President Reginald DesRoches, Provost Amy Dittmar and Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alex Byrd shared the following message with the Rice community in an email March 8:
Like many in the higher education community, the Rice administration is closely following the affirmative action cases before the Supreme Court. Rulings are expected this spring or summer, and while it would be premature for us to speculate or comment before we know the outcomes, we write to you today to affirm Rice’s commitment to uphold diversity, equity and inclusion as a core part of our educational experience and research mission, and our commitment to excellence.
Our admissions office and general counsel are preparing for various outcomes. We will strive to do all we can, within the bounds of the law, to continue to recruit and retain a widely diverse student body. Rice’s student body, faculty and staff are a multicultural reflection of the world, and our goal every year is to enroll a diverse class of the most talented students as well as hire and retain faculty and staff from across the country and around the globe.
In admissions, we take a holistic approach to reviewing applications. This process ensures each application is reviewed in the context of a student's academic background as well as their personal life experience. We value the breadth of gender, socioeconomic, cultural, geographic, racial or ethnic, educational and other perspectives that each student brings to the table.
Among the new undergraduate class that joined us in the fall, 37% of new students are from Texas, while 50% are from elsewhere in the United States or are U.S. citizens living abroad. Thirteen percent of entering undergraduates this academic year are international students, hailing from 54 countries around the world. This marks one of the most diverse representations of incoming international undergraduate students in Rice’s history. In addition, 330 of Rice’s incoming domestic undergraduate students are from underrepresented minority groups. This makes up 32% of the domestic Class of 2026, up from 29% the year before.
The entering class of Rice graduate students, which was larger than the number of new undergraduates, hailed from 91 countries. We also have a record number of student athletes on campus, a group that brings their own special talents and viewpoints to the Rice community.
As President DesRoches highlighted in his recent investiture speech, “The strength of our student population is in its array and depth of interests, talent, athletic abilities, leadership skills and personalities to create our unique culture. The diversity of our students and the breadth of support they receive at Rice are some of our greatest assets. Diversity at Rice is not just tolerated, it is celebrated as a strength of this great institution.”
Fully tapping and developing the talent of underrepresented students and faculty at American colleges and universities benefits the country socially, economically and culturally. It is also, quite simply, a matter of national security. Our universities are preparing the next generation of leaders, inventors and creators who will need to collaborate effectively to address current and future challenges. Truly creative, innovative thinking and research does not happen in a vacuum or in monolithic environments. It happens when there are many voices and perspectives at the table and when the people speaking feel they are heard and that they belong.
Having a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus challenges stereotyped preconceptions, it encourages critical thinking and it helps broaden minds and inspire new ideas. Creating this type of environment takes time and energy, financial investment and a concerted effort that is ongoing and constantly evolving to meet the needs of the times and society.
We are working on this at Rice. This fall, we established a new general education requirement in the area of analyzing diversity for all incoming undergraduate students. The courses focus on how differences are understood across human societies, how those understandings have changed over time and the consequences such understandings have on human development, flourishing and knowledge.
As it concerns economic diversity, we have increased our efforts to support first-generation college students through various programs on campus that provide financial, academic and social support, while leveraging our close-knit residential college system. The Rice Investment is among the most generous financial aid programs in the nation and greatly expands support for low- and middle-income families, eliminating tuition for many talented students.
To help undergraduate students feel more connected on campus, Rice has several programs geared toward facilitating students’ initial navigation of the university through connections with faculty, staff and peer leaders. The university also has programs that help students best transition into and benefit from our remarkably diverse community. Recently, two residential positions in the Office of Multicultural Affairs were created to provide focused support to the residential colleges through enhanced college-based advising and programming on issues related to cultural awareness and inclusivity — with one of the new positions focused particularly on LGBTQ+ life at the university.
There are several programs at Rice geared toward graduate students as well. One is the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Pathways Program, which acknowledges and affirms the unique challenges faced by its cohort through cross-disciplinary, community-based programming. It provides an inclusive space to empower and equip its members to thrive in every facet of their graduate careers.
The Emerging Leaders Postdoctoral Fellowship is another example. The fellowship is open to scholars of exceptional potential who have earned a Ph.D. within the last five years, and whose professional trajectory shows great promise for thoughtfully addressing equity issues in their respective disciplines through their research, teaching and/or service.
In addition to our work on attracting a diverse student body, we’ve also focused on recruiting diverse faculty and have hired our most diverse faculty classes over the past few years — doubling, for instance, the number of Black professors in the past five years and increasing our number of female hires.
Recruiting, developing and retaining a more diverse faculty informs complex problem solving and so is fundamental to the work of a great university. A more diverse faculty also helps to yield critical pedagogical and community advantages: more diverse perspectives in the classroom and in the residential colleges, and a greater range of role models and mentors for all students.
It is important too that the university continues to develop a wider range of institutional partnerships that reflect and strengthen the relationship between diversity and excellence at Rice. Our resolve to be a truly global university and our expanding collaborations with historically Black colleges and universities and community colleges both reflect this commitment.
At Rice, diversity, equity, inclusion and excellence underscores everything we do. They are foundational values of the university that we are committed to as a community and believe are essential to our continued success.
We look forward to working with all of you to strengthen our efforts related to diversity, equity and inclusion so that Rice remains a place that embraces a breadth of knowledge, thought, perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, all of which enable us to achieve excellence in all facets of our mission.