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Dean Taylor encourages new student leadership initiative

By Hallie Jordan     9/28/11 7:00pm

Following President David Leebron's Vision for the Second Century, administrators around campus want to promote student leadership and initiative.

"We realize that while students are here, they have the opportunity to learn and to be the kind of people who make impacts," Associate Dean of Undergraduates Matt Taylor said.

A committee made up of Taylor, Director of Leadership Rice Judy Le, Associate Director of Leadership Rice Dustin Peterson, Director of Student Activities Kate Abad and Director of First Year Programs Shelah Crear are working together to try to promote the idea of leadership on campus.

Taylor says he and the committee hope students will take more of the opportunities that are available to them. Though they are describing their task as promoting leadership, the group emphasizes that they want students mostly to act on their ideas and not necessarily just become president of a club.

Some activities Taylor mentioned and recommended as leadership are studying abroad, joining Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, doing service programs with the Community Involvement Center, joining Beyond Traditional Borders and joining Engineers Without Borders.

"We want to get undergraduates thinking about making the kinds of choices and pursing experiences that will help develop their leadership abilities and put their skills to work," Taylor said. "We want to communicate that leadership can look like a lot of different things."

The model the group is using to explain what leadership consists of is called the "Four E" model. The four E's are envisioning, engaging, executing and embedding.

"Leadership is a process. You have to have a vision and come up with ideas and then engage other people in the process," Taylor said. "We want to help infuse this in our culture."

One of the most important aspects of leadership is a student's ability to bring others together, Director of RCEL Mark Embree said.

"Students are called upon to identify problems and have an appetite for solving them and have a desire to make the world a better place and bring others behind their visions."

Embree pointed to groups like Rice Solar Car as clear examples of student leadership. The club was started by two students, had 50 students at its first meeting and is now building a solar car.

"A lot of places on campus seek to make students comfortable and in some ways leadership seeks to challenge and make students uncomfortable," Embree said. "It's so easy to sit in your room and do problem sets."

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