In the past two months, I have been repeating one consistent theme to anyone and everyone about my philosophy as your new dean of undergraduates. That philosophy is based on many years of teaching Rice students in the classroom and working with them in the colleges. Succinctly put, it is this: When we have high expectations for our students and when we articulate these expectations, our students will invariably meet or exceed them. This simple theme runs throughout the entire Rice student experience, from the classrooms to the colleges to athletic fields. Over my years at Rice, I have found this to be so consistently true that I am convinced that the single most important thing that we as a university can do for you as a student is to set high expectations.
Having said this, I am grateful to the Thresher for the opportunity to do as I say, to tell you what my own expectations are. I could provide a long and detailed list, but my list can be captured in two simple statements.
First, have high expectations for yourself individually. Let this be your mantra. Whether in the classroom, in the laboratory, in scholarly composition, in the recital or concert hall, on the playing field, track, pool, or court, in the studio, in community involvement or in college or organization leadership, set your sights at the highest level.
You are a Rice student, and the fact that you have chosen to come here is evidence alone that you must have high expectations. But it is worth sitting down to create your own list of expectations for your time at Rice.
At Rice, we choose to give you great flexibility in the curriculum with a wide variety of majors, minors, interdisciplinary programs and distribution courses. We leave it to you, with the help of your advisers, to define your choices and to set your priorities.
Years ago, we defined this as creating your "personal curriculum." Ask yourself, in your remaining semesters at Rice, what experiences and courses will you include in your personal curriculum? How will you challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone? Will you include an international study experience? Will you pursue scholarly research studies with a faculty mentor in your field? Will you reach out to the community you live in, inside of Rice or outside of Rice? Will you contribute to and learn from the full range of multicultural experiences in our diverse student body? Will you learn new skills in communication, writing, music or athleticism? To be clear, we expect you to do these things at Rice and we expect you to own the responsibility to integrate them into your personal curriculum.
Second, take care of each other. I recently commented that, of the many things I love about our students at Rice, the single greatest is the culture of care that exists among you. This is manifested in many ways, perhaps most conspicuously in O-Week where hundreds of you give up your time in the spring and summer as coordinators, advisers, fellows and mentors to assist your fellow students in finding their ways in their new community.
The list of your volunteerism continues on end. You serve as academic fellows and mentors, peer academic advisers, health advisers, multicultural facilitators, EMTs, caregivers and tutors. Beyond these defined roles, however, is the even greater responsibility each of you has to simply watch out for each other. Let us know if a fellow student is in distress or need. Expect of yourself that you will intervene when you see a fellow student behaving recklessly or endangering themselves or others. Contribute to our civic culture by abiding by the rules and policies of your college and your campus home. Stand up for each other, and know that others will stand up for you.
Rice is an extraordinary place to study and to live in largely because of the extraordinary people who are our students. We brought you here with the expectation that you will help us become even better. We hope that you came here expecting to do just that.
John Hutchinson is the dean of undergraduates.