Houston Endowment Donates $6.4 Million To Rice For New Ph.D. Program In Sociology

July 11, 2008

A $6.4 million grant from Houston Endowment to Rice University will fund the establishment of the first Ph.D. program in sociology in Houston. The graduate studies will focus on Houston and urban issues.

As part of the new program, graduate students will study migration and ethnicity, religion, health, culture and a variety of other issues.

“This support from Houston Endowment will help Rice deepen and broaden its research and understanding of one of the world’s most dynamic cities,” Rice President David Leebron said. “The widespread challenges and opportunities that come with Houston’s growth and economic vitality are also faced by other urban centers around the world.

“Thanks to Houston Endowment, Rice will now partner even more closely with city leaders and residents as we attempt to better understand and address Houston’s problems and identify and magnify its strengths. This new Ph.D. program will, because of the global importance of understanding cities, significantly enhance our reputation for research in the social sciences.”

Leebron has made closer involvement with the city one of the key objectives of his 10-point plan to guide Rice as the university increases its undergraduate enrollment, accelerates its research and expands its reach both locally and around the world. Rice celebrates its centennial in 2012.

Sociology Department chair Elizabeth Long said the benefits of a “fine-grained” focus on Houston’s social environment are not limited geographically. “We are now not just an urbanizing world, but an urban world, and in order to understand contemporary society and its problems and potentials, we must come to grips with the realities of urban life,” said Long. “Houston is a wonderful research site in which to conduct this important scholarly work.”

The Sociology Department’s Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life (CORRUL), directed by Michael Emerson, will serve as the catalyst for the graduate studies in sociology.

“In a metropolitan area with 6 million people, Rice is well-positioned to establish a doctoral program that integrates academic and public sociology through the exploration of human society in major urban environments,” said Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology. “Using Houston as their laboratory, these doctoral students will explore the virtually limitless topics offered by staggering population growth: immigration, health care, race relations, religion, environmental issues, cultural attitudes and education.”

The Sociology Department’s graduate program will be innovative in several respects, said Rice representatives – unlike most graduate programs, Rice’s will require every student to be familiar with the entire spectrum of research methods, Rice’s mentorship model will be more of an individualized “apprenticeship” than the traditional models used by large programs in the field and the department will put emphasis on collaborative work and new approaches to dissemination of ideas, including digital modes of publication and community outreach or “public sociology.”

“The Sociology Department has a tradition of having faculty and undergraduate students work in close research collaborations, and that will become a core aspect of the graduate experience in the sociology Ph.D. program,” Long said.

The graduate research made possible by the Houston Endowment grant will complement other Houston and Texas studies already under way by Rice’s sociology faculty, such as Professor Stephen Klineberg’s annual Houston Area Survey and extensive research on urban and rural Texas demography by Professor Steve Murdock, who is currently director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The Ph.D. in sociology will also add tremendous strength to the social sciences as a whole at Rice,” said Lyn Ragsdale, dean of the School of Social Sciences. “Now, each of the social science disciplines will have a Ph.D. program.”

The new Ph.D. program must be approved by the Rice Graduate Council and Faculty Senate. The plan calls for admitting the first class of graduate students in 2011.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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