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September 1, 2010: News, Research & Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: Fellows in the classroom; Institute names new development director

Baker Institute reaches out to students in the classroom

Rice students are back in class for the fall semester — as are Baker Institute fellows, who teach in addition to conducting research. By sharing their expertise in subjects from economics to stem cell research, the fellows have the opportunity to mentor students and further a core mission of the institute: training and engaging the next generation of policymakers.

Ken Medlock, the James A. Baker, III, and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics, is teaching an economics course that focuses on energy supply and demand. After 11 years as an instructor, Medlock still looks forward to the moment when a difficult concept sinks in for a student. "You're conveying information that very few people really understand, and to see the light bulb go on is very rewarding," he said.  

Students consistently rate Medlock as one of the best economics professors at Rice. The institute's Edward A. and Hermena Hancock Kelly Fellow in Public Finance, John Diamond  — who will teach an intermediate microeconomics class next year — was also in the top tier last spring.

Science and technology fellow Kirstin Matthews and Baker Institute Rice scholar Elaine Howard Ecklund are co-teaching "Science at Risk? Out of the Lab and Into the Public Sphere," which examines science through a sociological lens. The undergraduate course covers some of the most controversial issues facing scientists today, such as stem cell research, the role of religion in science, diversifying the science workforce, and the challenges of corporate funding.

Guest lecturers include Baker Institute founding director Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, who will discuss how diplomats and scientists can engage communities abroad and help advance scientific knowledge; and George Abbey, Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy, who will lecture on international efforts to collaborate on space science and medicine. Neal Lane, the institute's senior fellow in science and technology policy, spoke last week on the politics and funding of scientific research.

With health care reform continuing to dominate the news, the health economics and empirical microeconomics courses taught by Vivian Ho, James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics, are especially relevant. Health care costs represent about 16 percent of the U.S. economy, Ho notes. "It's important to give students a firm understanding of how the industry works and the economic implications of health care reform," she says.

The institute's fellow in history, Doug Brinkley, is teaching classes on 20th century American presidents; the history of the cold war; and the U.S. conservation movement, focusing on the work of leading figures such as President Theodore Roosevelt, Sierra Club founder John Muir, and naturalist John Burroughs in the context of current issues in global warming and wetlands restoration.

Ambassador Djerejian, who will lead a course on contemporary Middle East politics, policy and culture next spring, has observed that teaching is a lot of work. "But the challenge and enjoyment of engaging young minds is compelling and well worth the investment," he says.

New faces: Institute names senior director of development and financial analyst

Vince McElligott is the Baker Institute's new senior director of development overseeing major gifts and endowment growth. He has over 20 years of major gift experience and served as assistant vice president of development at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston prior to joining the institute. He has also served as senior director of development at Colorado State University. Vince will work with Christene Kimmel, associate director of development, who will focus on annual funds and donor cultivation. Contact Vince at 713-348-2923 or

The institute also welcomes a new financial analyst, Giovanna Marciano. Giovanna recently moved here from New York City, where she worked for Telecom Italia. She holds an MBA from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor's degree international economics from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Research & News

For a complete list of research and commentary, visit our publications page.

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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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