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The Office of Public Affairs' bimonthly measurements and metrics
March-April 2020
Big Stories

Rice engineers 'MacGyver' emergency ventilator for less than $300

'Oil is all but worthless now'

Students stage spontaneous commencement

Media Highlights

Rice engineers 'MacGyver' emergency ventilator for less than $300

A student project in Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen led to the development of an emergency ventilator built from parts costing less than $300. As COVID-19 spread, Rice made the plans freely available on the internet and Stewart & Stevenson agreed to mass manufacture this lifesaving equipment. Rice Public Affairs' three videos on the invention have logged more than 500,000 views. The story has been carried by the Wall Street Journal, PBS NewsHour, Time and Texas Monthly and generated more than 1,000 other media hits.

'Oil is all but worthless now'

Oil futures contract prices imploded into negative territory for the first time in history, a stunning development triggered by global overproduction and collapsing demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Oil is all but worthless now,” said Jim Krane, one of Rice’s deep bench of energy and business experts who reporters and broadcast producers relied upon to explain this unprecedented meltdown. Their observations were quoted in more than 2,700 media hits from outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, NPR and Al Jazeera.

Students stage spontaneous commencement

Undergraduate seniors who suddenly had to leave Rice’s campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic hastily organized a spontaneous commencement ceremony, complete with caps and gowns and their long-awaited exit through the Sallyport. The poignant event was documented by a Rice News reporter, photographer and videographer. The coverage led to an Associated Press story picked up by more than 350 media outlets, including the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, ABC News and U.S. News & World Report.
For a full list of March and April media stars
please see the last section of this report. 
Government Relations

Government Relations hits high gear in COVID-19 response

As all levels of government stepped up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so too did Government Relations. Much of March was spent advocating at the federal level for Rice priorities in several massive pieces of legislation addressing pandemic response and recovery. We primarily focused our congressional efforts on policies to help Rice’s largely idled research operations, but we also worked to gain tax relief for our endowment. While unsuccessful on the latter for now, a number of other helpful tax provisions passed, and Rice’s efforts moved the needle measurably toward endowment tax relief, which would greatly benefit student financial aid, university operations and reinvestments to support future generations of Rice Owls. We also helped coordinate efforts with the Office of Research and other Texas universities to contact state and federal leaders about specific ways in which we can help in ongoing COVID-19 research and response efforts.  
Government Relations was also busy at the state level as Austin became more involved in pandemic response and efforts to reopen the Texas economy safely. We helped Rice leadership decipher how mandates at all levels of government would come together when there seemed to be conflict between local, state and federal orders, and we laid the groundwork for Texas congressional delegation support for relief for research universities in future COVID-19 supplemental funding legislation. We also worked extensively with the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and Stewart & Stevenson as the Rice-led ApolloBVM project — a low-resource, automated ventilator for COVID-19 patients — competed for federal funding and procurement opportunities. 
University Relations
Parking meter program will expand to University Boulevard in Rice Village
In 2015, University Relations helped broker an agreement between the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, the city of Houston’s Parking Management Division and the Rice Village Alliance to study parking in the Rice Village. When the resulting Kinder Institute study proved that the parking supply was more than adequate as long as parking could be managed as a shared community resource, two major Rice Village landowners — La Mesa Properties and the Rice Management Co. (RMC) — agreed to follow the Kinder Institute’s advice.
In the ensuing years, this shared parking strategy has proved successful. Recently, when property owners on University Boulevard asked the city to improve parking and landscaping in front of their businesses, they also unanimously requested that parking meters be included in front of their properties. Working with the city of Houston, the RMC and the Rice Village Alliance, University Relations helped secure a revised agreement with property owners to dedicate individual easements on their private properties. This will allow the installation of parking meters, the revenue from which will help pay for maintenance of the improved landscaping that is also part of the newly renegotiated project design, which follows.
Creative Services

Black Excellence Gala program

Creative Services designed and edited an event program for the Black Student Association’s inaugural Black Excellence Gala, which took place March 6 at Cohen House. The event featured various speakers, a seated dinner and an awards ceremony.

COVID-19 digital flyers

To support the Crisis Management Team and the response to COVID-19, Creative Services designed and edited a series of informational flyers that were distributed digitally via email and social media. In this example, the flyer used infographics to help explain social distancing.

Paul Celan conference materials

A promotional poster and flyer, followed by a conference program, was designed and edited by Creative Services for the Department of Classical and European Studies. The conference, titled “Lifelines,” focused on the work of poet Paul Celan, one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. The conference coincided with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which was central to Celan’s writing.

Chemistry graduate recruitment brochure

Creative Services designed and edited a brochure for the Chemistry Department. The brochure was part of a graduate recruitment campaign that also included a poster and display banner.
Multicultural Community Relations

Gala recognizes unsung heroes

Multicultural Community Relations (MCR) worked closely with the Association of Rice University Black Alumni and the offices of Development, Multicultural Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion to help Rice’s Black Student Association (BSA) organize and promote an elegant, well-attended gala March 6 at Cohen House. BSA recognized unsung students, faculty, staff and alumni heroes at Rice who excel at supporting students of color. MCR’s assistance helped Rice’s black students earn money for future programming.

Spring 2020 Rice At Large makes its debut

MCR’s quarterly newsletter, Rice At Large, has a new look for spring. The publication, which showcases Rice’s outreach programs and raises awareness of the university’s engagement with the city of Houston, now has an updated online presence. The spring issue opens with a front-page story about an inspiring Rice alumnus. To view the new format, please go to
Marketing and Digital Communications

Social Media

In March and April, Rice social media channels received more than 16 million impressions and more than 200,000 engagements. The large spike in impressions is partly from our sponsored content as part of our social ad strategy.
Impressions: This reflects the number of times the content was seen.
Engagements: This reflects the number of interactions (likes, shares, comments, clicks, etc.) on a post.
Followers: This is the number of people who follow the main Rice accounts.
Twitter’s top post was the announcement that classes would be canceled for the week of March 9. It received more than 120,000 impressions and 24,000 engagements. 

Facebook’s top post was the ApolloBVM emergency ventilator video. The video received 1.6 million impressions and almost 600,000 video views. The high visibility of this post can be attributed to the timely subject matter and our paid boost of the video.

LinkedIn’s top post was the ApolloBVM emergency ventilator video. The post received more than 70,000 impressions and this video was viewed more than 50,000 times.

Instagram’s top post was the video of the impromptu graduation ceremony. The post received more than 20,000 impressions and more than 12,000 video views. 

COVID-19 content
In March and April, much of Rice’s social media content was directly related to COVID-19. Using Sprout Social, we were able to isolate metrics for COVID-19 content to see the impact of our work in that area. Our COVID-19 content gained 2,424,215 impressions and 60,751 engagements.
Instagram content shift
Due to COVID-19, our content strategy for Instagram shifted from sharing campus beauty shots to posting user-generated photos. We asked students to submit photos of themselves and the friends they missed most from campus and allowed them to write sweet, heartfelt messages to their friends as the caption for the posts. This created an opportunity for students to surprise their friends with a feature on the Rice Instagram page as well as a space for them and other students to express themselves in the comment section. This Instagram series gained 238,913 impressions and 23,943 engagements.

Example of post: 

Example of comments:
Google Analytics for shows an increase in traffic from March 1 to April 30. Total page views were 879,100, with visitors spending an average of 5 minutes, 33 seconds on the site with a bounce rate of 27%. These traffic numbers show an increase over the previous period, most likely attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak and students, staff, faculty and families researching the university’s response to the virus.

March/April vs. January/February
Page views: 879,100 vs. 844,004 (4.16% increase)
Average time on page: 5 minutes, 33 seconds vs. 5 minutes, 30 seconds
Bounce Rate: 27.47% vs. 29.43%

As of April 30, Public Affairs and the Office of Information Technology have successfully launched 76 Drupal 8 websites. Most notable are: the Rice COVID-19 subsite, COVID-19 research and academic response, Rice At Large, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry, Rice Management Co., Master of Global Affairs, Facilities Engineering and Planning, Doerr Institute for New Leaders and the Office of Access, Equity and Equal Opportunity.
The two departments are collaborating on 184 additional websites as part of the migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 as well as new sites that have come into the Rice-branded theme. Some of the websites currently under development are:
  • Administrators Forum
  • Center for the Career Development
  • Ceremony (December convocation)
  • Commencement
  • Dean of Undergraduates
  • Emergency
  • George R. Brown School of Engineering
  • Glasscock School of Continuing Studies
  • Houston Education Research Consortium
  • Human Resources
  • Human Resources (Intranet)
  • Information Technology (IT@Rice)
  • Medical Futures Lab
  • Office of Academic Advising
  • Office of the General Counsel
  • Office of Research
  • Profiles (faculty, staff and students)
  • Recreation and Wellness Center
  • Rice Ethics and Compliance
  • Rice Magazine
  • Rice News and Media Relations
  • Rice Online
  • Rice University Police Department
  • School of Humanities
  • School of Social Sciences
  • Study Abroad
  • The Kinder Institute for Urban Research
  • Unconventional Wisdom
  • University Policies
  • Wellbeing and Counseling Center
  • Wiess School of Natural Sciences
Media Stars
Jim Krane, the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, had the highest number of media mentions — 2,481 — during March and April, mainly for comments about the crash in oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Below are members of the Rice community who were mentioned in the media 10 or more times in March and April.
Jim Krane 2,481
Vivian Ho 1,202
Douglas Brinkley 933
Mark Jones 803
Francisco Monaldi 705
Jorge Barro 617
Scott Sonenshein 599
Elaine Howard Ecklund 451
Ako Adams 446
Erica Ogwumike 421
David Leebron 368
Robert Martin 339
Tony Payan 288
Lauren Biegel 286
Christina Tan 286
Jim Pomerantz 257
Scott Pera 207
Bob Stein 148
Josh Parrish 125
Matthew Wettergreen 122
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen 108
Christopher Fagundes 87
Anshumali Shrivastava 78
Rohith Malya 70
Thomas Herring 66
Jim Blackburn 57
Larry Stuart 48
Daniel Koh  45
Quianta Moore 45
John Diamond 44
Kenneth Medlock 40
Alessi Armengol 36
Katie Fagundes 36
Julia Greenberg 36
Chelsea de Souza 33
Zhengyi Huang 33
SeungHoon Lee 33
Robert Roux 33
Julia Vicic 33
Sibani Lisa Biswal 29
Amy Kavalewitz 29
Tony Brown 28
Bill Fulton 27
Utpal Dholakia 26
Mark Finley 26
Nancy Mulkey 26
Craig Considine 25
Dan Cohan 22
Marie Lynn Miranda 22
Qilin Li 20
Kevin McHugh 20
Randi Martin 19
Pedro Alvarez 18
Asia Bento 18
Stephen Klineberg 18
James Tour 17
Danning Zhang 17
Mike Bloomgren 16
Peter Rodriguez 15
Yousif Shamoo 14
Ashok Veeraraghavan 14
Peter Wolynes 14
David Alexander 13
Boris Yakobson 13
Natsumi Komatsu 12
Junichiro Kono 12
Tina Langley 12
Rebecca Richards-Kortum 12
Matthew Bennett 11
Danny Blacker 11
Rachel Meidl 11
Kirsten Ostherr 10
Patrick Rodi 10
The chart below shows Rice’s media mentions since 2007. The green column reflects the number of mentions so far in 2020.
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