Rice: The Next Century

Report of the Strategic Planning Committee


From its beginnings Rice has played an important part in the life of Houston and the surrounding region. In recent years, community interaction has advanced to a new level as a result of an extensive program of Continuing Education, the Jones School's Executive Development Program, the Architecture School's involvement in Houston redesign efforts and in local architectural projects, the Baker Institute's international conferences, a full calendar of concerts and recitals at the Shepherd School of Music, exhibitions in the University Art Gallery, presentations in the Media Center, and a number of other endeavors. It is true, however, that for a time the University appeared to be more reclusive than it had been in its early years, when the Rice Institute was the focal point of higher education in the region and an integral part of all town-gown exchanges. While recent efforts have helped to dispel this image of detachment, more is still to be done if we are to be perceived for what we in fact are - an institution that has much to offer the larger community and that has a strong commitment to active engagement beyond the hedges.

We believe that this increased extramural involvement can be a source of educational enrichment for the University at many levels. It can, for instance, generate and support interesting research projects. It is important, however, that all our efforts to form cooperative links with the community reflect our greatest strength - namely, the dedication to instruction and scholarship of the highest order. What we undertake to do beyond campus boundaries should grow naturally from what we regularly do within them.

To attain our goal we propose:

Initiative 24. We will ensure through the Advancement Office that the internal and external messages about Rice portray its values and mission widely and consistently.

The strengths and resources of Rice are in many ways a well-kept secret. Yet, the many opportunities that present themselves for communicating the ethos of Rice are not always utilized to the best advantage of the university. A comprehensive communications effort that advances the university's priorities can serve the university in many ways: for recruitment of students, faculty, and staff; for creating closer connections between the public and the university; for media exchanges; and for the support that comes from individuals, corporations, foundations, and not-for-profit organizations. A clear and consistent identity, with a focus on the core attributes that define Rice, will help promote a strong Rice presence in the larger community.

Initiative 25. Rice University will take a leadership role in its involvement with local, national and international communities, engaging in an increased variety of initiatives for this purpose.

Rice should seek to bring leadership and expertise to its interactions, helping to identify community needs as well as addressing them. Our primary commitment is of course educational, but within the University there are many persons whose knowledge and experience can be a valuable asset beyond the campus. We urge members of the University - faculty, staff, students and alumni - to consider additional ways of being engaged with the larger community, thereby broadening the range of our involvement and enhancing our visibility and reputation. Rice is an institution of international scope, and it is important that our contributions and interactions express this fact. The extent to which they do so will help determine the liveliness of our on-campus intellectual and social environment as well.

There are already several important vehicles for increased interaction. Currently, Rice faculty and staff are involved in no less than seventeen outreach programs intended to benefit K-12 public education in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. The city's desire that Rice be an active participant in the life of the city and the surrounding region is evident in Rice's involvement with the Greater Houston/Galveston Area Council, the Greater Houston Partnership, the South Main Council, and similar organizations. Likewise, RSVP provides Rice students with a valuable outlet for involvement with Houstonians. The experience students gain in assisting their fellow citizens is an essential component of their education. This program should be supported and enlarged.

The valuable goal of increasing the public's direct knowledge of what we do can be seen in the success of our Continuing Studies programs, the Shepherd School, and the University Art Gallery in attracting the community to the campus in substantial numbers. It can also been seen in the successful efforts of the School of Architecture, the Jones School of Business, and some of our professional graduate programs in extending Rice beyond the campus. The Houston Survey likewise establishes contact points throughout the region and provides useful information as well as important community experience for those who participate in conducting it or in framing policy alternatives from it. This too is a model of university-community interaction that could be emulated by others.

Some faculty and staff currently serve on professional committees and various non-profit boards throughout the country, shaping national and international policy and affecting practice. These activities should be encouraged further. At the national and international levels, these opportunities for faculty and staff to display their talents, research, and abilities can build bridges that will simultaneously enhance their knowledge and research and strengthen the reputation of the university.

Steps should be taken to make the public better informed about our Institutes and Centers. These can bring useful media attention to the University on those occasions when world or local events highlight areas of their interest and expertise. We also recommend the extensive use of information systems and the electronic media to keep the community informed about events and activities on campus. An on-line calendar, updated daily, would be of use even now, and progressively so in the future.

Rice's athletic programs offer another avenue for bringing people of varied backgrounds into closer relationship to the University. We suggest that fresh strategies be explored for expanding contacts, especially with young people from the region, perhaps on the basis of free admission to athletic events. Sports programs can be both a source of inspiration for the young and pleasure for adults. Further, some who come to cheer will stay to study and, not infrequently, to support one aspect or another of the University's agenda.

Initiative 26. We will enhance support for programs of community education at all age levels, employing a range of traditional and innovative formats, including electronic technologies and the expanded potential of KTRU.

Better use of electronic technologies is important if we are to fulfill our potential for educating those who are neither regular students nor enrolled in Continuing Studies courses. There should be experiments with offering courses from Rice over the Internet, with providing data to the public, and electronic exchanges with faculty in their subject fields. Alumni who now feel disconnected from the University could be brought into closer and more active relationship with their Alma Mater in this way. Taking life-long learning seriously means stimulating a commitment to it among our current students, alumni, and the broader public.

Rice has, as noted above, been involved in many efforts to provide knowledge and leadership in pre-collegiate education, K-12. Most notable are the collaborative initiatives with HISD that went into planning and starting The Rice School / La Escuela Rice. These are difficult and time-consuming endeavors, but they are of great importance as communities wrestle with the many problems of public education. Rice must accept its part of this responsibility, and those especially interested in these problems and local opportunities for confronting them would benefit if we maintained a central catalog of such projects.

The Strategic Planning Committee's interest in expanded interaction with the community and the University's interest in life-long learning led to enthusiastic discussions concerning the greatly enlarged broadcast capacity of KTRU. We believe it is appropriate to begin using this valuable resource in a variety of new ways that would supplement its current programming. The station provides an invaluable means for making the University's educational presence felt throughout this region, with a large population now within the range of its expanded and enhanced signal. All sorts of opportunities suggest themselves: the broadcasting of language courses; news and commentary; outstanding Rice lectures; interviews with scholars, scientists, artists and leaders who are visiting the University or the city; the broadcasting of concerts from The Shepherd School, radio drama... - the list goes on and excites the imagination. We recommend that a group of students, faculty, and staff be formed by the President to explore these possibilities. There is much to be learned from those universities that have had successful programs for a long time, such as WHA at the University of Wisconsin. An expanded KTRU could be a fine training ground for many students with disparate interests while providing a public voice for the University that could attract and enrich a large listening public.

Initiative 27. We will foster mutually beneficial partnerships with other institutions and organizations, and with industry.

Partnerships are a valuable means of exploring possibilities that would otherwise be beyond our reach. They can be formed with other institutions, public and private, with industry, with governments, and in some cases with individuals. Possibilities for partnerships and joint ventures with the institutions of the Texas Medical Center, NASA, and the University of Houston are especially promising. Through a sharing of resources, funds and knowledge, partnerships can open new research arenas to us, particularly in cross-disciplinary fields. Many research issues can now be addressed only on a global scale. Even large institutions can approach these questions only in cooperation with others. In many of these joint efforts important issues arise, such as intellectual property rights or the need for strong but flexible technology transfer programs for ideas and inventions that may have significant societal implications. We need to be at the forefront of the national and international discussions of these questions.

Such partnerships often involve international travel, emphasizing again the importance of foreign language skill and knowledge of other cultures. There is probably no better way to convince students of that importance than to place them in situations that require these skills and knowledge, in conjunction with projects and persons inherently interesting to them. Study abroad and student exchange programs have been discussed already in this report. We simply wish here to underline them again as essential to broadening our horizons at Rice, achieving throughout the University a greater sense of our regional and international context, and our expanded capacity for broad, stimulating interaction and leadership beyond the hedges.


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