Faculty Senate Meeting - Senate Meeting Minutes: January 24, 2007
Meetings of the Faculty Senate are open to all members of the University community, but may be closed at the discretion of the Senate.
Meeting time 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. in Founder's Room, Lovett Hall (Entrance B)
II. Bylaws Issue: Definition of voting faculty - Jim Young and Duane Windsor
III. Proposal for an Interdisciplinary Minor on Financial Computation and Modeling - Kathy Ensor and Terry Doody
IV. Continuation of the discussion on undergraduate enrollment - Chris Munoz, Vice President for Enrollment
Proceedings from the Faculty Senate meeting will be posted once approved by the Senate.
January 24, 2007
Total attendance: Approximately 35
Senators present: Jose Aranda, Yildiz Bayazitoglu, Marj Corcoran (Speaker), Rebekah Drezek, Deborah Harter (Deputy Speaker),John Hempel, Brian Huberman, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Nancy Niedzielski, Anthony Pinn, Dale Sawyer, David Schneider, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, James Weston, Duane Windsor, James Young
Senators absent: Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Michael Deem, Christian Emden, Matthias Henze, David Leebron (ex officio)
A verbatim recording of the proceedings is available by contacting the Faculty Senate at 713-348-5630.
Faculty Senate Speaker Marjorie Corcoran called to order the Faculty Senate meeting at 12:05 pm.
The November minutes were circulated by email and several corrections were submitted. Per the Bylaws of the Faculty Senate, if there are amendments to the minutes, they must be approved at a Senate meeting. The minutes, as revised, were moved and seconded. The November minutes were approved as amended.
Ric Stoll, Chair of the Working Group on Course Evaluations, reported that the course evaluation response rate for Fall 2006 did not rise to the level desired. The competition between the residential colleges was not successful, so the working group is considering other options and will make a recommendation for Spring 2007.
A faculty member in history asked the Senate to consider making a statement about Rice University’s involvement in athletics. The request was received too late to be considered for the January Senate meeting, but the Executive Committee will consider the agenda item request at its next meeting.
A plenary faculty meeting is scheduled for January 25, 2007, at 4 pm in McMurtry Auditorium. Faculty will approve degrees awarded in the fall semester and hear about the Fall 2006 actions of the Faculty Senate.
II. Bylaws Issue – Definition of Voting Faculty:Jim Young presented two possible definitions of faculty eligible to vote in plenary session.
Young recommended Option A, which reads as follows: In plenary sessions, the voting faculty comprises all those who can vote in Senate elections and are either (i) tenured and tenure-track faculty; (ii) research faculty; (iii) non-tenure-track faculty who teach at least three courses per academic year and are on a two semester annual or longer appointment; (iv) any other faculty classified as benefits eligible. All voting faculty may vote on all matters brought before the session.
Deborah Harter asked whether the only difference between the options was the statement referring to benefits eligibility: Option A simply used the term “benefits eligible” while Option B specified the term “benefits eligible” as defined in a particular version of the benefits policy. Young confirmed Harter’s understanding of the difference between the two versions. Duane Windsor added that Option B was drafted to address a preference expressed at a prior Senate meeting, but Young pointed out that Option B would become administratively unfeasible with any future changes in policy. Windsor made it clear that, while the working group drafted two options, the members agreed that Option A presented the better solution.
Young listed the concerns he had heard about use of simply the term “benefits eligible.” The term “benefits eligible” is defined by the administration, and some faculty feared that the administration would either open the floodgates to make many more faculty benefits eligible, and thus eligible to vote, or tighten the requirements so that very few faculty members would be benefits eligible, and thus eligible to vote. The other expressed concern was more philosophical in nature. Some believed that by using the term “benefits eligible” to define plenary voting faculty, the Senate was deferring to the administration its responsibility to define plenary voting faculty.
Given that part four of the proposed definition states that all benefits-eligible faculty may vote in plenary session, Yildiz Bayazitogluasked whether it was necessary to include parts one, two, and three. Young understood Bayazitoglu’s logic, but explained that the expanded definition guarantees that tenured and tenure-track faculty, non-tenure-track faculty who teach at least three courses per academic year and are on a two semester annual or longer appointment, and research faculty will always be able to vote, regardless of whether they are eligible for benefits. By specifically defining these faculty categories as eligible to vote, the Senate prevents their potential loss of voting rights with any change in the university’s definition of “benefits eligible” but does not prevent the potential addition of faculty voters who may be defined as “benefits eligible” in the future. Windsor preferred using the specific language to prevent the group of eligible voters from shrinking. He found it unlikely that the definition of “benefits-eligible” would be expanded to create a surge in the number of eligible voters.
Referencing an earlier statement, Mike Stern asked how the current definition of “benefits-eligible employee” affected Shepherd School of Music (SSM) faculty. Ben Kamins explained that the current benefits policy includes a requirement that a faculty member teach three classes. Much of the SSM work involves one-on-one teaching rather than class instruction. Bob Yekovich, Dean of theShepherd School, added that the Human Resources Office utilizes a formula to comparably measure benefits-eligibility for SSM faculty. Kamins pointed out that using the definition of “benefits eligible” from a particular version of the benefits policy would exclude 20% of the SSM faculty (9 faculty members) who are currently benefits eligible.
John Hempel offered an amendment to grammatically correct the “either – or” statement in Option A. The amendment was accepted as friendly.
Bayazitoglu suggested rolling part three, non-tenure-track teaching faculty, into part four, the benefits-eligible faculty, and adding a contingency by which the constituencies listed in parts three and four may vote only after their second year of service at the university. While a similar condition was included in the former definition of voting faculty, Young noted that the working group found the provision to be overly restrictive. Previous Senate discussions tended toward not including that restriction. Bayazitoglu thought that such a condition would help retain the right to vote for those faculty members most familiar with university operations. Youngquestioned why new tenure-track assistant professors should not, then, be limited by the same two-year service, and Bayazitogluresponded that such appointments generally have a minimum of a three-year contract, adding that those faculty stay longer than non-tenure-track teaching faculty.
Gautami Shah believed that if both tenured and tenure-track faculty and non-tenure-track research faculty were to be specifically defined as voting faculty, the same protections should be afforded non-tenure-track teaching faculty. The Senate should not assume that non-tenure-track teaching faculty will be captured under the “benefits eligible” designation. Additionally, Shah pointed out that both tenure-track assistant professors and non-tenure-track teaching faculty begin their first year on the job with the same base of information and knowledge about the university, so she could not see why only one of the two groups should be given the right to vote. If the decision is a question of commitment, Shah noted that many non-tenure-track faculty sign longer term contracts, which, while not permanent, come with a commitment from faculty to perform well and a commitment from the university to retain these faculty.
Joe Warren found Option A to offer two advantages: (1) it will be fairly simple to administer and (2) it explicitly defines the majority of the voting population, preventing possible manipulation of the voting population by changing the definition of “benefits eligible.” After listening to discussion in the Faculty Senate and the Executive Committee, Warren recognized the difficulties in micromanaging a definition and found “benefits eligible” to be a reasonable guiding principle.
Kamins pointed out that the current proposal actually excludes fourteen SSM faculty members from voting. While the decision might not seem fair on a case-by-case basis, a line of demarcation must be chosen.
Harter preferred to keep language as simple as possible, but after serving on the Nominations and Elections Committee, she found that the more detailed guidelines were easier to use. Non-tenure-track teaching faculty will remain a reality among Rice faculty, and she believed that they should be explicitly enfranchised.
There was no further discussion. The motion was moved and seconded with the friendly amendment. As an amendment to theConstitution of the Faculty Senate, the proposal required a two-thirds vote of the full Senate membership in order to pass. Twenty-one Senators voted in favor and one opposed the motion. The amendment to the Constitution was approved.
III. Proposal for an Interdisciplinary Minor in Financial Computation and Modeling:Kathy Ensor, Chair of the Department of Statistics and Director of the Center for Computational Finance and Economic Systems (CoFES), presented the proposal sponsored jointly by the Department of Statistics and the Department of Economics.
The program is designed to appeal to quantitatively-oriented students who are interested in finance. The job market for this type of student is substantial, and many Rice students have received job opportunities in the finance industry without this training. The purpose of the minor is to educate students so that they can become leaders in the industry, not just members of the workforce.
Ensor outlined the structure of the program. Students must have the appropriate quantitative background (e.g., Calculus) before taking the courses required. The basic tools section grounds the students in economic theory, statistical tools, and probability. After completing the basic tools, students focus on courses specific to the finance industry, including finance theory and quantitative work.
The program has been offered on a more informal basis for several years, and both the Department of Economics and the Department of Statistics are committed to this effort. Ensor thought it would be beneficial for the students to receive a minor for completing the program.
Ensor added that many students have participated in related undergraduate research projects. She noted that primary funding for some of the statistics-related research has come from a National Science Foundation grant for vertical integration in education. While she could not promise that the same resources would always be available to students, Ensor said that the faculty objective was to engage students in both the program and related research.
Corcoran asked how the proposed minor differed from the program currently offered. Ensor replied that, as compared to the CoFES certificate program that was proposed five years ago, more flexibility has been allowed in the curriculum. Additionally, a key background course that was not formerly required has now been added. Corcoran asked whether students currently receive a certificate if they complete the outlined courses. Ensor said that students receive a letter from her stating that they completed the curriculum.
Evan Siemann asked if this proposal had come before the Senate because it was an interdisciplinary minor or because all minors come before the Senate. Corcoran clarified that this particular proposal came before the Senate because it spanned two departments and thus was interdisciplinary. Proposals for minors within departments that already offer an undergraduate major will not come before the Senate.
Young inquired about the number of prerequisites for the required courses. By definition, a minor generally consists of at least six courses, but if a large number of prerequisites are required, then the minor actually consists of many more courses. While he recognized that courses for any minor may have prerequisites, Young wondered whether the typical student already would have taken those prerequisites or whether they would have to take them as additional courses.
Ensor said that the minor in Financial Computation and Modeling targeted quantitatively-oriented students rather than the general Rice student. Calculus is a primary prerequisite, and while no single course in the minor requires a computing course, Ensor highly recommended that students have one. Students will need technical training, but Humanities students who wish to commit to quantitative studies can do so. Flexibility in the selection of economics courses was designed so that students would not be required to take a substantial number of economics courses as prerequisites.
Warren asked how many students were anticipated to receive the minor each year. Based on course enrollments, Ensor thought that approximately 15 students would be awarded the minor each year. However, when originally proposed, the program targeted 25 students, and she thought that the minor would aim to reach that enrollment before leveling off.
Corcoran asked if most of the students were anticipated to be economics majors. Ensor said that the minor was designed to open the curriculum to other students. At this time, a majority of the students are pursuing joint majors between Statistics and Economics, but the objective is to draw in students from other majors. With a cohesive curriculum for which students can receive recognition, the hope is that the minor will attract scientists and engineers. The minor is designed to prepare students for the finance industry, a market which Rice students often enter even without benefit of the proper background.
Bayazitoglu asked why the minor was not titled Financial Engineering, which seemed the most appropriate description. Ensorresponded that the Enron scandal gave that terminology a negative connotation.
Terry Doody, Chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), reported that the CUC voted very strongly in favor of the minor. Two types of questions arose during discussion. Undergraduates on the committee questioned whether the minor would offer new opportunities for building a misrepresentative resume of majors and minors. Committee members also questioned the future of double majors, given the addition of minors to the curriculum. Doody expected the issue of majors and minors to continue to arise as a structural question in the context of the entire curriculum discussion.
Harter thought that the content of any discussion on the subject of majors and minors would be useful for the Senate to know before it considered the approval of any additional minors. When the Senate approved the process for creating minors, the use of majors and minors was one of the concerns that was voiced.
Young asked if the students were concerned that they would no longer be allowed to pursue a double major. While he found it difficult to determine exactly, Doody thought that the committee, in general, was not strongly in favor of double majors. A more traditional set-up would be for students to pursue majors and minors. At the moment, Rice’s curriculum seems to be dominated by the number of required hours necessary to complete a degree in engineering. Humanities students at peer institutions take four, rather than five, courses. Rice students take, as a matter of course, more courses with more requirements, but they don’t understand that a double major doubles their requirements but not necessarily their possibilities. Corcoran believed that the issue of students doing too much would arise during the curriculum review, but she found it to be beside the point on this particular proposal.
Doody noted that the CUC is already considering another minor proposal. By comparison, the proposal under consideration in the Senate today seems to be efficiently conceived because it frames existing courses under a new rubric and does not expand the curriculum or faculty responsibilities.
Randy Stevenson found Doody’s last point to be extremely important in setting a precedent for future Senate actions on minors. When the proposal for creating interdisciplinary minors was written, one of the requirements was that an interdisciplinary minor must offer something new. Stevenson thought that the current proposal should be approved, but pointed out that it seemed to fall under the classification of “a program already in place” becoming a minor.
Stevenson cautioned that when the Senate receives a proposal where a program is completely new, the proposal should be scrutinized more carefully to determine whether it truly offers something new to the curriculum. At the time the process for creating a minor was approved, there was serious concern that the Senate not be flooded with a multitude of course groupings designated as minors. Consideration of the current proposal should not be a model for consideration of interdisciplinary minors because the current proposal codifies an already coherent program.
Shah asked whether it would be possible for a student majoring in either Economics or Statistics to fulfill the requirements for this minor by simply taking a couple of additional courses. Ensor said that students majoring in Statistics or Mathematical Economic Analysis could complete the minor relatively easily by focusing their efforts within those two departments. However, while such machinations might occur, Ensor reminded the Senate that the minor is designed to appeal to other quantitatively-oriented Rice students who do not wish to take a full statistics or economics curriculum. Hervé Moulin, Chair of the Department of Economics, added that the minor was designed to require a lesser commitment than a double major but to provide a meaningful experience and to signal the job market about the skills acquired by these students.
Understanding that the program hoped to attract from 15 to 25 students from fields such as science and engineering, Stern asked what types of students pursued the current program. While Ensor did not have exact demographic information, she believed that the best-represented department was Electrical Engineering.
The proposal was moved and seconded. The Minor on Computational Finance and Modeling was approved unanimously.
IV. Continuation of Discussion on Undergraduate Enrollment: Before discussion began, Dale Sawyer, Chair of the Committee on Admission and Student Financial Aid, informed the Senate of changes to the committee’s work. Prior to this year, the primary task of the committee members was to read applications for undergraduate admission and to provide comment to the Office of Admission. Based on recommendations from the former committee chair and consultation with Chris Munoz, Vice President for Enrollment, and Julie Browning, Dean for Undergraduate Enrollment, the undergraduate admission process no longer involves faculty review of applications from non-athletes.
Sawyer has been working with Munoz and Browning to determine the appropriate role for the committee. This semester, school-oriented subcommittees will be asked to identify admission flags – activities and achievements that admission officers can use to identify exceptional students – and to begin to define the types of students that the schools are seeking. He reassured the Senate that each subcommittee will be asked to talk with the Deans and department chairs for input into the process.
Sawyer added that the committee will also be considering the size and charge of the committee for the long term. The Office of Admission would like the committee to become more focused on student recruitment, and the committee will consider carefully selected ways in which it can assist the process of growing the student body in a quality way.
Corcoran asked that the Senate be informed of the results from the effort to define the types of students that the schools are seeking.
Chris Munoz, Vice President for Enrollment, reviewed the information he originally covered in his November presentation. (See the November minutes for complete details.) He displayed statistics from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education showing the projected decline in total number of high school graduates. Within that total population, however, the numbers of Hispanic graduates and Asian-American graduates were expected to grow, the number of African-American graduates was expected to remain steady, and the number of Caucasian graduates was expected to decline.
Gene Levy asked how high school graduation rates within each population might affect the total number of high school graduates in the coming years. Munoz reported that, based on reports from some districts, the high school graduation rate for Hispanic students is approximately 50%. African-American students graduate at a slightly higher rate, and Asian-American students graduate at a much higher rate. The graduation rate for Caucasian students is higher than that for African-American students but lower than that for Asian-American students. Given these statistics, Levy mused that from a broader social perspective, efforts should be focused on increasing high school graduation rates in certain demographic groups. Munoz agreed with Levy’s point in terms of what was best for the common public good, but he was focused on how the demographic shift would relate to Rice’s goals.
Kamins asked how an individual with two ethnic backgrounds was classified in the statistics. Munoz answered that students or parents select how students are identified, but he did not believe that fact significantly impacted the data.
Corcoran commented that while the university community emphasizes SAT scores in its discussions, she believed that once student scores reach a certain level, incremental increases do not predict better performance at Rice. James Weston expressed his amazement at the fact that he often heard debate on the correlation between SAT scores and performance, yet he had never seen any data presented.
Based on background information that he had gathered, Schneider reported that to the extent that grade point average serves as performance criterion, SAT scores at less selective universities show a higher correlation with academic performance than is found at more selective universities, where a smaller range of SAT scores are seen. While Schneider thought that SAT scores could be predictive for certain purposes, he believed that the issue was one that Rice should be studying for itself.
Munoz believed that the marketing factor also must be taken into account when discussing average SAT scores. While it may not be correct to judge a university based on the SAT scores of its students, a tremendous number of prospective students and families do just that. Consideration must be given to the potential consequences of reducing Rice’s SAT scores to meet other goals, such as geographic, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. Such a change could impact the prestige of Rice University.
Munoz serves on the advisory committee to U.S. News & World Report, and he reported that the group is seriously considering changing the weights assigned to its ranking factors in order to emphasize outcomes as opposed to inputs. According to the model currently in use, Rice’s retention and graduation rates should be higher than they are. A shift in emphasis could potentially affect Rice’s ranking, and it is unknown whether the market will be upset by such a change.
Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates, explained that Rice’s six-year graduation rate is 91%; however, the formula utilized by U.S. News & World Report predicts that, based on the SAT scores and grade point averages of incoming students, Rice should have a 94% graduation rate. In its calculations for rankings, U.S. News & World Report utilizes a comparison of real rate versus expected rate, resulting in a negative score for Rice.
Young pointed out that the output measure is biased on input measures. Levy noted that, in order to have an intelligent conversation on the subject, the issues of student retention and graduation rates need to be better understood. He believed that there was a tendency to think of those students who elect to leave as failures of the educational system. In fact, students might leave because of academic trouble, but they often decide of their own volition to transfer to another university. The university must understand why students make the decision to leave in order to address the issue. Forman noted that Rice has both healthy transfer-out and transfer-in rates. Rice is viewed in higher regard by its peers than by some of the students in the market, so a strong performance at Rice may be seen as providing a means to transfer to an Ivy League school.
Bayazitoglu asked whether Rice could identify those students who leave to go to another university versus those who leave because they fail at Rice. Levy said that the latter category was too small to have statistical significance. He agreed that a lot of work could be done to learn about the students who leave Rice. Bayazitoglu questioned why departures should work against Rice in the rankings, especially given that the students who transfer are marketable to other universities.
Munoz believed it was important for the university to evaluate and analyze what might be changed to incrementally improve satisfaction. U.S. News & World Report basically uses the act of leaving the university as a metric of dissatisfaction and shares it with consumers. Munoz reminded the Senate that undergraduate rankings are the top seller for U.S. News & World Report and potentially wield a lot of power.
Munoz shared statistics for the group of students who took the SAT in 2006. Of the 1.4 million students who took the exam, slightly more than 10% scored higher than 1300. Within specific subgroups of the 1.4 million test-takers: 11.7% of Caucasian students, 18% of Asian-American students, 3.2% of Hispanic students, and 1.4% of African-American students had a score higher than 1300. Sixty-five percent of the students who scored higher than 1300 were Caucasian. He reminded the Senate that the population of Hispanic students is predicted to grow and the population of Caucasian students is predicted to decline. Munoz added that Caucasian families have higher median incomes between the ages of 45 and 55 than Asian-American, African-American, and Hispanic families. The College Board’s data shows a high correlation between family income and test scores – the higher the test scores, the higher the family income and vice versa.
Munoz outlined Rice’s goals for the growth of its undergraduate population. To begin, President Leebron has made it clear that maintaining the university’s academic profile trumps any other goals that the university may have. Other goals include increasing the undergraduate student body by 30%, improving diversity, and changing the geographic composition of the class. All efforts are to be made to accomplish these goals, but not at the cost of the quality of the students that Rice enrolls.
Tony Pinn asked what realistic strategies were in place for improving diversity. Munoz said that he is expected to develop a strategy and will engage a number of others in the process to devise that plan. While he brings experience to the table, Munoz recognizes thatHouston is not Cleveland and that Rice University is not Case Western Reserve University. Differences in cultures and other variables must be taken into account, and an intentional process must be devised.
Pinn asked whether the university might rethink the 1300 SAT score marker given the small number of minority students who score above that range. Based on his experience, Munoz believed that the university must reconsider the role of SAT scores in some cases, but the university community must have sufficient understanding of the issue to embrace such a cultural shift. Sufficient conversation will help ensure that when a new strategy is implemented, the entire Rice community, including faculty and students, will be as welcoming as possible.
Pinn asked whether Rice’s competitors were making use of the same 1300 SAT score marker. Munoz surmised that universities with a stronger market position than Rice would not extend themselves in the same way that Rice might. To meet its goals, Rice must look beyond SAT scores to identify very capable students who might need support not currently offered at Rice, but who will ultimately be very successful. Munoz thought that the university’s growth will allow the community to consider students whose qualities fall outside of the current profile.
Pinn believed that, if Rice was interested in diversity, it should rethink the 1300 SAT score as a marker. Corcoran agreed. Pinnthought that the 1300 threshold eliminated from consideration some very talented high school students who are very capable of doing the work at Rice. Many students are aware of the love/hate relationship between Rice and the larger Houston community, and they have found nothing about Rice that is welcoming to them. While very capable of succeeding at Rice, these students are more likely to apply to Texas Southern University or to the University of Houston.
Nancy Niedzielski reported that high school students seem to sense a conflicting message: Rice welcomes diversity, but, based on test scores, only a small percentage of students from diverse backgrounds will be welcomed as Rice students. With information about SAT scores made public, students get the feeling that they will not fit at Rice. Many high school students to whom Niedzielski has talked have commented that they do not see a point in applying to Rice. Even those with scores close to 1300 have already heard that they will not be welcome on campus.
Schneider seconded Niedzielski’s comment, adding that African-American students often tell him that they do not necessarily like Rice very much, but they will get through it. Upon arrival, one of the first things that they hear is other students bragging about their SAT scores. Students who have lower SAT scores immediately feel like they do not belong. Schneider also clarified that the SAT score of 1300 is not a cutoff point; in fact, plenty of students at Rice scored lower than 1300. Students with lower scores often have initial start-up issues and need a little extra boost freshman year, but once students gain some self-confidence, most do just fine. He wanted the Senate to avoid fixating on a particular SAT score. Schneider recognized that if Rice wants to increase diversity, the SAT score may need to be less important in the admission process.
Munoz recognized that some faculty will understand and champion the issue, but others will not. The type of welcoming behavior he hopes for is reflected in what faculty members might do when an underrepresented student who is struggling sits down in their office. Munoz had heard that Rice can have a “sink or swim” mentality. Support might be available from some, but to provide a welcoming environment it would need to extend across the community. Munoz said that Rice must methodically study the environment in order to determine what will need to happen to make a change.
Harter believed that momentum would be needed in order to make a change. She thought that seven or eight ideas should be implemented at once in order to create a group of changes that might together have some hope of making a difference. She recommended a large number of merit scholarships geared toward attracting students who may not boast typically impressive SAT scores but whose applications nevertheless indicate outstanding talent. Harter also suggested that Rice’s academic culture may be an issue for all students. Students work incredibly hard, taking five courses rather than four and pursuing double majors. She saw a need for change so that a bright student who might have other responsibilities could still succeed at Rice.
Peter Mieskowski asked Munoz to outline his plan for reaching the university’s goals. He read that Princeton is increasing its enrollment and Yale is considering increasing its enrollment, and in both cases the reason given is that the size and quality of their applicant pools has increased. It seemed to Mieskowski that lowering expectations for SAT scores would only be one part of an overall strategy.
Kamins described a student-run program in which the SSM brings high school students to campus for two or three concerts each semester. Part of the purpose is for the students to see a concert, but it also gives them an opportunity to see the university and to imagine whether Rice is a possibility for them. Kamins thought that Munoz might consider this program or others like it for a long term investment.
Munoz agreed that Kamins’ idea could be applied in a much more targeted approach. Part of the challenge is understanding what prospective students and families really know about Rice. Once the university garners that information, a communication strategy appropriate to a given segment can be shaped.
Munoz is employing approaches and tool sets normally found in the for-profit sector in order to devise a long-term strategy for Rice. Mathematical predictive modeling will help identify various segments of students who have the highest propensity or probability of being receptive to the messages that Rice offers. At Rice’s current performance level, the prospect pool must grow from more than 50,000 to more than 90,000 and the applicant pool must grow from 8,900 to 13,900 in the next five years. Understanding the pool of prospective students is imperative in order to use business and marketing principles to cultivate them. To that end, a positioning and pricing study is currently underway. Following those results, a communication strategy will be devised and various messages tested in order to guide Rice’s marketing message.
Siemann asked whether Rice has particular success attracting students in certain divisions or majors. Munoz said that those issues would be studied in context of the data gathered through the positioning and pricing study.
In his experience, Munoz found that when trying to extend a university’s geographic reach, the emphasis must be on the academic aspects of the university. When attempting to attract students located closer to the university, other variables, such as the collegiate experience, pop-up as part of the initial consideration set. Until Munoz arrived, Rice had not systematically collected that type of information on prospective students, and consequently the university could not reliably identify a group of students interested in Rice and communicate with them based on their interests.
Munoz believed that while Rice is in the league with the Ivy League schools, the university will want to position itself against universities such as Emory and Vanderbilt. He asked faculty to imagine the amount of teaching, resources, and funded research required to compete with the very top institutions and to consider the realistic commitment that the university can make to these goals.
Corcoran asked whether Ivy League schools differed from Rice more in reputation than in the quality of their programs. Munozadmitted that Harvard has a halo effect but pointed out that Rice must come up with very intentional and compelling arguments if it hoped to draw from Harvard’s market share. Munoz noted that Harvard has a college system and asked whether Rice’s residential college program could be considered distinctive.
Forman believed that Rice’s college system is distinctive because students are admitted to their upper class colleges as freshmen. Other schools have freshman dorms; however, those schools are also in the process of transitioning to systems more similar to that at Rice. Princeton is building its first four-year residential college. Harvard is finding ways to integrate freshmen into the upper-class colleges while living in their freshman dorms. As those schools make changes, Rice’s residential college system will no longer be distinctive.
Munoz posed a few final questions to the Senate. What does Rice want to be? How can it position itself for the future? Given that other universities are emulating Rice or ratcheting up their financial war chests, how will Rice compete? Munoz reminded Senators that Rice must look beyond the short term to thoughtful conversations about the long term.
Munoz thanked the Senate for its time and planned to share the results of the positioning and pricing study. Corcoran asked what the Senate could do to help with the challenge of growing the undergraduate population, and Munoz thought that the next step would be a conversation on the more practical tactics for addressing the challenge. He suspected that many amazing students had been admitted to Rice but elected not to enroll. Something must change to improve students’ likelihood of enrollment, and Munoz believed that it will require focused contact between admitted students and faculty members.
V. Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 2:04 pm, with the next Faculty Senate meeting scheduled for February 28, 2007.