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Office of Institutional Effectiveness

10 Characteristics

1. Reasoning, critical thinking, and problem solving

Our undergraduates, regardless of their major, should gain an understanding of the processes of inquiry distinctive to different disciplines, enabling them to select and organize knowledge. Such an understanding requires the ability to identify and think through problems, judge factual claims and theories on the basis of evidence, and apply the knowledge thus gained to practical

2. Integrating knowledge from multiple perspectives

Many of the most challenging problems we face cannot be solved by single disciplinary approaches or technologies. Their resolution requires the integration of multiple disciplinary perspectives. The need for this integration is as true for understanding global climate change as it is for confronting such problems as AIDS, looming water shortages, and conflicts between nations. We must provide opportunities for undergraduates to appreciate this need and to think critically about scientifically and socially complex issues.

3. Understanding the accelerating impact of science and technology on society

The increasingly rapid pace of scientific discovery and technological innovation is affecting virtually every aspect of human activity in ways that were not imagined a few decades ago and that have profound future implications. Tomorrow’s leaders will be women and men who understand these dynamics in some depth and are capable of helping nations and their people capture the opportunities and confront the problems that are fast approaching. Rice is particularly well situated to offer this kind of education to its undergraduates.

4. Research and experiential learning

Rice’s tradition is to involve students directly in the creation of new knowledge, art, music, literature, technology, and design and to encourage students to pursue independent inquiry and experiential learning. Fostering this tradition remains critical. Such research and learning can provide an illuminating context in which students master techniques of independent inquiry and learn to apply insights gained from multiple perspectives. Whatever form the inquiry takes, whether independent research by the student inside the University or outside in the community or a foreign country, every Rice undergraduate should have ample opportunities for research experience.

5. Information access and evaluation

With the extraordinarily rapid increase of new information, information sources, and kinds of knowledge, we must ensure that our undergraduates know both how to obtain and critically assess information. We must direct our students to move beyond today’s favorite search engines for their information needs and require them to operate competently in the evidence based culture of the academic disciplines.

6. Global culture, politics, and history

World events today unfold against a backdrop of cultural, religious, and ethnic differences. A world citizen must understand the importance of such differences. We should encourage our students to read deeply in the art, literature, politics, religions, and history of other cultures, to experience other cultures through travel or study outside the U.S., and to realize the value of learning other languages. In addition, they should have a broad knowledge of U.S. culture, politics, and history within the context of world history.

7. Diversity and differences at home

We live and work with individuals who differ in terms of ethnicity, religious practice, gender, sexual orientation, and economic background. In their classrooms and residential colleges, undergraduates should be encouraged to recognize the ways in which differences can shape society for better or worse; to think deeply about the role of tolerance and respect in fostering a pluralistic society; and to consider the importance of confronting prejudice.

8. Communication capabilities and interpersonal skills

To be global citizens with the ability to effect significant change and to succeed in the workplace, the community, and the world, our students must be able to listen carefully and with discernment; to speak, write, and present clearly, cogently, and persuasively in different contexts to a variety of audiences, and across cultures; and to work collaboratively with others. This goal necessitates providing an undergraduate curriculum that includes many opportunities for the acquisition of these communication capabilities.

9. Leadership

Leaders transform ideas into action through commitment, self-confidence, and courage. Leading effectively requires a dedication to ethical values in all spheres of human endeavor. For our students to achieve their true potential in their personal and professional  lives, we must provide and support opportunities to nurture these traits.

10. Community and Civic Life

To nurture the values of civic engagement, we should provide a wide range of opportunities for students to participate in and shape their residential college community, the larger University community, and communities outside the University. Honesty, self-discipline, and personal responsibility, encouraged by Rice’s Honor Code, should be emphasized as fundamental to both civic and academic life.