Rice Business Facilities McNair Hall

Message from Dean Peter Rodriguez:

Dear colleagues, students and friends,

These seven weeks of working from home and staying out of public spaces have tested our stamina like no other crisis. Nevertheless, we’re managing well amid the pandemic, the disruption to our schedules and the personal toll. I am confident we will be ready and fit for a gradual return to campus and for a strong start for our next academic year. Thank you.

The economic fallout from the pandemic and the downturn in the oil and gas industry are likely to further test our community, but I want to assure you that our school has a strong financial position. We maintain healthy financial backstops and plan to continue normal operations and staffing through this downturn. We expect to end the fiscal year at break even and will continue to innovate and invest for the future while managing the necessary fiscal discipline.  

We’re looking at fall schedules and trying to understand what it will take to be prepared. Currently, the university won’t open the campus for events until July 1. While I expect that we will be able to offer an in-person kickoff for new fall cohorts and course delivery for continuing students, we are also preparing for the possibility of further delays in a full return to normal campus operations. These preparations will include the provision of remote launch and kickoff events as well as remote course delivery options should these be required due to direction from state and or local government. To maintain readiness in the event of future disruptions and to address ongoing health concerns, we are also preparing to offer a simultaneous in-person and remote course delivery. 

Meanwhile, admissions numbers look strong and, by some measures, are better than in recent years. International students face a high degree of uncertainty with respect to visa issuance and travel restrictions, and we have had more requests than usual for deferrals or late deposits. MBA@Rice numbers are higher than anticipated, and overall created applications have jumped for on-campus programs. Extended June deadlines will give us a higher likelihood of achieving our enrollment targets for the fall.

Two final notes. One, the Rice Crisis Management Team sent out a reminder that starting yesterday an order went into effect requiring people over the age of 10 to wear a face covering when they’re in public places through May 26. No need to wear it when you’re alone in a room or an office, while you’re eating or drinking or exercising outside, but you do have to wear face covering on campus. Two, the governor held a press conference yesterday to outline a three-phased reopening of the Texas economy. After the stay-at-home order expires Thursday, April 30, phase one of the new plan will begin Friday, with safety standards in place and limited capacity. If the infection rates continue to decline, the state could move into phase two by May 18. For phase one, there will be no change to events on campus; we will remain closed. 

I feel a little promise in the air, along with spring. I hope you do too. Continue social distancing. Wear face coverings in public. Stay safe and stay positive. Together we’ve made this work, and together we’ll see it through. 

Best, 
Peter

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