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Envision grants aid student initiatives

By Farrah Madanay     2/7/12 6:00pm

Leadership Rice's Envision Grants award students the capital to effect change on campus. This year, five grants have been awarded, up from four last year, to help start up new projects: Karma Patrol, Rice University Women in Science and Engineering, celebrateART, Food for Thought and Acappellooza. The Envision Grant is a one-time allocation to students whose projects have proved not only visionary but also self-sustaining, Envision Grant Mentor Michael Domeracki, said.

celebrateART

Visual and dramatic arts major Melissa Teng and art history major Raquel Perez are leading a campaign to return the balance between art, letters and science at Rice University. The pair said that they want to impress upon students that Rice, though known as a leading research university, is a hub of artistic creativity as well.



To bring direct exposure to the arts on campus, their Envision Grant will fund an all-day, campus-wide festival on March 9 called celebrateART, which will showcase various genres of art.

"We're collaborating with many student organizations and businesses on campus to make this a huge, all-inclusive arts event for the whole Rice community," Teng, a Martel College junior, said.

The Envision Grant was originally written by Teng and fellow LEAD 311: Entrepreneurial Leadership classmates Veronica Rae Saron, a Will Rice College sophomore; Tony Mulenga, a Lovett College senior; and Mingming Jiang, a Wiess College freshman.

Teng then approached Perez, a Brown College junior, to be her co-head in organizing the celebrateART festival.

"We hope that the art festival will be a long-standing tradition but that it will serve to open up students' minds," Perez said.

Food for Thought

Wiess College junior Heather Olson is an agriculture enthusiast with a vision to catalyze a local food movement at Rice. With the help of an Envision Grant for her Food for Thought project, Olson, a philosophy major, hopes to expand the visibility of Rice's community gardens and increase student awareness of sustainable, local food. Her two-part project includes a series of three Saturday night farm-to-fork dinners and improvements to the Hanszen College and Wiess community gardens.

"By brainstorming in class and recalling the farm-to-fork dinner event that Baker College put on last year, we were able to come up with the two-part plan," Olson said.

The project is the collective undertaking of the newly formed student group Real Food Revolution led by Olson and Sid Richardson College junior Hannah Walchack.

"I really appreciate all of Heather's hard work in securing the grant money because it means we can bring a lot of local food right to students without having to worry a lot about cost," Walchack said.

Olson said that she also hopes to purchase picnic tables, shade structures and weather-proof bulletin boards to encourage students and visitors to spend time in the gardens.

"Long-term, hopefully this project will inspire larger scale improvements to Rice's food sustainability, such as a student-run farm or a three-credit course on food sustainability," Olson said.

Acappellooza

Hanszen College junior Christine Jeon, Martel College sophomore Mika Tabata and Lovett College sophomore Lisa Deneckere are using grant money to put on Acappellooza, a joint a capella concert by the Rice Philharmonics, Low Keys and Nocturnal. The concert will take place on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. in the RMC Grand Hall.

Admission to Acappellooza is free, but attendees are encouraged to donate $5 with proceeds going to the Music Therapy Center of Houston, according to the Facebook event page.

"We really need people to donate, even though it is a free concert," Tabata said.

According to Tabata, the Phils, Low Keys and Nocturnal hope to make Acappellooza sustainable by setting aside some money for next year's event. Fostering collaboration among the a capella groups so that future generations can enjoy the event is critical, Tabata said. Rice students should expect this event in years to come, she noted.

Karma Patrol

Will Rice senior Albert Wei, junior Leila Bell, senior Alexandra Moharam and sophomore Angela Wu received an Envision Grant to fund Karma Patrol, Will Rice's new caregiving program designed in response to last year's alcohol probation.

Karma Patrol members sign up in pairs for short shifts to hand out free bagels and water. The logic behind this model is to give partygoers something starchy and absorbent so that alcohol enters the bloodstream at a significantly reduced rate, keeping them safer than drinking on an empty stomach, Wei said. Members of the Karma Patrol squad also receive a free T-shirt, glow sticks and a walkie-talkie to be used for emergencies during their shift.

"Financial assistance was needed if we were ever going to give Karma Patrol the institutional memory that we felt it deserved, so it was a blessing to have some of the funding worries lifted off of our shoulders," Wei said.

RUWSE

Will Rice senior Elizabeth Van Itallie and biochemistry and cell biology graduate student Erin O'Brien earned a grant for their group, Rice University Women in Science and Engineering. RUWSE seeks to increase the visibility of female role models in STEM fields to female undergraduates.

"It is an interesting characteristic of human behavior that most people need role models in their life," O'Brien said in her Envision Grant blog.

She added that although there are a significant amount of female professors in the Biochemistry and Cell Biology Department at Rice, very few teach lower-level undergraduate classes.

To follow the progress of each Envision Grant project, visit envision.blogs.rice.edu.



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