Rice’s preparations for the fall semester in the midst of a pandemic has attracted interest from media outlets across the nation. The tents and temporary buildings deployed on campus drew special attention and generated requests for information and interviews not only from general interest news outlets such as the New York Times, Reuters, CNN and NBC News, but also university trade publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education. The story generated more than 600 media hits, and one of the newly erected tents was prominently featured as the backdrop for a correspondent’s live broadcast from the campus on “CBS Morning News.”
Rice expertise continues to prove an invaluable resource to journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporters for national publications such as the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as local and state outlets such as the Texas Tribune and the Houston-area Community Impact newspapers, regularly contact Rice for expert information and commentary on the impact of the virus. For example, an NBC News interview of Quianta Moore of Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy aired on more than 1,000 radio stations across the nation and a BBC interview with Anthony Pinn of Rice’s Center for African and African American Studies aired on more than 1,300 radio stations around the world.
Kory Evans, an assistant professor of biosciences, discovered something interesting in a fish’s mouth: a parasitic crustacean — actually, a louse — that ate the fish’s tongue and effectively replaced it. The strange report caught on with media outlets across North America, including USA Today, CNN and CBC Radio in Canada, logging more than 800 media hits for a louse-y fish story that turned out to be true.
For a full list of July and August media stars,
please see the last section of this report.
Government Relations tackles student visas, research restart funding, connections with policymakers
In July, Government Relations continued our federal advocacy on pandemic relief efforts and nonimmigrant visas for international students and scholars. On visas, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued long awaited international student guidance for the fall, but it was unclear at best. At worst, it could severely disrupt international student education if Rice had to move back to online-only classes. We spent an intense few weeks lobbying Congress on the need to expedite clearer, more flexible guidance from ICE. Revised and clarified fall semester guidance was subsequently issued..
We also pushed Congress to steer more pandemic relief funding to higher education and university research. Following this spring’s CARES Act, the House passed the HEROES Act in mid-May, but the bill lacked adequate funding for student and university COVID-19 needs and did not amply fund federal agencies to restart university research. The bill also lacked liability protections for reopening universities. Before the Senate’s introduction of their counteroffer, we set about strategic outreach on these issues and lobbied Texas’ congressional delegation on the bipartisan, bicameral RISE Act, which would authorize $26 billion to federal agency research budgets. These resources are needed to protect American scientific leadership broadly and the highly skilled workers who support it. Coordinating with other Texas-based research universities and our national associations, we convinced several Texans, including members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (HSST), to support the bill, which will be the subject of a hearing in early September.
In July and August, Government Relations also spent time assisting fellows from several centers in the Baker Institute for Public Policy in state and federal outreach. We helped the Center for Energy Studies arrange virtual meetings with numerous congressional offices and committees. We also helped connect Michelle Michot Foss, a fellow in energy and minerals, with House Energy and Commerce Committee staff, who invited her to lead a well attended virtual staff briefing on critical mineral supply chains. Finally, as state legislative committees issued requests for information about their interim session priorities, we helped analyze and relay these to relevant Rice and Baker Institute experts so they could respond and provide expertise in a timely manner. These committees cannot hold hearings during the pandemic, so these contributions allow our experts and researchers to weigh in on relevant topics in the run up to the 87th Texas Legislature, which begins in late January 2021.
City and METRO improve bike and pedestrian safety near Rice's Gate 1
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined President David Leebron and others for a ceremony and media event July 10 to celebrate recent pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements near Gate 1 on Main Street at Sunset Boulevard.
In response to two separate bike commuter accidents that claimed the lives of a Rice faculty member and the spouse of a Rice staff member, University Relations initiated discussions with METRO, Houston Public Works, the Texas Medical Center, Hermann Park, bicycle advocacy groups and area neighborhood associations to reduce the threat to commuting students, employees and visitors who cross Main and Fannin streets between Rice and Hermann Park, including the METRORail station in between.
In consultation with these stakeholders, traffic engineers hired by METRO developed a plan that eliminated right turns from eastbound Sunset onto Fannin, added pedestrian and bike crosswalks and bollard-protected, grade-sloped pedestrian refuge areas and sidewalk improvements, improved traffic and pedestrian signage at both the Sunset/Main and Sunset/Fannin intersections and installed a second traffic signal controller mechanism, enabling the pedestrian-activated crossing signals at the two intersections to operate independently, thus decreasing wait times.
From left to right, the participants pictured while cutting the ribbon on the new safety improvements are Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock ’91, LINK Houston Executive Director Oni Blair, District C City Councilmember Abbie Kamin, Houston Planning and Development Director Margaret Wallace Brown, Mayor Turner, former president of the Rice Cycling and Triathlon Club Mary Natoli ’20 and President Leebron.
Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures brochures
Creative Services edited and designed a series of six brochures for the newly renamed Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures in the School of Humanities. The informative brochures covered each of the study tracks offered through the department.
A campus signage plan was produced by the Creative Services design staff. The entrance and campuswide signs highlight the university’s guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic. Flyers were also created to display inside buildings.
Big Questions promotional materials
The Creative Services staff helped produce promotional materials for the School of Humanities’ popular Big Questions courses. The most recent courses are titled “Is This the End?” and “What Is the Ethical Thing to Do?”
Center for Environmental Studies flyers and ads
Creative Services edited and designed an informational flyer and social media ads to promote the new Center for Environmental Studies at Rice. The center is a joint venture of the School of Architecture and the School of Humanities.
Multicultural Community Relations
Houston Chronicle essay celebrates Black culture
Amid ongoing racial tensions across the globe, David Medina '83 wrote an essay that the Houston Chronicle published July 2. The essay, titled “Second Ward hoops, Black neighbors and Latino roots — how to deepen Houston’s conversation on race,” encouraged the Latinx community and others to support and acknowledge the many accomplishments and strengths of the Black community.
Detail from the restored mural “The Rebirth of Our Nationality” at 5900 Canal Street, originally painted by Leo Tanguma in the early 1970s.
Virtual workshops offer advice on college admissions and financial aid
Multicultural Community Relations (MCR) and the Texas Diversity Council hosted three virtual workshops to inform students and their parents about the college admissions process and how to search for financial aid and scholarships. Attendees included parents and high school students from the summer writing program that MCR organizes every year at Rice.
School supplies for Third Ward elementary school
The National Society of Black Engineers at Rice and MCR worked together to donate much-needed school supplies to Blackshear Elementary in Houston’s Third Ward. MCR is also working with Rice’s Black Student Association (BSA) to recruit virtual tutors for the upcoming school year.
Diverse student groups begin academic year with virtual receptions
The Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice (HACER) and the Black Student Association (BSA) hosted welcoming receptions Aug. 15 for the new students arriving on campus. MCR's David Medina and Jan West were among the speakers welcoming the new students. MCR staff continued to support these groups by attending their first meetings and activities, making program suggestions for virtual activities in the community and providing encouragement for what stands to be an unpredictable year. The BSA ended the first week of school with a watch party showing the documentary “Young, Gifted and Black: Reflections from Black Alumni at Rice,” which MCR produced for Rice’s Centennial Celebration.
Marketing and Digital Communications
Google Analytics for rice.edu shows an increase in traffic to the site from July 1 to Aug. 31. Total page views were 877,688, with visitors spending an average time of 4 minutes, 27 seconds on the site and a bounce rate of 36%. These traffic numbers show an increase over the previous period, most likely attributed to the return of students, staff and faculty to the university. The Return to Rice campaign also launched to support the safe return to campus.
July/August vs. May/June Page views: 877,688 vs. 626,105 (40.18% increase) Average time on page: 4 minutes, 27 seconds vs. 4 minutes, 44 seconds Bounce rate: 36.46% vs. 34.81%
As of Aug. 31, Public Affairs and the Office of Information Technology have successfully launched 159 Drupal 8 websites, including Anthropology; Art History; Bioengineering; BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC); Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Civil and Environmental Engineering; Chao Center for Asian Studies; Computational and Applied Mathematics; Computer Science; Controller’s Office; Data@Rice — Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence; English; George R. Brown School of Engineering; Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies; History; Linguistics; Managerial Studies; Materials Science and NanoEngineering; Mechanical Engineering; Medical Futures Lab; Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures; Philosophy; Political Science; Profiles; Program in Jewish Studies; Psychological Sciences; Recreation and Wellness Center; Religion; Return to Rice; Rice Ethics and Compliance; School of Humanities; Sport Management; Study Abroad; Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice; the Rice Center for Transforming Data to Knowledge (D2K Lab); Title IX and Sex Discrimination; and Visual and Dramatic Arts.
The two departments are also collaborating on 40 additional websites as part of the migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 or new sites that have come into the Rice-branded theme. Some of the websites currently under development are:
Glasscock School of Continuing Studies
Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC)
Human Resources (Intranet)
Information Technology (IT@RIce)
Kinder Institute for Urban Research
Office of the General Counsel (OGC)
Office of Research subsites (15 total)
Office of the Registrar
Rice News and Media Relations
School of Social Sciences
Student Success Initiatives
Wiess School of Natural Sciences (departments of biosciences, chemistry, kinesiology, mathematics and physics and astronomy)
Impressions: This reflects the number of times the content was seen. Followers: This is the number of people who follow the main Rice accounts. Engagements: This reflects the number of interactions (likes, shares, comments, clicks, etc.) on a post.
In July and August, Rice social media channels received more than 2 million impressions and more than 130,000 engagements.
Twitter’s top post was a letter to Rice’s international students. It received more than 19,000 impressions and 170 likes.
Facebook’s top post was the O-Week video. The post received more than 53,000 impressions and more than 16,000 video views.
LinkedIn’s top post was also the O-Week video. The post received more than 23,000 impressions and more than 12,500 views.
Instagram’s top post was an aerial view of campus at sunrise. The post received 27,458 impressions.
Jeffrey Kripal, the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought, had the highest number of media mentions — 2,311 — during July and August, mainly for comments about the origins of self-care. Below are members of the Rice community who were mentioned in the media 10 or more times during July and August.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
James A. Baker III
E. Susan Amirian
Michelle Michot Foss
The chart below shows Rice’s media mentions since 2007. The green column reflects the number of mentions so far in 2020.