Issue No. 27—Winter 2020
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A Message From Dean Gorman

Greetings from Rice! We are nearly midway through the spring semester, and our students are actively engaged in a range of activities both inside and outside the classroom. Everyone is working hard on individual projects, and many are also giving their time and thoughtful effort to tasks aimed at bettering our community for all. This commitment to others reflects our Rice values and the collaborative spirit that is present among our students, faculty and staff.

As you likely know, last semester we launched The Rice Investment (TRI): a simplified financial aid plan designed to provide substantial aid to students, including those in middle-class families. As much as TRI is a game-changer for enabling undergraduate students to attend Rice, it is important for us to consider more broadly whether all of our students are able to benefit equally from the Rice experience after they arrive on campus.

As such, my division has expanded discussion and activity on issues surrounding the Rice experience for low-income and first generation undergraduates. Following conversations with students and collaboration with student leaders, we are focusing more intently on access to various opportunities and experiences, and we are seeing the outcome of these efforts in various ways across our campus. For example, we increased funding and staffing to the office of Student Success Initiatives (SSI), which provides targeted programming and advising to our low-income and first generation students. Our residential college presidents have also improved access to experiential opportunities by establishing accessibility funds within each of the residential colleges (that can be used, for example, to help pay for ticket fees to campus wide events or residential college merchandise for students who otherwise could not afford these items).

At this start of this semester, my office also launched the Access & Opportunity Portal. While the portal provides information on how to request emergency aid in periods of financial crisis, its broader purpose is to provide undergraduate students, who have financial need, with a way to request support for various educational, experiential, career-building and social activities. For example, each year roughly 200 Rice students apply to medical or dental school, with anywhere between 140 and 160 matriculating to programs. A student might use the portal to request support as they prepare for and apply to medical and dental schools, as this process is lengthy, challenging and expensive. Application costs include exam preparation materials and registration fees, travel and overnight accommodations for interviews, and more. The result is that a well-qualified applicant who has limited financial resources would still be responsible for shouldering a weighty financial burden. The portal provides a simplified way for students with need to request support for these and other types of professional development activities (e.g., assistance with purchasing professional attire, as appropriately dressing for the occasion is crucial for establishing a positive first impression and feeling “the part” during a job interview). In total, it is my hope that the Access and Opportunity Portal will provide clarity about available resources and help undergraduates more fully access the Rice experience, and I am immensely thankful to those who worked to make this portal a reality, including student leaders and dedicated staff in my division.

The positive spirit and heartfelt care that so many members of our community have shown toward others as we work to increase financial accessibility and the inclusiveness of Rice is impressive. This spirit reflects the best of Rice and is a reminder that providing a transformative collegiate experience requires continual attention to how we are helping all students thrive at Rice — and so our work in this area will continue.

Wishing the best to you and your family,

Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates