More than an internship

Leadership Rice Mentorship Experience connects students with real-world mentors

Rice students are able to benefit from the expertise of real-world mentors, thanks to the university’s Leadership Rice Mentorship Experience (LRME). This program is designed to bring students and professionals together for mutually beneficial experiences.

2014 LRME interns

Created in 1996, LRME is a competitive summer internship program housed in Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership. It is specifically designed for undergraduates who aspire to high-level leadership. About 35 students are selected from all disciplines to do nine weeks of substantive work with recognized leaders in public, private or nonprofit organizations. Guiding students throughout this process is a mentor who fosters the student’s leadership learning and personal development.

But the LRME is more than a typical summer internship. Before starting their mentorships, students attend LEAD 250, a two-credit class that focuses on principles of leadership.

“More than anything, LRME is designed to prepare students to learn about themselves, the skills required to succeed in a professional environment and the social impact of their work,” said Felicia Martin, who serves as the Center for Civic Leadership’s associate director of domestic programs and partnerships and oversees LRME.

LRME interns participate in a pre-mentorship class.

Martin said that LRME attracts partner organizations in many different ways. Many organizations sign on because of alumni connections, but the Center for Civic Leadership also seeks to partner with companies based on specific student interests and the organizations’ desire to have Rice interns.

“There needs to be a mutual understanding about types of projects and the mentorship piece in addition to academic coursework,” Martin said.

Throughout the summer, students complete assignments that challenge them to strategically assess their work and deepen their understanding of the personal, professional and societal demands leaders face.

Trent Navran, a McMurtry College senior, served as an intern for Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. The organization is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice on a global scale.

Navran said he is deeply grateful for the experiences he had during his LRME and feels energized and invigorated to command change within his current and future fields of work.

“Looking into the future, I believe that this experience has been instrumental in affirming my ability to contribute, manage and lead within a challenging and dynamic environment,” Navran said. “Considering that this social entrepreneurship experience directly advised and bettered my understanding of what it takes to lead a social venture, I feel greatly inspired to continue my leadership on World STEM Works.

Navran’s mentor at Ashoka, Samara Lemke, serves as executive manager of the organization’s board of directors. She defines mentoring as far beyond training or advising.

“To me it is about inspiration,” she said. “My goal is to surround the students with new ideas and new ways of seeing the world that have the power to change everything for them.”

Terry Davies, senior advisor to geosciences for the National Science Foundation, said that one of the most valuable rewards from mentoring is “getting great insight into how the next generation of leaders think.”

“For example, since we are trying to attract students to pursue a science education, it is very useful to get my intern’s perspective when considering how to provide communication materials that will appeal to their generation,” she said. “One thing I have noticed about the Leadership Rice Mentorship Experience program is that its students are dedicated to public service. I’ve had interns in the program go on to medical school, work in the White House and in local government. I receive personal satisfaction knowing that I may have helped these future leaders go on to do really important things.”

Julia Madden ’14 said LRME appealed to her because it gave her the opportunity to gain more experience with nonprofits.

“I had committed to leading a home sponsorship project with Rice’s Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter, which was a huge undertaking both in fundraising and nonprofit project management. I knew I needed more experience in these fields to make the project successful, so I started looking for an internship that would help me learn more about the nonprofit sector,” she said. “The more I heard about the program, the more it seemed like it was exactly what I was looking for.”

Madden said one of the program’s benefits is the built-in support system that prepared students with rigorous activities before their internships and focused on reflection activities during their internships so students would continue to channel their experiences through the lens of leadership growth.

“I needed a program that would help me become a better professional and a better leader, and LRME was perfect to help me do that,” she said.

Madden said that her current position as a development assistant with the Houston Center for Literacy (HCL) was the result of her LRME and the reputation she built as an intern.

“I was able to prove during the summer (internship) how committed I was to HCL and how hard I was willing work to help the organization grow, and I think that is what made HCL want to hire me,” she said. “They brought me on as a part-time employee during my senior year, and after I graduated, they hired me full time. Without LRME, I wouldn’t have the job I do now, and I would not have grown as much as I have in my role so soon out of college.”

Madden’s mentor, Annie Eifler ’08, said the HCL benefits tremendously from the LRME fellows.

“Mentoring LRME fellows has been one of my great joys over the past five years at Houston Center for Literacy,” Eifler said. “I have loved being able to work with some of Houston’s brightest young minds and watch as they transform from college students to young professionals over the summer. I am always amazed by the quality of work they are able to produce, and it reminds me how wonderful a school Rice is. I relish having the chance to stay connected with the university through the Leadership Rice Mentorship Experience.”

Martin said that the LRME selection process is extremely competitive and is based on leadership ambition and potential. There are no course prerequisites for the LRME, and all nongraduating students from any discipline are eligible to apply. More information is available at

Mentoring programs like the Leadership Rice Mentoring Experience are key to the success of Rice’s Initiative for Students. Learn more about the Initiative and ways to get involved at

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.