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Office of the Provost | Rice University | May 2021
A message from the Provost

Well, everyone, we did it. We concluded another spring semester at Rice and, I must say, this one was special because of the hints of normalcy it revealed and the hope it inspired for the future.
In just a few short months, about 80% of our 11,000 students, faculty and staff indicated through our voluntary survey that they’ve received either one or two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, we stopped requiring everyone on campus to wear a mask while they’re outdoors. Vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear a mask indoors either.
In another step toward normalcy, we held commencement in person. The university awarded more than 2,200 degrees to the Class of 2021 in two historic ceremonies in Rice Stadium. We also held a “make-up” ceremony for the Class of 2020. Over 500 alumni and their families attended.
As you will see in this newsletter, we’ve continued – no matter what – to move forward and to work toward our mission of serving our students and helping them achieve their goal of a Rice University education. We’ve created new programs, continued to hire top-notch faculty and staff, and maintained high-levels of teaching and research. These accomplishments are because of your continued flexibility, creativity, support and dedication, all of which I am proud of and grateful for.
In the fall, we are prepared to provide an experience for our students that looks more like it did prior to the pandemic. Face-to-face instruction in standard classrooms will be the norm, not the exception. With that said, we will continue to prioritize health and safety and adapt as necessary to current public health guidelines.
Adapting is something we have gotten good at and learned a lot from. Therefore, some of the things we implemented during the pandemic will carry over and will enhance the way we teach, do research and grow. Over the summer, I encourage you to reflect on what you have gained from these challenging times and ponder how they can make your work and Rice even better.
I also want you to take some time to relax and rebuild the enormous amounts of energy you spent this academic year on balancing the extraordinary demands at work and at home. I look forward to seeing you again in the fall.
Reginald DesRoches

Record number of grad students awarded National Science Foundation fellowships

The Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) is proud to announce the largest number of National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship awards to current graduate students in Rice’s history. Of the 44 Rice-affiliated awardees, 17 are current graduate students, seven are incoming grad students, seven are undergraduates and 13 are alumni. In addition, 18 Rice-affiliated students received honorable mentions. The GPS has a fellowship coaching program, run in part by past winners, that helps graduate students filter through various fellowships and their vigorous application processes. Its success can be witnessed in part by this year’s record crop of NSF winners. “Our coaches did a fantastic job by coaching 14 of our graduate student winners and four of six honorable mentions who were enrolled in fall 2020,” said Kim Gonzalez Hohlt, director of student advancement and career development in the GPS office, who was a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winner while pursuing her Ph.D. in biochemistry and cell biology at Rice. 

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Rice launches MEML degree, MEOS major

In the fall, Rice will offer a Master of Engineering Management and Leadership (MEML) degree to provide skilled engineers with the leadership and management training needed to become innovative leaders of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the emerging technology era known as Industry 4.0. Rice also will offer a new major, Managerial Economics and Organizational Sciences (MEOS), for students who dream of a career as a CEO and want the education and real-world experience that can get them there.

Creative writing program offers unique opportunity to learn from top scholars

Rice’s Department of English and its program in creative writing is more popular than ever before. The department announced a slew of exciting new hires last year, including a talented trio of some of the most well-known American writers within the genre. Assistant professor of creative writing Tomás Q. Morín is highly regarded for both his poetry and translations. Bryan Washington, whose debut novel was optioned by A24 Studios last year, teaches creative writing as the Scholar-in-Residence for Racial Justice at Rice. And, most recently announced, the critically acclaimed memoirist and essayist Kiese Laymon joins the faculty Jan. 1, 2022.

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Research Spotlight
19th-20th century German, Austrian literature 

Klaus Weissenberger, a professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures in the School of Humanities, has taught generations of students at Rice. He specializes in 19th- and 20th-century German and Austrian literature, poetry from Goethe to the present, nonfictional prose from antiquity to the present, and exile literature. He is also the author of a number of books on the German-Jewish poet Paul Celan, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, most famous for his approach to literature after Auschwitz and the Holocaust. In this edition's Research Spotlight, Weissenberger talks about his life’s work and his recent receipt of a Creative Ventures Subvention Fund award for the publication of "Lifelines: Paul Celan’s Poetry and Poetics."

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ORDI services, resources for faculty

The Office of Research Development and Infrastructure was established in 2011 with a mission of fostering Rice faculty members’ effectiveness in securing extramural support for their multi-investigatory, interdisciplinary, scholarly and research activities. In addition to supporting centers and institutes, ORDI provides a variety of resources and services to faculty across campus. Carlos Garcia, director of research development and infrastructure, talks about some of those services and resources and how you can take advantage of them.

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Houston Methodist, Rice launch neuroprosthetic collaboration  

Neurosurgery’s history of cutting diseases out of the brain is morphing into a future in which implanting technology into the brain may help restore function, movement, cognition and memory after patients suffer strokes, spinal cord injuries and other neurological disorders. Rice and Houston Methodist have forged a partnership to launch the Center for Translational Neural Prosthetics and Interfaces, a collaboration that brings together scientists, clinicians, engineers and surgeons to solve clinical problems with neurorobotics.

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Academic leadership update 
Architecture dean, department chairs named

Igor Marjanović, an architect, educator and curator, has been named the William Ward Watkin Dean of Rice Architecture, effective July 1. Marjanović comes to Rice from Washington University in St. Louis, where he is the JoAnne Stolaroff Cotsen Professor and chair of undergraduate architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. The search for a dean of the Shepherd School of Music is still in progress. Recent chair appointments include computational and applied mathematics (CAAM) professor Illya Hicks, who was named chair of the CAAM department effective July 1, and Bruce Hainley, who is joining the faculty at Rice as the new chair of the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts (VADA) in January. Hainley is currently chair of graduate art at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California.

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Faculty earn new posts, expanded opportunities for leadership, impact

Promotion and tenure mark major milestones in the academic lives of Rice faculty. Promoted and tenured faculty have met rigorous standards and have established national and international reputations in their respective fields. Promoted and tenured faculty in all disciplines play an integral role in advancing Rice’s mission. With these new posts comes expanded opportunities for leadership and impact in and out of the classroom and lab. Congratulations to all newly promoted and tenured faculty for their monumental achievements and significant contributions to the ongoing growth and success of academics at Rice.

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Faculty recognized for teaching excellence

Each year, Rice honors members of the university community who have served students through outstanding teaching, dedication and service. Rice economics lecturer James DeNicco took home the 2021 George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which honors outstanding teaching and the ability to truly connect with students. Nine Rice faculty received the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, which honors top instructors as determined by the votes of alumni who graduated within the past two, three and five years. Many others were honored for their hard work as well.

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In memoriam
Rice loses six community members

Rice recently mourned the deaths of three professors emeriti, an associate research professor, a longtime lecturer and the co-founder and longtime director of the university's Center for Education. Chandler Davidson, a longtime professor in the School of Social Sciences and one of the nation’s leading experts on voting rights, died April 10. Rex McLellan, professor emeritus of materials science and nanoengineering, passed away April 21. Professor Emeritus Reggie Dufour, a member of the Physics and Astronomy department and a key contributor to galactic astronomy research, died April 26. Stanislav Sazykin, an associate research professor of physics and astronomy who was highly respected in his field of space science, died May 3. Anita Kiperman, a longtime lecturer in the old Hispanic and Classical Studies department, passed away April 11, and Linda McNeil of the Center for Education died April 1. All will be greatly missed by the Rice community and beyond.

Class of 2021 graduates in historic in-person ceremonies at Rice Stadium
On May 14 and 15 in Rice Stadium, the university awarded 2,208 degrees to the Class of 2021. Rice also held a “make-up” ceremony for the Class of 2020 and over 500 alumni — and their families — leapt at the chance to return and celebrate. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof fulfilled his commitment to speak to the Class of 2020 and — because of the pandemic — included the Class of 2021 as well during this year’s unusual ceremony, which incorporated the 107th and 108th commencements. To all graduates, congratulations and fly high!

Third annual Club Awards held

The outstanding contributions of student leaders, organizations and club sponsors who have helped keep the university community engaged during a difficult school year were honored at the Rice Student Center’s third annual Club Awards. The Student Center even acknowledged Rice’s yearlong hybrid format with two new awards for 2021: In-Person Program of the Year and Virtual Program of the Year.

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The Office of the Provost is pleased to celebrate the many accomplishments of our faculty and staff. This list represents some of their most recent achievements. Please join the provost in congratulating them and the many others who have been recognized for their work.

Moody summer show spotlights Ruais' large-scale ceramic works 

Brie Ruais is one of the foremost young sculptors working in clay today, and Rice’s Moody Center for the Arts will host her first institutional solo exhibition this summer when “Brie Ruais: Movement at the Edge of the Land” opens June 5. During the opening reception, choreographer and Houston Ballet first soloist Oliver Halkowich will preview a new work across both galleries and outdoors, featuring two dancers and a musician. On June 12, the Moody’s Dimensions Variable program will present Halkowich’s full performance, as well as a hands-on ceramic workshop in collaboration with ClayHouston.

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Important Dates

May 17-Aug. 28
Sheila Hicks: "The Questioning Column"

May 17-23
Virtual Chamber Music Festival

7 p.m. 

May 25
Arianna Sforzini: "Rebellious Flesh": Virgins, Consecrated Women, and the Radicality of Conversion

11 a.m.

May 26
Benefits of U.S. Natural Gas Exports and Global LNG Context: Focus on Western States

9-11 a.m.

May 27
Hanging in the Balance: Mexico’s Midterm Elections and the Future of its Democracy

8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

May 27
Daniele Lorenzini: Foucault’s Genealogy of Modern Knowledge About Sexuality: From São Paulo to Confessions of the Flesh

11 a.m.

May 27
Vienna Gödel Lecture
Technology is Driving the Future, But Who Is Steering? From the Vienna Circle to Digital Humanism

5 p.m.

May 27-28
Cultures of Energy iX

June 1
Martina Tazzioli: “If the truth is turned against the colonised”: Exhaustive Verbalisation and the Impossibility of Truth-telling

11 a.m.

June 3
Mental Health in the Aftermath of COVID-19

10-11 a.m.

June 3
Achille Mbembe: A Conversation, followed by series commentary by James Faubion

11 a.m.

June 5
Brie Ruais: "Movement at the Edge of the Land" opening reception

6-8 p.m.

June 5-19
Rice Design Alliance 2021 Architecture Tour: UPWARDS

June 9
MCS@Rice Webinar
Computational Approaches to Infectious Diseases

1-2 p.m.

June 16
Kinder Institute Forum: Frederick Wherry

12:15-1:30 p.m.

June 16
Data Science Coast to Coast Ocean Dynamics Seminar: Laure Zanna and Miguel Jimenez-Urias

2-3 p.m.

June 17-21
Rice Design Alliance Traveling Program: Santa Fe, New Mexico

July 15
Watermark Scholars

Entry deadline
PO Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 | (713) 348-0000 |

If you would like to submit an idea for a story in the Provost Newsletter, please email Communications Specialist Kimberly Vetter at

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