The Rice Global Paris Center recently concluded its inaugural summer series of academic programs and events, helping position Rice University as a leading global institution by showcasing its world-class faculty and research as well as providing unmatched student experiences in Paris.
This year’s summer catalog featured nine faculty research conferences and workshops and two Rice student summer intensive programs. Located in the heart of the historic Marais district of Paris, the center hosted over 500 Rice students, faculty and research collaborators from across France and Europe.
The Global Paris Center is a hub for research, teaching and learning, collaboration and inspiration, said Caroline Levander, vice president for Global at Rice. It has featured a vast array of events highlighting research that is relevant around the world, such as the Empirical Industrial Organization Conference and the Diversity in French Children’s Literature workshop.
“One of the things that makes this so special, not only for U.S. higher education, but for higher education around the world, is the way in which we are in the center of the city, partnering with local intellectual, cultural and arts institutions around path breaking questions in research that impact the entire world - whether that’s climate change, energy transitions, social justice or health technologies and solutions,” she said.
Luis Campos, Baker College Chair for the History of Science, Technology, and Innovation, organized the “Engineering Life: Regulating Science, Risks and Society in Europe” workshop. In preparation for the 50th anniversary of a seminal international meeting known as “Asilomar,” this event convened a group of scholars at the Rice Global Paris Center to study the legacies of Asilomar and its implications for the development of science policy in Europe.
Campos explained how the conference was an extraordinary opportunity to gather experts together to grapple with these complex issues.
“This conference was a spectacular start to an ongoing series of conversations and analyses that will build up to the 50th anniversary of Asilomar coming up in 2025,” he said. “With questions about potential uses of CRISPR, gene drives and human genome editing dominating daily headlines, the relevance of understanding how scientific innovation and social governance intersect will only continue to grow in importance. Exploring these intersections is at the heart of my scholarship.”
Rice students utilized the Paris Center for study-abroad opportunities this summer, including the Maymester EcoStudio course. This unique environmental arts class involved fieldwork in Paris, museum and gallery visits, creative studio time and much more.
For Rice undergrad Debi Saha, the Maymester course was her first international experience. She said the trip opened up her mind to possibilities she previously hadn’t considered.
“Being in Paris has been really impactful for me, especially because it’s opened up my worldview in terms of what’s available to me in the future,” Saha said.
“The projects that are a part of this course allow us to expand our understanding of art, and we’re able to work on projects that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to work on and hone skills that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. And I think everyone appreciates the opportunity to be able to explore Paris and then also use that experience to create something new.”
The second Rice student summer intensive program, Unlearning Paris, kicked off earlier this month. This three-week course will challenge students’ preconceptions about historical sites, museums and memorials, “unlearning” the traditional view of Paris.
“In my own life, study-abroad transformed how I imagined my impact in the world,” Levander said. “When I speak to my students who are at Rice Paris, I hear the same stories. We don’t know what these students’ work will be 10, 15 or 20 years from now. But we know that they will carry forward this experience as they live their lives for the better of society.”
The only university in Texas to feature a Paris Center, Rice aims to continue to expand its global reach and create an academic community that extends from Houston to Paris and beyond, Levander said.
“We hope and plan to be a convening space for the world’s best institutions and their leading faculty to come share ideas and develop solutions that will enhance our world,” she said. “This extends our Houston campus into the world, and brings the world to us.”