Thanks to support from the Hilda and Hershel Rich Family Endowment for Student Community Service, Rice University students spent the 2015-2016 academic year making a difference on campus and within the Houston community.
The endowment, housed in Rice University’s Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), supports student engagement with societal issues through volunteerism, internships, research projects and other relevant activities. Every year, the CCL uses the endowment to fund student projects intended to make a distinctive impact upon society, raise awareness among the Rice community and foster and encourage leadership and creativity among Rice students. Recent awards have ranged from $300 to $15,000.
“Hilda and Hershel’s generous gift allows the CCL to develop the leadership capacity of Rice students as they collaborate with community partners to address important social issues,” said Caroline Quenemoen, executive director of the CCL. “It has been rewarding to work with Sharon (Rich) and Renie (Carniol) to fulfill their parents’ vision of fostering social responsibility and creativity among our students.”
Eighteen projects were funded during the 2015-2016 year. One project was the Channeling Passion Into Action conference held April 16. It was designed to create a space for coalition building, critical analysis and the development of sustainable activism in the city of Houston around the Black Lives Matter movement. Another project was the Speaker Series on Trans Issues, a series of talks throughout the spring semester by members of the Houston transgender community aimed at engaging Rice about important issues of discrimination, gender identity and local history.
“Community service experiences, especially those based around Houston, were very important to our parents,” Carniol and Rich said. “They hoped students would engage in meaningful projects, and in so doing, become passionate about Houston, apply their knowledge, talents and creativity to come up with new and innovative solutions to community issues and develop lasting Rice memories.”
Carniol and Rich said their parents felt that students could make a big difference, from having positive effects on individuals to affecting larger organizations in the community.
“While working together for a common goal, Rice team members would also develop special bonds within the group and at the same time share their unique perspectives,” Carniol and Rich said. “(Our parents) wanted students, through their fellowships, to gain an appreciation for courage, leadership and humility. Always proud of Rice students for their intelligence, our parents hoped this would broaden students’ exposure to real and current community issues and leadership opportunities.”
McMurtry College junior Madhuri Venkateswar headed the the MobilityHouston Public Policy Competition, one of the projects that involved students brainstorming policy ideas to address how different modes of transportation in Houston affect quality of life and social mobility. A panel of judges from the mayor’s office selected the top policy idea and the student team was awarded $1,000. Venkateswar said that what struck her about the MobilityHouston project was its unique way of connecting students to the city of Houston.
“I thought it would be especially exciting for students,” she said.
Venkateswar said the project has enriched her general Rice education because it gave her the opportunity to network with city officials.
“In addition, the event planning enhanced my general communication skills,” she said.
The next round of applications for the program will be accepted in October. For more information on the fellowship, visit http://bit.ly/1TcWh0q.