Leebron outlines V2C2 goals at special town hall

Rice President David Leebron set forth the university’s ambitious plan for the years ahead, laying out seven main goals during a presentation to staff at a special town hall Oct. 3.

Town hall

Photo by Jeff Fitlow

An outline of the elements of the draft strategic plan was the highlight of the event at Rice Memorial Center at which Leebron also discussed how the university came together in response to Tropical Storm Harvey and noted its success in meeting the objectives set in 2005 in the Vision for the Second Century.

Leebron said the administration will continue to seek the advice and involvement of faculty, staff, students and alumni as the Vision for the Second Century, part two (V2C2), comes together. He said he expects it will be presented to the Rice Board of Trustees for discussion and approval in December or January.

“You might read it and think, ‘It looks like 100 different people wrote this document,'” Leebron said. “And the answer is, yes.” He noted that many people had been involved in producing this draft, and that the process of reaching out to gather and consolidate ideas will ultimately produce a plan that provides aspirational guidance for the university over the next five to 10 years.

The seven goals are:

Transform undergraduate education – “The No. 1 thing that emerged from students and faculty regarding undergraduate education was we need greater engagement of students and faculty, a greater role for faculty in the lives of students,” Leebron said. “Our students expect more innovative opportunities, experiential opportunities.” He said the planned evolution of a Central Quad 4.0, including renovations to the student center and library and eventual construction of a new academic building, would help facilitate the goal.

Build internationally pre-eminent graduate and Ph.D. programs – Leebron said graduate students, like undergrads, expect a strong sense of community. “We want this to be a destination for graduate students who come first and foremost for the academic quality of the programs and the research opportunities,” he said. “But if we also promise them a great experience, this will be their destination of choice.”

Expand access, diversity and inclusiveness – The president noted Rice has made great strides to diversify the campus and said its efforts to help all students realize their ambitions will continue. “For every kind of opportunity that we offer, whether it’s international travel or internships, we have to make sure that all of our students have that opportunity,” he said. “Inclusivity and diversity … extend to our faculty and staff to create an environment that all feel is welcoming to our students.”

Build faculty strategically to achieve pre-eminence – Leebron said the university expects to strategically invest in faculty clusters and high-impact hires, promote collaboration across disciplines and with external partners, and attract global scholars.

Enhance research achievement and reputation – He said Rice hopes to double external funding of research over the next 10 years as well as improve support systems and facilities and enhance postdoctoral programs. “We have to identify a few global challenges where Rice can make a very distinctive contribution,” he said.

Engage Houston as a model and laboratory for 21st-century cities – Leebron said Rice’s engagement with the city was a high point of the Vision for the Second Century. “We think we’re positioned now to contribute and learn from Houston at an entirely new level,” he said, noting the continuing contributions of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, the Baker Institute for Public Policy, the School of Social Sciences and the Rice School of Architecture. “We have an opportunity to really shape the future of Houston, and that ought to be what our ambition is.

“What I like to say about Rice is that we are a small university in a big city that’s treated like a big university in a small city,” Leebron said. “We have to earn that recognition every year by contributing to our city and making a real difference.”

Extend Rice’s reach and impact – Following Rice’s successful expansion of its student population, Leebron said, “We’re now in a different age in which there are other ways to think about building our footprint, particularly digitally, through global presence and activating our alumni.

“If we’re to continue to succeed, we have to succeed on a global scale,” he said. “I believe we can continue to do that without necessarily significantly increasing the number of students on our campus at this time.”

He said part of this strategic process “has not been just to build those larger plans but to begin to search for some signature efforts that we would invest in over the next five or 10 years.”

Leebron began the meeting with thanks for how the Rice community stepped up to meet the challenges presented by Harvey, both on and off campus. “We talk about our culture of care, we talk about our sense of being a community, and I think we really saw that in action,” he said.

He gave a “particular shout-out and thanks” to the ride-out team of employees who stayed on campus for the duration of the storm, mentioned that the Employee Disaster Assistance Program is available to those who need help to recover from the storm and encouraged staff to continue to support relief efforts, especially through the United Way.

He reminded the audience that Rice has committed $500,000 for research efforts by students and faculty to help the city recover in the short and long term.

Addressing the state of the university, as he did for faculty last week, Leebron said Rice’s applications are dramatically up from 2004, when he arrived at the university, and noted Rice achieved a near 50-50 percentage of undergraduate and graduate students admitted this year. He said the Careers at Rice initiative has embarked on its goal of recruiting, training and retaining valuable staff.

To view the town hall, click on the video below.


About Mike Williams

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