President gives first-year update, discusses upcoming academic year

Reginald DesRoches

The following message was sent to the Rice community in an email June 27:

Dear Colleagues,

As we approach the one-year mark of my presidency, I want to share a summary and update on important developments that have taken place over the past 12 months and speak to my plans for the coming academic year. First, I want to thank you for your hard work and commitment to Rice. Your dedication has never been more present and important than this past academic year as we have undergone significant changes in leadership and structure.

New Leadership

Several new vice presidents were hired this past year: Provost Amy Dittmar, Vice President for Research Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Vice President for Finance and Administration Kelly Fox, Vice President for Innovation Paul Cherukuri, Vice President for Information Technology Paul Padley, and Vice President and General Counsel Omar Syed. These new vice presidents join a committed group of leaders that includes Vice President for Global Initiatives Caroline Levander, Vice President and Chief Investment Officer Allison Thacker, and Vice President for Enrollment Yvonne Romero Da Silva. We are in the final stages of the search for a vice president for Development and Alumni Relations and a vice president for Public Affairs. We will launch the search for a new director of Athletics in the coming weeks.


Several offices on campus have undergone significant reorganization, including the Office of the Provost, Office of Research, and Office of Finance and Administration, while the Office of Innovation was recently launched and is still building out its organizational structure and team. The roles of the provost, vice president for research, and vice president for finance and administration have been expanded as described below. As a result, the titles of these vice presidents have been modified, effective July 1.

Office of the Provost
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Amy Dittmar

One of the common themes I heard in the many listening sessions, both during my time as president as well as my time as provost, was the importance of alignment between our core academic programs and the Office of the Provost. Coupled with that is the importance of lining up the academic decision making with our Office of the Provost. To achieve this, we have shifted the offices of Global Initiatives, Digital Programs, and Institutional Effectiveness to the Office of the Provost. As such, Caroline will report to Amy starting July 1. Led by Caroline, the Office of Global Initiatives, recently launched a series of programs at the Rice Global Paris Center and will be working closely with the faculty and deans to pursue other key partnerships and programs around the world. A search is underway for a new head of digital programs.

Arun Chandran Natarajan will join the Office of the Provost July 1 as associate provost for institutional research and effectiveness to lead the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. The enrollment division, led by Yvonne, will report to the offices of the president and the provost. Yvonne and her team have done a phenomenal job at recruiting the best and brightest students from across the country and the world during a time of great change in the admissions landscape and higher education in general.

In addition to managing these offices, the Office of the Provost now oversees the academic budget, in strong partnership with the Office of Finance and Administration. As you are aware, we are in the process of a budget transformation, led by Amy and Kelly. The Budget Transformation Initiative is an important project that will support and enable the university’s strategic goals of developing a budget that reflects Rice’s values and academic mission, providing increased transparency and building incentives into the budget model to support schools and administrative units while giving increased budget authority to the deans and other campus leaders. The project is currently in the model design phase. We will begin implementing a new budget model by the start of fiscal year 2025 (July 1, 2024). For more information about the Budget Transformation, visit:

Hiring and retaining top talent is fundamental to Rice’s success. Amy will work with the deans to lead a period of strategic growth in our faculty and, as a result, we will have a larger number of searches this coming year. The searches follow a successful recruiting and retention year and will build and develop on core cross-disciplinary strengths and bolster key disciplinary areas where Rice is or has the potential to lead.

Office of Research
Executive Vice President for Research Ramamoorthy Ramesh

One of the top goals across the university is to grow the research enterprise and the impact of the scholarship and creative works of our faculty. In addition to hiring faculty and retaining our top talent, it is also vital we provide an environment where people can flourish. As such, we want to make sure we are providing support for our research enterprise.

The increasing challenge with research security and research integrity, along with the increasing government regulations around research security, have prompted us to bolster this area within the Office of Research. The recent hires in the Office of Research, Tam Dao, assistant vice president for research security, and Michelle “Mickey” Stevenson, assistant vice president for research integrity, are important to position Rice to address this growing area of work. Patricia Stepp joined the office as assistant vice president for tech transfer, a role in which she will work closely with our faculty and students as well as with our vice president for innovation, whose mission is to assist our faculty and staff who are interested in the commercialization of their technologies. Close collaboration between our Office of Innovation and Office of Research is required to support our efforts in commercialization. Therefore, Paul Cherukuri will dually report to the president and vice president for research.

As we put into place plans to expand our research and scholarship profile, Ramesh will be working with our deans and faculty to better understand the additional support needed to achieve our research ambitions.

Office of Finance and Administration
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Kelly Fox

The Office of Finance and Administration is committed to transforming services to better support the campus community and deliver on Rice’s mission. To do so, the office has undergone several organizational changes, most recently partnering closely with the Office of Information Technology to ensure cohesive alignment and support for the campus. As such, Chief Information Officer and Vice President Paul Padley will now report to Kelly. Other organizational restructuring includes the creation of a Campus Safety Department, a Real Estate and Facilities Department, and a Campus Services and Sustainability Department among others.

As part of delivering on HR excellence, the office is working to better support the campus community from talent acquisition by reviewing our salary and benefits to cultivating future career paths and professional development. The office is also implementing a new performance management program, including 360 evaluations for senior leaders, designed to enhance the ongoing partnership between supervisors and staff to accomplish university and departmental goals. The process will allow employees to better align roles, responsibilities, and goals with the university’s mission and enhance their development and performance.

Overall, Finance and Administration has embarked on a service and excellence cultural transformation, devoted to six key initiatives to help facilitate and support the campus in achieving our strategic goals — Budget and Financial Excellence, Real Estate and Capital Excellence, HR Excellence, IT Excellence, Sustainability, and Enterprise Risk Management. Each of these initiatives is focused on bringing the best support to campus, leveraging innovation, and valuing inclusion throughout the university.

Office of Innovation
Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President for Innovation Paul Cherukuri

The Office of Innovation was launched this year with the goal to empower faculty to develop revolutionary ideas, translate research, and commercialize breakthrough technology for the betterment of the world. As such, faculty surveys were conducted to identify innovation and entrepreneurship needs across all schools. We are also connecting our faculty, students and programs to the Ion building and district, in collaboration with Jan Odergard, executive director of the Ion. To this end, the office launched the Rice Nexus, our new innovation factory in the Ion that contains workspaces for launching startups, specialized equipment and facilities for scaling-up cutting-edge technologies, along with industry experts and business advisers to help faculty design, invent, and commercialize technology for deployment into the real world. An assistant vice president of commercialization who will work hand-in-hand with the new assistant vice president of tech transfer will be announced soon.

The Year Ahead

The coming year will continue to focus on how we support our academic mission as we grow the university. As our undergraduate student body approaches 4,800 students and with a growing graduate population, we will strengthen our faculty and staff to ensure we continue to provide an unmatched education while achieving our ambitions to grow our research and scholarship. We also recognize the importance of having the right type of space to do our work, and thus are embarking on a detailed space plan for the university. This will include both teaching and research spaces.

We have already made progress in these areas with the opening of the Ralph S. O’Connor Building for Engineering and Science, the new wing of Hanszen College and the construction of William T. Cannady Hall.

All schools this year received support for strategic priorities; additional funding was approved to create new institutes and centers; increased programming and support funds for diversity, equity and inclusion were allocated; and we launched several student success initiatives, including Owl Access, an early arrival program to help first-year, low-income and first-generation students build community and create a sense of belonging across campus. In addition, we had two faculty elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one as a foreign fellow of the Royal Society of London and a slew of other top faculty awards.

We also are finalizing a strategic plan that will lay out Rice’s major priorities and goals for the future. We began this process in January and have made tremendous progress. We hope to have a complete plan by the end of the calendar year. In the meantime, I plan to resume my listening sessions in the fall and look forward to meeting and hearing from as many of you as possible.

I wish you and your families a wonderful summer and look forward to seeing you next semester.


President Reginald DesRoches