Town Hall launches one-year countdown to Centennial Celebration

BY B.J. ALMOND

Rice News staff

Wearing a “Celebrate Rice” T-shirt, President David Leebron celebrated the university’s successes during the Town Hall meeting held on Rice Day – Oct. 12 — in the Shepherd School of Music’s Stude Concert Hall.

The event launched the one-year countdown to Rice’s Centennial Celebration planned for Oct. 10-14, 2012.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of progress, some of which is very visible,” Leebron said as he reviewed the key points of the Vision for the Second Century (V2C) adopted nearly five years ago.

He gave as an example the expansion of the undergraduate student body, which he said is almost 30 percent larger and more diverse without sacrificing the legendary high quality of students at Rice. And the record 13,816 applications that Rice received for fall 2011 is likely to be broken again next year, he said.

“One of the things that is really critical to us is our research,” Leebron said. “As part of the centennial, we want to make people aware of all the things that we have contributed to.”

The dramatic growth in sponsored research funding, which totaled $115.3 million in fiscal year 2011, reflects both the large quantity of proposals written by faculty and the high quality of those proposals, he said.

From the world’s first tunable lasers and the nanotechnology revolution to digital signal processing and artificial heart research, Rice has made the world a better place. “Every time you use a cell phone, remember that there’s stuff in that phone that was invented by people at Rice,” Leebron said.

While a number of faculty members who made such research discoveries in years past are still active at Rice, “we have newer and younger faculty who are making their own pathway in building things for the future,” Leebron said.

Identifying past accomplishments that have set the stage for current and future endeavors, Leebron noted that the Houston Area Survey began at Rice 30 years ago and now is housed in the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, where that research will be extended to other cities around the world. “The fundamental research of understanding human society will pay many benefits in the future,” he said.

New buildings like the Brockman Hall for Physics and the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) are facilitating more research progress, Leebron said. He noted that the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) recently chose the BRC as the site to present grant awards to Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Houston, Rice and other Texas Medical Center institutions – evidence that the BRC has become the hub of interdisciplinary medical and scientific research at Rice and the TMC.

Campus vibrancy has improved dramatically, due to such factors as the new Rice Public Art program, Brochstein Pavilion and the renovated Coffeehouse in the student center, Leebron said. “The new Rice Coffeehouse will transform the RMC and turn it into a more welcoming, dynamic space.”

Progress also has been made toward the V2C goal of increased engagement with the city of Houston, he said. Leebron cited the Glasscock School for Continuing Studies’ and other Rice K-12 programs, Rice’s growing collaborations with the Houston Independent School District, research by faculty and students on the city’s problems and the volunteer work done by the Rice community. “We’re not perceived as sitting behind the hedges; we’re seen as being engaged with the problems of Houston,” he said.

100 Centennial Stars to be honored

FROM RICE NEWS STAFF REPORTS

Now that the one-year countdown to the Centennial Celebration has begun, Rice University will be honoring 100 staff members throughout the year as “Centennial Stars.”

This designation will be given to staff members who go above and beyond their job duties, who support the university’s goals, who have a positive impact on Rice culture and who contribute to a better future. Each will receive a Star award and a certificate.

Human Resources will accept nominations from peers, colleagues, co-workers and supervisors. Nominees must be in a benefits-eligible position for at least two years as of Jan. 1, 2012 and have no current disciplinary or performance concerns.

To nominate someone as a Centennial Star, go to http://people.rice.edu and click on the Centennial Star link. For more information, contact Rebecca Millet at rmillet@rice.edu or 713-348-4791.

“Rice’s efforts to expand its international outreach as well as the international character of its student body have been very successful,” Leebron said. ”The efforts in China and Brazil have especially produced concrete relationships benefiting both faculty and students. The number of Rice faculty engaged in Latin American studies has tripled.”

New graduate programs and more support for graduate students are indicative of progress toward the V2C goal of strengthening graduate and postdoctoral studies at Rice, he said.

Leebron cited several examples of Rice’s growing visibility in the U.S. and internationally:

– Faculty members are winning highly prestigious awards, such as Richard Tapia receiving the National Medal of Science.

– The Rice Business Plan Competition at the Jones Graduate School of Business has become the biggest in the world; 42 teams will compete for $1.4 million in prizes next year.

– Faculty and alumni of the Shepherd School of Music account for 40 percent of the Houston Symphony’s musicians.

– Videos produced by Public Affairs about students, faculty and staff have had more than 215,000 views in just three months.

Leebron also cited the Princeton Review rankings, where Rice is rated No. 1 for best quality of life for the third year in a row as well as No. 1 for happiest students. “Our students say they’re happy, and so many of you have a role in that,” he said. “The school runs smoothly from an administrative point of view – everything across campus. People feel that this is a helpful community.”

Leebron commended the staff for their nonstop efforts to maintain the campus. “When I bring folks here, they comment on how clean and beautiful the campus is.” He noted that the Facilities, Engineering and Planning crews’ tireless efforts to water the 5,000 trees on campus during the drought has minimized the loss to about 20.

Leebron said he is continuing to use the acronym RICE to define the values of the people who work here: responsibility, integrity, community and excellence. “How we treat each other every single day defines us as a community,” he said. “In everything we do, we strive for excellence.”

Leebron announced that 100 staff members will be recognized as “Centennial Stars” this year for going above and beyond their job duties and having a positive impact on Rice culture.

He also announced that everyone who attended the Town Hall would receive a free “Celebrate Rice” T-shirt as they exited Stude Hall.

To begin the official centennial countdown, Leebron was joined onstage by Board of Trustees Chair Jim Crownover ‘65, Faculty Senate Speaker Susan McIntosh, Centennial Director Kathleen Boyd ‘80, Association of Rice Alumni Interim Executive Director Karen George ’77, Graduate Student Association President Sumedh Warudkar, Student Association President Georgia Lagoudas, the Fly Rice Owls Step Team, Rice Cheerleaders and Sammy the Owl.

The program concluded with a performance of “When the Owls Go Marching In” by the Rice Chorale, Melodious Voices of Praise and the Rice Jazz Ensemble.

Rice Day continued with construction of walls for the Centennial House and an evening picnic.

For information about the Centennial Celebration and the events planned during the year leading up to it, visit http://centennial.rice.edu.

The Town Hall program was organized by the Town Hall Committee of Marie Wehrung from Human Resources, Carlos Solis from Educational Technologies, Kate Almond from the Centennial Celebration and B.J. Smith from the Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance, and the Public Affairs team led by University Relations Director Greg Marshall. Employees can provide feedback on the meeting at http://staff.rice.edu/post_event_TownHall_survey.asp. The slides and an archived webcast of the meeting will be posted at http://cohesion.rice.edu/campusservices/humanresources/training.cfm?doc_id=13962.

About Rice News Staff

The Rice News is produced weekly by the Office of Public Affairs at Rice University.