Around 2,000 students donned their cowboy hats and plaid shirts for Martel College's "Don't Mess with Texas" party last Friday. As the first party of the year, this event is usually well attended, but this year's numbers were much higher than in previous years, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said.
Saint Arnold Brewing Co. will be toasting to Rice's Centennial Celebration with Centenni-Ale two beers specifically relabeled in honor of the university's centennial.
The new Dean of the School of Engineering Ned Thomas, who was appointed last spring, has now assumed his post in the department. His goals as dean focus on increasing the exposure and quality of Rice's engineering program by providing more opportunities for student leaders and competitions. Hailing from MIT's School of Engineering, Thomas was the head of the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering before coming to Rice. In addition to an academic background, Thomas also has experience in entrepreneurship, starting multiple companies over the course of his career since his undergraduate days at the University of Massachusetts. "Cambridge has that effect on people," Thomas said. "Once they drink the juice up there, a lot of them decide to start their own businesses."Thomas cited two examples of organizations he's founded: OmniGuide, a medical devices company founded in 2000 that specializes in making minimally-invasive laser surgical tools, and the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a division of MIT focused on serving soldiers by developing lightweight army gear and creating devices that can seek out bombs remotely. He said the motivation behind these two creations sprung from his entrepreneurial experiences as an undergraduate and consequently, he wants to promote a similar environment for engineers at Rice. In Thomas' opinion, Rice – as a relatively small university – is the perfect size for cultivating excellence in engineering across the board. Thomas described his vision as encouraging engineering students to engage in competition, to experience leadership in preparation for the working world and to increase their capacities to innovate. He said he especially emphasized connecting with entrepreneurs, and expressed support for programs like the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership and Rice Alliance. "If a student gets involved in these programs, they may not eventually start their own company, but they'll meet people who might inspire them to explore the possibilities and innovate in other ways," Thomas said. Martel College sophomore and chemical engineering student Luz Rocha said she thinks Thomas will be an effective dean and that his goal for developing leadership within the school of engineering is heading in the right direction, especially with recent initiatives like RCEL. According to Rocha, RCEL helps engineering students connect with other engineering students outside of their major and year. She said she hopes the RCEL program will continue growing to include more events and ways to promote leadership and networking within the School of Engineering and she hope these efforts will extend the program's impact beyond Rice. However, Rocha said the new dean might face challenges in implementing engineering leadership programs in ways that students will both enjoy and feel are crucial to their engineering education. Still, she added that she was optimistic about the feasibility of Thomas' vision. "I think the vision can definitely become practical as leadership expands through engineering," Rocha noted. "I'm sure several engineering students are interested in that sort of thing and, given proper guidance, can definitely develop that interest into something more concrete that can eventually lead to entrepreneurship in engineering companies."
Rice Student Volunteer Program's Outreach Day pulled in 478 new students fresh out of Orientation Week on Saturday, Aug. 20 to help the Houston community on 26 different projects. Director of the Community Involvement Center Mac Griswold said considering the combined efforts, those students completed 2,018 hours of community service. "There's an organization called Independent Sector who calculates the dollar value of volunteer work who says the students did $43,000 worth of work in one day," Griswold said. Students signed up before and during O-Week for projects before they knew what Outreach Day was, Griswold said. However, according to Griswold a problem with signing up early was that students wanted to change projects once they had made friends during O-Week. Next year, only half of the projects will be allowed to fill up before O-Week starts, he said. This year's projects included some familiar sites that have been included in Outreach Day in the past, like the Houston Arboretum and the Hermann Park Conservancy. "They are always willing to take on students," Griswold said. Jones College freshman Ashley Joseph volunteered at the Houston Food Bank sorting boxes of food for Outreach Day. "I definitely felt like I was connected to the Houston community through this service project," Joseph said, "It was wonderful being part of an organization even if only for a morning that has such a great impact on the community it serves."Several new partners joined Outreach Day this year, like Hostelling International, an association of hostels in 90 countries throughout the world. A Rice alumnus, Morty Rich, died in a plane crash and left money to start Hostelling International, Griswold said. Sixty students joined the Hostelling project on Outreach Day. Jones sophomore Rohan Shah lead a new site at Houston Interfaith Worker's Justice. "The fact that the CIC expanded and included this program is a big deal," Shah said. "If you think about current issues regardless of political spectrum or beliefs, immigration itself is a touchy subject, but [HIWJ's aid to illegal immigrants] is human rights that all people can agree on."A variety of other projects were also offered, making it hard for new students like Joseph to choose. "The projects catered to a lot of different talents and interests," Joseph said. "It was difficult to pick a single project for which to register!" Outreach Day was successful this year and has made her want to continue doing community service in Houston through RSVP, Joseph said. "[We had] very positive reactions for this year's first year students," Griswold said. "It was really obvious that they brought a passion and enthusiasm that has not been as strong in past years."The next RSVP Outreach Day will be in November.
The university has started implementing some of the recommendations made by the Asset Liquidation Funds Committee last school year. However, the money that has been used on these initiatives has not come directly from the sale itself but rather from university funds allocated toward certain ALFA suggestions. The recommendations that ALFA made are still pending official approval from Rice's Board of Directors. Because of this none of the actual funds will be used until the 2012-13 school year, Committee co-chair Selim Sheikh said. Sheikh (Martel '11) said that since ALFA gave their recommendations for the KTRU funds in March the administration has held monthly summer meetings with the committee. During these meetings, Sheikh said the proposed budgets were reconsidered and adjusted. For instance, the Community Involvement Center suggested using some of the funds to improve the Alternative Spring Break, and Fondren Library expressed interest in improving its facilities and programs, Sheikh noted. Furthermore, fellow Committee co-chair Anna Dodson said that both SA and GSA representatives – along with the faculty members of the committee Paula Sanders, Matt Taylor and Kate Abad – would continue to meet with the President's Office over the fall semester to discuss possible budgets and timelines for the various projects. "Due to the nature of the funds raised from the KTRU sale, the timeline for the projected projects will vary depending on the nature of the project," Dodson said. "We cannot yet say which projects will be implemented first, nor can we say with certainty how much of the budget will be allocated to specific projects. These will be the subject of upcoming conversations with the President's Office."Sheikh added that the committee's formal presentation of its recommendations to the board of directors would happen in September of this year. "That's not saying nothing will be spent," Sheikh said, "The university has set aside money for things like the concerts endowment – which helped bring Three 6 Mafia to our Welcome Back Concert – though this money comes from university funds in the name of ALFA, not from the KTRU sale itself."The administration contributed funds to the concert endowment because it would have an easy, immediate effect on the students, Sheikh said. Martel College sophomore Meagan John said she supported the university's contribution to the concert endowment and thought that the Three 6 Mafia Welcome Back concert was a good idea. "It was nice to come back and have that event," John said, "It was really good for freshmen."Sheikh said that there might be plans for more university funds to go toward this year's ASB program in the name of ALFA. "The major changes will be long term," Sheikh said. "Things that happen every year are easier to put into effect."Sheikh also mentioned that the project of lighting the IM fields had been put on hold in the face of discussions with a donor for a possible new tennis court. If the university decides to build the court, it might have to take up some IM field space, which would require the fields to be moved, Sheikh said. He noted that delays like these were keeping the IM lighting project from moving forward. According to Sheikh, undergraduate and graduate students will continue being involved in the allocation of funds from the KTRU sale. He said that he and another committee member would be stepping off the committee soon and the administration would be finding new representatives of student interests. "I don't know the process, but there will be new students on the committee, so there will still be students directly involved in continuing ALFA's work," Sheikh said.
Rice Program Council is bringing back H2007 Assassins, an annual campus –wide, week-long game starting this Sunday. This year, the event is being held during the second week of school instead of during finals when students are too busy to participate, RPC traditions co-coordinator Catherine Yuh said. During the game, every participant will be given the name of another participant or "target." Participants will then have to "kill" these targets using a water gun. When shot, the other player is out and must pass the name of his or her target to the assassin. The game begins this Monday at 12:01 a.m. and continues through Saturday at midnight. Participants must pick up their water gun at the info desk in the RMC on Sunday and must use RPC water guns, not their own. The specific rules of the game are that no one can be assassinated while sleeping, during class or in Fondren Library. The student who assassinates the most people will win the game and receive a $40 gift card to the store of their choice. Students can sign up to play on a Google Doc on the event's Facebook page: [RPC] Annual H2007: the return of the Assassins. "RPC is all about trying to get kids out for fun things," Yuh said. "We hope to use this as a way to be more visible toward the new freshmen and hope they will attend our events in the future."Though RPC did not hold this event last year, the number of participants in the year before that was 350, Yuh said. She added that she expects the number of students this year to go up by 10 percent. Yu described the lengths some students take to get their person with a story where an assassin sat outside her suitemate's door for 24 hours, keeping the target stuck inside her room. "Sometimes it does get kind of crazy but that is part of the fun," Yu said. RPC traditions co-coordinator Chloe Kwon said she hopes the game will be a good way for freshmen to interact with people from outside their college in a stress-relieving and fun way. "[Assassins] seems like a cool way to meet people from other colleges and, if nothing, squirting people with water is always fun," Jones College senior Joseph Rangel said.
For the third year in a row, Rice has been ranked number one by the Princeton Review for having the best quality of life. According to the 2012 edition of the Princeton Review's annual guide "The Best 376 Colleges," Rice also rose from eighth to first in the category for happiest students. Rankings by the Princeton Review are based upon the opinions of approximately 122,000 students at 376 colleges, who were surveyed in the 2010-11 school year. Factors that were taken into consideration for the ranking include campus beauty, satisfaction with school administration, dorm comfort and food.