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Monday, May 27, 2024 — Houston, TX

From Main Street to Marais: Rice Global Paris Center starts new course

Photo courtesy Lina Dib

By Hugo Gerbich-Pais     1/31/23 10:50pm

Houston, we have lift off — to Paris. Beyond just expanding the university’s footprint and providing another opportunity for students to take wide-angle selfies, Rice’s new Global Paris Center promises to be a transformative experience for students, researchers and faculty. 

“This summer marks the foray into actual programming,” Meredith Bonner, the executive administrator of global and digital strategy, said. “So we have quite an impressive list of faculty conferences lined up in Paris this summer, along with this student program.” 

While the Global Paris Center itself is young, Rice’s broader presence in Paris is 20 years old with Rice’s School of Architecture’s Paris Studio. This expansion and creation of the new center was partly driven by the desire to provide more accessible international experiences for Rice students.

“We think it’s really important for students at Rice to have access to global new experiences that will open their eyes,” Bonner said. “We also wanted to create more opportunities for students, who have very busy, very challenging academic lives. So we’re hoping these sorts of three-week intensive courses will allow students to fit that really excellent international experience into their calendar.” 

The first “Maymester” course, EcoStudio In Paris, will run May 8 to 26. It will also count as an elective for the Environmental Studies minor and includes options for financial aid. Summer tuition qualifies for some financial aid, and eligible students can apply for assistance covering travel expenses.

Lina Dib, an anthropologist and lecturer at the Program for Writing and Communication, will be teaching the course. She is also a practicing artist and has had several large public art pieces around Houston. Dib said her interdisciplinary background is reflected in the structure of the course itself. 

“[The course is] a mix of fieldwork, studio practice and a bit of theory,” Dib said. 

Dib hopes that the course will offer students a fresh world perspective, escaping the familiarity of Rice’s campus. 

“When we are new to a space, we notice [new] things that we don’t notice anymore,” Dib said. “I want to tap into that superpower that we’re going to have in Paris.” 

The course and the center as a whole will benefit from Paris’s history, according to Dib. While Paris’s museums, archives and architecture are  invaluable resources for the students, so are the city and the wider French culture. 

All the Maymester students will be living in the same house, with individual rooms. It is also located in a different neighborhood than their classroom, forcing students to interact with the city.

“We have a really nice classroom in the Marais district, and then you get to experience another side of Paris where you are living,” Bonner said. “You will get to taste different flavors of the city.”

While the Center itself is currently not permitted to host students, Rice has a partnership with a French institution in order to host classes this summer. 

“This summer, the Rice Global Paris Center is a state of mind, it’s not necessarily a physical space,” Bonner said.

Dib said she feels strongly about connecting with one’s surroundings and hopes the course will help students accomplish that. 

“This is a chance for us to think about what we call nature, how we separate ourselves from nature and how we curate it,” Dib said.  “Our ... senses are going to be extra-sharp and there will be a lot of paying attention to our surroundings.” 

It remains to be seen how Rice’s peculiarities will translate to Paris. 

“This is an opportunity to showcase Rice to the rest of Europe: what it is, what it feels like and what it does,” Bonner said. 

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