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Engagement with Houston 

  • We must fully engage with the city of Houston—learning from it and contributing to it—as a successful partnership with our home city is an essential part of our future. We should do so by continuing to integrate Houston into the educational experience of our students, by emphasizing selective areas of research especially important to the city (notably energy and urban studies), by making tangible contributions to improve our city (particularly K–12 education and environmental quality), and by continuing to provide innovative educational and cultural resources to the broader Houston population.  

The relationship between Rice and Houston must shape our thinking about the future and our planning for the university. As a matter of educational philosophy, civic responsibility, and competitive advantage, Rice ought to be fully engaged with the city of Houston and capitalize on all that it has to offer. Gatherings with civic and corporate leaders to discuss the Call to Conversation affirmed how important it is for Houston to have a research university of national and international distinction. Rice cannot succeed without the support of this city, its leaders, and its institutions. Conversely, we do not believe that Houston can succeed in its ambitions without a first-class research university of national and international reputation like Rice.

Engagement with Houston begins with our academic mission. We have created numerous relationships with Houston that inform the scholarly work of our faculty and the intellectual conversations on our campus. We must continue to support the contributions our professors already make to better understand the challenges facing our city, and we must bring greater emphasis to energy, healthcare, and urban studies as centrally important arenas of research and activity. The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, the Rice Alliance, the Collaborative Research Center, and other interdisciplinary endeavors are central to our engagement with Houston.

We consider Houston an essential part of the education we offer to students as an urban university. We are already incorporating into our recruiting and admissions materials the many attractions and benefits of studying in America’s fourth-largest city. We believe that the city should be more accessible to our students in every way, and our efforts on this front have already produced measurable results.

Complementing the many volunteer and outreach programs already in place at Rice, the Passport to Houston—a program providing undergraduates free access to the light rail bordering our campus as well as to museums and other cultural institutions—and new shuttle bus routes to the Rice Village and area stores have allowed our students to take full advantage of what they can see and learn beyond the hedges.

We now seek to make Houston a more integral part of the formal education our students receive at Rice, making the city another laboratory for discovery through community-based research and learning experiences. Our ambition is to bring the city’s nonprofit and governmental organizations together with our talented undergraduates to work collectively on the range of pressing environmental, economic, social, and technological challenges in our community. Some of our students and faculty are already engaged in such projects, and we hope to extend these exciting learning opportunities to a wider range of interested undergraduates and professors.

We now seek to make Houston a more integral part of the formal education our students receive at Rice, making the city another laboratory for discovery through community-based research and learning experiences. 

Although Rice’s engagement with the city is far-reaching and diverse, we must recognize our responsibility as an educational institution to create opportunity and equality by opening our doors to our community. We have made and must continue to make a distinctive contribution to K–12 education in this city, through the training of teachers and by providing opportunities for students from underrepresented populations. We must continue to make available our tremendous educational and cultural resources to the many thousands of Houstonians who come to our campus, whether it be for continuing studies and business education—including professional development to help Houstonians advance in their current careers or begin new ones—or to take in a concert, lecture, or exhibit. We must strategically examine our hundreds of mutually beneficial collaborations to find even better ways for Rice to make a meaningful difference in our community. 

Rice from its founding has had a special relationship with Houston, and this relationship must form a central part of our ambition for the institution as we near the beginning of its second century.