The Way I See It: From Houston to Montréal

Last month, seven Rice students traveled from Houston to Montréal to expand Rice’s Gateway Study of Leadership research program at McGill University. Bradley Hamilton, a Duncan College senior, shares his experience.

Six other Rice students and I had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the culture of Montréal through sightseeing, exploration and eating authentic foods while we were in Canada on a research project.

Rice and McGill students.

Rice and McGill students.

Along with two staff advisers, Ipek Martinez and Alex Wyatt, we traveled to Montréal Nov. 9-13 as part of the Gateway Study of Leadership program in the School of Social Sciences. Continuing our work to expand our fellowship to universities in other countries, we conducted interviews with faculty members of the McGill University Schulich School of Music as six Schulich students shadowed us. Our hope is that after observing us, these students will be able to continue to interview faculty members of the Schulich School to complete a collaborative research project and produce a joint Turning Points book at the end of spring semester.

The evening of our arrival we tried poutine, a dish made of french fries, gravy, cheese curds and a variety of meat toppings. Upon this introduction to the new culture, we quickly realized the trip would be not only an incredible academic experience, but an amazing cultural experience as well.

The following day we were warmly welcomed by the interim dean of the music school, Julie Cumming, and faculty member Simon Aldrich. Each had a strong role in ensuring the success of our visit. After our morning introductions, we visited Musée des Beaux Arts (the Museum of Beautiful Art) and the Olympic Park from the 1976 Olympics. Both of these experiences gave us a brief and beautiful look into the rich history of Montréal. In fact, the museum had an unexpected similarity to the Rice campus: a Jaume Plensa statue that many may know better as the twin statues outside of Herring Hall.

We finished the day with a tour of the music school by Suzu Enns, one of the six Schulich students who shadowed us the following day. The innovative environment of Schulich reiterated itself with every room and lab that we visited. Not only did we see a campus dedicated to the success of its students, but also committed to growth and expansion to provide the best of resources, including a three-floor music library and a center dedicated to interdisciplinary research in music media and technology. We learned more about Ichiro Fujinaga’s work on building digital musical recognition tools that allow the automatic retrieval of music scores dating back to the ninth century and Llyod Whitesell’s research on the effects of gender subjectivity in music composition, which left us buzzing with excitement and conversation.


Rice students in Montreal.

Friday was a day full of interviews for the team, which was made up of current Gateway program co-directors Emily Rao, Caroline Lee and Thresa Skeslien-Jenkins and senior fellows Tim Wang, Carlin Cherry and Simone Bergsrud. We were paired with Schulich School students who were part of the Music Entrepreneurship program. As they shadowed, it became immediately evident that they were not only enthusiastic about our research focus but had the crucial sensitivity and receptivity needed to conduct interviews individually in the future. Between interviews, we ate at a small hidden café called Café Parvis with a Rice alum, Justin Leroux, who is now an economics professor at HEC Montreal. To celebrate a successful day of interviews, we were treated to a Korean dinner as guests of the Schulich School. During our conversations we discovered an incredible number of connections between the Shepherd School of Music and the Schulich School of Music that we were unaware of, but the best part was realizing that no matter the distance, college students will always have so many similarities, whether it be struggles, personal interests or common college situations. The day ended with a goodbye, but we truly hope this isn’t the last time we see our friends from McGill.

We spent our final day in Montréal in Old Montréal near the water. The region was rich with history as we visited the Notre Dame Basilica and the history and archeology museum, known as “Pointe-à-Callière.” The Notre Dame Basilica was a pristine work of art with an overwhelming display presented at the front of the church. Pointe-à-Callière showed the history of the land upon which Montreal was originally built. We ended the day with incredible desserts and souvenirs galore from the many shops surrounding the old port.

Overall, the trip was a success in many aspects: building relationships with the students of McGill University, conducting insightful interviews to add to our research pursuits and immersing ourselves in a new culture in which there was so much to learn. It was a great journey, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to see our friends from McGill University in the near future.

Bradley Hamilton is a former student co-director of the Gateway Study of Leadership program and a Duncan College senior studying mathematical economic analysis.

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