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Rice students: Continue to give back to your home

(09/06/17 4:53pm)

Over the last week, more than 2,000 Rice students, faculty and staff signed up to help rebuild the city we all call home through the Rice Harvey Action Team collaborative. They have volunteered nearly 8,000 hours, waking up before the sun rises and working long after it goes down. The Rice community’s sense of civic duty has been inspiring to everyone; however, we can and should ask more of each other.







Competition causes food waste reduction

(11/18/15 9:33am)

Thresher StaffThe Zero Waste Campaign’s first Food Waste Reduction Competition led to a 23.3 percent reduction in waste at Sid Richardson College Kitchen, a 15.8 percent reduction at West Servery and an 11.1 percent reduction at Baker College Kitchen, according to Baker College Eco-Rep Travis Kwee. The numbers from South and North Serveries are still being calculated.Kwee, a sophomore, described the many environmental effects of food waste and the possibility of resolving the issue.“Many organizations independently came up with the idea that food waste is a huge issue that extends to many other issues such as water shortages, world hunger and methane emissions” Kwee said. “It spans multiple issues and is easily solvable by pushing people to change their lifestyles to decrease food waste.”The Student Association Environmental Committee, Eco-Reps, Environmental Issues: Rice into the Future (ENST 302) class and the Rice Environmental Club collaborated to create the Zero Waste Campaign.SA Environmental Committee Co-Chair and Eco-Rep Kira Bre Clingen said she looks forward to the potential longer term effects the waste campaign could have, including composting initiatives, more sustainable energy sources and separate instead of single-stream recycling.“We’re definitely seeing more awareness and also more of an interest about actively engaging in conversations about the environment” Bre Clingen, a Duncan College senior, said. “This is about raising awareness and fighting against the culture of apathy towards environmental issues that Rice has. Wiess College New Student Representative Avery Jordan said the Food Waste Reduction Competition could be repeated annually.“We’ll be sending out a final survey to all the colleges and students to get feedback on how many people we reached and what we could have done better,” Jordan said.Emily Foxman, Lovett College Eco-Rep and a student in the ENST 302 class that co-sponsored the campaign, talked about the future of combatting food waste on campus.“Our long-term plan is based on education initiatives,” Foxman, a sophomore, said. “We want to keep up the posters that we have in some of the serveries. We’re trying to determine if there’s a correlation between the posters that are up and the difference in waste reduction between serveries.”For the competition, servery staff weighed trash from different colleges six times over the course of two weeks, then weighed five meals during the week of the competition. The numbers from the two periods were then averaged individually and compared to produce a percentage decrease. The final results will be announced this week and a follow up weighing will occur in December to judge the permanent effects of the campaign.The campaign also included a clean plate challenge, in which individuals were encouraged to take pictures of themselves and their empty plates.


Rice looks to improving experiential learning with QEP

(10/20/15 7:53pm)

Rice University has identified experiential learning as the focus of its next Quality Enhancement Plan, according to QEP Planning Committee co-chair Robert Stein. Rice’s reaccreditation process occurs every 10 years and requires a five-year plan to improve all students’ academic experience. The previous QEP centered on civic engagement and resulted in the creation of the Center for Civic Engagement in 2006, which has since become the Center for Civic Leadership.Stein said a committee formed in the spring of last year developed two proposals; one centered on oral and visual communication and the other on experiential learning. President David Leebron chose to pursue experiential learning. Stein said while direct implementation of the program has not been determined, the goal is to give students real-world experience.“Students [should] have an authentic experience,” Stein said. “It could be from involvement in the community, part of a laboratory study, part of a scholarly project, [or] through an internship.” According to Stein, the QEP additionally aims to improve the pedagogy of the faculty.“Every four years they zero your group, you go from 18 to 21 [years old] and I just keep getting older,” Stein said. “It is hard for a faculty member like me to retool. I have probably retooled four or five times over the course of my career.”Brown College senior Amritha Kanakamedala was the undergraduate representative on the QEP Planning Committee. She said more than 85 responses were gathered from the Rice community online in March 2015. “We set up a blog page where students, alumni, faculty and staff could propose [and vote on] ideas,” Kanakamedala said.Stein said students must be involved with the implementation of the QEP and development of curriculum.“There is a need for the students to express a preference for that type of educational experience,” Stein said. “Students tend not to see themselves as customers but rather [as] receivers of education in a passive way, and this is only going to work if the students have input in the process.”Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said the results of the QEP could be larger than initially anticipated.“[The Center for Civic Leadership] was not envisioned in 2006,” Hutchinson said. “As opposed to this plugging into the current curriculum, it’s possible [this QEP] could be the foundation for a very different curriculum.”The Faculty Senate will present a plan to President Leebron in November with the aim of full implementation by the 2016-17 academic year. 


SA looks into economic inequality

(10/07/15 3:50am)

The Student Association is taking steps to address the challenges faced by low-income and first-generation college students. Lovett College President Griffin Thomas has proposed the creation of the Student Access and Success Working Group, which would aim to make the Rice experience more accessible for all students. “The idea is to reach out to the entire student body to collect information and create a list of a lot of the issues that first-generation and low-income students face,” Thomas, a junior, said. “Ideally it would be a completely comprehensive list. That’s going to be very difficult to do but we want to get a wide sample about these huge issues that they’re facing.” Thomas has clear goals for what he wants for the initiative by the end of the academic year. Once he gathers more information, Thomas said he aims to start helping low-income and first-generation students directly, working with organizations like Generation College in addition to the serveries and leadership development programs on campus. “Once that comprehensive list is created, our goal is going to be to try to rectify some of these problems,” Thomas said. “It could be small changes or large system changes. One of the ideas that has been thrown out is leadership development, because some of the low-income students can’t necessarily participate in some of the leadership activities on campus because they also have to work.”Griffin, however, said he believes Rice already does aid low-income and first-generation students, pointing to many of the resources that Rice provides.“At all universities low-income and first-generation students face challenges that other students don’t face,” Thomas said. “Rice actually has a lot more programs for these students [in comparison to other universities]. Our Office of Academic Advising and Office of Student Success Initiatives are very robust, as well as our peer academic advising network, our academic fellows program [and] our Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication.”The SA will vote on the Student Access and Success working group on Oct. 14. While the working group is currently a one-year initiative, Thomas sees it as a potential springboard for future change on campus. The future of the initiative itself is dependent on what SA leadership decides at the end of the year. “[The future of the program] depends on how the working group goes this semester,” Thomas said. “Putting these issues into the hearts and minds of students and administrators may be enough but I could also see it expanding into a standing committee or have an organization that works on it.” For now, Thomas said spreading awareness is the group’s primary objective. “We’re not going to be able to fix everything in one year — that’s just not feasible,” Thomas said. “[I want to be able to say] that we developed a list that brought the issues to light so that future students and administrators can’t say, ‘I didn’t know this was an issue.’ Second, ideally we’re going to start the process of trying to correct some of these things.”