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The Office of Public Affairs' bimonthly measurements and metrics
September-October 2021
Big Stories

Redistricting fight

Vaccine mandate ban in Texas

Pandemic hardship in Houston

Media Highlights

Redistricting fight

Texas lawmakers’ drawn-out battle over drawing U.S. House district boundaries reached a turning point as Democrats accused Republicans of adopting maps to gain more seats in the state’s congressional delegation. Meanwhile, in the state’s largest county, Republicans accused Democrats of redrawing precinct maps to solidify their control over the Harris County Commissioners Court. Veteran Rice political analyst Bob Stein offered context and perspective to reporters covering the redistricting battles for media outlets as varied as Reuters, NPR, CBS News and the Guardian, which earned more than 3,000 media mentions of Rice’s name. Coupled with his comments offered for stories on Hurricane Ida and other subjects, Stein accounted for more than 5,500 media mentions in a two-month period.

Vaccine mandate ban in Texas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting any entity, including private businesses, from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their workers. Meanwhile, major corporations like Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines announced they would abide by federal guidelines requiring employers with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. Rice political scientist Mark Jones offered perspective to reporters from a wide range of national media sources — including CBS News, the Los Angeles Times, Forbes and the Atlantic — as well as international outlets such as Sputnik and Radio France Internationale. Jones’ remarks on this issue alone accounted for more than 2,500 media citations.

Pandemic hardship in Houston

A survey by NPR, Harvard and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that of the four largest U.S. cities, Houston has the worst problem with people facing financial hardship during the pandemic. For context, a reporter at Houston’s NPR affiliate turned to Jie Wu, director of research operations at Rice’s Kinder Institute. The network picked up the story and aired it during NPR’s Morning Edition, which is broadcast on more than 800 radio stations across the nation.

For a full list of September and October media stars
please see the last section of this report. 
Government Relations

Government Relations hosts visit to the Ion, keeps up with Texas Legislature

Government Relations stayed busy as ever in September and October, with special legislative sessions continuing in Austin and a pair of U.S. senators coming to the Ion in Midtown.  

In coordination with the Office of Research, Rice Management Co. and the staff at the Ion, we hosted a successful roundtable that convened Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Steve Daines of Montana for a conversation with a select group of industry leaders from across Houston about the critical semiconductor shortage currently impeding the economy. President David Leebron and senior representatives from Intel Corp., Gulf States Toyota, MD Anderson Cancer Center and Hewlett Packard Enterprise participated in the roundtable. The visit included giving the senators an abbreviated tour of the Ion in addition to a technology showcase that featured — among other innovations — cutting-edge 5G wireless broadband antennae from the Rice alumni-led Skylark Wireless, along with diamond materials produced in labs at the Rice University National Security Research Accelerator, which is funded by the Army Research Laboratory.

Then, in early October, Government Relations arranged a special congressional update for the Rice community that featured our congressman, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who spoke about his legislative priorities and answered questions about the latest developments in Washington, D.C. Open to Rice faculty, students and staff, the event was attended by about 60 people.

Meanwhile, throughout September and October, the Texas Legislature continued working on a number of priorities designated by Gov. Greg Abbott for the second and third special sessions of 2021. Government Relations monitored a number of potentially problematic proposals along the way. We engaged on one piece of legislation in particular that would have encroached on the institutional autonomy of private universities across the state, and that legislation — while it did get a hearing — didn’t progress far before the third special session concluded. In the end, very little that was of concern to Rice made it to the governor’s desk. We continue to watch developments, but most indications are that a fourth special session of the 87th Legislature is unlikely anytime soon.
University Relations

The Welcome Center hosts Rice Day with astronaut Shannon Walker

Rice welcomed astronaut Shannon Walker ’87 back to campus for Rice Day on Oct. 12, the annual celebration of Rice’s founding in 1912. As President David Leebron noted in his introduction of Walker, “President Lovett would, I’m sure, be immensely proud that we have convened more than 100 years later, on the exact anniversary of his own international celebration of the new Rice Institute, to celebrate the fact that a Rice graduate has returned to the Earth having served as the commander of the International Space Station and a member of Crew-1, the first fully crewed commercial space flight in history.”
Walker presented more than a dozen campus academic and student organizations with Rice-related items provided by University Relations that were flown in space during her latest six-month mission to the International Space Station, including a pair of spectacles that once belonged to Rice’s founding president, Edgar Odell Lovett. “As an astronomer whose vision it was to place ‘no upper limit’ on the academic aspirations of the new institution, we thought it would be especially appropriate for his spectacles to be carried to the International Space Station by NASA’s first-ever native Houstonian astronaut who also happens to hold three Rice degrees,” said David Alexander, executive director of the Rice Space Institute.
In addition to presenting the flown items, Walker also took part in a question-and-answer session moderated by Alexander with questions submitted by Rice students and faculty, as well as by the live audience. The video from the event, which premiered during the 2021 Owl Together celebration, may be found here.
Event attendees were able to take home NASA posters, stickers and lapel pins and enjoyed a reception with Walker on the Welcome Center’s Brochstein Plaza, complete with custom “Owlstronaut” and Crew-1 mission patch cookies and Tang.

Fall semester campus tours

Registration for fall semester campus tours opened on the Welcome Center’s new website in August. In one month, all available tours for the fall semester were filled. Since September, student assistants have led 17 tours for 700 middle school students from around the city. While some districts have been unable to visit due to field trip restrictions as well as staffing shortages, we are hopeful that more districts will allow field trips in the spring.
Creative Services

School of Humanities brochure

Creative Services designed and edited a brochure to help increase awareness of the School of Humanities’ offerings for students. The brochure outlines the school’s departments, centers and programs; majors, minors and concentrations and more.

Rice Research Review mailer

Creative Services designed and edited a Rice Research Review mailer for the Office of the Provost. Rice Research Review is an annual online publication that highlights a sampling of Rice’s research pursuits and accomplishments over the previous year. The mailer advertises the first edition of the review, which focuses on 2020.

Shepherd School early fall calendar

Creative Services designed a calendar to promote the Shepherd School’s early fall concerts. The calendar outlines a variety of performances that took place throughout September and October, including doctoral recitals, guest artist recitals and chamber music.
Multicultural Community Relations

Reach for the stars by pursuing a college education

Multicultural Community Relations (MCR) hosted a virtual quarterly meeting for the Rice K-12 Outreach Council Sept. 15. Departments from Rice with K-12 programs and members of nonprofit educational groups met to learn from an array of speakers. Tamara Siler ’86, deputy director of admission, access and inclusion at Rice, spoke about “Recruitment Resources Through an Access and Inclusion Lens.” Patricia Reiff ’74, professor of physics and astronomy and associate director for outreach for the Rice Space Institute, talked about her efforts to help underserved students, especially about her programs Reach for the Stars and GOE STEMFest. Nathan Cook, director of Government Relations at Rice, spoke about “Public Policy on Public Education: A State Legislative Update on Education Priorities Addressed by the 87th Texas Legislature’s Regular and Special Sessions.” Olivera Jankovska, director of the Mayor’s Office of Education, discussed the city of Houston’s youth empowerment programs, including Child Friendly Cities and Hire Houston Youth.

Diverse student groups meet with Public Affairs

The MCR team and Vice President for Public Affairs Linda Thrane met with representatives of diverse student organizations for the annual networking luncheons at Cohen House. The purpose is to meet student leaders of color and find out how MCR and Public Affairs can support the endeavors of these clubs. Attending the Sept. 29 luncheon were members of the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice (HACER), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Rice Mariachi Luna Llena, Rice Salseros and the Latin American Graduate Students Association (LAGSA). Attending the Oct. 7 luncheon were members of the Black Student Association (BSA), the Black Graduate Student Association at Rice (BGSA), the Black Male Leadership Initiative Association, the Rice Black Women’s Association, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Caribbean Student Society and the DAWA Pre-Health Society.

José F. Aranda Jr. speaks at ‘Books That Shaped My Life’

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, MCR invited José F. Aranda Jr., professor of Chicanx and American literature, to speak at the “Books That Shaped My Life” lecture series. A diverse group of faculty, staff, alumni, students and community members from Houston and San Antonio came together virtually to be regaled by Aranda as he talked about growing up in the barrios of Houston and attending Yale University. A lively discussion followed his presentation.

Welcoming new Black faculty to Rice

New Black faculty members at Rice were welcomed through an Oct. 14 virtual event sponsored by the Association of Rice University Black Alumni (ARUBA), the BSA and MCR. Alumni, faculty, staff and students from around the country gathered to celebrate the new Black faculty from a range of academic disciplines. Alumni also met student leaders and were pleased to see the expanding number of Black student groups. The evening culminated with recognition of Roland Smith, the recently retired associate provost for diversity and inclusion, and Catherine Clack, associate dean of undergraduates, who is celebrating her 40th anniversary at Rice.

Rice At Large

The fall issue of Rice At Large, the quarterly newsletter that highlights outreach at Rice, featured a cover story on former Owl basketball player Tim Harrison ’20, who started a nonprofit that helps young people reach their full potential. Also appearing in the publication are stories about an art exhibit at the Moody Center that engages Hispanic students at Rice and the Tapia Center STEM summer camp.
Marketing and Digital Communications

Visits to the homepage decreased as summer ended and the Canvas login page from was removed. Total page views were 543,053, with visitors spending an average time of 4 minutes, 13 seconds on the site, which continues to show that they are finding the information they need.
Page views: 543,053
Average time on page: 4 minutes, 13 seconds
Bounce rate: 46.25%
As of Oct. 31, Public Affairs and the Office of Information Technology have successfully launched 238 Drupal 8 websites. On Oct. 1, 2021, the Rice News and Media Relations website relaunched with updated branding and a new user experience.
The two departments are also collaborating on an additional 39 new websites that have come into the Rice-branded theme. Some of the websites currently under development are:
  • Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA)
  • Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL)
  • Curriculum Management
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Environmental Science
  • Houston Methodist — Rice Center for Human Performance
  • Human Resources
  • KnOWLedge Café (Human Resources Intranet)
  • Office of Faculty Development (OFD)
  • Rice 360°
  • Rice Emergency Medical Services
  • Rice Magazine
  • Strengthening Training & Resources for Inclusion in Data Engineering & Sciences (AGEP STRIDES)
  • The Chemistry of Art
  • The Kinder Institute for Urban Research
  • Vice Provost for Innovation Search
  • Vice President for Administration
Social media
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) on a post.

In September and October, Rice’s social media channels received:

  • Nearly 2 million impressions
  • Nearly 124,000 engagements and a 5.3 percent engagement rate
  • Gained 4,264 followers
  • Total followers across all social media platforms: 240,919

Notable factor: Rice channels received 13,991 clicked links, a 27% increase from July and August

Total followers: 39,958
Gained: 480 followers
Top post: “That September glow on campus” produced 1,145 engagements.
Second-highest post: “These campus views never get old” produced 907 engagements.

Total followers: 59,550
Gained: 670 likes
Top post: “Campus in September” produced 1,856 engagements.
Second-highest post: The Moody Foundation Grant announcement produced 1,815 engagements.

Top followers: 96,624
Gained: 2,002 followers, a 10% increase.
Top post: U.S. News & World Report top 20 universities produced 3,400 engagements.
Second-highest post: The Moody Foundation Grant announcement produced 3,206 engagements.

Total followers: 44,787
Gained: 1,489
Top post: Photo of Rice in the fall produced 2,439 engagements
Second highest: ‘owl about studying’ produced 2,161 engagements

Media Stars
Bob Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, had the highest number of media mentions — 5,506 — in September and October, mainly for comments about Texas political stories that gained national attention. Below are members of the Rice community who were mentioned in the media 10 or more times in September and October.
Bob Stein 5,506
Mark Jones 4,030
Daniel Cohan 1,659
Jie Wu 1,051
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen 693
Jim Blackburn 504
Jim Krane 430
Jon Kimura Parker 421
Lauren Anker 414
Mike Bloomgren 288
Scott Sonenshein 278
Lauren Taylor 198
Matteo Pasquali 194
Oliver Dewey 190
Raghav Chugh 118
Travis Alexander 108
Mark Finley 79
Phil Bedient 74
Tony Payan 64
Jake Constantine 63
Robert French 63
Vivian Ho 63
Bill Fulton 57
Anna Mikulska 46
Jim Elliott 40
Carly Graham 40
Richard Gordon 36
David Leebron 30
Gabriel Collins 29
Bing Deng 29
Francisco Monaldi 29
James Tour 29
Dilip Asthagiri 27
Tom Kolditz 27
Philip Singer 27
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu 25
José Onuchic 25
Paul Cherukuri 24
Pulickel Ajayan 21
Muhammad Rahman 19
M.A.S.R. Saadi 19
Stephen Klineberg 18
Douglas Brinkley 17
Wei Li 17
Shuai Yang 17
Adrienne Correa 16
Weiyin Chen 15
Zhihua Cheng 15
Matthew Jones 15
Muhua Sun 15
Ken Medlock 14
Emir Sendogan 13
Lauren Howe-Kerr 12
John Diamond 11
George Zodrow 11
Loren Hopkins 10
Sonia Ryang 10
Richard Stoll 10
The chart below shows Rice’s media mentions since 2007. The green column reflects the number of mentions through Oct. 31, 2021.
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