Dear Fellow Owls,
It has been my distinct pleasure over the last year to serve as the president of the Association of Rice Alumni (ARA). It may feel cliché at this point, but I want to reiterate that this has been an unprecedented 15 months. And yet, our community continued to stay connected and engaged with Rice and each other. I feel fortunate to have witnessed such inspiring stories of support in my role as ARA president, and my sincerest thanks goes out to all of you for stepping up and seizing this opportunity to put yourself out there in new ways. We’ve learned a lot over the last year, and I know we will carry these lessons forward to strengthen our alumni community in the years to come.
Broadly summarized, the Association of Rice Alumni’s mission is to ensure that the value of the Rice experience doesn’t stop when you earn your degree. This journey begins the moment you receive your acceptance letter, continues long after you leave the hedges and meets you at every stage of life. So, with this in mind, and with the mandatory pivot to virtual engagement, all of us on the ARA Board had to ask ourselves: How can we create value for Rice alumni in this new landscape? What do alumni need from us in these difficult times? We knew alumni had different priorities than previous years, and we needed to fill those gaps.
From industry panels to wellness sessions, book clubs to coffee chats, we strived to create new opportunities for professional development, education and connection. We revamped beloved programs to give alumni a sense a familiarity in an unfamiliar world and reaffirmed our sense of connection and community. It’s more than just sharing an alma mater; it’s about extending hospitality and help, supporting one another in good times and bad, and adding value however we can.
There have of course been upsides to our virtual environment. It’s arguably a lot easier to attend virtual events, which in turn enabled even more alumni and friends to connect with the Rice community during an otherwise isolated year. An example of this is the story of Bill Kendall ’52, who shared his story of resiliency and strength during our Owl Show & Tell. Some even took this opportunity to attend their very first Rice Alumni event, which we hope opened up a whole new world of friends, connection, and fun.
As I look back on the last year, I am most proud of the ARA’s deep and focused commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice (DEIJ). The DEIJ Committee on the ARA Board has been incredibly active in finding ways to serve our diverse community of more than 60,000 undergraduate and graduate alumni. We’ve also spent a lot of time educating ourselves as board members, and we’re looking forward to furthering these efforts in September with a 21-Day Equity Challenge. More information will be announced shortly.
I am excited to pass the reins of the ARA to some incredibly strong leadership. Beginning July 1, Monique Shankle ’86 stepped forward as your new president, with Toya Bell ’97 serving as president-elect. These two are incredibly strong, motivated, and capable volunteers who will take us to new heights. I can’t wait to see all that they do to enhance the value of the Rice alumni experience.
With that, I’d love for my closing note to be a heartfelt thank you to our exiting board members who have dedicated their time and energy to bettering the Rice alumni experience: Frank Jones ’63, Tania Min ’90, Tommy Huie ’87, Ryan Aipperspach ’04, Sheffy Gordon ’98, Anudeep Jain ’85, David Mansouri ’07, Claudia Vassar ’99, and Board of Trustee Mike Yuen ’89. It has been a joy to work alongside you. Because of your passion, enthusiasm, and love for Rice University, we have been able to create community and value beyond the degree. .
To the entire Rice community, thank you for everything you have done and will continue to do to make the Rice experience unmatched.
Bryan Guido Hassin ’01 ’02
Immediate Past President, Association of Rice Alumni
Dear Fellow Rice Owls,
It is with a sense of gratitude and pride in my fellow Owls that I begin my term as president of the Association of Rice Alumni (ARA). My friend and predecessor Bryan Guido Hassin ’01 ’02 exemplified Rice’s core values of respect, integrity, community and excellence during his leadership and throughout one of our most challenging years, and I promise to do the same as our world slowly returns to a more recognizable normal. We have an exciting path ahead of us, and I am confident that the future will give us even more reasons to be proud of our Rice community.
By my side is the incredible Toya Cirica Bell ’87, president-elect of the ARA. Together, along with our passionate Board of Directors, we will work to advance the ARA’s mission of strengthening the relationship between Rice and its former students, advocating for Rice alumni and embracing Rice’s global ambition. We are also welcoming eight new members to our board: Travis San Pedro ’12, Alejandro Chaoul ’06, Amy Good ’98 ’06, Meg Brigman ’18, David Leal ’03, Robert Lundin ’00, Bobby Dixon ’97 and Ian Akash Morrison ’13, as well as our newest Alumni Trustee Brandy Hays Morrison ’98. I know these devoted alumni will add great insight and perspective into our conversations and work moving forward.
We have learned many valuable lessons from the last year, but there is one in particular that sticks out to me as we embark on a new era: the importance of meeting alumni where they are, mentally and physically. As leaders of the ARA, we have a responsibility to remain rooted in service to you, and that service must shift, shape and mold to fit every circumstance, no matter how unprecedented. While we experienced plenty of growing pains from the changes of 2020, we gained more opportunities to flourish, and it is the ARA’s desire to continue this spirit of reimagining our efforts as we continue to grow connections both on-screen and on-campus within our worldwide Rice network. If you have feedback on how we can do so, I encourage you to share it with us.
To continue this momentum into the next year, the ARA Board is planning unique opportunities to bring together Rice alumni, students, parents and friends, including a new lecture and discussion series focused on diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice efforts. The Rice Alumni 21-Day Equity Challenge will expand education, spark conversation and advance the culture of belonging throughout the Rice community. I encourage you to join us in this campus-wide effort as we build new practices around these important initiatives.
Rice’s Homecoming & Reunion and Families Weekend celebration, Owl Together, will also bring together our global community of Owls for learning and socializing. I know many of us are eager to return to campus, surrounded by friends and former classmates — and Owl Together is the perfect opportunity to do so. Save the dates for this virtual and in-person event on Oct. 25-30. Registration opens soon.
Finally, I encourage you to become involved with the Association of Rice Alumni, in whatever capacity feels most right to you. Connect with Owls in your city or in our Affinity Groups, volunteer in a handful of ways, mentor students and alumni on Sallyportal and much more. You can also make a meaningful difference on the future of Rice and our alumni community by serving on the ARA board. Applications for the next term, beginning July 2022, are due Friday, Oct. 29.
All of this is to say that when Rice Owls get together, we can make anything happen. Our alumni, students, faculty and friends around the world have displayed determined strength and dedicated support to one another and our great university. And for good reason, too, since our community is one that truly inspires, motivates and betters the world.
Let’s look ahead to the future together. Thanks for all you do.
Monique Shankle ’86
President, Association of Rice Alumni