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A roundup of news from Rice Business and beyond

A New Deputy Dean in Town

Jing Zhou

Jing Zhou, the Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of Management and Psychology, assumed the role of deputy dean of academic affairs for Rice Business July 1. She is the first woman to hold the position.

A highly accomplished scholar whose research has been cited more than 40,000 times — ranking among the top 1% of influential researchers in business and management — Zhou researches creativity and innovation, and creativity in entrepreneurship. She has been teaching courses on leadership, innovation, negotiation and organizational behavior at the undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA and Ph.D. levels at Rice Business since 2003.  Zhou is the area coordinator for organizational behavior, director of Ph.D. program and director for Asian management research and education at Rice Business. She is a fellow of the Academy of Management, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

“Beyond these prestigious recognitions, we all know Jing as a generous colleague and as an honest and trusted friend and supporter of Rice Business and Rice University,” Dean Peter Rodriguez said. “We are fortunate to have in Jing an eminent scholar and a colleague of the utmost integrity to serve as our next deputy dean.”

In addition to her contributions at Rice, Zhou has served as president of the International Association for Chinese Management Research, as associate editor of the Journal of Applied Psychology and on the editorial boards for many other journals, including the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Business Venturing, the Journal of Management, Leadership Quarterly, Management and Organization Review, Organizational Psychology Review and the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. She has also served as a consultant to organizations on issues related to leading innovation and negotiation.

Zhou succeeds Jeff Fleming, Fayez Sarofim Vanguard Professor of Finance, who completed a seven-year term as deputy dean on June 30. 

To learn more about Zhou’s “Intellectual Contributions”, “Media Mentions” and peer-reviewed research, visit this website page:


Winners' Circle

42 startups competed for more than $2 million in prizes at the 22nd annual RBPC

A startup that aims to increase production in the semiconductor industry took home the $350,000 grand prize at the 2022 Rice Business Plan Competition.

The winning team — Lidrotec, a student startup from RWTH Aachen University in Germany — says its technology can eliminate material waste during semiconductor manufacturing, saving money and increasing productivity.

The competition, hosted annually by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and Rice Business, is the world’s largest and richest student startup competition. Now in its 22nd year, the competition saw 42 startups competing for more than $2 million in prizes in April. They were chosen from more than 400 applicants to compete in one of five categories: energy, clean tech and sustainability; life sciences and health care solutions; consumer products and services; hard tech; and digital enterprise.

The RBPC’s more than 250 judges act as early-stage investors evaluating the startups’ potential. Teams pitch their businesses to investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and ecosystem partners during the event, then network and receive real-time feedback, advice and mentorship.

Alexander Kanitz of Lidrotec presenting in the Shell Auditorium

From left: Neethu Pottackal, third-year Ph.D. in materials science and nanoengineering, and Aasha Zinke, Rice ’24 majoring in materials science and nanoengineering, take the prize for EpiFresh.

This year’s top prizes included:

  • $350,000 GOOSE Capital Investment Grand Prize — Lidrotec, RWTH Aachen.
  • $155,000 The OWL Investment Prize — Hoth Intelligence, University of Pittsburgh.
  • $65,000 The OWL Investment Prize — Mallard Bay Outdoors, Louisiana State University.
  • $50,000 The OWL Investment Prize — TransCrypts, University of Toronto and Harvard University.
  • $250,000 TMC Innovation Healthcare Investment Prize — LymphaSense, Johns Hopkins University.
  • $125,000 Softeq Venture Studio Prizes (two prizes) — Mallard Bay Outdoors, Louisiana State University; Lidrotec, RWTH Aachen University.
  • $100,000 Jon Finger and Finger Interests, David Anderson and the Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce Second-Place Investment Prize — Hoth Intelligence, University of Pittsburgh.
  • $50,000 Jon Finger and Finger Interests, David Anderson and the Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce Third-Place Investment Prize — Invitris, Technical University of Munich.
  • $100,000 Houston Angel Network Investment Prize — Hoth Intelligence, University of Pittsburgh.
  • $100,000 TiE Houston Angel Group Investment Prize — LIDROTEC, RWTH Aachen University.

For more information, visit


Rice Expands Its Reach to Paris

Rice Business Dean Peter Rodriguez joined former Rice President David Leebron and Houston city officials, along with civic and business leaders from the Greater Houston Partnership, in the City of Lights this summer to celebrate the opening of the university’s Paris Center. The June 29 launch ceremony was held at a historic 16th-century building that will house the new center. When it is complete in January, it will be home to student programs and international conferences organized through Rice.

It will also serve as a hub for European research activity, giving researchers from Rice Business and other Rice schools greater access to European partners.

“Rice University’s mission statement commits us not only to pathbreaking research and unsurpassed teaching, but also to the betterment of our world,” said Rice President Reginald DesRoches, who began his tenure on July 1. “We’re eager to extend that mission internationally, and the opening of the Rice University Paris Center demonstrates that commitment.”

The Center is located in Le Marais, a neighborhood in the historic center of the city famed for its narrow cobblestone streets, art galleries and sidewalk cafés. It is housed in a historic building known as the Hotel de La Faye, built in the early 1500s. The grand townhouse edifice — with four levels, a courtyard and a private garden — was listed as a historic monument in 1966.

To learn more, visit:



Rice Business celebrated the Class of 2022 with an Investiture ceremony in May. The ceremony, which formally “invests” grads with their degrees, was held in Tudor Fieldhouse. It marked the largest number of graduates in school history, with more than 500 degrees awarded, bringing the total number of Rice Business alumni worldwide to more than 8,000.

Click the buttons to view photo albums from the festivities.

MBA Investiture       MAcc Investiture

Watch our Investiture videos at


Board of Advisors Appointment

Thomas Benford

Thomas Benford, the president and COO of Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, was appointed to the Rice Business Board of Advisors in April. He will serve for three years.

Benford, who has an MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degrees in economics and computational and applied mathematics from Rice, leads an organization of more than 4,600 associates who serve 21 million consumers and deliver 114 million cases of Coca-Cola products annually. Benford’s career also includes other executive roles at Coke Florida and positions at Halliburton and J.P. Morgan Chase.

“We are so fortunate to have Thomas’ deep experience on our board,” said Dean Peter Rodriguez.


If You Can Make It There...

Rice Business is expanding its experiential learning portfolio to New York City this fall through an innovative alliance with Columbia University Law School and its Center for Public Research and Leadership.

The center immerses graduate students in the theory and practice of managing, governing and transforming public school systems and organizations. The other business school partners are Dartmouth Tuck, NYU Stern, Wharton and Yale.  

Through an intensive application process, Columbia Law School selected Cayden Lei ’23, a full-time MBA, to be our inaugural candidate. A native of Shenzhen, China, Lei is the only MBA from all the partner schools in this year’s session, which launched in September.

 “We are so pleased to begin our partnership with Rice, an institution that shares our commitment to improving public institutions, particularly [in our case] public pre-K-12 schools,” said Elizabeth Chu, executive director of the Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia Law School.

In a joint interview, Abbey Hartgrove, director of global programs and experiential learning, and Adam Herman, executive director of the office of academic programs and student experience, explained how the affiliation will work.

What does equity-focused leadership development mean to Rice Business?
We want to make sure that we are creating impact, and think equity is going to be a foundation. When we’re working with companies, we’re helping them shift out of this corporate model into working with communities and organizations that don’t have as many resources. That’s the student we’re looking for—the student who wants to make an impact, who is wanting to change the world, who is wanting to make things better.

What is the program structure?
Each section of the three-course, 12-credit program—“Structural Change in Public Education: Immersive Off-Site”—will host about 30 to 35 students. Students are getting credit and making an impact, so it checks a lot of boxes for us. Policy consultants work with the students guiding the consultant projects, so they get to come in and take their MBA knowledge, apply it in this New York City public sector context and get expert guidance.

How do accountability and ethics factor into our participation?
What we like about the courses we run are the components of accountability and ethics built in. You’re being held accountable for your performance to the client, in this case, your peers from other well-known schools, and also to the communities you have been selected to help. That’s the foundation of experiential learning at Rice because we are connecting with these external partners. You’re representing yourself professionally and Rice Business.

To learn more about the Center for Public Research and Leadership, visit:


Hall of Famers

Jasmine Johnson ’22 and Takeya Green ’22 were honored for their entrepreneurial talent and leadership skills at the 2022 Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation Awards.

Jasmine Johnson

Takeya Green

Johnson, who won the foundation’s T.T. & W.F. Chao Award, serves as the CEO and founder of Sparrow Energy, an energy efficiency consultation and implementation company. Green, who won the AT&T Future Executive Leader of Distinction Award, is a Chicago native who began her career as an investment banking associate with Citi, working in sectors including oil and gas and the clean energy transition.

The foundation honors outstanding business leaders in the state by celebrating their impact in business and the community. Johnson and Green will be honored at the foundation’s 2022 annual induction dinner Nov. 3. They join about 800 leaders who have been recognized by the Texas Business Hall of Fame over the last 40 years.


A New Chief Business Officer

Christian Rafidi

Christian Rafidi is chief business officer, a new position at Rice Business, and oversees critical business and financial operations of the school. He has experience in higher education — including serving as chief administrative officer at the University of Michigan and as assistant dean for finance and administration at the University of Texas at Austin. Rafidi earned a B.A. in sociology from New York University and an M.Ed. from Northeastern University. He serves as an adviser to Dean Peter Rodriguez and the leadership team on business strategy; management and risk; and leading, managing and representing the financial, administrative and operational components of the school. Rafidi also oversees building operations, space management, the Business Information Center and the administration of human resource functions.


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Fireside Chat
At a recent Fireside Chat, we recognized and celebrated DEI influencers who are championing efforts in their organizations.

Inaugural speaker Janet Pope, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Capgemini and moderator professor Doug Schuler
Inaugural speaker Janet Pope, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Capgemini and moderator professor Doug Schuler

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lab Course
The DEI lab is an experiential learning class that gives students the opportunity to work on a corporate/nonprofit partner challenge and apply the lessons and framework from Rice Business courses. The initial pilot had three projects for three different organizations; one was a nonprofit. The students had impactful recommendations, some of which have already been implemented at the client organizations.


Donuts and DEI
Regina Edwards, DEI specialist, leads Donuts and DEI to introduce the Everyday Inclusion app to staff. The Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion launched the app for Rice Business faculty, students and staff. The easy-to-navigate phone app is a resource for DEI learning and has fun features to use with teams and colleagues.



Senior Leadership Appointments at Rice University

This year, Rice welcomed a new president, Reginald DesRoches, and several new administrators for specialized operations. Here’s a look at the new executives and their roles:

Amy Dittmar is provost and a professor of economics (social sciences) and a professor of finance (business). She has an extensive background in economics, finance and university administration. Dittmar previously served as senior vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs and professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan. Dittmar earned her B.S. in finance and business economics from Indiana University and Ph.D. in finance from the University of North Carolina.


Paul Padley, a professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Bonner Nuclear Laboratory, is vice president for information technology and chief information officer. The office is the university’s central technology provider and supports research, academic and administrative systems, other core applications; and voice, network and computing infrastructure for the Rice community. Padley holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in physics from the University of Toronto and a bachelor’s in physics from York University and serves on faculty advisory committees on information technology issues.


Omar Syed, an attorney with 15 years of experience in higher education, is vice president and general counsel. Syed guides the university on the best legal course to successfully execute its mission, including the unique legal challenges Rice will face while expanding its research programs. Syed previously served as associate vice chancellor and deputy general counsel for the University of Texas System. Syed earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with special honors in public policy studies from the University of Chicago and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.


Kelly Fox is vice president for finance and administration and will supervise financial planning and policies, financial reporting, debt and cash management, financial systems, nonacademic budgeting, compliance, capital markets, accounting and audit, construction, facilities, security, housing and food, and human resources. A senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in higher education, Fox previously served as executive vice president and chief budget officer at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Fox earned her Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Colorado Denver and her Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a condensed matter physicist and materials scientist with more than 25 years in academia, industry, national labs and government service, is vice president for research. He will oversee internal and external research ventures and will partner with senior leadership to bolster the research infrastructure and propel productivity and impact to new heights. He was previously the Purnendu Chatterjee Chair in Energy Technologies and a professor of physics and materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Ramesh earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Madras University, a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and a master’s and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley.


Paul Cherukuri is the university’s first vice president for innovation. The primary areas of focus for the office will be technology translation, startup creation, commercialization, and entrepreneurship training. Cherukuri will also oversee engagement with the Ion, including programs in the innovation district. Cherukuri, who was previously the executive director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering, is a physicist, chemist and medtech entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in academia and the pharmaceutical industry. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Kentucky and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry under Nobel laureate Richard Smalley at Rice.

To learn more about the executives, visit and


Permanent Public Art Collection Makes Debut at McNair Hall

Artist: Byron Kim | Title: “Irwin’s Disc,” 2008 | Photographer: Sean Fleming

Artist: Graciela Hasper | Title: “Sin Titulo,” 2013 | Photographer: Sean Fleming

Artist: Christian Eckart | Title: “Long Clouds Glitched,” 2022 | Photographer: Geoff Winningham

Artist: Jose Dávila | Title: “Untitled,” 2014 | Photographer: Nash Baker

Artist: Joanna Pousette-Dart | Title: “3 Part Variation #6,” 2013 | Photographer: Geoff Winningham

Artist: Sheila Hicks | Title: “Minerve de la Sagesse,” 2018 | Photographer: Geoff Winningham


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