HEBERT

TWO-TIME PULITZER Prize winner Nicholas Kristof is set to be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2020 this spring. During a long career, the New York Times columnist has reported from Tiananmen Square, various conflicts in the Near East and humanitarian crises in Africa, especially in Sudan. “Our student committee reflected a deep concern with the most important issues of our time in nominating Nicholas Kristof as our commencement speaker [this] spring,” President David Leebron said. “His work has sought to explore the fundamental challenges affecting human wellbeing around the globe.” Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1990 for covering China’s Tiananmen Square democracy movement. They have co-authored four nonfiction books, two of which inspired PBS documentary programs. Kristof won his second Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for what the prize committee described as “his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur.” His commencement address at Rice reflects a special interest in raising student awareness of poverty and social justice issues. Since 2006, The New York Times has sponsored a contest offering college students the opportunity to join Kristof on an international reporting trip. In 2012, he chose Rice engineering student Jordan Schermerhorn to accompany him on a journey to Lesotho, showing her and his readers the economic potential of what he described as “an Africa that is rising.” The 107th commencement ceremony is scheduled for May 16, 2020.  — DOUG MILLER




Literary Dystopias

ENGL 269/ ENST 265 Science Fiction and the Environment DEPARTMENT English/ Environmental Studies DESCRIPTION This course examines the ways that science fiction challenges ideas about nature, culture, society and politics.

“ENVIRONMENT is a sort of elastic term and has been treated in a lot of different ways by different scholars and fields,” Culver said. “It’s important to think about not just the way these popular topics are operating in these texts, but the way that they’re related to a lot of our history of capitalism and environmental degradation, which is deeply entwined with racism and sexism.” Grace Templeton, a Jones College junior and a piano major in the Shepherd School of Music, said she took this class


because she liked the idea of learning more about both science fiction and environmental issues. “It ended up being a really cool way to learn about a lot of politically relevant topics and also use my imagination,” Templeton said. Each class opens with what Culver calls “quick hits” — a round-robin session where each student gives an observation or idea they had about the assigned reading or film. “So [the quick hits exercise] is a double-sided strategy that [makes] people engage

with the text, and then also gives people who may not be as comfortable speaking up a way to engage with the class.” Students in this class get to see firsthand how the environmental issues of today can shape the dystopian worlds of the science fiction genre. “We’re seeing major innovation in science fiction, especially in relation to its treatment of the environment, and especially now with the proliferation of the discussion around climate change,” Culver said. — SAVANNAH KUCHAR ’22


Students in the class Science Fiction and the Environment dive into different forms of science fiction in both novels, such as “Parable of the Sower,” and films, such as “District 9” and “Children of Men.” From these works, they explore various themes that connect to conditions of today’s environment and world. Annie Culver, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in English, is the instructor.



Birds of a Feather

Tight-knit Owls turn chemistry and hard work into program’s first NCAA Tournament victory. THE FIRST THING you notice when approaching the practice gym at the rear of Tudor Fieldhouse is the “smack” of serve after serve reverberating off the walls and into the hallway. Then, it’s the squeaking and squawking of sneakers on the hardwood floor as the Rice volleyball team holds its final practice. In the rafters above their heads hang banners honoring the greats of the past — American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Americans and program leaders in kills, blocks, digs


and assists. Although the Owls’ 2019 season would come to an end on a foreign court against No. 25 Texas A&M in early December, it began in earnest by hitting and setting and sweating on these floors and under these banners. “We were preparing for those fifth-set moments where it might come down to the winner being in better condition and more experienced,” said senior Lee Ann Cunningham. “That’s what we were thinking about when we were running in the Houston heat at 6 a.m. in June.” The Owls put together another season for the rafters. They achieved their second consecutive NCAA Championship berth, as well as the program’s firstever tournament victory (a first-round sweep of Oklahoma), their first top 25 ranking (finishing at No. 21) and the second-most wins in program history (27). In September, Rice also stunned No. 3 Texas in front of a record-breaking crowd of 3,012 at Tudor Fieldhouse.

Four players — Cunningham, Anota Adekunle, Nicole Lennon and Grace Morgan — earned spots on the AVCA Southwest All-Regional Team. Lennon, a junior outside hitter, was also a finalist for the 2020 Houston Sports Awards’ College Athlete of the Year and was named to the Conference USA First Team. Genny Volpe has coached the Owls for the last 16 seasons, leading the program to all of its five NCAA Tournament appearances and six consecutive 20-win seasons. “This group has a team-first attitude, genuinely. Of all the teams I’ve coached, I think that stands out the most,” she said. The Owls’ talent is obvious, but it’s their chemistry and commitment to building a culture based on sacrifice and hard work that put them over the top in 2019. It’s the type of thing that, even after the lights go out in the gym at the end of the night, gets you a place in the rafters.  — JAMES COSTANZO




Electric Dream

6100Main finds creative ways to express themselves. A GROUP OF RICE students who share passions for expressing personal style and dreaming up creative concepts, 6100Main is nonhierarchical and open to anyone. Members rely on virtual and in-person channels to pursue their passion projects on top of their busy schedules. From social media threads about art and face-to-face style brainstorming to photoshoots, graphic design and clothing swaps, members seize ways to stoke their creative flames, including this shoot for our winter issue. Inspiration for the shoot, which the group coined “electric dream,” plays with the contrast of orange and blue hues. “We picked those colors because they are complementary and striking, and we used them to inspire our outfits,” said Mai Ton, a Baker College senior majoring in Asian studies and visual and dramatic arts. Members raided their own closets for the looks, which is an important pillar of 6100Main’s mission statement and activities — to find opportunities and pursue ideas that allow people to express themselves creatively. Founded by a trio of Brown College students in 2013, 6100Main



originally centered around a style blog and fashion shows to profile the unique style of Rice students. Throughout the fall semester, 6100Main focused on the theme of selfcare. “Fashion is a form of self-care,” said Varun Kataria, a Lovett College senior majoring in computer science. “We’ve strived to find ways to have fun and be creative while managing our workloads and school responsibilities. 6100Main is a place where I can stay grounded and be myself.” 



Keeping the Beat

IN NOVEMBER, Rice’s South Asian a cappella group, Basmati Beats, brought home a trophy for the first time in the group’s six-year history. They earned third place out of six competitors at Jeena, a South Asian a cappella competition at the University of Texas at Austin. Members of the group received individual awards at Jeena as well: Akash Majumdar, a graduate student at the Jones School of Business, earned best vocal percussion, and Laura Fagbemi, a Hanszen College sophomore, won best soloist in a non-South Asian song. “We perform a wide range of music across many genres, but we make an effort to have a South Asian element to everything we do, as that is a core part of the team’s identity,” said Majumdar, one of the group’s four captains. He serves as the music and


choreography director, meaning he is responsible for preparing arrangements and moves for the group. At Jeena, the group performed a mashup of Ed Sheeran’s nostalgic ballad “Photograph” with “Aaoge Jab Tum,” a sentimental love song from the popular Bollywood rom-com “Jab We Met.” Basmati Beats has performed songs in a variety of South Asian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Bengali and Telugu. Because of their fusion style of music, Majumdar said it can be a challenge planning the group’s performance. “Making the music arrangements is a very difficult process, given that most of our arrangements are mashups between one English song and one South Asianlanguage song,” he said. Riya Mehta, a Wiess College junior and also a captain, said the group rehearsed three times a week throughout the fall

semester to prepare for the competition. But they still went into it as the underdogs. “We were the only team going there that had never placed before, and three of the other teams had been to the national competition too,” Mehta said. “We definitely didn’t expect to place.” The group performs on campus as well, including at events like Dhamaka, a fall exhibition of South Asian culture and talent, and Acappellooza, a joint concert in the spring with all five campus a cappella groups. Basmati Beats also holds a showcase of their own in the spring. Fagbemi said her favorite part of being in Basmati Beats is the opportunity it offers to learn more about a new culture. “I love the ability that music has to transcend cultural and linguistic boundaries,” she said.  — SAVANNAH KUCHAR ’22


With a fusion of Western pop and traditional South Asian musical styles, Basmati Beats stands out among campus singing troupes.




From Slavery to Freedom — and Back Again Historian Caleb McDaniel brings the remarkable life of formerly enslaved woman Henrietta Wood to light. BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT





N “SWEET TASTE OF Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America” (Oxford University Press, 2019), Rice historian Caleb McDaniel brings to light the astonishing story of Henrietta Wood, a woman born into slavery in the early 19th century. In 1848, Wood was freed while living in Cincinnati. After five years of freedom, Zebulon Ward, a slave owner from Kentucky, kidnapped Wood and forced her back into bondage; she remained illegally enslaved, mostly in Texas, throughout the Civil War. In 1870, Wood made the audacious decision to sue her former captor for damages. Just as incredible, in 1878, a federal court ruled in Wood’s favor and awarded

Caleb McDaniel


“When it comes to questions surrounding reparations today, there’s a fair question to be asked whether any amount of money could matter or make a difference. Here’s a story that shows the difference even a small amount of restitution can make in a particular person and family’s life.”

$2,500 in reparations. McDaniel, a historian of slavery, abolitionism and the 19th century, first discovered Wood’s story when a fellow historian showed him an 1879 newspaper interview with Wood. “It’s such an amazing story, and I was amazed that I had not heard of it before,” McDaniel said. “There actually are a lot of stories of enslaved women from the 19th century that are yet to be told, if historians are willing to look for them.” Wood’s successful lawsuit demonstrates that African Americans fought from the beginning for redress and reparations. McDaniel expands that conversation with the first book about Wood and the impact of her lawsuit. “This book wouldn’t have happened without her determination to tell her story,” McDaniel said. The award helped Wood’s son, Arthur H. Simms, attend what would become Northwestern University’s law school. “When it comes to questions surrounding reparations today, there’s a fair question to be asked whether any amount of money could matter or make a difference,” McDaniel said. “Here’s a story that shows the difference even a small amount of restitution can make in a particular person and family’s life.” McDaniel continued, “It’s a book about Wood, but it’s also about Ward, the man she sued, because he was an early architect of convict-leasing systems in several Southern states. Braiding those narratives together hopefully helps readers think about how those systems bled together as well.” The personal narrative driving the story also makes “Sweet Taste of Liberty” eminently readable, an empathetic and touching account of one woman’s long fight for justice. That was critical to the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Program grant that funded McDaniel’s work. These annual grants help create books that are both intensely researched and intended to reach a general audience. This was also important to McDaniel, who has made much of his research openly accessible on a Wiki site.



Motherwell Book Award for its innovative approach to modernism. Last fall, LópezDurán, an associate professor of art history, started her term as the first female magister of Hanszen College. Intellectual Inquietude Originally, I was trained as an architect, and then I studied architecture, preservation of monuments and museum studies in Europe. I knew that I wanted to do a Ph.D. that combined art and architecture and was extremely lucky to be accepted at MIT for the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program. I learned what interdisciplinary work really looks like and came to see art and architecture not as hermetically sealed entities that we all see and admire or the products of celebrated creators, but as porous inquiries that help us better understand the world.


The Artful Architect

Fabiola López-Durán in her own words INTERVIEW BY MARIANA NAJERA ’21


AS AN ARCHITECT, ART and architectural historian, and interdisciplinary scholar, Fabiola López-Durán has guided many students to a deeper understanding of the overlapping influences of art, architecture, politics and the body. In 2015, she was awarded the Sophia Meyer Farb Prize for Teaching by the Phi Beta Kappa Society thanks to her outstanding student evaluations, and in 2018 she received Rice’s Faculty Teaching and Mentoring Award. Her book, “Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity,” recently won the Robert

Owls and Opportunities When I applied to work here, all I knew was that Rice was this great university with an amazing school of architecture. When I came for my interview, it was my very first time in Houston. But I didn’t expect all the great surprises Rice would offer. Rice had just started the doctoral program in art history — and both the small size of the university and its connection to cultural institutions in the city offered a variety of amazing opportunities. For eight years now, I have loved being able to



continue working between art and architecture and between the academy and the museums as I also help shape a new Ph.D. program. All of these spaces are a sort of playground and laboratory for my own research and that of my students. This is my dream job, and I really could not be happier. Science and Art Ever since I started teaching, many of my students have been in STEM-centric fields, so I learned early on how to introduce scientific discourses into my teaching. Bringing science and art together created an expansive territory for intellectual inquiry and public engagement. Today I work to make the humanities more central to education in general, because art and the humanities are absolutely crucial to innovation and to the solution of the most pressing problems of the world — from racism to poverty to climate change. A Teaching Philosophy Everything I do is all part of the same philosophy of teaching. Classes for me are always a sort of collective trip with the students into areas of knowledge that I’m investigating. I am committed to the promotion of new forms of exploration that close the distance between academic life and society at large. All my life I’ve been convinced that “outside of the classroom” activities are key for the education of our students. That’s why I always organize field trips and travels and museum

“I’m lucky that my passions and the things that I enjoy doing — from art to food to travels to incursions into areas of the city that I don’t know — are also the source of exploration for my own work.” visits. Such activities are really important for demonstrating the inherent link between knowledge and action that fosters theory and critical thinking. This is also why I thought that being a magister would offer a platform for doing this in a larger scale than I do in the classroom. Getting Involved From the moment I learned about the residential college system at Rice, I knew that I wanted to be part of it. Even before I got tenure, I applied to be a magister. For me, my research and


my teaching are extremely important, but equally important is helping build the institution that I work for, the institution that serves our students. So I thought that being a magister was maybe the most significant way to do that. It’s really important to me to have a close relationship with undergraduate students like I do with Ph.D. students. I’m super happy to be in this role right now. Empathy and Empowerment During my doctoral studies, I realized all the bias I had

as somebody who grew up in a middle-class family in Latin America — to learn to see the world from a less Eurocentric perspective and in a more human way. Since then, I have been particularly invested in helping young women to realize their potential and in helping people of color and minority groups to realize that they belong in any space they want to enter. I am a Latina and I am a woman, so these things are part of my identity that I never thought about. I am extremely lucky to live in the most diverse city in the U.S. — the perfect setting for raising awareness of the vital role diversity plays in the construction of equality. When diversity is threatened, we lose the very core of our humanity. I think these are important things in today’s world. Rice and Beyond You know, I live and teach on the Rice campus, but I never feel like this is too much. I will say that my collaboration with the museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions in town are a permanent excuse to get out of my responsibilities here. These activities are really like a “divertimento” — moments of resting, enjoying and playing that very often I share with my students. I’m lucky that my passions and the things that I enjoy doing — from art to food to travels to incursions into areas of the city that I don’t know — are also the source of exploration for my own work.


Rewiring Hearts With Nanotubes Soft fibers bridge gap to restore healthy beat.

CONDUCTIVE FIBERS made of carbon nanotubes by the Rice lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali have proven able to bridge damaged heart tissues and deliver electrical signals that keep the beat. In experiments on preclinical models, Pasquali and researchers at Texas Heart Institute led by Dr. Mehdi Razavi demonstrated how the fibers may someday be used to restore tissue damaged by heart attacks, congestive heart failure or dilated cardiomyopathy to full electrical function.


Scars are electrical signal barriers. Regions between scarred tissues have slower conduction, causing circuits to ripple and resulting in a faster heartbeat.

Sinoatrial node

Left atrium

Heart wall

Channel of slow conduction

Electric signal

Right atrium

Atrioventricular node Damaged heart tissue often caused by heart attacks results in islands of scarred tissue zones.

His-Purkinje network branches and delivers signals to both sides.

Restored conduction

ec El

Irregular reentry short circuit

Electric signal

Left ventricle

ca l


Right ventricle

Scar zone



Carbon nanotube fiber sutures

m ste sy

*Human heart drawn to real scale



A healthy heart is paced by the sinoatrial node, which sends electrical signals via “highways” to all heart muscle cells, triggering the heart to beat.

Purkinje fibers spread signal to ventricle walls and cause contraction.

CNT fibers: The Perfect Material Electric signal

Low impedance (electric resistance) CNT fiber

CNTf’s porous structure and roughness (zoom above) make a larger surface area for charge transfer with less resistance.


Carbon nanotube fibers sutured across the scarred tissue restores electrical conduction pathways and decreases conduction time.

Carbon nanotube fiber (CNTf) is the first biocompatible material with the flexibility, strength and conductivity to allow suturing and to directly transmit electrical signals in heart tissues. About a quarter of a size of a human hair, such fibers are filled with tens of millions of carbon nanotubes.

Almost 23 times more impedance than CNTf Ptlr

Metals such as platinum iridium (Ptlr) are conductive but stiff and block charges. To achieve comparable transfer, Ptlr needs to be five times thicker.





The Health Effects of Legalizing Marijuana

Policy researcher Katharine Neill Harris studies legalization issues of cannabis.

AS MORE STATES LEGALIZE marijuana consumption and sales, it creates a major challenge for public health researchers. We don’t know what the full effects of legalization will be or the best way to go about it in the first place. That’s because right now, there are competing priorities. If your main interest is to get rid of the black market, then the best way forward is probably to make different cannabis products available at a low price. But if you are concerned about the public health outcomes, as we are, you don’t want to create an industry that has a profitdriven incentive to encourage heavier use. There’s certainly no agreement on what that best balance would be, and even if we could agree, many questions remain. The majority of studies out there


look at the health impact of smoked marijuana flowers but not other types of consumption, which are on the rise. All of the states that have legalized so far have done it in a similar way — by creating a commercial market for marijuana sales — so there’s no way to examine the impacts of different models. Right now, all the cannabis in those states, from the cultivation to the dispensaries, is handled by private individuals, small businesses or larger for-profit companies. If it were legalized at the federal level, though, each state could decide to control the production and sale of its own marijuana if they wanted to. How would that compare to a for-profit model in terms of the black market or public health outcomes? We don’t know, because no state has legalized in that way, and they can’t, because they’d be in direct violation of federal law. It would be nice to have a better grip on the impact of multiple different methods of legalization.  — AS TOLD TO DAVID LEVIN Katharine Neill Harris is the Alfred C. Glassell III Fellow in Drug Policy at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Last fall, the graduate entrepreneurship program at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business earned a No. 1 national ranking from The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. The Princeton Review surveyed leaders at more than 300 schools offering entrepreneurship programs to come up with the 2020 results. “[This] ranking and our decadeslong leadership in entrepreneurship education and outreach is a testament to our visionary and world-class faculty, the enormous success of the Rice Business Plan Competition, and our commitment to our students and the community we serve,” said Rice Business Dean Peter Rodriguez. The Rice entrepreneurship program was founded in 1978 by business faculty led by Al Napier and the late Edward Williams. — JEFF FALK



A Warning From Iceland


Rice anthropologists draw attention to the fate of Okjökull glacier — and the worsening impacts of climate change. LAST AUGUST, after a chilly two-hour hike up rocky terrain on an Icelandic shield volcano, Associate Professor Cymene Howe and Professor Dominic Boyer joined nearly 100 others, including children, to memorialize Okjökull, Iceland’s first named glacier lost to climate change. The unveiling of a monument on the site of the former glacier was a symbolic gesture, but it attracted political and media attention from around the world. At the gathering, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, offered solemn remarks and ominous warnings. “We see the consequences of the climate crisis,” Jakobsdóttir said. “We have no time to lose.” The two anthropologists traveled to Iceland for the Aug. 18 ceremony because they were responsible for the work that led to the memorial. Howe is the principal investigator for the project “Melt: The Social Life of Ice at the Top of the World,” which she conducted with Boyer, examining the cultural impacts of climate change. Howe and Boyer also produced the 2018 documentary “Not Ok,” which warned that scientists fear all of Iceland’s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by the turn of the next century. “When we’re talking about global warming and climate change, it’s often abstract,” Howe said. “A memorial, however, is an emotional act and a physical symbol of the losses we are seeing. Everywhere in the world people recognize the power of memorials. This one is to show how dramatically our natural world is changing.” Among the speakers at the memorial was glaciologist Oddur Sigurðsson, who determined in 2014 that Okjökull (“Ok glacier” in Icelandic) no longer met the criteria to be classified as a glacier. Howe and Boyer hope the international interest drawn by the memorial ceremony will raise awareness about the decline of Iceland’s glaciers and the impact of climate change. “It is a call to action, not more empty promises,” Howe said. Boyer said an obsession with expansion and growth is the core problem that has to be addressed. “What we really need now is more than just post-oil energy,” he said. “What we learned from our previous research project on wind power in Mexico is that it is possible to implement renewable energy projects with very colonial and extractivist values. We need a civilization oriented instead by cultural values of humility and sustainability.” — AMY MCCAIG



When Seconds Count

A research partnership between Rice’s new data lab and the Houston Fire Department looked at the numbers to improve emergency vehicle allocation.

WHAT IF YOU COULD CUT 10 seconds off the response time of that ambulance — the one responding to a family member’s or friend’s emergency? A team of Rice data experts discovered that would be the result of adding five ambulances to southwest neighborhoods served by the Houston Fire Department (HFD) Emergency Medical Services program. The added


ambulances would also cut down on citywide “chain reactions” that force emergency personnel from distant stations to respond when local medics or fire personnel are tied up. The recommendation is the result of months of number-crunching by students working in the Center for Transforming Data to Knowledge (D2K) Lab in Rice’s Brown School of

Engineering. Founded and directed by Rice statistician Genevera Allen ’06, the D2K Lab provides opportunities for students to work directly with companies, academic labs, government agencies and nonprofits to translate data into actionable ideas. Former students Ashwin Varma, Shannon Chen, Erin Kreus, Jesse Pan and Lynn Zhu, all statistics majors who graduated in 2019, crunched the numbers. They were advised by Anastasios “Tasos” Kyrillidis, the Noah Harding Assistant Professor of Computer Science. They analyzed data on more than 2 million HFD emergency calls between 2012 and 2018 and measured not only response times by ambulances and fire trucks, but also how chain reactions lengthen times when personnel and vehicles have to respond to emergencies outside their own districts. “If you can reduce the number of times that any given station calls for help outside of its territory, you are preemptively preventing a chain reaction from occurring … not just in the district [where] you added the vehicles, but in other districts as well,” Varma said. That, he said, motivated the team. “We looked at the dispatch algorithms, and we looked at years of past information seeking to see if we can find a disruptive strategy that we could use to minimize the risk at an incident and match the appropriate resource with the risk of that call type,” said Assistant Fire Chief Ruy Lozano. The students also agreed that HFD’s quest to improve its response to medical emergencies is worth pursuing. Fire-related calls account for only 12% of those received by HFD. “The vast majority are EMS incidents,” Varma said. “However, 58% of the HFD’s fleet consists of engines and ladders; 42% are EMS vehicles,” he noted. “The increase in the total incidents is completely driven by EMS call volume. That has increased over 20% in the last six years.” “This is a really good first step to be able to use empirical data to drive our future decisionmaking,” Lozano said. 





Being an Effective Ally A new study examines the role of males as advocates for women in the workplace.




MALE ALLIES CAN play a powerful role in combating chauvinistic behavior toward women, but they can also unintentionally contribute to sexism, a recent study found. “Helping or Hurting? Understanding Women’s Perceptions of Male Allies” examines sex-based discrimination toward women in the workplace. Eden King ’01, an associate professor of psychological sciences at Rice and the study’s senior author, said the research was prompted by an increase in the number of sex-based discrimination charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in recent years. “A lot of research has already been done about how women can fight sexism in the workplace,” King said. “What we were interested in studying was how men play a role in this.” King and her fellow authors evaluated 100 women of varying ethnicities, ranging in age from 19 to 69, with total work experience ranging from one to 50 years. These women took an online survey about male ally behavior in the workplace and were asked to recall


situations when they thought their male allies were effective or ineffective in helping them fight sexism. The researchers found that men can effectively act as allies in a number of ways, including doing things to advance a woman’s career (such as offering special projects or promotions), putting a stop to bad behavior by peers or simply lending support when they’re asked. However, the women answering the survey also pointed out situations where male allies did more harm than good. Women most frequently described allyship as ineffective when it had no impact on sexist behavior or organizational culture, or when they or their ally experienced backlash over their actions. “When we did this study, we were concerned that not everything people do believing they are acting as an ally is actually construed that way,” King said. “And we discovered that this is very true.” Ultimately, the researchers said that male allies should take cues from their female colleagues about how they can be an ally.  — AMY MCCAIG

FOR HEALTHY BABIES NEST360°, a multiinstitutional team of health experts, has received $68 million to fund the first phase of an eight-year project to cut newborn deaths in sub-Saharan hospitals by half. “Today, most women in Africa deliver their babies in health facilities, but clinicians working in those facilities do not have the technology they need to care for small and sick babies,” said NEST360° co-founder Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a bioengineering professor at Rice. “The team is working together to identify highquality, affordable technologies to fill this gap. Engineers in the U.S. and Africa will work together to develop new technologies to save newborn lives. And we will partner with educational institutions and the private sector to scale up what works best.” Learn more at nest360.org.



Faculty Books Giedion and America

Repositioning the History of Modern Architecture Reto Geiser gta Verlag, 2018

While other intellectuals emigrated from Europe to America on the eve of World War II, driven into exile by persecution and political destabilization, the Swiss architecture critic and historian Sigfried Giedion never intended to make the U.S. his home — even though he spent significant chunks of time here. The author of the influential 1941 book “Space, Time and Architecture” considered himself Swiss first and foremost but drew inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic. “His partial emigration was predominantly motivated by the relocation of his personal network, rather than the immediate threat of war,” writes Rice School of Architecture Associate Professor Reto Geiser in “Giedion and America.” “While he praised America as a place of innovation, a place that held promise for the future, Giedion always maintained strong ties to Europe.” Giedion’s permanent state of displacement — his perpetual in-betweenness — positioned him at the intersection of vastly different cultural forces, which created challenges as well as opportunities to stretch his understanding of art and architecture, Geiser writes. Organized into four sections based on the ways in which Giedion found himself “in between” worlds, “Giedion and America” explores how the critic’s time in America influenced his work — and how he came to embody a cultural bridge between Europe and the U.S., where his ideas transformed modern architecture in different ways.  — JENNIFER LATSON



Speculative Practice in Architectural Education Edited by Troy Schaum Rice Architecture and Park Books, 2019

Troy Schaum wants Rice’s architecture students to leave the university with everything they need to not only work, but also lead. To that end, the associate professor and architect was an early proponent of teaching, along with the basics, the far-reaching implications of practice in a world that grows more complicated — and unpredictable — by the day. That describes the school’s Totalization Studio, which, for nearly a decade, has provided hundreds of students with the know-how to tackle the technical, collaborative, financial and political issues that come with every project. Schaum, now the program’s director, felt it was time for a summing up. “Totalization,” published last fall, is a collection of essays and examples from Rice colleagues, alumni and collaborators in associated fields who offer the benefit of their experience to students in Houston, at the Paris campus, at their own shops in New York and elsewhere. “One of the important parts of Totalization Studios is that almost all of our faculty are practitioners,” Schaum said. “Students don’t often get to see how our practices impact our research or teaching, so some of Totalization involves faculty presenting their practice work as part of the course and having a conversation around that work,” he said. “They get to see ideas that may seem theoretical or couched in academic terms are actually challenges we’re struggling with in the field.” — MIKE WILLIAMS


A Future History of Water Andrea Ballestero

Duke University Press, 2019

“A Future History of Water” traces what Andrea Ballestero, an associate professor of anthropology and environmental ethnographer, calls the “unspectacular work” to make access to water “a human right and not a commodity.” The book, her first, is based on field research among state officials, nongovernmental organizations, politicians, and activists in Costa Rica and Brazil. It shows the reader the often invisible technicalities behind water access. “I was interested in knowing what water as a human right really means,” she said. “Does it mean that it is clean? That it is priced at a certain level? These are many of the questions that people answer practically every day, all around the world.” Ballestero worked alongside not only people involved in social movements fighting for water as a human right, but also with regulators using tools such as pricing formulas and the consumer price index to consider society’s responsibility regarding access. Ballestero hopes her book will inspire people to recognize that how we manage, distribute and access water reflects who we are as a community. She shows that while infrastructure is critical, pricing formulas, legal categories and political promises are just as important, highlighting the need to focus on seemingly minor technical choices that in reality embody fundamental questions of social and environmental justice. — AMY MCCAIG

Islam in America Exploring the Issues Craig Considine ABC-CLIO, 2019

What did Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, think about freedom of religion and women’s rights? Did the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson imagine Muslims as future citizens of the United States? What is it really like to be a follower of the Islamic faith in the U.S.? A new book by sociologist Craig Considine, “Islam in America,” challenges the “clash of civilizations” theory by dispelling common misconceptions about Muhammad, the Islamic tradition and American Muslims. He focuses instead on the “dialogue among civilizations” to show the historical and present-day connections between the “Muslim world” and the U.S. “First and foremost, this book tries to synthesize American values and Islamic values,” Considine said. “It’s unfortunate that there are people in the U.S. who view Islamic values and civilization as polar opposites of our own, and it’s also not really true.” Considine said the ultimate goal of the book is to bridge the gap between Muslims and other individuals living in the U.S., and promote peace and acceptance through understanding. He expects it will be used to teach undergraduate students at the college level but hopes religious leaders, politicians, media figures and others will read the book, which he describes as “an encyclopedia of different hot-button issues” related to Islam.  — A.M.


Faculty Music

Maternity / Ulysses, Home Anthony Brandt

Navona Records, 2019

Anthony Brandt, professor and chair of composition and theory in the Shepherd School of Music, is one of Rice’s most prolific composers, performers and creative researchers. In his debut album with Navona Records, Brandt presents two distinct compositions and continues his productive collaboration with neuroscientist David Eagleman ’93. “Maternity” presents a 17-minute musical adaptation of Eagleman’s short story, “The Founding Mothers.” The composition for soprano and chamber orchestra rewinds the story of evolution from a human child back through time to a single cell. In the chamber opera “Ulysses, Home,” Brandt retells Homer’s ancient odyssey as a contemporary tale of a soldier, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, returning home to his wife. Neena Beber is the librettist. The five scenes evoke the ferocity of immediate combat and its ever-present shadow. The Del Sol String Quartet and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra are featured. Both pieces were recorded live in Houston.



By Deborah Lynn Blumberg Photos by Jeff Fitlow

It was summer 1986 in Waco, Texas, when Charles Spain ’81 walked into the family law class he was taking at Baylor University, fuming. Earlier that morning, the U.S. Supreme Court had announced its decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, a case in which an Atlanta resident arrested in his home for sodomy sued Georgia’s attorney general, claiming the state’s sodomy statute violated its constitution. At the time, sodomy was a felony under Georgia law. The Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s state law by a vote of 5–4.


Spain remembers saying to his classmates, “I just want to tell everyone that the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down one of the worst decisions in the entire history of the court.” At the time, it was a brave statement for Spain, who hadn’t come out to his classmates, his professors or even his parents. In 1973, Texas had made “homosexual conduct” a criminal act, though a Class C misdemeanor. It wasn’t until 2003 that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Texas state law criminalizing homosexual sex between consenting adults. That summer, Spain got angry. He was angry about the Supreme Court decision and angry that during the AIDS epidemic, it felt taboo to talk about the disease. Organizing AIDS education at Baylor was unthinkable, he says. When finding himself at such crossroads, he’s learned to ask himself, “What are you going to do about it?” Spain chose to become an advocate for civil rights, and he’s carried that conviction with him throughout his career. His accomplishments include co-founding the first LGBT section of a state bar in the nation and working on the national level to end the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders. He was also instrumental in getting the Confederate battle flag removed from the reverse of the Texas state seal.

ship training, physical and mental fitness, and leadership. Spain continued to be active in the Boy Scouts after he became an Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts’ highest achievement, at the young age of 14. (Fun fact: On his computer, Spain stores a scan of the congratulatory note he received from President Richard Nixon — a formality that any Eagle Scout can request from a current president, by the way.) Spain is married to civil appeals attorney John Adcock, and they have a teenage son, Jeff, who is also

His accomplishments include co-founding the first LGBT section of a state bar in the nation and working on the national level to end the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scouts and leaders.


January marks Spain’s first full year as an elected judge on the 14th Court of Appeals, which covers 10 counties in Southeast Texas, including Harris County. He serves along with seven other justices and a chief justice on the court, which decides on civil and criminal appeals from lower courts across Texas. In a given week, he might decide on an appeal in something as consequential as a murder case or as mundane as a contract dispute. The Court of Appeals is the last stop before a case potentially goes to the state’s two highest courts — the Supreme Court of Texas, which hears civil cases, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. “Our job is to answer the question that people bring to us,” he says. “It’s not to fix things. Sometimes at the end of a case, there’s no happiness to be had.” For example, in cases involving custody decisions, “no one’s empowering you to go back with a magic wand and make a happy family.” Each week, Spain pores through reams of documents and typically votes on an average of six appeals. He shares the responsibility of writing the court’s opinions with his peers. Unlike the fast-paced work of a staff attorney or his prior role as a municipal court judge, Spain often has the luxury of time to think and talk deeply about the law. Because of this municipal court experience, he has “a far deeper sense of how the law affects people.” “It’s a privilege,” he says about his current role.


One of the most profound influences on Spain’s life is Scouting, which he credits for teaching character development, citizen34 RICE M AG A ZINE W IN T ER 2020

an Eagle Scout. Spain worked to get the Boy Scouts to drop its ban on gay Scouts in 2013 and welcome gay leaders in 2015. He and Adcock became the first openly gay Scout leaders in the Sam Houston Area Council. On Sundays, when the family is not at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, chances are they’re camping with their Scout troop — perhaps in Spain’s beloved Piney Woods in East Texas. “My son has been the troop chaplain aide for the past four years, and I’ve helped put together the morning prayer Sunday services during the troop campouts,” Spain adds. He continues to build upon decades of fond Scouting memories. Two years ago, Spain, his son and six other members of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church’s Troop 511 backpacked 30 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains. This past summer at his son’s Eagle Scout court of honor, Eagle Scout Phyllis Frye, the first transgender judge in the United States, gave his son the traditional Eagle Scout charge.


Becoming an attorney was not one of Spain’s early career ambitions. He thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps, a radiologist and Rice graduate from the Class of 1950. But Spain’s heart wasn’t in medicine. At Rice, he majored in history and eventually decided to go to law school. Today he quips, “Law is the last refuge for humanities majors who want to eat.” At Baylor, he started to confide in others about his sexuality. He linked up with people in the Waco Lambda Student Association, the first LGBT college student group in town, of which he was a founder. The group distributed fliers to churches, letting

members know they were there for support. Around the same time, Spain met with plaintiffs and lawyers in a separate court case, Baker v. Wade, a civil lawsuit in Dallas challenging the “homosexual conduct” statute. He wanted to learn more about how they had built their case. “I started to network,” Spain says. “By the time I graduated, the civil rights bug had bit.” When Spain graduated from Baylor, he had six months before starting a judicial clerkship at the Supreme Court of Texas. He took a temporary law firm job in Houston and lingered in its library to avoid rush hour traffic. It was from there that his passion for vexillology, or the study of flags, took off. (In fact, Spain’s interest in flags started early — his grandparents flew the “Six Flags Over Texas” at their café in Crockett.) He started researching the laws around Texas’ first national flag. He wrote to Whitney Smith, author of “The Flag Book of the United States,” outlining why Smith was wrong about who created the first national flag of Texas and who designed the Lone Star Flag. “I thought he’d tell me to go to hell,” Spain says. But Smith wrote him back, excited to have learned something new. That inspired Spain to continue studying vexillology. Ultimately, Spain’s research

led to a new Texas law in 1993 that revised the laws related to the Texas flag and amended the state flag code. Part of the amendment included standardizing flag colors. From his research, Spain believed the hues of red and blue in Texas’ flag were originally meant to match those of the U.S. flag. So, he drafted an act to specify that. His friend, then-Rep. Leticia Van de Putte, filed the bill; the legislature passed it; and the governor signed it. “That color blue on the Texas flag, that’s because of me,” Spain says. “If you want something done, do it yourself.” In his courthouse office, Spain’s desk is flanked by the Texas and U.S. flags. Now, Spain serves as one of the three directors of The Flag Research Center, originally founded by Smith. Spain’s office at the Spain worked as a brief1910 Harris County ing attorney for the Supreme Courthouse is Court of Texas and as a staff decorated with flags; Scouting attorney for the 3rd Court of badges belonging Appeals in Austin and the 1st to Spain, his District Court of Appeals husband and son; in Houston. He’s also held and an original attorney positions at top law minute book from the court. firms. Once, Spain asked his supervisor, the chief justice of the 1st Court of Appeals, for permission to join a gay lawyer’s group. The judge said yes and gently scolded him for asking. “I never again asked for permission,” he says.


On a recent Wednesday in a courtroom in the Harris County Courthouse, Spain points to an engraved Texas seal affixed to the front of the bench. Two branches surround a single white star. He runs a finger along the branch on the left side of the seal. “It’s post oak, but it should be live oak,” he says. “I can’t fix everything.” But he’ll try. Recently, Spain wrote about Texas and the LGBT community in The Houston Lawyer magazine. While the Supreme Court struck down the Texas state law criminalizing homosexual sex between consenting adults in 2003, the Texas Legislature has yet to repeal the unconstitutional “homosexual conduct” statute, Spain notes in the magazine. In the words of Winston Churchill, Spain wrote, “Never give up.” If you want to make something happen, he says, “show up, say something, do something.” ■




RAs are key to Rice’s strong residential college system, helping to make each college feel like home for students. By Jenny West Rozelle ’00 Photos by Tommy LaVergne


For anyone who didn’t attend Rice, those letters often bring to mind an upperclassman whose job it is to police the hallways and catch fellow students in the act of breaking regulations. But not at Rice. RAs, or resident associates, are full-time staff or faculty members who often have partners, spouses, children and/or pets. They have gone through an intensely competitive application process — including a written application, formal interviews with students and the magisters, informal meetings at meals and college events, and final approval from the dean of undergraduates — in order to volunteer for up to a sevenyear term. RAs host study breaks and help with planning college events. They eat their meals with the students in the commons and live among the

undergraduates in apartments that, much like the colleges themselves, vary widely in size and layout based on the architecture of the building. They are mentors — offering academic advising, a real-world perspective on careers and life skills, and an understanding of other university resources available to students. Most importantly, they form relationships with the members of their college. While at Rice, students may be faced with issues such as the death of a family member, their own serious illness or failing grades. When RAs become a familiar face at the college, hopefully students feel comfortable coming to them when they need assistance, explained Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman, whose office oversees the RA program. “They are the ones who are there when something happens in the middle of the night,” Gorman said. “They’re the ones who are residing in the buildings alongside students. In some ways, that

makes it a more personal relationship, and they can serve as a key resource for our students.” Gorman, who was an RA at Jones College (2004–2008) and then a magister at Will Rice College (2011–2018) in addition to being a professor of sociology, added that she thinks of RAs as the cool aunts and uncles of the college. RAs are not alone in shouldering these responsibilities. The core team at each college includes a set of magisters, two or three sets of RAs, and a college coordinator. At Duncan and McMurtry colleges, the third set of RAs are referred to as head resident fellows (HRFs), a position originally created to add another layer of support to the two largest colleges. Core teams meet frequently and discuss issues from how to assist students in crisis to how best to support the student leadership. Ideally, colleges come to feel like a family instead of simply an academic establishment. Let’s meet some of the family members.


Brian Gibson and Alana Lemay-Gibson

Sixth-year McMurtry College HRFs // Martel College RAs, 2004–2011 // Sid Richardson College RAs, 1996–2004


FTER 20 YEARS ON CAMPUS, BRIAN GIBSON and Alana Lemay-Gibson know the RA role inside and out. After stints at Sid Richardson and Martel colleges, followed by a few years off, they were chosen as HRFs at McMurtry College in 2014. “McMurtry and Duncan are very big colleges with respect to the others, so it took some time to figure out how to try to get to know more than 400 people,” said Gibson, the senior associate dean of undergraduates and a clinical professor of kinesiology. Regardless, “It’s an amazing experience to live with so many interesting and talented students.” At each college where they have been members, they have established a number of activities. Lemay-Gibson introduced Senior Beer Tasting at Sid Richardson, Martel and now McMurtry. They launched Oktoberfest at Martel and McScottish Night at McMurtry, both of which are events that celebrate the entire college community. Gibson has coached powderpuff at all three colleges, and all won championships during his tenure. It’s one of his favorite ways to share a passion for football and teaching while getting to know the students. “We’ve now worked with 10 different RA couples or single RAs, and each has brought a different set of interests and ideas to the position,” said LemayGibson, the director of project management at OpenStax, a nonprofit educational initiative at Rice that publishes free online and low-cost print textbooks and offers research-based courseware. “It’s fun to see how effective people can be while doing things very differently.” Some of the best aspects about being RAs include “being a part of a larger community and feeling like you can have a positive impact on students who have so much potential,” said Gibson. “The RA system has structure and expectations, but it also allows the freedom to be creative and engage in ways that are rewarding and meaningful.”

Carissa Zimmerman and Nick Espinosa


Second-year Wiess College RAs

ARISSA Zimmerman, Nick Espinosa and their 5-year-old daughter, Amelia, truly live their college’s motto: Team Family Wiess. When they are in their apartment at the college, they have the shades open and welcome students dropping by any time. “Amelia loves Sunday morning pancakes, so we cook a big pancake breakfast twice a month and encour-

age students to come eat with us in our apartment. Having Wiessmen eat pancakes and play with her is one of the things that Amelia looks forward to on the weekends,” said Zimmerman, a senior lecturer of psychological sciences. “But really I think the students are the ones who have made it a priority to include her, which is amazing.” Espinosa, who is a project manager and engineer at Jacobs, a subcontractor to NASA, is often not around Rice during business hours. “It’s a challenge to balance the extra responsibilities with our family and job responsibilities,” he said. “But at the same time, I do think I can offer a different perspective. I’m a practicing engineer, so I’m able to give some advice for nonacademic careers. I’ve also given some interview advice and shared stories with students. I

think it’s good for students to see how older people who aren’t their parents navigate their own lives.” “I’ve always strongly believed that college is not only a time for academic learning, although that’s important, but also a time for personal growth and social development,” said Zimmerman. This year, they’re starting an “Adulting 101” series that will include topics such as how to do taxes, how to choose and apply for a credit card, and how to rent an apartment or buy a house. Fortunately, the students already demonstrate quite a bit of maturity. Espinosa said, “I was expecting that we’d be dealing with more rambunctiousness from the students and perhaps more minor trouble due to age and alcohol. But overall, Rice students are really mature and impressive.”


William Edmond

First-year Sid Richardson College RA


ILLIAM Edmond has had this role before — and yet he hasn’t. Edmond came to Rice after working in higher education student affairs at The Ohio State University, where he also lived on campus with undergraduates. When he was first approached about applying to become an RA at Rice, he thought he knew the job description. “I thought it would be something where you’re supervising student staff and running staff meetings and the hall council,” he said. He asked if he would have all those responsibilities in addition to his job as assistant director of Rice’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and was surprised when students told him that RAs at Rice have none of those tasks. “It’s completely different from what I did at Ohio State.” “Students really value the relationships and mentorship offered by the whole Senior Sidizens team [the college’s core team],” Edmond said. “They want you to be a part of everything — from coaching sports teams to attending musical performances. They really trust you, they look to you as a mentor, and they want to share their college experience and things that are special to them.” Because of his lifelong love of sports, Edmond predicts that one way he will participate in Sid Rich activities is through athletics, whether coaching powderpuff, playing on intramural teams or attending events. “Students sometimes forget that RAs have a job and a life and friends outside the college,” he said. “For me, it’s a balancing act of how much can I give of myself, where do I set a boundary, what kind of programming can I offer that would be valuable to them and also align with my interests, and how do I do this in a way that fosters relationships.”

Bobby Beaird and Matt Patterson


Third-year Baker College RAs

TUDENTS LOVE to eat. Fortunately, Bobby Beaird and Matt Patterson ’07 love to cook. Beaird and Patterson met during graduate school at LSU in Baton Rouge and enjoy sharing the flavors of Louisiana with others. When they applied to be RAs at Baker College, one of their “campaign promises” was to make jambalaya for students if they could acquire a cast-iron pot. During

their first O-Week, some parents from south Louisiana heard about that wish and helped them find a 16-gallon cast-iron pot, which has enabled them to make jambalaya for 60–70 people at a time. “Even Louisiana students say it’s tasty. And students who have never had it before come back for thirds,” said Beaird. They do smaller-scale events regularly too, such as “Star Trek” TV show viewings and video game evenings. “The point of games like that is to get people together — to do something that’s fun,” said Patterson, a licensing associate in Rice’s Office of Technology Transfer. “It gets them out of their heads for an hour or so.” Patterson and Beaird believe that, as RAs, their primary goal is to be as

present as possible. “It helps to know that there are adults who are around who actually care what’s going on with you,” said Patterson. “That kind of presence was valuable for me when I was a student [at Jones College].” RAs are “the ones who will ask you to think about things but will not turn around and judge you and make you feel bad for being in a position where you needed help,” said Beaird, an instructor of physics and astronomy. “People are willing to wake us up at 2 or 3 a.m. to have necessary conversations that we’d rather handle in the moment instead of having a student sit and suffer in silence. I like that we’re not in the role of being rule enforcers. I want to be there and help support students when they need it.”


Jenifer Bratter and Noe Perez

Fifth-year Duncan College HRFs


T’S NOT OFTEN that students are encouraged to punch members of their college core team. But that’s one of the many ways that Noe Perez has found to connect — quite literally — with students at Duncan College. During final exams, Perez and one of his fellow RAs don padding and let students punch away, while Jenifer Bratter and other core team members bring out snacks and talk with stressed-out students. Being an accessible and visible pres-


ence in Duncan has been an integral part of the HRF role for Bratter and Perez. They also have gotten to know Duncan members through their sons and have been able to fold some of their boys’ favorite hobbies into events they hold for the college, such as “American Ninja Warrior”-style obstacle courses with Ricardo, who is 14, and guitar jams with Sam, who is 9. Bratter and Perez have noticed that students enjoy bonding with Ricardo and Sam over meals in the commons and other activities. “I think either because they miss their siblings or because interacting with children is different from interacting with us, it feels like the students get a lot out of it,” observed Bratter, a professor of sociology and director of Building Research on Inequality and Diversity to Grow

Equity, also known as BRIDGE. “Rice’s RA system really does seem to capture the desire to make these colleges homes and make people family,” she added. “The RA and HRF roles allow students to interact with parties at the university in a way that is purely about relationships and community.” “I feel like we’ve been able to help students who have gone through some pretty serious things,” said Perez, who formerly worked as a data research specialist at Rice’s Houston Education Research Consortium and now volunteers in the community and at their sons’ school. “When there’s a student we’ve helped who brings another student to the door, that really makes us feel like, yes, this is why we’re here. That’s the part that matters the most.” ■



The Art of the Enigmatic The collages of Kathryn Dunlevie narrate a fractured world. BY STEPHANIE LEVIN





NCHORING THE center of artist Kathryn Dunlevie’s ’74 studio is a mammoth wooden table covered in piles of clipped images, with some neatly arranged into miniature collages. One is a profile of a woman framed in verdant palm leaves, a triangle of green foliage shading her face. Nearby are images of a woman dressed in a black-and-white checkered skirt and top who floats above a harbor, her face and hair masked by a rose. Both collages — miniature versions of what will be much larger final works — leave the viewer with a sense of the surreal, a term often used to describe Dunlevie’s richly layered and complex collages. “My studio is a place where I can think in as many directions as I like, where I can amass images and allow


them to call to each other from across the table or across the room, and where I can leave projects in process and know that no one will disturb them or even see them,” says Dunlevie, who works out of a backyard studio at her home in Palo Alto, California. She calls her creations “mixed-media narrative collages” — with narratives that are often elusive and intriguing to the viewer. Though her family moved frequently due to her father’s work, Dunlevie spent childhood summers with her grandparents in Savannah, Georgia. “Savannah’s history, lore and architecture intrigued me,” recalls Dunlevie. By age 16, she opted to study Spanish as a high school exchange student in Paraguay. At Rice, she studied art history. “Rice had everything to do with me becoming an artist,” Dunlevie says. “The

art department had just doubled in size, and Houston was on the precipice of becoming the third-largest art center in the country.” Her adviser was James Chillman, professor of fine arts and the first director of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. After taking Chillman’s art history survey course, Dunlevie decided to study abroad her junior year at the University of Paris. When she returned to campus, Dunlevie dropped all her art history courses and doubled the courses in studio art. Soon, she was working at Sewall Gallery, the forerunner of Rice Gallery, on campus. After graduation, she continued her studies in printmaking, painting and photography; and she and her husband, Robert Hayes ’74, settled in California. Eventually, all her artistic endeavors would find a home in collage. “I found that the camera enabled me to capture images and to pick and choose the visual stimuli rather than be overwhelmed by it. Spatially, collage helped me organize the structure,” Dunlevie says. She paints and layers the images and “fractures” the photographic elements “to weave a coherent composition that makes sense to me.” Joining a critique group of talented women artists furthered her artistic development, and in 1992, she had her first one-person show at a gallery in Los Angeles. “It was wildly exciting and left me feeling like I was really part of the art world.” Continuing to experiment and refine her mixed-media techniques, Dunlevie’s wildly imaginative pieces soon began drawing more interest in the Bay Area and beyond. “The genesis for each new series is either a tangential offshoot of the previous one or a completely muse-driven surprise to me,” she says. Dunlevie’s work has been collected and exhibited in galleries, museums and artistic spaces around the world. Houstonians can view “Women of Wonder” from April 4 to May 9 at the HooksEpstein Galleries during FotoFest 2020. It will be her ninth FotoFest appearance — her first FotoFest exhibition was in 2002 at Rice Gallery.



Juan Sebastian Cruz (center) as Prince Mamillius in “The Winter’s Tale” at Houston’s Alley Theatre


Full Theater


Juan Sebastian Cruz treads the boards. JUAN SEBASTIAN CRUZ ’16 literally bounced onto the stage in this season’s production of “The Winter’s Tale” at the Alley Theatre. Portraying a 7-year-old Prince Mamillius, he skipped, jumped and rolled on the floor, always returning to his toy chest, which was set just to the right of the main action. In this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedy, Rob Melrose, the Alley’s artistic director, chose to originate the narrative within the boy’s imagination and recount it through the maneuverings of his dolls. The toys dance and fight and fall in love as the talented cast follows in lockstep, acting alongside

the playing child. What the audience comes to understand is that it is the young prince of Sicily who spins the fantastic tale of jealousy, banishment, hope and, ultimately, redemption. Cruz is among only a handful of Rice alumni to perform on the main stage at the Alley and the first graduate from the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts (VADA) to achieve this honor. He came to Rice set on studying computational and applied mathematics. By the end of his sophomore year, however, he’d switched to a VADA major with a theater concentration. “I was all in,” Cruz remembered. “I decided to go full theater.” Full theater for Cruz meant learning as much as he could about the performing arts world and taking advantage of the diverse opportunities that a small theater department affords. Mark Krouskop, theater production manager and a lecturer at Rice, helped to guide Cruz’s perspective: “Mark instilled in me the necessity of developing a range of skills,” Cruz said. “And he was

absolutely right. Now, in addition to acting, I also teach. I stage manage. I run the sound board.” In early 2019, he acted for the Alley All New Festival, a small event that helps playwrights try out new material. It was there that Melrose first saw Cruz act. “The Alley is the biggest contract I’ve ever had, and some of this work is about the stars aligning,” Cruz admitted. “But it’s also about always putting your best work forward because you never know who’s going to be watching.” His time at Rice gave him community connections, a solid foundation in the humanities and problem-solving skills that help him to navigate the uncertainties of an acting career. When asked about his career path, he is introspective. “There is something to be said about following your passions and pursuing your dreams, but I think the other half of that is to have a plan and to be realistic. I set goals and deadlines. I regularly ask myself if I feel like I can keep progressing in this field. So far, the answer is yes.” — SARAH BRENNER JONES



Athletes, Abilene and Architecture

Excerpts from Owlmanac 1950s

“One of our classmates, Jack Hudgins ’51 (BA, 1952), recently competed in the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, N.M. Jack competed in the 90– 94 age group as he turned 90 this past December. (He is way older than me, as I didn’t attain that advanced age until two months later!) … He won the discus, came in second in the shot put and third in the javelin. I used to throw those implements too, but had to give up because my physical balance has reached the lousy stage and broken bones don’t appeal to me. Jack and I competed a number of years together in the Texas Senior Games. … I’m very proud of him, but somewhat jealous!” — Contributed by Jim Gerhardt ’51 (BA) “In 2007, I was helping with a fundraiser for the Gulf Coast Museum. At the Gulf Coast Gala, the entertainment was Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. When the show started, the first thing Larry Gatlin did was ask that the spotlight be put on our table, and he asked me to stand up. Then he said, ‘That’s Twyman Ash from Abilene, Texas, and I watched him play football for Abilene when I was in elementary school.’ Then he and the band started playing the Abilene High School song. I was never so shocked in my life. After his performance, he asked my wife and me to come to their dressing room to meet the band. He called his dad so I could talk to him and tell him I was with his son down in Port Arthur. This was one of the greatest honors and exciting times of my life. A lot of my friends were there, and they wanted to know how much I paid Larry to do that.” — Contributed by Twyman Ash ’59 (BS)



When I wrote to ask about his future plans, John Boles ’65 (Will Rice: BA) shared the following: “Although just retired from teaching, my official retirement will not be until June 30, 2020. I greatly enjoyed two styles of teaching over the years — undergraduate lecture classes and graduate seminars. I was particularly active with graduate students, mentoring some 62 PhD candidates [the last graduated in 2018]. I will miss getting to


“In 2009, my reconstruction of Henry Hobson Richardson’s house for Rev. Percy Browne made a small splash in the tiny, mirror-quiet pond comprising the community of architectural historians who are also Richardson buffs. This led to an

know class after class of undergraduates, especially after being involved as a nonresident associate of Will Rice College for more than 30 years.” John plans to continue his research and writing, using the resources of Fondren Library to support his efforts — so don’t be surprised if you still see him around next time you are on campus yourself. — Contributed by class recorder Bill Free ’65 (Will Rice: BA)

invitation, in summer 2017, to address a symposium on the occasion of Richardson’s Ames Monument in Wyoming being designated a National Historic Landmark. The event was in effect a rally of Ames family descendants, young and old. It was a treat

to close the afternoon with an hourlong presentation titled, ‘The Ames Monument as Architecture,’ which engaged an audience of specialists and layfolk alike ranging in age from 8 to 80.” — Contributed by Mark Wright ’80 (Wiess: BA; BArch, 1982)

To access digital Classnotes, create a Rice Portal account at alumni.rice.edu/connect. Once registered, log in and click “Owlmanac Online.”



Anneliese Davis of Rahab’s Sisters practices radical hospitality at the center’s Friday night dinners.


Sisterly Safe Haven

A former nonprofit fundraising executive spends Friday nights setting tables and sharing food, coffee and conversation with women on the margins of society. SOMETIMES RADICAL hospitality starts with a little chocolate. On a late August evening, Anneliese Davis ’95 — executive director of Rahab’s Sisters, a Portland, Oregon, organization that practices radical


hospitality to vulnerable women — is greeting guests. “Want a candy bar?” she asks while holding out a bag. Some take one, some take a few but no one declines. Some of the guests have come to Rahab’s after standing in line at a neighboring safe needle exchange. Some are sex workers. Some are homeless. All identify as women, all are living with the stigmas that derive from either poverty, homelessness, substance use disorder, mental illness or sex work, and all know that Rahab’s on Friday nights — from 5 to 10 p.m. — is a trusted, safe space. “Trust comes over time, and it’s the most valuable thing we have,” says Davis. “My job is to protect that.” Until Davis came on board two years ago as the organization’s first employee, it had been entirely run by volunteers. They started by handing out coffee to sex

workers, then they rented a space to invite people in for a meal. Evenings have an ebb and flow. The early guests tend to be elderly women and mothers with young children. Some guests meet with licensed mental health counselors. Dinner is ready by about 7 p.m.; volunteers take orders and serve restaurant-style meals. Tables are set with tablecloths and fresh flowers. Some guests settle in and play bingo, the night’s activity. There is no way to predict what the vibe will be or how many people will come on any given Friday night, Davis says, though they’d had a recent bump from an average of 70 to 115 guests. Tonight, Davis is wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt with a floral design that says “Wild Feminist.” One night she was wearing a Rice University shirt, and a guest approached to say that she’d gone to Rice too. Davis’ short sleeves show not only a readiness to work — she takes out the trash and sets up tables while answering countless questions — but also the tattoo of pecan tree leaves on her forearm, a symbol of her Fort Worth roots. Davis began her career in nonprofit fundraising in Texas, first in the arts and then in large institutional organizations that advocate for women. She was vice president of development for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and the chief development officer for the Houston Area Women’s Center. Rahab’s is a career shift for her — and something of a philosophical shift as well. “I’ve never been on the front lines,” says Davis. She finds that this job makes her more generous to people she encounters elsewhere. “I don’t immediately jump to a judgment or conclusion. I wonder what that person’s story is.” She also hasn’t had a job where the goal wasn’t to “fix” something. As it turns out, with the right leadership, radical hospitality — as a beginning and an end goal — is something a group of like-minded women can achieve Friday after Friday for 16 years and counting.  — JESSICA MURPHY MOO



Now Reading

Becoming Transnational Youth Workers

Independent Mexican Teenage Migrants and Pathways of Survival and Social Mobility Isabel Martinez ’96 Rutgers University Press, 2019

EVEN BEFORE A RECORD NUMBER of unaccompanied children crossed the U.S.Mexico border in 2014, Isabel Martinez had noticed that the number of young Mexican and Central American immigrants in New York was growing — and that they needed help. Martinez, an associate professor of Latin American and Latinx studies at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was already at work on a book about Mexican teens who’d traveled to the U.S. in unprecedented numbers in the early 2000s. She spoke with a friend who had founded the nonprofit Safe Passage Project, which


provides free legal representation to underage immigrants facing deportation. Her friend said they were in desperate need of translators, since so few U.S. attorneys speak Spanish. So Martinez wrote up a proposal to hire five John Jay students to provide linguistic and cultural support for the work Safe Passage was doing. Like her, these interns were bilingual, bicultural and the first in their families to graduate from college. Five years later, that effort has expanded and Martinez’s mission has a name: the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project, or U-LAMP. She’s hired 70 more interns since the first wave. They work as interpreters during screening interviews and meetings with attorneys, help with research, write and translate legal documents, and generally serve as a touchpoint for young immigrants. Since most of Martinez’s students are immigrants themselves, or the children of immigrants, they quite literally get where these kids are coming from. So does Martinez. As she writes in her book “Becoming Transnational Youth Workers,” her own grandmother crossed the Mexican border as a teenager. “My grandparents had the same idea that many immigrants have today: They wanted better lives not only for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children. My advocacy for immigrant youths is based on the idea that everyone, regardless of birthplace, should be afforded the same opportunity to live free from violence and insecurity, just like my family did.” The teenage migrants she writes about in her book came to the U.S.

under different circumstances than the Mexican and Central American immigrants currently crossing the border. The earlier wave was motivated largely by economic factors; today’s teens are more likely to be fleeing violence, although poverty is still part of the problem. And the teens who made the trek in the early 2000s had less frequent run-ins with border patrol agents or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. But while much of the recent media attention has focused on the migrant youths who’ve been detained along the border, Martinez is keenly aware that for many, the journey doesn’t end there — nor do the dangers. “While the border conditions are atrocious, the youths’ and families’ journeys and needs extend way beyond the border,” she says. “Often, youths are detained as they are making their way to other destinations, including New York City. In fact, at least 8,000 immigrant youths are projected to arrive in New York this year.” Martinez and her students will help by supporting the work of both the Safe Passage Project and Catholic Charities, which represent young migrants in petitioning for visas to keep them from returning to violent conditions in their home countries.




The Apollo Chronicles

Engineering America’s First Moon Missions Brandon R. Brown ’92 Oxford University Press, 2019

JOHN F. KENNEDY and Neil Armstrong tend to get the bulk of the lunar spotlight in most coverage of the Apollo program. But while both overcame tremendous hurdles to help make the manned moon landing a success, those hurdles pale in comparison to the extreme technical challenges NASA’s engineers faced. In “The Apollo Chronicles,” Brandon R. Brown focuses instead on five engineers who were instrumental in making the mission work — including some who’ve never been interviewed before. Brown, a physics professor at the University of San Francisco, also happens

to be the son of an Apollo engineer. And although the men who wore the spacesuits enjoy more of the glamour and the glory, the people who got them safely to the moon and back were heroes in their own right, as Brown’s narrative illustrates. “While I now appreciate just how brave our astronauts were, to sit on towers of explosive fuel and venture into a deadly realm, this book is more concerned with the astronauts’ protectors,” he writes. “I focus on the Earth-bound: the welders of space-worthy seams, the designers of heat shields, the stitchers of spacesuits, and those who computed razor-thin trajectories through space, with disaster awaiting any deviation or missed step.” America was, after all, the underdog in the space race against the Soviets, which is why our achievement in landing a man on the moon is all the more stunning. Brown’s account of the engineering feats involved in building the world’s most powerful rockets — coupled with the intricacies of keeping humans alive on the journey — makes it clear that these were no small steps at all.


Karen Sagstetter ’69 Finishing Line Press, 2019

KAREN SAGSTETTER’S latest poetry collection is a family album of sorts. The poems in “Commotion” introduce the reader to characters and places that are simultaneously vibrant and ghostly, buoyant and tragic, dying and larger than life. In one poem, we meet a brother who cheerfully drinks himself to death in the Kansas farm country: “Morning, noon, afternoon, and night, you unwound on your stoop / chatting with everybody, quaffing jugs of wine / and jiggers of rye,” Sagstetter writes. “… I want away from your easy laugh, your prairie.” In another, we see an aunt, bedridden by obesity, through the eyes of a child too naïve to recognize the cruelty in the questions she asks and the jokes she retells: “Why are you so big? ... Are you lazy? … Kids say That mama so fat she eats Wheat Thicks.” The commotion inherent in many of these poems is internal. It’s the turmoil we experience when we love people who are complicated and flawed, like the father in one poem, who “made our house roar” with his unhappiness — but who reveals a different side of himself when he’s in his element, teaching his daughter to appreciate the wild beauty of the natural world. “I thought you hated us,” Sagstetter writes. “But in the woods your rough voice settled.”

In the Woods with My Father When I was small you were never happy. You made our house roar— I thought you hated us. But in the woods your rough voice settled. You’d find mosses and ferns for me to touch, helped me listen for frogs. You pointed to gawky turtles struggling over the path but floating free in water. I’m riding my bicycle through brawny stands of silver maples creating my own good breeze. Sunlight slips through the ancient canopy. A black snake idling in rhododendrons startles a fat rabbit. I spy a baby owl high on a limb. I think of you wading into the current showing me depth, danger, grace. I want you to know I’m more beautiful today than I’ve ever been. — Poem by Karen Sagstetter and used with the author’s permission.


11.11.2019 // Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #1115” installation // Glasscock School of Continuing Studies



UNMATCHED Ruth Lopez Turley, a Rice sociology professor, founded the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC) in 2011 because she wanted to connect academic research with education decisionmakers. In partnership with school districts across Houston, HERC develops research agendas that produce data-driven, equityminded policy. Turley and her team prioritize challenges and solutions that will close achievement gaps for Houston-area students. In a study initiated by the Houston Independent School District, HERC found that students who attended one year of pre-K were three times as likely to be ready for school. This research informed Texas House Bill 3, which provides full-day pre-K for all qualified Texas students. “Equality means giving everyone the same resources,” Turley reminds us. “Equity often means giving more to those in greater need. Our goal is to give each student the opportunities they need to be successful.”

With the support of the Rice community, HERC will continue to collaborate with Houston-area schools to close socioeconomic gaps in educational achievement. Visit giving. rice.edu/herc to learn why your support is vital to the success of this important program.

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magazine.rice.edu EXTENDED FEATURE

A Glacier in Peril


Our cover story borrows from science writer Linda Welzenbach’s written and photographic account of her participation in last year’s Thwaites Glacier offshore research expedition. We’re thrilled to include more of Welzenbach’s informative research journal and stunning photography online. MUSIC

Harmonious Voices Rice is home to five talented a cappella groups — each one exploring this wildly popular musical genre in unique ways. In this issue, we write about Basmati Beats, which specializes in South Asian and Western music fusion. You can see and hear recent performances via video links in our online story. VIDEO

Rising Star

IN OUR NEXT ISSUE, we’re taking readers to the zoo — the DNA Zoo, that is. It’s a website for sharing the genomes of endangered and threatened animals (and a few plant species, too). The website was launched in late 2018 by Olga Dudchenko, a postdoctoral fellow at Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, and Erez Lieberman Aiden, director at the Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor College of Medicine. The DNA Zoo project showcases new, low-cost methods for assembling chromosome-length genomes, which are then made available to conservationists and researchers. To date, the genomes of more than 100 animals and plants — from tapirs (pictured) and sea turtles to pumpkins and peanuts — have been published on the site.

Juan Sebastian Cruz ’16 is a fresh face on the Houston stage. His acting career began at Rice in productions such as “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Videographer Brandon Martin caught up with Cruz while he was performing on the Alley Theatre’s main stage in “The Winter’s Tale.” A profile of Cruz appears in this issue’s Alumni department.

Profile for Rice University

Rice Magazine | Winter 2020  

Rice Magazine | Winter 2020