Rice alumni volunteers nurture ‘heart of the university’

Volunteer Leadership Conference

It only takes one person to make a difference, and when that one person joins several like-minded people, the impact grows exponentially. That’s why Rice Owls understand that the community is strongest when it works together to achieve a shared goal.

On May 18, Rice University’s Office of Alumni Relations brought together dedicated Owls from across Houston and the United States for the Volunteer Leadership Conference, an event designed to connect alumni volunteers across diverse roles at Rice and to amplify their impact through workshops, presentations and feedback engagements.

Amy Dittmar, the Howard R. Hughes Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, welcomed the group to the day of collaboration, followed by remarks from James Hurley, assistant vice president of alumni relations.

“Just a few weeks ago, we welcomed 2,000-plus ‘new’ alumni into our alumni community of 65,000 worldwide,” Dittmar said. “Your work is vital to supporting them and nurturing them into engaged alumni as they advance in their careers and lives. Alumni volunteer leaders like yourselves are, in many ways, the heart of the university and an invaluable sounding board when we are considering a new initiative or developing a new strategic plan.”

The event, held in Anderson-Clarke Center on campus, featured a variety of participants, including Rice faculty speakers Omid Veiseh, associate professor of bioengineering; Arthur Gottschalk, professor of composition and theory at the Shepherd School of Music; Luis Campos, the Baker College Chair for the History of Science, Technology and Innovation; and Kirsten Siebach, assistant professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences.

Several workshops and presentations were led by Alumni Relations staff, who work hand-in-hand with volunteers to advance the university and alumni community. Hurley and Tania Min ’90, ’92, the president of the Association of Rice Alumni Board, co-led a session on strategic planning, while Andrew Lin ’02, Kate Gunn Pagel ’05 and Ricky Mercado ’10 shared insights as part of a volunteer panel.

Throughout the day, the importance of continued involvement was echoed by volunteers’ testimonies.

“What makes Rice truly unique is its enduring sense of community. We’re a big part of sustaining that legacy for future Rice Owls,” said one attendee during a purpose-finding exercise.

The conference brought together some of the community’s most engaged, philanthropic and forward-thinking members to share what they enjoy the most about contributing to the ongoing success of the university and its endeavors — the place where they launched their own life paths.

“I volunteer at Rice because I was fortunate enough to get a really good scholarship to help me pursue my degree,” Mercado said. “Rice has given me a lot of opportunities careerwise, a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of great people. Volunteering is one way for me to give back to Rice.”

Others were quick to offer their supporting statements about what makes Rice such a valuable outlet to nurture growth.

“I volunteer for Rice because I really enjoy giving back to the community,” said Amy Good ’98 ’06. “I feel like Rice gave me a lot of opportunities to learn and grow in a really safe environment both for my undergraduate and my MBA at Rice. Whenever I come back and volunteer, I hear about some of the amazing things that our Laureate Award winners are doing or some of the faculty are doing here … we all know that Rice does good work, but it’s really amazing to see what’s happening at this university.”

Rice’s diverse alumni volunteer community consists of hundreds of volunteers serving in dozens of roles spanning reunion committees, regional volunteer groups, affinity groups, advisory boards, the Association of Rice Alumni board and more. Hailing from across the U.S. and world, the volunteers bring perspective and dedication to every role as they advance the university and enhance the impact of the alumni community.

For alumni looking to volunteer at the university, contact volunteer@rice.edu or visit alumni.rice.edu.