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Quality Enhancement Plan

Appendix C: Letter to the Faculty on Community-Based Research Opportunities

July 15, 2005
Dear Faculty Colleagues:

As part of Rice's re-accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), we are asked to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that demonstrates a university-wide commitment to a multi-year focused course of action designed to enhance student learning. Although accreditation requirements are not often viewed as opportunities, we believe that the QEP provides Rice with a real chance to enhance student learning in a meaningful way.

The QEP is entitled "Engaging Urban Houston: Undergraduate Education in the City" and will focus on cultivating and expanding community-based research opportunities for our undergraduates. The logic is simple: Rice has already achieved distinction in its dedication to undergraduate research. The QEP now offers us the opportunity to build on that success, to forge collaborations with community partners, and to leverage the application of faculty and student intellectual capital for the benefit of our students, our city, our economy, and our quality of life. We believe that community-based research experiences will help students to think like practitioners in their fields and recognize that the methods of inquiry learned on campus have practical applications beyond the hedges. Equally important, community-based projects will force students to examine the social contexts within which work and choices occur and to wrestle with the additional complexity of interfacing with real people and real problems. Successful engagement of even a minority of undergraduates in community-based research will alter and enrich the very nature and content of conversation on campus, both in the classroom and across the dinner table. Similarly, increased faculty interest and participation in such projects will inevitably spill over into classrooms and laboratories, sparking the development of new courses and, we hope, additional interest among colleagues and students in civic engagement and the very real problems of urban Houston.

Student interest in community-based research and civic engagement and, thus, the success of the QEP will depend, above all, on faculty input, support, and participation. We can begin this process by learning from programs already in place. For example, many of you are already providing undergraduates with opportunities for experiential learning. Many more have forged ties with community partners in government, education, business, medicine, and the arts, and have focused at least a portion of your research endeavors on the problems of Houston. In the fall, the QEP committee, appointed by Provost Gene Levy, will organize opportunities for faculty to share their reflections on these projects, as well as discuss the benefits of undergraduate participation in them. At the same time, however, we ask that all members of the faculty not only share their thoughts on this effort, but also think boldly and anew about the character and place of undergraduate research in Rice's distinctive academic mission and fortuitous geographic location.

David and I hope that you will participate in this important initiative. Although the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates will be following up with faculty in a variety of forums this summer and fall, you may contact Matt Taylor at either ptt@rice.edu or x4997 directly with any questions or ideas regarding the Quality Enhancement Plan.


Robin Forman
Dean of Undergraduates

David Leebron