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Rice University Center for Civic Leadership

Latest Highlights

Civic Leadership Capstone Scholars

The four Capstone students are spending this semester designing project plans that will build the capacity of a community partner. Projects include working with neighborhood coalitions, non-profit organizations, and educational associations. After successfully completing their capstone projects, they will be eligible to receive the Certificate in Civic Leadership.

Here's what they had to say:

Caroline Brigham

Year: Senior

Major: Architecture; Minoring in Poverty, Justice and Human Capabilities; Global Health Technologies; and Water and Energy Sustainability 

CCL programs participated in: HART Health team, Susan McAshan Summer Service intern in Cape Town, South Africa (PJHC)

"I see the CCL Capstone as the culmination of service learning at Rice. In my case, I have developed a deep interest in sustainable urban development at the intersection of architecture, health and the environment. I hope to learn how conscious urban design can help to alleviate poverty and inequality in cities, and how best to combat homelessness with development of sustainable, affordable housing and accessible healthcare."

Misha Carthen

Name: Misha Carthen

Year: Senior

Major: English & Psychology

CCL Programs Participated In: Alternative Spring Break, Loewenstern Fellowship

"I am passionate about celebrating the immense and ebullient spirits of those we come across. My Capstone hopes to embrace refugee populations in Houston as well as refugee resettlement agencies, offering these powerful communities with a voice to speak of the challenges and tribulations they face. Particularly, I am working with the nonprofit organization PAIR, the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion for Refugees, as well as with Rice educator Dr. Elizabeth Munoz, and Houston museums to celebrate the diversity of resettlement narratives."

Madhuri Venkateswar

Name: Madhuri Venkateswar

Year: Senior

Major: Chemical Engineering, PJHC, CCL Certificate

CCL programs participated in: Urban Immersion, Women's Empowerment ASB Site Leader, SafeClear HART Research, Loewenstern Fellowship

"I am passionate about equality and justice. Specifically, gender inequality in STEM. I chose to pursue the Certificate in Civic Leadership because I want to connect all my civic experiences in a cohesive narrative. In this way, I can pursue an autonomous capstone project and build on the social impact experiences I have had in college." 

Demetrie Luke

Year: Senior

Major: Philosophy/Religious Studies

CCL Programs Participated In: LRME, Beyond the Sallyport, Rice Leadership Workshop

"I chose to participate in the Certificate in Civic Leadership because I'm interested in pursuing community development and education within Afro-American communities and creating a better context for youth in those communities. I'm passionate about living life and having a world that celebrates diversity amongst different people, and about the transformative powers creativity can have for individuals and communities."


Building a bridge to clean air in Houston

The Bridge to Clean Air project aims to raise awareness about pollution in Houston and ultimately to reduce it. In the first phase of the program, a Houston Action Research Team of four Rice students used monitoring equipment from the City of Houston to measure air pollutants at the Hazard Street bridge at U.S. 59. - Read more in Rice News.


Rice student helps create sustainable change through Loewenstern Fellowship

Check out Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD)'s video on how interns like Loewenstern Fellow Wen Ting Li are working to help create sustainable change in communities across the globe.

In the summer of 2015, through the Loewenstern Fellowship, Wen Ting served with FSD in Tola, Nicaragua. For nine weeks, she worked at a health post in the rural community of Las Salinas on a research-based water quality project. During her time in Las Salinas, Wen Ting strove to promote better water consumption habits in order to reduce cases of diarrhea and urinary tract infection that are commonly known to affect community members as a result of contaminated water consumption. 


LRME mentor inspires Rice undergrads

This summer, 50 Rice students are interning in cities across the U.S. and abroad through the Leadership Rice Mentorship Experience (LRME), a competitive summer internship program for Rice undergraduates who wish to develop their leadership capacity and civic responsibility through the mentorship of experienced professionals. In New York, Samantha Ding, Eric Hsu, and Mai Pham have internship placements with the design firm Kurani, and are working in Design and Research as well as Marketing and Public Relations. The students work under the mentorship of Danish Kurani, founder of the design firm and Rice alumnus, to develop their professional skills, civic awareness, and leadership.

Halfway through the eight week program, the students have already gathered valuable takeaways from their internship. "I've learned how to communicate architectural concepts to the public in a compelling way and show them why design matters to their lives," says Samantha Ding (Architecture, '18).

Their mentor, Danish Kurani, received his Bachelor's in 2007 from the School of Architecture at Rice University and in 2013, founded his own firm. Kurani partners with education providers and builds physical environments to help people learn and grow. The firm approaches design with the belief that the traditional classroom environment does not support student performance or help teachers do their jobs, and that a space intentionally designed to be conducive to learning will positively impact academic success. Danish gave a recent TED talk on the importance of learning spaces for educational development.

Mentors like Danish can certainly inspire students through their work. The role of the LRME mentor is to provide guidance that will build leadership capacity, whether through challenging students to develop new knowledge and skills or exposing students to learning opportunities within the organization. "My discussions with Danish have really taught me to understand how important it is to involve everyone in the design process," says Mai Pham ('19).

The Center for Civic Leadership seeks to develop connections with alumni, and through programs like LRME, to link current students with alumni to expand students’ civic leadership opportunities.

“Central to our mission is developing students’ capacities for civic responsibility and leadership," says Caroline Quenemoen, Executive Director of the CCL. "The LRME program highlights this goal not only by developing the professional skills of the undergraduate interns, but by strengthening students’ understanding of how leadership and civic engagement are connected within the context of their mentorship placements.”

Students in the LRME program are challenged not only through the mentored internship, but through course readings and assignments that strengthen their abilities to foster meaningful work relationships, to develop professional behaviors, and to understand leadership and civic engagement.


Luce Scholar reflects on a year abroad

Nick Thorpe, who graduated from Rice in 2015 with a Bachelor's in political science and environmental policy, was selected to be a Luce Scholar for 2015-2016. He was nominated by Rice and chosen for the nationally competitive fellowship program along with 17 other students across the U.S. who have a record of high achievement, outstanding leadership ability and potential for professional accomplishments. Nick recently completed two months of summer language training followed by 10 months of professional placement in Hanoi, Vietnam.  

Less than a month separates me from one year since I first touched-down in Hanoi on a hot and humid summer day in late June. My excitement and anxiety about my year in Asia as part of the Luce Scholars Program seemed to get rid of any of my jetlag. For almost one year, I have been living with a wonderful homestay family, working as a policy researcher at an environmental non-governmental organization, and studying Vietnamese. While much of my day consists of a routine (commuting to work by motorbike, being in the office, and then meeting up with friends), this year in Vietnam has taught me to be prepared for anything and to realize that every day brings about a new and unexpected adventure.   

I have never been to a place where 100% humidity exists, where leather items mold because of the humidity, and where a convenient store opens within a week of previously being a clothes shop. Hanoi itself has been an exciting place to live, with the constant and rapid change, the fast pace of life, and the charm of tree-lined streets and lakes around the city. I particularly have enjoyed the liveliness of the streets and sidewalks: hungry customers eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner on plastic stools on the sidewalk; parents attempt to keep control of their children as they wobble around the motorbike- and car-congested streets; and motorbike drivers speed on the sidewalks to avoid traffic during rush hour. On top of that, the streets are constantly changing. In the morning, one spot on the sidewalk could be selling a bowl of pho. During the afternoon, it could be full of workers drinking trà dá (iced tea), before turning into a grilled meat spot full of young Vietnamese teenagers and college students at night. There really is nothing quite like being part of the streetlife and taking it all in.

As I reflect on the year, I am reminded by how amazing of an opportunity it is to spend time outside of the United States and to learn more about the world around us. Each country and place has its own culture, history, language, cuisine, people, and interests, yet we sometimes forget about the importance of physically being in a place to soak everything in – especially given how connected we are through social media and other means. Through traveling to various regions in Vietnam – from the rice terraces in the far north to religious temples of the once-powerful Champa empire in the center to the bustling commercial center of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south – I have explored the historical and cultural differences among the country’s regions. In order to connect with people at a personal level, especially at work, I made it a goal of mine to become conversational in Vietnamese, which meant studying hours each day, conversing with my homestay family, and practicing with street vendors and university students. Because of my understanding of the language, as well as the fact that very few foreigners take the time to learn even a little bit, I have shared so many unique and special moments with people: whether it is a kid jumping up and down when I casually said “xin chào” (hello) or a street vendor staring at me in disbelief when I ordered a plate of pho bò xào (street-fried pho noodles with beef).

I am particularly grateful to spend time abroad immediately after graduating from Rice. While there were difficulties in transitioning from college to an environment where I knew no one, could not speak the language, and had very little understanding of Vietnam, I feel like I have grown in ways that I do not quite know yet. It will not be until I am outside of the context of Vietnam that I will truly understand the impact of this year. I will always remember this year with fond memories of my homestay family, coworkers, as well as family and friends who visited. I feel motivated to take on the complex and interconnected challenges of the world, and my time in the diverse, rapidly developing, and culturally rich region of Asia has instilled in me the importance of international perspective, of adaptation, and of connections with people. And after one year, I have only scratched the surface.   


Rich Family Endowment supports student leadership and creativity

The Hilda and Hershel Rich Family Endowment, housed in the Center for Civic Leadership, supports student engagement with societal issues through volunteerism, internships, research projects and other relevant activities. Each semester, the CCL uses the endowment to fund student projects intended to make a distinctive impact upon society, raise awareness among the Rice community and foster and encourage leadership and creativity among Rice students. Recent awards have ranged from $300 to $15,000.  

“Hilda and Hershel’s generous gift allows the CCL to develop the leadership capacity of Rice students as they collaborate with community partners to address important social issues,” said Caroline Quenemoen, Executive Director of the CCL. “It has been rewarding to work with Sharon (Rich) and Renie (Carniol) to fulfill their parents’ vision of fostering social responsibility and creativity among our students.” 

Read more about this year's projects in Rice News.


A Voice for Houston's Refugees

"Houston in Motion: Empowering Houston Migrant and Refugee Communities" brings together video footage, oral histories, technology and survey data to document the lives and experiences of Houston's growing refugee and migrant communities. Yehuda Sharim, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies and a scholar at the Kinder Institute, is leading the project, which has received funding from the Center for Civic Leadership's Hilda and Hershel Rich Family Endowment for Student Community Service.

An interview with Yehuda appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Rice Magazine. Click here to read more in the Magazine.


Houston air quality event connects research findings to action in local communities

"Bringing Houston Air Pollution Research to Local Action: Acute Health Effects for Vulnerable Populations" on Friday, September 25th brought together city leaders, community voices, and researchers for a series of moderated discussions that connected research findings to action on air quality issues in Houston.

Panel discussions focused on vulnerable populations in the city of Houston. David Persse, EMS Director and the Public Health Authority for the City of Houston, presented research on the  effects of pollution and  poor air quality on public health (namely, asthma attacks and cardiac arrests). Reactors on the panel discussed how socioeconomic issues and lack of access to needed resources can further exacerbate public health concerns in underserved communities. Audience comments emphasized the need to engage research to address known problems, and to work with communities experiencing acute health effects firsthand.

Reactors on the panel were: Stephen Williams, Director for the Houston Health Department; Elena Marks, President and CEO of the Episcopal Heath Foundation; Juliet Stipeche, HISD Trustee for District VIII; Hilton Kelley, Founder and CEO of Community In Power and Development Association; Israel Anderson, Associate Director in the Office of Environmental Justice and Trivial Affairs at EPA Region 6; and Juan Parras, Director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (T.E.J.A.S).

Researchers represented Rice University, University of Houston,and nonprofit advocacy groups: Katherine Bennett Ensor, Professor of Statistics at Rice University;  Loren Raun, Senior Environmental Analyst in the Houston Health Department Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention and Research Faculty in the George R Brown School of Engineering Department of Statistics at Rice University; Robert Griffin, Professor and Chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University; Justin Denney, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of the Kinder Institute Urban Health Program at Rice University; Dan Price, Director of Data Analytics in Student Hands Program (DASH) at the University of Houston's Honors College and the Houston Clean Air Network; and Marcelo Norsworthy, Transportation Research Analyst at Environmental Defense Fund.

The Houston air quality event was put on in collaboration with the Houston Endowment, Air Alliance Houston, and the Center for Civic Leadership. 


Rice postdoctoral fellow highlights experiences of Houston refugees for Rich Endowment project

The Hilda and Hershel Rich Family Endowment for Student Community Service supports student engagement with societal issues through a multi-faceted approach. The projects are intended to make a distinctive impact upon society, raise awareness among the Rice community, and foster and encourage leadership and creativity among Rice students. One of the projects supported by the Rich Family Endowment is Communities in Motion, a multi-media project in collaboration with Dr. Yehuda Sharim, an artist and scholar from Rice University, and the Firestarter Group, a nonprofit organization based in Houston. 

Communities in Motion explores the experiences of Houston refugees as they navigate a new space, find value in new communities, and cope with traumas of their past.  By examining personal narratives alongside community support mechanisms, Communities in Motion highlights the negotiation between complex needs of individuals and the common vision of a community. The project asks how can we share a common space in the midst of unprecedented cultural flux and, most importantly, what bridges are being built to effectively connect individuals and communities.

To gain insight into the community support mechanisms created to accept newly arrived refugees, Dr. Sharim is conducting a wide scale survey of local resettlement agencies, nonprofit organization, and community leadership.  In parallel, individual narratives of refugees are being captured on film, tentatively titled Portraits of Displacement, to depict the experience of various refugee communities arriving at different times from across the world.


Global FoodBanking Network Features Rice Service Trip

"This summer a group of US college students traveled to Bulgaria to help the Bulgarian Food Bank (BFB) with their bi-annual food drive. This service trip was a “first” for GFN, a success for BFB, and a meaningful experience for the nine Rice University students who rolled up their sleeves and opened their hearts to help BFB feed hungry people in Bulgaria."

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LRME Common Interest Cohorts 2015

Check out the LRME Common Interest Cohorts 2015 pagesIn each city the LRME students are learning about an issue and how it affects the community they are in while writing a blog about their activities and experiences.

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Traveling with Zeff Fellow Sabrina Toppa

Sabrina Toppa ('13) spent a year interviewing migrant taxi drivers in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia on Rice’s Zeff Fellowship. Now she’s steering that experience toward a career in journalism. Her words and images appear in the Spring 2015 issue of Rice Magazine.

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GIS Trip to Bulgaria!

Check out the students' blog to learn more about the Summer 2015 Bulgaria Food Drive project. The Global Food Banking Network, an NGO that alleviates hunger by developing food banks worldwide, is working with a group of Rice University students in Bulgaria this summer.

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Congrats 2015 Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium participants!

More than 350 undergraduate students from across the disciplines competed for monetary prizes in the annual Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium.

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Rice recognized with civic engagement award in Washington

Rice University is one of five universities honored with a 2014 Higher Education Civic Engagement Award Sept. 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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