Quality Enhancement Plan
QEP Plan Development
Reimagining the Undergraduate Experience at Rice University
The genesis of the QEP can be traced to the start of David W. Leebron's tenure as the seventh president of Rice University. During his inaugural semester as president, he began to outline an agenda for undergraduate education at Rice. First, President Leebron determined that Rice's approach to undergraduate education should be holistic: It should educate the whole person, inside and outside the classroom, by developing the broad base of knowledge that would serve students well throughout their lives. This would include efforts both to integrate the life of the mind with life inside the residential colleges and to make Houston a part of students' intellectual and academic experience. Second, the president suggested a re-orientation of the curriculum toward a liberal arts education that would arm undergraduates with the skills-in communication, leadership, creativity, and disciplined inquiry-essential to success in the 21 st century.
To encourage increased engagement with Houston, President Leebron initiated the Passport to Houston program in November 2004. This program provides undergraduates with a free pass for unlimited use on METRO public transportation systems (including the light rail and city buses) as well as unlimited, year-round access to cultural venues throughout Houston. In a demonstration of impact, more than 100,000 boardings on the METRORail and bus lines by Rice undergraduate students have been recorded since the program's inception. Average total boardings per month increased fifteen percent (15%) from the spring 2005 semester (10,154 boardings per month) to the fall 2005 semester (11, 913 boardings per month). During the fall 2005 semester approximately 1,663 students used the free admission provided by the Passport to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Houston Zoo (see Appendix G). 27 An additional 4,162 boardings by Rice students were recorded on Rice-provided shuttle buses to nearby shopping centers during the 2005 fall and spring semesters.
The Passport program has a companion website, www.rice.edu/passport, which effectively communicates the rich opportunities available to undergraduate students beyond the hedges of our campus, including invitations to attend Rice Night Events sponsored by the university and Passport partners such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Houston Zoo, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Symphony, and Da Camera of Houston, each averaging between 250 and 300 students in attendance. As one Rice undergraduate wrote about her experiences with the Passport:
Really, the best part of the Passport to Houston wasn't how much money I saved (though that was nice); it was knowing the latest Houston opportunities and transportation options available to me. If I hadn't gone to the Rice Night at the Symphony, I never would have known about the Randy Newman concert or the student discount tickets. If the bus routes to Hobby airport weren't posted at the Passport site with detailed directions, times, and maps, I never would have taken advantage of that mode of public transit. In short, thank you for this great program! I hope my personal account is a positive testament of the Passport to Houston! -Junior at Hanszen College
Early conversations concerning the QEP coincided with the development of Passport. Consequently, using Passport as an integral component of a QEP focused on civic engagement emerged as an important factor in the initial phase of the university's QEP development.
Another important factor in the QEP's early development was the creation of a new position, Dean of Undergraduates. The Dean of Undergraduates both replaces and augments the previous position of Vice President of Student Affairs. While the latter had been almost wholly concerned with students' lives outside the classroom, the new position oversees all aspects of undergraduate education. At the announcement of the new position in September 2004, President Leebron explained that the Dean's mandate was as follows:
[To] take a holistic approach to all spheres of undergraduate endeavor-from the classroom to campus life to engagement with the cultural and educational riches offered by the nation's fourth-largest city. The dean will assure that our concern for undergraduate education is fully reflected in every decision the university makes, especially with regard to the planning and development of the undergraduate curriculum… . This position and its related staff will preserve the best of the past, such as the open door students have for help, while closing the gaps between the education that occurs in labs and classrooms and that which takes place in the [residential] colleges, on the playing fields, in club offices, and off campus. 28
After a semester-long search, Dr. Robin Forman was named Dean of Undergraduates in January 2005. Forman's appointment sent a signal to the Rice community about the university's commitment to undergraduate education. At the time of his appointment, Forman was chair of the Department of Mathematics and Master of one of Rice's nine residential colleges. College Masters hold positions of unique experience, influence, and respect at Rice. Forman brings a new perspective to undergraduate affairs and a well-developed understanding of the faculty, curriculum, and the dynamic realities of students' academic, intellectual, and extracurricular lives.
Forman was appointed co-chair of the QEP Steering Committee (detailed below and in Appendix A) in January 2005. As co-chair of the Steering Committee, Dean Forman highlighted the importance the university attaches to the QEP and ensured that the QEP would be fashioned in consonance with the academic goals for the undergraduate experience.
Under Dean Forman's leadership, Rice sharpened its QEP planning process and formulated a plan that will not only help fulfill the president's hopes for a holistic undergraduate learning experience but also build on the university's strength in undergraduate research. A significant step in this regard was the decision to place the new Center for Civic Engagement in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates.
- Public transportation statistics provided by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), Rice University U.Pass Ridership Analysis November 2004-November 2005; attendance at cultural venues recorded by tracking systems coordinated by Passport partners. See Appendix G for more on METRO and Passport to Houston.
- "President's Letter to the Alumni and Parents," David W. Leebron, September 14, 2004, available at http://www.professor.rice.edu/professor/040914.asp.