Rice announces the Kinder Institute for Urban Research

CONTACT: B.J. Almond
PHONE: 713-348-6770
E-MAIL: balmond@rice.edu

Rice announces the Kinder Institute for Urban Research
Gift from Rich and Nancy Kinder will support valuable research on Houston and other cities

Houston philanthropists Rich and Nancy Kinder today announced a $15 million gift to Rice University to support expanded research in Houston and in major cities around the world by Rice’s Institute for Urban Research. The institute will be renamed the Kinder Institute for Urban Research in their honor.

“Thanks to the vision and generosity of Rich and Nancy Kinder, the Institute for Urban Research has the resources, leadership and academic strength to become the leading center for the study of the changing demographics and broader social issues facing all major urban areas,” Rice President David Leebron said. “With this support, we can take another major step toward fulfilling our goal of being fully engaged with our home city of Houston, as well as serve as the locus of an international discussion of emerging urban issues.”


Leebron noted that the majority of the world’s population now lives in cities, which makes the gift to the institute especially timely.

The gift will support a number of research initiatives, including:

* In March 2011 the institute will conduct the 30th annual Houston Area Survey — the nation’s longest-running study of any metropolitan area’s economy, population, life experiences, beliefs and attitudes — and issue a special report and book on the three decades of research.

* In April and May 2011 the institute plans to conduct the third Houston Area Asian Survey, which will reach a representative sample of 500 Asian-American residents of Harris County who will be given the option of doing interviews in Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean.

* As part of a new multidisciplinary Global Urban Initiatives project, the institute will coordinate a significant transnational research effort in collaboration with colleagues around the world to conduct the equivalent of the Houston Area Survey in cities such as New York, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Mumbai, India. By developing comparable measures of the attitudes and beliefs of urban residents on issues such as immigration, the environment and outlooks on the future, the institute will be able to explore systematically the similarities and differences in the perspectives of Houston-area residents in comparison with other major coastal and global cities.

Rice established the Institute for Urban Research in its School of Social Sciences in February this year by bringing together two existing centers: the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life and the Urban Research Center. Rice sociology professors Stephen Klineberg and Michael Emerson co-direct the institute, whose mission is to conduct scientific research, sponsor educational programs and engage in public outreach that advances understanding of pressing urban issues and fosters the development of more humane and sustainable cities.

The Kinders read an editorial in the Houston Chronicle about the institute’s goals and thought their support could serve as a fulcrum.

“Generous, rigorous and committed to excellence and to making a difference are words that best describe Rich and Nancy,” said Jim Crownover, chair of the Rice Board of Trustees. “Their goal is to understand and address root causes of problems, and they use their resources and talents to make Houston a better city. Their association with Rice makes Rice a better university.”

“We are huge believers in Rice, a world-class institution,” said Rich Kinder, who is chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan, one of the largest pipeline transportation and energy storage companies in North America. “We have tremendous respect for Stephen Klineberg and Michael Emerson and their accomplishments. This is a unique opportunity to position the Institute for Urban Research to serve Houston and Rice and to be a resource for coming generations of American cities.”

Rich and Nancy Kinder co-founded the Kinder Foundation to support education, urban green space and other quality-of-life issues.

Klineberg and Emerson call the Kinders’ gift “transformative.” The goal, they said, is to build the institute into a magnet for talent, a catalyst for civic engagement and an internationally recognized leader both in conducting urban research and in translating its findings into a resource that informs and inspires the communities on which the research is based.

“A major commitment of the Kinder Institute is to provide a permanent home for the Houston Area Survey to ensure that it will continue well into the future,” Klineberg said. The institute plans to raise funds to establish an endowed professorship in urban research — a position that would have the responsibility to continue the survey and help to guide the institute’s broader research agenda, he said.

Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology, said the institute also plans to develop a Visiting Scholars and Urban Leaders Program. “This will enable us to bring top scholars and accomplished urban leaders to the Kinder Institute to spend a semester or a year at Rice to write, work on policy papers, give high-profile lectures and provide training and networking for Rice students and community leaders,” he said. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Kinders for their visionary gift, for making such programs possible.”

The institute also plans to develop a state-of-the-art interactive website and engage in a wide range of public presentations and conferences. “Our goal is for these expanded outreach programs to make the Kinder Institute for Urban Research the most reliable and relevant continuing source of knowledge and inspiration for the Greater Houston community,” Klineberg said.

Rice Social Sciences Dean Lyn Ragsdale noted that, in addition to training students in modern social research methodologies, the Kinder Institute also will develop interdisciplinary academic programs by bringing together scholars with shared interests.

“The Kinder Institute will add immeasurably to the depth and breadth of our social sciences teaching and research at Rice,” she said. “The knowledge and understanding that the Houston Area Survey has contributed to the city of Houston will become the standard for our work across a wide range of social issues facing cities and communities here and around the world.”

“We are extremely grateful to the Kinders for both their gift and for their appreciation of the important role played by the growing diversity in our cities and our institutions,” Leebron said. “The Kinders have made a tremendous difference in Houston through their philanthropic endeavors and their leadership, and we know that leadership will help our institute succeed at the very highest level.”

For more information on the institute, visit http://kinderinstitute.rice.edu.

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