Since we began our programming three weeks ago, some have asked us, “Why is the Glasscock School doing this now?” I hope that the following will give you some insight into what this project is and why it is so important to us at the Glasscock School right now. Although our motivations are unique to our city and educational community, in other ways they represent a much broader, universal, story of which we are honored to be a part. Communities across the planet are currently disrupted in almost every way imaginable, and in that context individuals and organizations attempt to reconnect, and even rewire, the comfortable connective tissue built over time.
What is OpenRICE? It’s an online platform through which we provide free, accessible and timely content that provides a sense of community, an opportunity to learn and, ideally, sparks curiosity to study and do more. We currently deliver content in a webinar format, but we imagine this will evolve over time and that eventually, we will offer sessions of various formats and lengths, depending on the nature of the material and the needs of our community. Initially, our sessions respond to the current health and economic crisis as related to COVID-19. As we reach the other side of “the curve,” we expect that we will shift to whatever the timely concerns of the day may be.
OpenRICE is clearly our response to this moment in history that, at least for our lifetimes, is wholly unprecedented. The need for community is a universal one, but suddenly, so many of us and so many of our students and friends were compelled to stay at home, disconnected from our normal activities, jobs, and most importantly, from the communities that make us whole. Building community is part of who the Glasscock School is at its core, so expanding our virtual infrastructure to further supplement the physical structure we normally call home was a natural step for us. Our response, then, has been to build the kind of community with a space for dialogue, and the kind of community that acknowledges the uncertainty and even fear of the moment, and responds to it in supportive and practical ways.
During the first three weeks of programming, we have developed four streams of opportunities: Professional, Education, Community Learning, and Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. In each of these streams, we provide relevant content for the self-distancing era. The enthusiastic response to these sessions tells us that not only are we attracting the natural constituencies to our webinars, but that we may also be attracting those outside of the HR professionals, teachers, or non-profit leaders that are the primary consumers of our content. We hope that this reimagining of our communities can build new understandings of what constitutes community today.
The pursuit of knowledge is a universal need. OpenRICE, built on a foundation of accessibility and openness, aims to be a space for learning. The Glasscock School is a bridge that connects Rice University with the communities with which we share a home, both in Houston and beyond. As neighbors, the Glasscock School has both an obligation and a need to provide high-quality learning opportunities. We are a part of one of the great research universities of the world, and live in one of the great global cities of the world. As such, we have access to both deep experience in education, industry, government, and nonprofit leadership in our community, as well as to the wide array of intellectual and scientific capital that Rice possesses as we take on and seek to understand the challenges and questions that society faces at any given time. OpenRICE is a portal that exists to bring the educational resources at its disposal to our communities in ways that both challenge commonly held ways of seeing the world and buoy us all through increased knowledge and insight.
Spark of Curiosity
One of the tenets and underlying requirements of life-long education is an ever-ignited intellectual curiosity. OpenRICE, at its best, will be an engine for curiosity among its constituents. By fostering a more capacious understanding of the world and the issues that we face as a society, we hope to engender a community that sees and takes into account the multiplicity of viewpoints and, following its curiosity, learns more and more. This curiosity enriches dialogue and drives further questions, while at the same time providing a practical guide for navigating issues that we all face.
A Universe of Understanding
Finally, it’s important to note that the Glasscock School’s breadth of instruction and expertise brings together an unusually wide set of communities: from educators to financial analysts, from humanists to programmers and coders, from linguists to scientists, as well as aspiring photographers, painters and business leaders. Indeed, this breadth of inquiry is exceeded only by that of the university, itself, where the universe of knowledge, both old and new, resides and continually expands. We hope that through OpenRICE, we are able to harness accessible and practical pieces of this universe, and bring them to you in ways that build community, deepen your understanding of our world, and spark your curiosity to always learn more, not only for learning’s sake, but to make your world and that of your community, better.
Dr. David Vassar, Assistant Dean, Professional and Corporate Programs