Rice’s Social Policy Analysis students address pressing issues in final projects

SOPA poster event with students

With projects focused on rural food insecurity to juvenile mental health courts to teen health clinics, Rice’s graduating seniors and some juniors in the university’s Social Policy Analysis program gathered earlier this month to present and discuss these and other yearlong research efforts.

SOPA poster event with students

Presented via posters, the projects had one thing in common: addressing and offering potential solutions for pressing issues affecting people in Houston and across Texas. It’s something students are trained to do in the interdisciplinary degree program, housed in Rice’s School of Social Sciences.

“It’s really rewarding to see the fruits of all of the capstone team’s yearlong work come together in their final research paper and poster presentations,” said Melissa Marschall, a professor of political science and director of the program. “Several of this year’s teams also got to go to Austin to discuss their research and findings with legislators and state government officials.

SOPA poster event with students

“Their capstone projects are a great example of action-driven research. Their work has immediate implications for current policy and pressing social problems in Greater Houston and across the state of Texas. I’m really proud of all nine of this year’s capstone teams and grateful to all of the community partners and Rice faculty who advised and mentored them along the way.”

The community partnerships for the programs began in fall 2022, and students worked in teams with faculty advisers and community partners to address a variety of different issues.

SOPA poster event with students

“The capstone program allows the students, their faculty advisers and their community partners to work together as research collaborators,” said Libby Vann, director of community partnerships in the School of Social Sciences. “This collaboration facilitates high-level student knowledge acquisition, application and synthesis as well as significant capacity-building for our partner organizations, which include local and national nonprofits as well as governmental offices and agencies.”

The Social Policy Analysis program is focused on policy design, analysis and communication, with the primary goal of training Rice students to obtain the specialized knowledge, skill and experience to be leaders in the field. More information on the program is available here: