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  Rice Social Sciences in the Community

Great universities provide great benefit and service to their communities. Rice University's School of Social Sciences has contributed significantly to the life and vitality of the City of Houston. Since its inception in 1979 the School of Social Sciences has educated students who have made Houston their home and place of work after graduation. These graduates have made significant social, economic, political and, cultural contributions to Houston. For example, Robert Miller (class of 1983) was instrumental in bringing light rail to the City of Houston during his tenure as chair of the Houston Metropolitan Transportation Authority. [add others including Andrea Morgan Director of Marketing for Compaq Computers]

In addition to the value added to Houston by our graduates, our students and faculty engage in wide range of learning and research experiences that directly benefit Houston and the greater community. For example, in 2005 the City of Houston awarded the School of Social Sciences a contract to assist in the design and evaluation of the city's SAFEclear program for removing stalled and disabled vehicles from Houston freeways. Under minimal faculty supervision three undergraduates and one graduate student were responsible for conducting research and preparing memoranda for the Mayor of Houston. One long-time city administrator said the value and quality of this work was on par with the work product of McKinsey, Price Waterhouse Coopers and other leading management-consulting firms. Our faculties' research touches and informs the Houston community in many ways. Stephen Klineberg's annual Houston Area Survey that has provided a mirror for the Houston metropolitan community for the last 25 years. His public opinion survey has been widely used by governments and businesses to better understand our community and plan for its future.

We are seeking ways to further enhance the teaching and research experience for our students and faculty by expanding our engagement with the Houston community. Towards this end we are excited about several new initiatives in our curriculum and research program. We have identified three areas for significant enhancement in our program of teaching and research. These include: cognitive neurosciences, social diversity and public policy. In each of these programs our students and faculty engage and collaborate with Houston, the Texas Medical Center and many other entities beyond the hedges.




  From the Dean  

Focusing on Houston's welfare not only will elevate the city but will also elevate the school's programs in neurosciences, public policy, and urban studies into national prominence. This, in turn, will enhance Rice's reputation as an elite center for learning and problem-solving. We have the expertise--world-renowned professors and students with top academic records--and the passion to achieve this vision. ea

To achieve national prominence, to enhance our ability to provide valuable research to the Houston community, and to accommodate the anticipated continuing increase of students, the School of Social Sciences requires strategic investment in four key areas:

Establish the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life
This center will draw on Rice's nationally recognized strength in these areas and help position the university to collaborate better with other Houston organizations. The center will provide objective, quantifiable information that will help city and civic leaders design better programs that directly affect the people of Houston. The center also will sponsor workshops and community forums to discuss solutions for the challenges facing Houston and other urban areas.

Enhance Public Policy Education and Research
The school's public policy program has been very successful, with our students engaging in real-world research that benefits Houston, such as the Houston Area Survey, economic analyses of Houston's energy and health care industries, and the City of Houston's SAFEclear program for traffic management. We want to increase local internship and research opportunities for undergraduates that will enhance their decision-making skills, prepare them for community leadership positions in the future, and increase the number of research projects that directly benefit Houston

Create the Rice Institute for Mind and Brain
This new interdisciplinary institute, to be housed in the School of Social Sciences, will build upon existing faculty strengths in the neurosciences and better coordinate its synergistic partnership with the Texas Medical Center. The institute will help Houston become one of the nation's foremost cognitive neuroscience research and academic centers, making discoveries that will help prevent and treat neurological conditions such as stroke and schizophrenia and provide a better understanding about the connections between the brain and individual and social behaviors.

The new programs discussed above will involve faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates from across the school interacting as a team of collaborators. The new building is designed to facilitate this interaction, as well as to increase the contact between the School of Social Sciences and the School of Continuing Studies. The preferred location (next to Herring Hall) will move social science faculty and students closer to collaborators from other Rice schools, as well as the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

We look forward to working with our alumni and friends to achieve these ambitious goals over the next 7 - 10 years.

Robert Stein,
Dean of Social Sciences