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Sunday, April 14, 2024 — Houston, TX

Sana Yaklur

NEWS 4/22/15 6:54am

ECON, MTEC curricula undergo major restructuring

The economics and mathematical economic analysis curriculum is undergoing extensive changes for the 2015-16 school year and beyond, according to Chair of Economics George Zodrow. The changes will be mandatory only for students matriculating in and after 2015.The changes include a new introductory course, removal of the Ordinary Differential Equations and Linear Algebra (MATH 211) requirement and renumbering of upper level courses. There is also a new honors program as well as new math, statistics and advanced course requirements. The economics department’s undergraduate committee developed the changes over the course of the 2014-15 year, according to Zodrow. The committee took into account input from ECON faculty and students, and tentative proposals were presented to the faculty and a student advisory board appointed by the Student Association. The department approved the finalized changes in February.According to Zodrow, these changes are a part of the Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics, which is a program focused on improving the teaching and research of economics at Rice. RISE is led by Economics Department Chair Antonio Merlo. Zodrow said the goal of the restructuring was to meet students’ needs more successfully and provide comprehensive preparation for continued schooling or careers.“In particular, the reforms are designed to more clearly delineate our two majors, with an enhanced ECON major available to all students and an MTEC major that is designed for students who wish to pursue graduate study in economics or obtain a position in the private or public sectors that requires advanced analytical and quantitative skills,” Zodrow said.A number of major changes will be implemented, Zodrow said. One is a new introductory course for the major.“We are creating a new course, ECON 100, Principles of Economics, which will provide a non-technical intuitive introduction to microeconomics and macroeconomics,” Zodrow said.MTEC majors who matriculate in 2015 or later will no longer be required to take Ordinary Differential Equations and Linear Algebra (MATH 211) because the material from MATH 211 that MTEC majors need to know will be covered in Mathematical Economics (ECON 308, formerly ECON 401), a prerequisite for Econometrics (ECON 310, formerly ECON 409) and Advanced Topics in Microeconomics for MTEC Majors (ECON 305), according to Zodrow.Also, core courses for ECON and MTEC majors are being renumbered, according to Zodrow. The core courses are Microeconomics (ECON 200, formerly ECON 301), Macroeconomics (ECON 203, formerly ECON 303) and Applied Econometrics (ECON 209, formerly ECON 309).“The renumbering of these courses does not imply they have been diminished in any way,” Zodrow said. “[It] simply recognizes these critical courses provide the basic foundational principles required as preparation for our upper-level courses and should be taken early in a student’s progression in either major.”However, Zodrow said for students who had taken these courses before the 2015-16 school year, the courses would still be listed as 300-level courses on their transcripts.Both ECON and MTEC majors will now be required to take two semesters of calculus. Previously, ECON majors only needed one. According to Zodrow, this change will provide better preparation in mathematics for the core and elective courses. Additionally, ECON and MTEC majors must now enroll in a higher-level statistics course, Probability and Statistics (ECON 307/STAT 310).ECON and MTEC majors will now need to take courses on advanced microeconomic topics. ECON majors will have to take Advanced Topics in Microeconomics for Economics Majors (ECON 300) while MTEC majors will take the more quantitative Advanced Topics in Microeconomics for MTEC Majors (ECON 305).“ECON and MTEC majors will be required to take a new course [on] advanced topics in microeconomics critical to an understanding of recent developments in modern economics,” Zodrow said. “As a result, these quantitative tools courses should be taken earlier in a student’s career than has often been the case in previous years.”According to Zodrow, all MTEC majors must take one of the two new capstone courses based on analysis of current research topics in economics. The prerequisites for these courses provide insight into this subject. The last change is a two-semester honors program in economics.“This program will guide students through the research process and culminate in the authorship of a high-quality research paper,” Zodrow said.MTEC majors would obtain more advanced analytical and quantitative skills through the Applied Econometrics, Econometrics and Mathematical Economics courses taken earlier in their college careers, as well as through the new capstone courses, Zodrow said.“We believe all of these curriculum changes will provide students with a more comprehensive knowledge of economic principles and applications as well as a deeper understanding of the process of research in economics,” Zodrow said.Economics major Jenny Ren said despite the new changes, she will opt to continue with the previous curriculum. “You can choose which general announcements [to] go under, and it would be too much of a hassle to pursue the new track [as] I’ve already taken some of the old classes,” Ren, a Jones College freshman, said. “I am looking forward to the changes this program will bring and hopefully it will create new opportunities in the department.” Martel College junior Cathy Hu said while the changes do not affect upperclassmen, it’s interesting to see things being improved.“In the past, depending on what professors you have, you’d have a very different experience as an ECON major.” Hu, an economics and sociology major, said. “It would definitely be more rigorous and standardized [after the changes].”

NEWS 2/18/15 4:11pm

Rice moves to seven percent solar energy

Rice University has taken early steps toward  green power and sustainability by signing a one-year contract with MP2 Energy, a renewable energy company. This agreement signifies that an average of seven percent of Rice’s power supply will come from solar energy, according to Richard Johnson, director of Rice’s Administrative Center for Sustainability and Energy Management.“During the afternoon, as much as 25 percent of Rice’s energy will come from [off-site] solar energy, since the amount of solar power we get naturally varies over the course of the day,” Johnson said.Rice had been interested in using solar energy for a while, but there were concerns regarding any extra cost the move might entail, according to Mark Gardner, manager of Energy Strategy and Utility Program Development. According to Johnson, Rice continually indicated its interest in renewable energy sources to MP2 to demonstrate it as a topic about which they remained interested.“We kept signalling our interest, and it didn’t take long for them to catch on that it was something we really wanted,” Johnson said. “They wanted this to happen as much as we did. They’re a really innovative group and they want to be able to demonstrate ways that people can procure green without paying extra.”Rice was able to formulate a plan with MP2 Energy to minimize cost. As a part of this plan, instead of paying one flat rate over the course of the day, Rice pays in hourly increments, with prices varying with the demand for electricity over the course of the day. According to Johnson, with this method of paying for electricity, Rice would pay more for electricity in the afternoon, when the most electricity is used on campus, and less for electricity at night, when less electricity is used and produced via the solar panels.According to Gardner, another benefit to this incremental method of payment involves the solar panels installed on the roof of Jones College. When the prices for solar electricity peak, the panels at Jones produce the most energy. Gardner said because of these sets of solar panels, Rice does not need to purchase as much solar energy from MP2 Energy when prices are the highest.“Because of the shaped curve method [in which the per hour price of electricity varies over the course of the day] of paying for electricity, there is no change in the cost of electricity for Rice,” Gardner said.According to Johnson, this is the first time a commercial entity in Texas has made a deal with an electricity company to use off-site solar power.Johnson said Rice has been looking into incorporating other renewable sources of power as well in order to increase environmental friendliness.“Before we made the agreement with MP2 Energy, we looked into using landfill gas, as well as wind power and other solar power opportunities,” Johnson said. “We’re still looking into using wind power, and we’re looking into opportunities to increase the photovoltaic cells on campus. Our big strategies are [to] use less energy and buy green when it doesn’t cost us more.”Johnson credits Gardner and Energy Manager Eric Valentine with being the most dedicated to finding cost-effective ways for Rice to use green energy.

NEWS 11/12/14 7:58am

Medical alums form support network

Rice Alumni in Medicine, a network of Rice University alumni in the medical field, officially launched with a lecture and alumni-student mixer the day before Homecoming.“RAM was formally launched this year just before homecoming but has been in the works over the past year as we [recruited] alums [for] the initial leadership body,” RAM President Freddy Nguyen said.Rice alumni in medical and health care professions had expressed a desire to give back more to the Rice community by helping Rice students interested in medicine. There was also a need for alumni to band together to support Rice’s large body of pre-health professions students, leading to the creation of RAM, according to Nguyen (Lovett ‘02). Nguyen said RAM allows Rice alumni in medicine to support Rice pre-health students by mentoring students and hosting networking events, among other activities.“Rice alums already participate in a number of programs throughout campus on an individual basis,” Nguyen said. Some of these programs include Rice Pre-Medical Society’s mock interviews for juniors preparing for interviews, as well as RPMS’s Big Owl, Little Owl program, where Rice pre-medical students learn about medical school and the medical field from medical students and physicians, according to Nguyen.“RAM will look to further strengthen those programs in working with the Rice Pre-Med Society,” Nguyen said. “This allows for easier access to these opportunities for alumni instead of reinventing the wheel each time. RAM is also looking into potential opportunities with [the] Rice 360 Institute for Global Health Technologies.”Some pre-medical students said they supported a network for alumni in medicine.“I believe RAM will be helpful because it is kind of like networking and will help the [pre-medical students] have connections even after graduating,” Tamer Ghanayem, a Duncan College sophomore, said.Other students had some ideas for how such a network could best help them.“It’ll be great if each alum gets paired with one or two students and serves as their mentor,” Wenting Li, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. “Personally, I would love to have a designated mentor who’s there to give me advice when I need it and ... it’s a more personal connection.”Nguyen said he believes a network for alumni in medicine is essential, because even though Rice alums in medicine have been involved on an individual basis, a network will allow for more alumni to support Rice pre-health students. Additionally, RAM would allow support of Rice pre-health students even after they graduate from Rice.“RAM will provide an opportunity for Rice alums in medicine to come together to network and support Rice students and alumni during not only their time at Rice, but also as they embark into their lifelong trek in medicine through medical school, residency, fellowship and profession,” Nguyen said.

NEWS 10/28/14 4:22pm

R-STEM office promotes K-12 outreach

Rice recently established the Rice Office of STEM Engagement, abbreviated R-STEM, in order to coordinate all the science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach efforts at the university, according to Director Carolyn Nichol.“The office will serve as a main source for people to go to if they have questions about STEM outreach at Rice, because there are quite a lot of different ones distributed throughout campus,” Nichol said. “We can help people with their outreach efforts by, for instance, telling them what forms they need to fill out or supporting their efforts with funding.”According to Nichol, the office will help faculty by recruiting students for outreach programs that are required by their grant proposals. R-STEM will also help undergraduates who wish to reach outside the hedges and increase K-12 students’ interest in STEM fields. R-STEM also hopes to ensure that the undergraduates’ teaching relates to what the students are learning in class. “R-STEM will work with school districts and teachers in the Houston area, as well as Rice faculty and students,” Nichol said.According to Nichol, the office will serve K-12 teachers and school districts by working with them to improve their STEM education. The office will also serve as a point of contact between faculty and school districts to streamline the process of creating STEM programs.Additionally, R-STEM will help nonprofit organizations, such as Project Grad, Genesis Works and Houston A+ Challenge, as well as  connect with Rice undergraduates to help students in the greater community. Many of these nonprofits seek to help potential first generation college students gain an interest in continuing their education by showing them the opportunities that are available to them in STEM fields, according to Nichol. According to Vice Provost of Research Yousif Shamoo, the impact R-STEM will have is two-fold; it will help faculty with obtaining funding for their research by helping them satisfy their grant proposals’ requirements for broad impact STEM programs and will help increase Rice’s impact on the greater community.Rice has a large impact on the community for a school of its size, Nichol said. “We have so many people with great hearts who share their knowledge with the greater community,” Nichol said.According to Nichol, many of Rice’s faculty are involved with STEM outreach. For example, once a week, biochemistry and cell biology professors Elizabeth Eich and Beth Beason-Abmayr teach high school biology teachers engaging teaching strategies. Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson teaches high school chemistry teachers, and physics professor Jason Hafner teaches high school physics teachers. Additionally, Rice faculty and teachers who are involved in ConocoPhillips Rice Elementary Model Science Lab teach elementary school teachers nontraditional and engaging educating methods.Former Vice Provost of Research Vicki Colvin suggested that a central office for STEM outreach programs be created. This streamlined the process of creating outreach programs. Students and faculty who wish to establish these programs can now learn how to design and start these programs through the central office. Nichol said she believes STEM outreach is crucial for Rice and for the greater Houston community.“A lot of students, especially inner-city students, don’t have role models or mentors and don’t know what the possibilities are in STEM careers,” Nichol said. “These students don’t see all of the opportunities that could be available to them if they get science or engineering degrees. We want to engage them at young ages and help them become the science and engineering leaders of the future.”

NEWS 8/28/14 7:23pm

New location for Rice Bikes in RMC

Rice Bikes, a student-run bicycle shop founded in 2011 that services and rents out bikes, is moving most of its operations from Sid Richardson College’s basement to the Rice Memorial Center’s Hess Private Dining Room, accessible from the Brown Garden across from Rice Coffeehouse.According to Rice Bikes General Manager Brian Barr, the organization is moving to improve visibility and accessibility.“It’s a great opportunity to further our mission of cultivating a culture of cycling on campus,” Barr, a Brown College sophomore, said. “By being in the RMC, our visibility will be much greater, and we will be much more accessible to the student body.”According to Barr, Rice Bikes is expecting to have more business due to the greater visibility and accessibility.“We expect to do a lot more business, especially because we have the lowest prices of any bike shop in Houston by a large margin,” Barr said. “Once people realize how convenient it is to bring your bike over to the RMC, I'm sure we will see a large increase in the number of bikes serviced.”Barr said since the Hess PDR wasn’t housing any particular organization, they will not be displacing anyone.“The PDR was mostly being used by graduate students to eat lunch in quiet, in addition to a few rare meetings,” Barr said.The move was the result of months of planning by Rice Bikes and the Student Center, according to Barr.“As an official Student Run Business, we receive support from staff in the Student Center, and they were instrumental in helping us secure the space,” Barr said. “With all of the other changes going on with the vendors in Sammy's, it was a good time to make the move.”A new location isn’t the only change for Rice Bikes this year. According to Barr, Rice Bikes is adding new bikes for rental, as well as creating a monthly bike tour of neighborhoods in Houston.“As of this semester, we will be adding nine new bikes to the rentable fleet to bring our total to 38 bikes,” Barr said. “Additionally, we will be adding a monthly ‘Tour de Houston’ ride on the second Friday of the month to explore a neighborhood of Houston and then go to Amy's Ice Cream at the end of the ride to celebrate.”According to Barr, business hours will be 2 - 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.Barr said major bike repairs will still take place in the Sid Rich basement, since the new space is not large enough to accommodate it.

NEWS 8/28/13 7:00pm

Fondren receives new technological resources

Fondren Library received 14 new computers and a host of other technological improvements through a joint effort between the Student Association and the Graduate Student Association, according to GSA President Michael "Goat" Domeracki.The SA and GSA met with several people including Fondren Library's Director of User Experience Debra Kolah and Vice Provost and University Librarian Sara Lowman, according to Domeracki.SA President Yoonjin Min said the GSA initiated discussions with the SA about graduate-specific complaints before the GSA contacted Kolah in an ongoing effort to approach campus-wide issues together."Originally, we wanted to find more resources [in Fondren] for grad students, but when meeting with [Min] and the rest of the SA, we realized that it was a larger problem," Domeracki said. "The computers that were there were unreliable and there weren't very many, so it was difficult for students to find computers to work on."Part of the problem with Fondren's resources, according to Domeracki, was that the university had not accounted for expanded student enrollment in its consideration of resources in Fondren.Domeraki said the SA and GSA were pleasantly surprised by all the improvements, such as the two new catalog search computers, two express print-only stations, new scanners and updated study rooms, since they originally thought only five computers would be coming.Min said she believes the improvements will impact students positively."Hopefully, the increased speed of the computers will improve flow throughout the library as well as making the studying experience a little more pleasant," Min said.

NEWS 4/18/13 7:00pm

Students to launch bike share system

In fall 2013, Rice Bike Share will enable students to rent bikes on a per-semester or per-year basis. According to McMurtry College junior Sena McCrory, one of the organizers of Rice Bike Share, the idea for a bike-sharing program at Rice University emerged from a group project in the class ENST 302: Environmental Issues: Rice Into the Future, taught by Department of Sociology chair Elizabeth Long and professor in the practice of environmental studies and sociology Richard Johnson. "Each group had a project in the class," McCrory said. "We decided to make a bike-sharing program at Rice, and we decided to continue working on the project even after the semester was over."To further this program, the original project group made up of McCrory, bioengineering graduate student Allen Chen and Brown College junior Clement Ory added other members such as Martel College EcoRep Denis Leahy, Student Association Environmental Committee members Woojin Lee and Oscar Xu, and Rice Bike Shop employees Matt Makansi and Ben Sachs.Chen said the original goal of the project expanded in order to provide more opportunities to students."At first, we were interested in it because we wanted to make it more convenient to move around campus," Chen said. "Then we decided to establish a bike-sharing program at Rice to encourage students to travel off campus in an environmentally friendly way."Chen said the group researched other bike-sharing programs in cities or at other universities as well as previous unsuccessful attempts to establish such a program at Rice.According to McCrory and Leahy, the main reasons previous attempts were unsuccessful were that student accountability for the bikes was low, the bikes were of poor quality, the programs did not have access to bike maintenance, and the attempts were organized by individual colleges rather than as a centralized, campuswide effort. To avoid these mistakes with Rice Bike Share, the project organizers involved the Rice Bike Shop to help with maintenance as well as bike selection. With Rice Bike Share, students will be more accountable for the bikes they use since they will be borrowing the bikes for a longer term than in previous programs, McCrory said. "The students will check out the bikes once they sign up, will have to go through safety and maintenance training, and will sign liability forms," McCrory said. "They will return them during the finals before winter break, and if they are renting for a year, they will pick up another bike the second semester. They can get check-ups and maintenance at the Bike Shop, which is what $40 of the $50 they pay for bike rental goes toward. We also provide baskets and locks."Additionally, partner rentals are an option, in which a student can rent a bike and share it with a friend, according to McCrory. This option costs $70 total per semester, $35 per person.Martel senior Anna Meriano said she likes the concept of Rice Bike Share."I think bike renting is a great idea, especially for people who don't have cars but occasionally need to go off campus to somewhere nearby," Meriano said.