Study identifies factors that lead to greater college success

Educational attainment is a national priority because it creates both economic and personal gains: higher incomes, better individual and family health and deeper civic engagement. U.S. college enrollments are increasing, suggesting greater educational attainment; however, national college completion rates are lagging behind other developed nations. Recent research suggests that U.S. college students could succeed if they are encouraged to develop a sense of belonging, a growth mindset and salient personal goals and values, according to a new national report co-authored by a Rice University psychology professor.

“Supporting Students’ College Success: The Role of Assessment of Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Competencies” was released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and commissioned by the National Science Foundation. Fred Oswald, a professor of psychology at Rice, was a co-author of the report, which was based on a review of 49 articles targeting 61 experimental studies that examined interventions to improve educational attainment.

Across these studies, three competencies most frequently showed evidence of supporting students’ college persistence and success, as measured by grades, retention and graduation:

  • A sense of belonging, meaning that college students (particularly underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students) feel that they belong in college, fit in well and are socially integrated. Approximately 85 percent of the studies measuring students’ sense of belonging demonstrated a positive impact of belonging on students’ college GPAs.
  • A growth mindset, referring to college students’ beliefs that their own intelligence is not a fixed entity, but rather a malleable quality that college can help improve. Seventy-five percent of the studies measuring students’ growth mindset showed this characteristic had a positive impact on students’ college GPAs.
  • Personal goals and values that college students perceive to be directly linked to the achievement of a future, desired end. Approximately 83 percent of the studies measuring personal goals showed this characteristic as having a positive impact on students’ final course grades.

Oswald noted that this recent research reported some remarkable findings based on low-cost, brief writing exercises for improving these intra- and interpersonal competencies. One required students to write about the relevance of course topics to their own life or to the life of a family member or close friend. Another intervention aimed to lessen psychological perceptions of threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient, and used subtle attitude-change strategies to lead participants to self-generate the framing in their writing.

With these interventions, GPAs have been shown impressively to improve not only in the class where the intervention was given, but many semesters beyond, Oswald said. Furthermore, the interventions show the largest benefits accrue in student groups that are at greatest risk for academic failure. Oswald thus noted that these interventions have promise but deserve further intensive research to assure these interventions can impact student success in the future, in other college settings.

Oswald said measures of intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies should be held to rigorous development procedures and statistical standards, just like the SAT, ACT, MCAT, LSAT and other standardized tests of cognitive competencies.

Many current assessments of these competencies fall short in providing solid statistical evidence supporting their reliability and validity,” Oswald said. “It is important to investigate these measures carefully, for example, because students can differ in how they interpret the meaning of rating scales, or sometimes they feel pressured to present themselves in the best light.”

He and his co-authors recommend further research in partnership with higher education institutions to build on the report’s findings and to find reliable ways to track these intra- and interpersonal characteristics that can lead to increased college completion.

The report was funded by the National Science Foundation and is available online at www.nap.edu/catalog/24697/supporting-students-college-success-the-role-of-assessment-of-intrapersonal. The study was sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Warren named associate VP of development

Kathi Dantley Warren, currently the senior executive director of development for Duke Cancer Institute, has been named associate vice president of development at Rice University, effective July 10.

Kathi Dantley Warren

With more than 17 years of experience at higher education and medical institutions, Warren will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of individual fundraising programs and also oversee various departments within the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, including gift planning, major gifts, school-based fundraising and annual giving.

All of us at Rice are incredibly excited that Kathi will be joining the Development and Alumni Relations team,” said Vice President Darrow Zeidenstein. “Educated as a scientist, Kathi brings incredible smarts and a wealth of development experience from her work at Cornell and Duke, two of the best development programs in the country. I have zero doubt that both faculty and staff will enjoy working with Kathi as we seek to secure resources to enhance Rice’s mission.”

In her development role with one of the original eight comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute, Warren transformed the fundraising program from a yearly $18 million enterprise to a $30 million enterprise and successfully completed a $200 million campaign.

Before joining the Duke Cancer Institute and Duke Health in Durham, N.C., in 2014, Warren served as assistant dean for alumni affairs and development at Cornell University’s College of Engineering, where she created its first alumni affairs and development strategic plan and alumni engagement plan. Over a four-year period she increased annual revenues by 245 percent – from $22.7 million to more than $56 million – and helped achieve the second-best fundraising year in the college’s history. Through philanthropy she also enabled the college to create and endow several new programs, including an engineering leadership program and teaching excellence institute.

“It gave me great joy to see the legacy that this created,” Warren said. “Faculty and students are benefiting from those programs that were the result of a partnership with donors and institutional leadership.”

Warren has an M.A. in cell and molecular biology and microbiology from Duke University and a B.A. in biology from Hampton University. She found herself drawn to the development profession after thinking about how she had been impacted as the recipient of an undergraduate scholarship and graduate fellowship. She learned more about the profession that made that scholarship and fellowship possible and became a development associate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she worked her way up to associate director of development.

She met a refugee from an African country at a University of Maryland scholarship event for donors and recipients and kept in touch with him. After graduating, the refugee got a job at the United Nations and then returned to his home country to try to assist people there, but none of that would have happened if he had not received the scholarship. “That was hugely impactful,” Warren said. “The scholarship changed not only his life, but the lives of others.” She said experiences like this helped her to find meaning in the development profession. “It’s very rewarding,” she said.

Warren’s career in development includes more than 10 years of leading teams during fundraising campaigns of more than $1 billion. She said the best institutions find a way to blend the scientific tenets of fundraising with “the art of cultivating meaningful, lifelong relationships with an institution,” and Rice’s ability to do that was a key factor in her decision to join the university’s development team.

“Rice has an excellent story to tell and a visionary leader in President David Leebron,” Warren said. She noted that Rice’s prestige as a research institution, its liberal arts programs, its residential college system and its unique landscape in an urban setting are “very compelling and really engender not just investments but partnerships with donors” and can lead to “transformational gifts.”

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Warren said she is excited to come to Rice and to make a home in Texas for her family, which includes her husband, Stephen; her 11-year-old son, Bennett; and Pearl, a Piston terrier who is “the sweetest dog on the planet.” Warren is an avid sports enthusiast who likes to run, lift weights and play basketball with her son. She also enjoys cooking and acrylic painting.

7 Jones School professors recognized with teaching honors

Seven members of the Jones Graduate School of Business faculty were recognized for their excellence in teaching at the school’s May 12 investiture ceremony at Tudor Fieldhouse. Honorees were chosen by the Rice MBA alumni group as well as by students from the Jones School’s three MBA programs.

Hajo Adam, assistant professor of management, received the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business Full-Time MBA Award for Teaching Excellence. Adam joined the Rice faculty in 2012, and his teaching interests include negotiation, organizational behavior, culture and conflict.

The Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business MBA for Professionals Evening Award for Teaching Excellence was presented to Brian Akins, assistant professor of accounting, and Alan Crane, assistant professor of finance. Akins’ research focuses on financial reporting quality and the impact of accounting in debt and equity market settings; Crane’s focuses on the role institutions play in financial policy decisions of firms and the investment performance of those institutions.

Prashant Kale, associate professor of strategic management, was honored with the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business MBA for Professionals Weekend Award for Teaching Excellence. A member of the faculty since 2007, Kale teaches the Core Strategy Course in the full-time, professional and executive MBA programs and has also taught electives on managing strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions and health care strategy.

The Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business MBA for Executives Award for Teaching Excellence was presented to Gustavo Grullon, the Jesse H. Jones Professor of Finance, and Mikki Hebl, the Martha and Henry Malcolm Lovett Chair of Psychology, professor of psychology and professor of management. Grullon specializes in mergers, acquisitions and corporate finance; Hebl’s research focuses on workplace discrimination and the barriers stigmatized individuals face in social interactions, the hiring process, business settings and the medical community.

Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing, received the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching. Mittal’s teaching interests include marketing research, customer-focused strategy and advanced marketing research.

For more information about Jones School faculty and their teaching and research, go to https://business.rice.edu/faculty-and-research.

Unconventional students at Rice 2017: Brian Barr

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May 11, 2017

Brian Barr, a Brown College senior majoring in chemical engineering, has a passion for bikes and design. He found organizations that fueled his interests through Rice Bikes, a student-run business, and Data Design Co_, a product design firm creating data-inspired home goods.

“I’ve always been a creative individual, but I don’t think I realized how that intersected with other areas of my life until I got here,” said Barr. “Rice expanded my world view— you end up in a different place than when you came in.”

After graduation, Barr will join Incoming Venture for America, a fellowship program that places recent graduates at startups in cities with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems.

People I talked with said that the smartest people they know went to Rice and had a great time and that felt like a pretty ringing endorsement,” Barr said.

About Brandon Martin

Greetings, I am a video producer at Rice University in the Office of Public Affairs. I became a Rice Owl in June 2011. Before that, I was at KPRC-TV in Houston as a special projects photojournalist for seven years, where I covered everything from hurricanes to sports. Southeast Texas has been my home my entire life. I am lucky to have a wonderful wife and two of the cutest girls I have ever seen. Go Owls!

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Internet2 Names New President and Chief Executive Officer: Howard Pfeffer

Technology broadband executive to lead U.S. national research and education organization

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 10, 2017 – The Internet2 board of trustees today announced the appointment of Howard Pfeffer as its new president and chief executive officer (CEO). Pfeffer brings over 30 years of experience in networking, systems and software engineering and helped pioneer the development of broadband Internet in the cable industry. Pfeffer will replace Internet2’s current president and CEO H. David Lambert, effective June 12, 2017.

Howard Pfeffer is the new Internet2 president and CEO.

Most recently, Pfeffer served as the senior vice president of the broadband technology group at Time Warner Cable where he successfully led the architecture, engineering and development of the telecommunications infrastructure for residential and business services. He brings a strong background of business experience, technical leadership, deep advanced network knowledge and a track record of growth of new services.   

As president and CEO, Pfeffer will serve on behalf of the Internet2 membership community and is responsible for establishing and fostering the vision and strategic direction of the organization and has ultimate responsibility and accountability for its success. In this role, Pfeffer will lead all activities for the non-profit organization to further support the research and education community in the United States and around the globe.  

The CEO search process began in October 2016 with the appointment of a special search committee, which was led by Patrick Gallagher, vice-chair of the Internet2 board of trustees and the chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. The search committee members were Rebecca Blank, chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Evans, chairman and CEO, Evans Telecommunications Co.; Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and CIO, Duke University; Mike Norman, director, San Diego Supercomputing Center; Vinton Cerf, chief internet evangelist, Google; Farnam Jahanian, provost, Carnegie Mellon University; Jen Leasure, president and CEO, The Quilt; and Christos Papadopoulos, professor of computer science, Colorado State University. The committee was assisted by executive search firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, and reviewed over 100 candidates for the position during the process.

After an extensive and thoughtful search process, I am extremely pleased that Howard will be the next leader of Internet2,” Gallagher said. “Howard is a seasoned leader in the broadband industry who possesses deep technical knowledge and excellent partnering skills. He has a strong appreciation for the value that Internet2 provides to the research and education community and looks forward to helping the organization move forward on the priority initiatives of advanced networking and trust and identity services while also continuing to evolve its mission to remain a strategic partner to the community. I want to especially recognize the commitment and efforts of all the members of the search committee who were dedicated to finding the best possible candidate.”

“Howard Pfeffer will work broadly with our community to develop a strong vision for the future of Internet2, and he has the proven capacity to collaboratively see that vision become a reality,” said David Leebron, chairman of the board for Internet2 and president of Rice University. “In a time of dramatic change in the internet technology landscape, our board believes that Howard will provide the type of leadership the Internet2 community needs to provide the highest value to its membership. We’re very grateful to Pat Gallagher for his outstanding work with a representative and talented search committee.” 

Prior to his numerous leadership roles at Time Warner Cable, Pfeffer held engineering and technology positions at organizations such as America Online and Road Runner. Over the course of his career he has been awarded multiple U.S. patents.

“I am extremely honored and proud to have been selected as the next president and CEO of Internet2,” Pfeffer said. “When you look back in history, so many technologies and advancements in science and ground breaking innovations have come directly from the research and higher education community. I am excited to use my background and experiences to contribute to the next generation of new technologies and services. I am committed to working very closely with the Internet2 community to help further their academic and scholarship missions both nationally and globally.”

Pfeffer earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and will be based in the Internet2 Washington, D.C. office. 

About Internet2®

Internet2® is a non-profit, member-driven advanced technology community founded by the nation’s leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 serves 317 U.S. universities, 70 government agencies, 43 regional and state education networks and through them supports more than 94,000 community anchor institutions, over 900 InCommon participants, and 78 leading corporations working with our community, and 61 national research and education network partners that represent more than 100 countries.

Internet2 delivers a diverse portfolio of technology solutions that leverages, integrates, and amplifies the strengths of its members and helps support their educational, research and community service missions. Internet2’s core infrastructure components include the nation’s largest and fastest research and education network that was built to deliver advanced, customized services that are accessed and secured by the community-developed trust and identity framework.

Internet2 offices are located in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Denver, Colo.; Emeryville, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; and West Hartford, Conn. For more information, visit www.internet2.edu or follow on Twitter.

Rice researcher: College students writing skills should be evaluated over 4 years

Rice University

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David Ruth

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Amy McCaig

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Rice researcher: College students’ writing skills should be evaluated over 4 years
Rice students’ writing skills improved 7 percent

HOUSTON – (May 8, 2017) – A test to measure students’ writing skills during four years of college should be used by all colleges and universities, according to a researcher at Rice University. The researcher found that Rice undergraduates’ writing skills improved 7 percent over their college years, and college-ranking websites could help prospective students narrow their college search by providing information on how students improve skills such as writing during their education at various schools.

JAMES POMERANTZ

The study is highlighted in the article “Improvement of Writing Skills During College: A Multiyear Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Study of Undergraduate Writing Performance,” which appeared in a recent edition of Assessing Writing. The 7 percent improvement during the four-year college span that researchers found over a nine-year study period was based on measurements of Rice undergraduates’ expository and persuasive writing skills.

“Colleges and universities seldom perform such before-and-after comparisons to see how much — or whether — students improve over their college years,” said James Pomerantz, a professor of psychology at Rice and a co-author of the study. “If you scour the web looking for information about how well students progress while pursuing degrees at America’s colleges, you will be hard-pressed to find a single school that provides this information.”

Pomerantz said that college-ranking systems compare schools mainly on factors such as graduation and retention rates, but noted that these rankings can be improved simply by lowering the standards required to receive a diploma. He also noted that rankings rely heavily on schools’ reputations, which can be out of date and are deeply subjective. And while standardized test scores on entering students may be objective, Pomerantz said, top-ranked schools accept students who are so talented and well-prepared to begin with that their successful graduation and subsequent careers seem all but preordained.

“Thus it’s not clear whether selective colleges can claim any ‘value added’ credit — whether students graduate in better shape than they arrived at college,” he said. “This is why we were interested in creating a study to evaluate how student skills improved. Writing ability seemed like a good place to begin, since it’s a fundamental skill, and one that future employers look for closely in college graduates.”

In addition to finding that Rice undergraduates improved their writing skills, Pomerantz and his fellow authors determined that this improvement was consistent for both male and female students and for those individuals majoring in both natural sciences and engineering as well as students majoring in humanities and social sciences. The finding held whether the testing was done longitudinally (tracking students over their college careers) or cross-sectionally (taking a snapshot of upper- and lower-class students at one moment in time).

The study was conducted on 303 Rice undergraduates between 2000 and 2008 and used a method modeled on clinical trials for new medicines, including random selection of subjects and blind scoring of writing samples by Educational Testing Service professionals who were unaware of the purpose of the research. The test consisted of Rice undergraduates writing answers to multiple prompts designed to tap their expository and persuasive writing skills. Students wrote their responses in campus lecture halls under timed conditions, on a fixed time of day and day of year. Their responses were then transcribed so factors such as handwriting skill would not affect their scores.

“While it is reassuring to learn that the major investment of time and effort in college — not to mention the large financial investment — pays off in a measurable way, more questions remain,” Pomerantz said. “How much do students improve in other skills, such as quantitative reasoning and critical thinking? Do students improve as much these days — with our new teaching resources and learning technologies — as they did 20 years ago? And how does the improvement measured at Rice compare with that at other institutions?”

Ultimately, Pomerantz hopes future research will encourage widespread, rigorous before-and-after testing of skills developed in college.

“These tests are not difficult or expensive to perform, and when carried out regularly they can show a school what parts of their educational system work well and what parts need adjustments,” he said. “Whether colleges have refrained from genuine value-added assessments because they have overestimated their cost and difficulty, or whether it was from fear that the results might not be flattering, it’s time to move forward and make this practice regular and universal. Without it, we don’t know whether students are actually improving in fundamental skills like writing. Some graduating seniors have expressed concern that their writing skills might have actually deteriorated in college from lack of use compared with their writing experiences in high school. Our results provide some reassurance that such fears are unfounded.”

The study was funded by The Spencer Foundation and is available online at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1075293516300708. Daniel Oppenheimer ‘00, Franklin Zaromb, Jean Williams and Yoon Soo Park were co-authors of the study.

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For more information, contact Amy McCaig, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at 713-348-6777 or amym@rice.edu.

This news release can be found online at http://news.rice.edu/.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter .

Related materials:

James Pomerantz bio: https://psychology.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=295

Photo link: http://news.rice.edu/files/2017/05/pomerantz-1oforps.jpg

Photo credit: Rice University

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,879 undergraduates and 2,861 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for happiest students and for lots of race/class interaction by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview.

Commencement ceremonies planned for Friday, Saturday

Degrees for Rice’s Class of 2017 will be conferred May 13 during the plenary session in the Academic Quad. Individual recognition of graduating students will take place May 12 during separate ceremonies at which each degree recipient will be named, presented and congratulated.

Friday’s ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. with the Advanced Degrees Convocation in Tudor Fieldhouse. All recipients of a master’s degree, except for MBAs, are expected to attend, along with graduates who are receiving an Artist Diploma in Music or a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

The Jones Graduate School of Business Investiture for MBA Programs will be at 1 p.m. Friday in Tudor Fieldhouse. All Master of Business Administration degree recipients are expected to attend, along with faculty members who have an appointment in the Jones School.

The Doctoral Convocation will be at 2 p.m. Friday in Stude Concert Hall in Alice Pratt Brown Hall. Ph.D. recipients are expected to attend, along with the faculty member they have selected to hood them, who is typically their thesis adviser.

Dinner for seniors only will be served in their residential colleges from 4:45 to 6:30 p.m. Friday. Families are welcome to join their graduating seniors for a free dinner.

The Undergraduate Convocation will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Academic Quad unless inclement weather makes it necessary to move the ceremony indoors at Tudor Fieldhouse. All recipients of bachelor’s degrees except for the Bachelor of Architecture degree are expected to attend. Each student gets to cross the stage, receive a tube for their diploma and be congratulated. Brief remarks will be presented by a student-selected member of the graduating class, by a college master and by President David Leebron. The ceremony will conclude with a student-written trumpet fanfare and a fireworks display.

A continental breakfast for graduating seniors will be served in the residential colleges from 6:30 to 8 a.m. Saturday.

Saturday’s plenary ceremony will start at 8:30 a.m. in the Academic Quad unless the weather warrants an indoor ceremony at Tudor Fieldhouse. All graduates and all faculty members are expected to attend. The ceremony will feature an academic procession and recession, conferral of degrees, presentation of several awards, brief remarks by Leebron and other officials, and a commencement address by Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space. Jemison, a physician, engineer, educator, entrepreneur and former astronaut, is the principal for the 100 Year Starship Project, a global initiative to ensure the capability for interstellar human space flight by 2112.

After Saturday’s commencement, a reception for undergraduate degree recipients and their guests will be held in their residential colleges. A brunch for doctoral degree recipients and their guests will be served in Rice Memorial Center’s Grand Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Marcie O’Malley, the new chief marshal for commencement, said that if it becomes necessary to move outdoor ceremonies indoors, a notice will be posted on rice.edu and an email will be sent to students, faculty and staff.

For details about other events during commencement week, visit commencement.rice.edu and click on the “Schedule of Events” tab.

Paper: Legal framework governing Mexicos energy industry has changed dramatically

David Ruth

713-348-6327

Jeff Falk

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Paper: Legal framework governing Mexico’s energy industry has changed dramatically

HOUSTON – (May 2, 2017) – The general legal framework governing Mexico’s energy industry has dramatically changed since the implementation of the country’s energy reform in 2013, according to a new paper from the Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Credit: Shutterstock.com/Rice University

“The New Energy System in the Mexican Constitution” was co-authored by Jose Ramon Cossio Diaz, a Supreme Court justice of Mexico, and Jose Ramon Cossio Barragan, a lawyer in Mexico.

The paper identifies the main constitutional elements of the Mexican energy system and considers the main aspects of the legislative process that led to constitutional reforms.

Mexico’s energy sector had been under strict governmental management since 1938. This changed in 2013 and 2014 when Mexico amended its constitution and passed legislation overhauling its energy sector to allow private and foreign investments.

The purpose of the study was to abstract the legal categories of analysis for these constitutional amendments and not to identify the determining factors for the political, financial or economic decisions that motivated the reform, the authors said. They separately considered the two most important sectors of the Mexican energy system since the constitutional reform went into effect: the hydrocarbons sector and the electrical industry.

The authors reached the following conclusions:

— The general legal framework has dramatically changed, since the status of oil and hydrocarbons or those of activities and services remain under the exclusive property or control of the Mexican state.

— People enjoy wide-ranging possibilities of participation with respect to the goods or the performance of the activities in the petroleum and electrical sectors.

— A new and complex network of state agencies was established to participate and/or regulate the natural resources and the direct activities of each of the sectors.

— Additional agencies and companies were created regarding the actions required to fully cover the goods and activities linked to these sectors and the effect that their actions must generate.

— The basic structure and competitive environment of all the created bodies is designed more to enhance the effectiveness and operation of the corresponding sectors than to control participants.

The paper was written for a Mexico Center research project examining the rule of law in Mexico and the challenges it poses to implementing the country’s energy reform. The project’s findings are compiled in a Spanish-language book and are being posted on the Baker Institute’s website in English.

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For more information or to schedule an interview with Cossio Diaz or Cossio Barragan, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.

Related materials:

Paper: www.bakerinstitute.org/media/files/files/68d55ed8/MEX-pub-RuleofLaw_JR2-042417.pdf.

Follow the Mexico Center via Twitter .

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Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top five university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog.

AAU members making progress in combating sexual misconduct

Rice University and other members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) are making significant improvements and devoting substantial resources to combat sexual misconduct on campus, according to a report based on the results of a new survey.

The report, published April 26 by the association of 62 leading research universities, follows up on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, a landmark comprehensive campus climate survey of 150,000 students by AAU in 2015. Rice did not participate in that survey but conducted its own survey in collaboration with several other universities so that the questions could address specific needs.

Rice did participate in AAU’s follow-up survey in fall 2016. The survey asked university administrators about the kinds of activities institutions are engaging in, about collaborations and partnerships and about the resources being devoted to these efforts. It also asked institutions to provide specific examples of programs, training and other activities. The purpose of the new report is to assist AAU schools by providing data and examples of the efforts their peer institutions are making in this area.

Like all the universities surveyed, Rice has conducted a major climate survey of its students on issues relating to sexual assault and misconduct, has improved education and training of students and faculty to try to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual misconduct, and has significantly strengthened programs to assist victims of sexual assault and misconduct.

Among the key findings of the new report:

  • Over the last three academic years, all 55 institutions that responded to the 2015 survey have developed, redefined or enhanced programs to assist victims of sexual assault and misconduct.
  • 100 percent of responding institutions have surveyed students on issues related to sexual assault and misconduct at least once since 2013.
  • 87 percent (48/55) of responding institutions indicated that surveys or data from surveys stimulated new or changed existing conversations with students about sexual assault and misconduct.
  • Over the last three academic years, 100 percent of responding institutions have changed or are in the process of changing their education and training for students and faculty.
  • Over the last three academic years, 84 percent (46/55) of institutions have developed new programs, education or interventions for specific student populations or types of students.

The new report includes a case study of Rice’s Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Title IX Support and notes that Rice offers a range of support and care to students who report an assault or other violence against them, as well as to students who have been accused of perpetrating such violence. Students who have experienced any form of interpersonal violence are encouraged to seek support, and the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Title IX Support offers confidential on-campus counseling and off-campus referrals, plus resources to assure a student’s safety and help navigating the medical, law enforcement and legal systems.

Rice’s “culture of care,” an expectation that students “treat each other with dignity and respect, including in sexual and romantic relationships,” is mentioned. The report cites the pilot course Critical Thinking in Sexuality that Rice offered this spring. The course explored such issues as consent, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and how to intervene in dangerous situations. The university plans to make the five-week class mandatory for freshmen beginning this fall. Attention is also given to the STRIVE (Students Transforming Rice Into a Violence-free Environment) Coalition, a dedicated group of Rice students who have come together to address sexual and domestic violence on campus.

The AAU report also notes that Rice University has working agreements with the Houston Area Women’s Center, the Montrose Center, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, as well as an assigned assistant district attorney from the Harris County Special Victim’s Bureau and a special agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The full “AAU Campus Activities Report: Combating Sexual Assault and Misconduct” can be read here.

Unconventional students at Rice 2017: Senthil Natarajan

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April 23, 2017

Senthil Natarajan, a Will Rice College senior majoring in electrical engineering, used his four years at Rice to explore his passions for sports and technology. “I think the number one thing I describe about my time at Rice is the fact that it’s allowed me to not be restrictive by what my degree is.” Natarajan said. “I came into Rice as an engineering student but I’ve never been forced to follow the traditional path.”

Natarajan has his own startup, Ziel Solutions, that is developing a sensory sleeve for baseball pitchers to help reduce their risk of injury. He also teaches a class on basketball analytics. “It’s really cool every time you introduce a new concept; the students get wide eyed over the realization of just how many complexities there are of analyzing a concept— like rebounding,” he said.

Natarajan has accepted an analyst position after graduation and plans to continue working on Ziel Solutions.

I wanted to make these four years a time of growth and self-discovery and evolution as a person in my academic and personal interests,” he said.

About Brandon Martin

Greetings, I am a video producer at Rice University in the Office of Public Affairs. I became a Rice Owl in June 2011. Before that, I was at KPRC-TV in Houston as a special projects photojournalist for seven years, where I covered everything from hurricanes to sports. Southeast Texas has been my home my entire life. I am lucky to have a wonderful wife and two of the cutest girls I have ever seen. Go Owls!

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