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Saturday, May 28, 2022 — Houston, TX

Leebron, Ping win

By Tina Ou     10/7/10 7:00pm

Rice University is expanding both inside and outside the hedges. While construction has been creating new buildings and facilities to improve the campus, the Rice administration and faculty have been working on increasing the university's international presence. Their efforts have been recognized by the Greater Houston Partnership, who named President David Leebron and University Representative Y. Ping Sun as Houston's International Executives of the Year Sept. 30.

Leebron and Sun are the first representatives of an academic institution to receive the award, established 24 years ago by Greater Houston Partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Houston, the city of Houston, Harris County, the Port of Houston Authority and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"David and Ping exude Houston," President and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership Jeff Moseley said in a video testimonial. "When you meet them, you know immediately that you're received by warmth, by affection, by friendship. As a result of being such warm individuals, they're natural ambassadors for the university and for our region."

Leebron said the award was exciting because Rice's increasing internationalism has led to Houston's becoming a more international city. In addition, the award is a symbol of the importance with which Houston regards its own international aspect.

"We expect [ourselves] to be one of the most important ways in which Houston is connected to the world," Leebron said.

Sun said many people in the community have been role models and mentors for Leebron and her, and she feels fortunate to have had their guidance and support.

"I'm grateful to all the people who welcomed us with open arms when we first came to Houston six years ago," Sun said. "It is fair to say that they inspired us to engage with the city."

Leebron said the award is not a result of a few people's work but rather a reflection of Rice as a whole, including the work of the faculty, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the new Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson.

According to Leebron, the faculty has been increasingly engaged in international collaborations such as research. He said another important factor in Rice's international identity is that Rice faculty consists of a group of people from countries all around the world, such as France, Argentina, Mexico, Greece, Japan, China and Switzerland.

"We hire the best people in their fields, but hiring an international faculty is one of the pre-conditions of having an international university," Leebron said.

Faculty involvement is not the only way in which Rice is growing in internationalism. Leebron said there have been increases in the number of foreign students, in university affiliations with foreign universities, especially those in Asia and Latin America, and in study abroad opportunities. He said Rice is working on improving international visibility in countries like China.

According to Leebron, roughly one in every eight students at Rice is not from the United States, and roughly a quarter of current students have very strong international backgrounds.

Understanding cultures from all around the world, Leebron said, is key to building better relationships with others and resolving conflicts in the world.

Leebron said internationalism is very important for Rice because graduates are expected to be leaders in their fields, opening on an international level in some way. He said he would like to see more students study abroad for at least a semester. He himself studied in Germany when he was 16 years old as an exchange student and found the experience very valuable.

"I think, in the end, it works toward human advancement," Leebron said.

McMurtry College junior Brianna Mulrooney said she thinks there has been a slight increase in the number of international students. She said coming from a small town in New Jersey, she was attracted to the internationalism at Rice, which was one of the reasons she chose to attend Rice.

"It's a lot of fun to have that diversity on campus," Mulrooney said. "They have different stories and different cultures, and I really like learning about all that.

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