A historic winter storm sent temperatures plunging across Texas, which triggered a catastrophic cascade of failures in the state’s electrical power system and left tens of millions of Texans freezing in the dark. Rice’s News and Media Relations team, working out of their homes without power, connected faculty experts with reporters across the nation seeking answers to questions about what went wrong. The Baker Institute’s Ken Medlock, Jim Krane, Daniel Cohan, Peter Hartley and Julie Cohn were among the faculty extensively quoted or featured in coverage of the Texas power outage. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN and CBS News were among the media outlets covering this story, citing Rice more than 12,000 times. https://nyti.ms/3cKbRgT
Mob attacks U.S. Capitol
When a mob of insurrectionists supporting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the electoral process, reporters and television producers turned to Rice’s faculty for context and perspective. Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley once again became a frequent presence on CNN and was quoted by national media sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters and even the Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, Rice political scientists — notably Mark Jones, Bob Stein and Paul Brace — were quoted extensively in local and state media and in such diverse foreign press outlets as Sputnik International and Gizmodo Australia.
Rice faculty continue to serve as a resource for reporters and broadcast producers seeking expertise on what’s still the biggest story in the world. Rice’s campus response to the pandemic has been a source of special attention, particularly the university’s ability — during the crippling winter storm — to rapidly administer to faculty, staff and students hundreds of vaccines that otherwise would have gone to waste. That story alone, reported in such outlets as the Associated Press, CNN and USA Today, generated more than 7,700 media mentions of Rice.
For a full list of January and February media stars,
please see the last section of this report.
Government Relations lays the groundwork for a new year
January brought the start of a new Congress in Washington, D.C., and the 87th Legislature’s session in Austin. In the Texas Capitol, it was the first time the biennial session began under such circumstances, with pandemic precautions adopted by both the House and Senate and heightened security in place following the January siege of the U.S. Capitol by rioters. While this made for an unusually slow start to the legislative process, House and Senate committee chairmanships were named relatively early on and many bills were filed in the first two months of the year. The slow start to the 87th Legislature in January — which dragged into February — afforded Government Relations additional time to prepare for the coming session storm and we continued laying the groundwork for success on a few critical areas of utmost interest to Rice, namely research funding opportunities, student financial aid, pandemic liability protections and issues of institutional autonomy.
While the 117th Congress — with many new Texas delegation members — got underway 1,500 miles away in Washington, Government Relations spent a good deal of time lobbying two key aspects of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan for another round of pandemic relief funding. Foremost on our agenda was the need to address the almost blanket exclusion of private universities from the American Rescue Plan’s Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) funding. Coordinating with our colleagues from other private universities across the country, we made a strategic, weeks-long push with a bipartisan contingent of Texans on Capitol Hill to ensure private universities were included. At the same time, we sought to ensure that the emergency funding would not again include the 50% reduction for institutions that are subject to the endowment excise tax — an objectionable provision inserted into the 2020 year-end relief bill. We are happy to report that before the end of February, when the House Committee on Education and Labor voted on their piece of the American Rescue Plan, HEER funding to private universities had been restored and Rice’s allocation was not reduced by half.
Rice United Way Campaign sets new fundraising record
In a year when the impact of a global pandemic made the need for United Way services more acute than ever before, Rice employees responded by setting a fundraising record. The 2020–2021 Rice United Way Campaign, led by University Relations and a committee of campus volunteers, wrapped up in January with a grand total of $286,478 contributed. For the past several years, Rice has been one of the top 50 institutional donors to the United Way of Greater Houston, whose programs benefit an estimated 2 million of our neighbors each year.
Campbell Lecture Series promotional materials
Creative Services designed and edited a flyer and social media graphics to promote the School of Humanities’ most recent webinar in their Campbell Lecture Series. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton, spoke about “The Stakes of Racial Justice and the Future of American Democracy.”
‘Lo Nuevo in Latin American Cultures’ webinar flyer
Creative Services designed and edited a flyer to promote Multicultural Community Relations’ upcoming webinar, “Lo Nuevo in Latin American Cultures.” The webinar will include a panel discussion with Rice professors Gisela Heffes, Luis Duno-Gottberg and Fabiola López-Durán about the arts in Latin America.
Planet Now! promotional materials
Planet Now! Conversations in Environmental Studies is a speaker series organized by the Center for Environmental Studies. Creative Services designed and edited a flyer and social media graphics to promote their latest webinar, “Speculative Futures With Jeff VanderMeer.” VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor who frequently speaks about issues related to climate change and storytelling.
Multicultural Community Relations
The influence of books
Multicultural Community Relations (MCR) started the year by launching a new lecture series, “Books That Shaped My Life.” Tomás Q. Morín, assistant professor of creative writing and author of “Machete” and other publications, inaugurated the lecture series Jan. 28.
Virtual outreach, tomorrow’s workforce and helping underserved communities
The pandemic has made it more difficult to conduct outreach, but Rice has found creative ways to serve the communities of Houston. Allen Antoine, associate director for mathematics and computer science in the Office of STEM Engagement, spoke about “Transitioning to Virtual Outreach.” He was one of four speakers who presented at the Feb. 3 K-12 Outreach Council. Also presenting was Brian Holzman, research scientist in Rice’s Houston Education Research Consortium, who spoke about “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Texas Workforce.” The last two speakers were Tim Harrison ’20, chief executive officer, and Cordy McJunkins ’21, director of program development for the Enjoyable Pain of Growth Academy, who talked about their new nonprofit that partners with schools, businesses and community organizations to provide developmental programs to youth and young adults in underserved communities.
Black History Month celebrates Black cinema
In celebration of Black History Month, MCR hosted a Feb. 25 webinar, “The Intersection of Art and Activism in the Film Work of Ya’Ke Smith.” Smith, an award-winning filmmaker and University of Texas professor, talked about his films, the history of Black filmmaking and current trends in Black cinema. A Q&A session was moderated by Rice history graduate student Kimberly V. Jones. More than 80 people — from as far away as California, Georgia and Pennsylvania — participated.
A silver lining for Public Affairs
MCR won a Silver Award for Rice At Large, the newsletter promoting Rice's many community activities. The award was presented by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in their District IV 2021 Accolades competition.
“Succeeding at a Fast Pace,” the award-winning feature article, ran in the spring 2020 issue of Rice At Large and was written by MCR Director David Medina. The article tells the amazing story of Cortlan Wickliff ’10, who by age 26 had already earned an undergraduate degree in engineering from Rice, a law degree from Harvard University, passed the Texas bar exam and obtained a Ph.D. in engineering from Texas A&M University. Wickliff is Rice’s associate vice provost for academic affairs and strategic initiatives and has written two books for young people on how to accomplish their goals.
Marketing and Digital Communications
Google Analytics for rice.edu shows a small decrease in traffic to the site in January and February from the previous period, most likely attributed to students and faculty still being on break in addition to disruptions in mid-February from the winter storm in Houston. Total page views were 815,507, with visitors spending an average time of 4 minutes, 34 seconds on the site, and a bounce rate of 32%.
January/February vs. November/December Page Views: 815,507 vs. 1,016,138 (19.74% decrease) Average Time on Page: 4 minutes, 34 seconds vs. 4 minutes, 27 seconds (2.79% increase) Bounce Rate: 31.49% vs. 35.21% (10.54% decrease)
As of Feb. 28, Public Affairs and Information Technology have successfully launched 241 Drupal 8 websites. In mid-February, an update was made to the Master of Computer Science online program, as well as the launch of the new Master of Data Science site. The refreshed and new sites include an updated visitor experience and curriculum pages. Currently, the team is in the final stage of development on the Rice Online site that will be the hub for all online courses, as well as launching the Rice News and Rice Magazine conversions to Drupal 8.
Of the 241 sites, the two departments are developing 27 websites that will be in the Rice-branded theme. Some of the websites currently under development are:
Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL)
Ceremony (December graduation)
Commencement (launched early March)
Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences
Energy and Environment Initiative
Glasscock School of Continuing Studies (launched early March)
KnOWLedge Café (Human Resources Intranet)
Office of Faculty Development (OFD)
Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE/OIR)
Office of the General Counsel (OGC)
Rice News and Media Relations
The Chemistry of Art
The Kinder Institute for Urban Research
VP for Administration (Kevin Kirby)
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 January and February, Rice’s social media channels received more than 1.7 million impressions and more than 89,000 engagements. Overall, Rice’s channels have a combined 226,370 followers (a 1.3% increase from November to December).
Twitter followers increased to 38,337, a net change of 0.5%. The top tweet welcomed the new year and received 26,689 impressions, 194 likes and a 3.2% engagement rate. This was followed by a tweet sharing campus photos, which earned 9,611 impressions, 97 likes and an 8.6% engagement rate.
Facebook followers increased to 58,266. The top post shared a video of the new Sid Richardson College building with 2,214 engagements, 316 reactions and a 17.6% engagement rate. This was followed by a collection of campus photos with 1,439 engagements, 472 reactions and a 15.6% engagement rate.
LinkedIn followers increased to 89,897. The top LinkedIn post featured a story about new students and received 24,090 impressions, 300 reactions and a 4.4% engagement rate. This post was followed by an announcement about the new master’s programs in data science and psychology, which had 25,739 impressions, 331 engagements and a 3.9% engagement rate.
Instagram followers increased to 39,830. The top Instagram post featured user-generated campus photos and earned 21,739 impressions, 3,314 likes and a 15.5% engagement rate. Following that, the second-best performing post celebrated the new year which had 23,507 impressions, 3,255 likes and a 14.2% engagement rate.
Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and a Rice faculty scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, had the highest number of media mentions — 2,586 — during January and February, mainly for comments about the winter storm and its impact on Texas’ electrical grid. Below are members of the Rice community who were mentioned in the media 10 or more times during January and February.
Cavit Ege Havsa
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
Yan “Anthea” Zhang
The chart below shows Rice’s media mentions since 2007. The green column reflects the number of mentions through Feb. 28, 2021.