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Flight Path

A Commitment to Community Brought Our Provost to Rice feat. Amy Dittmar

Owl Have You Know

Season 4, Episode 5

In the latest live recording of the Owl Have You Know podcast, our special guest is Amy Dittmar, the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Rice University. Amy plays a crucial role in overseeing Rice's academic landscape.

She joins host Scott Gale at McNair Hall to delve into her journey to the higher ranks of academia and discusses her vision for Rice’s future, her ongoing commitment to nurturing the unique sense of community that Rice is renowned for, and strategies for embracing new technologies.

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Episode Transcript

  • [00:00]Intro: Welcome to Owl Have You Know, a podcast from Rice Business. This episode is part of our Flight Path series, where guests share their career journeys and stories of the Rice connections that got them where they are.

    [00:00]Peter: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the Jones Graduate School of Business here at Rice University and to this live broadcast of our podcast, Owl Have You Know. Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing our provost of Rice University, Amy Dittmar. And no pressure on you for great applause, but she's my boss, so let's try to look good.

    Here's a little bit of background on Amy. Amy is a distinguished scholar with an extensive background in economics, finance, and university administration. She is the provost, as well as a professor of finance with Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business and a professor of economics with the School of Social Sciences.

    Provost is not a name that maybe… or a title that translates perfectly to the outside world, but this is the chief academic officer of the university. And just to go off script, I'd say I think, it, to many, would seem like the toughest job at the university. I don't say that just because she has to work with all the deans, but it really is leading the whole academic enterprise, including direct reporting relationships for the deans of eight schools, the dean of undergraduates, the dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies, and other key leaders.

    Amy is a co-leading… is co-leading a transformation of the university's budget process and chairs our university's strategic planning committee.

    A little bit about Amy. Prior to Rice, she held a series of top-level administrative roles at the University of Michigan, including senior vice provost from 2020 to 2022. She also served as a board member and secretary of Michigan Health Corporation, chair of a behavioral science research initiative task force, co-chair of the Student Mental Health and Well Being Implementation Committee, and a board member of the Michigan Mobility Transportation Center.

    Before her career at the University of Michigan, Amy was an assistant professor at Indiana University and a financial analyst and real estate officer at First Chicago Corp, now part of JPMorgan Chase.

    She earned her bachelor's degree in finance and business economics from Indiana University and her PhD in finance from the University of North Carolina. She's a scholar of corporate finance, governance, and gender economics.

    We couldn't be more pleased to have her here today. And now, I'll turn it over to our host, Scott Gale, EMBA class of not too many years ago. Take it away, Scott.

    [02:33]Scott: Thanks, Peter. Oh, hi. A quick, for those that don't know here in the room, as we are recording the podcast live, I would just ask that you double-check your cell phones, that they are off. That's really, sort of, the only, kind of, item. If you need to get up and leave, that's fine. Come back. Also, there is going to be a reception right after we're done. And, kind of, near the end, I'm going to open it up for some audience Q&A. So, if you have some questions that you're really keen on asking, we'll set up a microphone here once we're done, and we'll encourage you to come ask those questions. We'll take a few questions, time permitting, and then, certainly, encourage you to bring those questions to the reception right after.

    So, thanks again for coming and hanging out with us. And with that, we'll kick off. I am your host, Scott Gale. This is Owl Have You Know. And I'm here with Amy Dittmar.

    Amy, welcome to the show.

    [03:30]Amy: Thank you very much. Thrilled to be here.

    [03:32]Scott: Thanks for coming out and spending a lovely Monday afternoon here at the Jones School. And I'm, kind of, in… as I've, sort of, reflected on our brief conversation and some of the things that we're going to come talk about, I see this a bit as get to know the office of the provost, get to know Amy, and get to understand, sort of, how you see the future unfolding.

    And so, I, kind of, want to start a little bit with, Peter touched on it a little bit, but, sort of, like, the role of provost at a university. Can you just, sort of, help us understand what, kind of, the roles and responsibilities of that post are?

    [04:05]Amy: Yeah, it always, kind of, confuses people, because then once you describe what a provost is, they usually say, “Well, then, what is a president in some senses?” Because you think of a university and you think of the academic enterprise, but there's a lot more to it. And so, I manage and oversee the academic enterprise. So, that's everything from the programs, the research, the faculty. They all, kind of, report up through me.

    But then, there's other things that are my peers — the CFO or the vice president for finance. You know, I work with the athletic director. And so, we, kind of, collectively help run the university and, of course, guided by the vision.

    So, that means everything from working with the deans to implement the vision at the schools, making sure that the student experience is what the students need to be able to thrive, working with the dean of undergrad and graduates, and just really, kind of, implementing some of those goals.

    You know, if I had to come up with the best analogy, it's a little bit of, you know, CEO is the president and there's a couple COOs, if you would. And I guess, over the academic piece, I'm one of them.

    [05:04]Scott: Love it. And there, we'll talk a little bit about this, but there's… I'd be curious if there is, kind of, a public versus private university spin to some of the roles and responsibilities associated with that, or is that largely…

    [05:16]Amy: It's pretty largely the same. I mean, I think that some of the issues that come up, there's some nuances of the job that are different, but the way I just defined a provost is pretty consistent, if I was at the University of Michigan with 50,000 students or I was here with, you know, 9,000 students, yeah.

    [05:33]Scott: Awesome. We heard, sort of, in your background, in your intro a long academic career. I'd love to just, sort of, go back a little bit further to, sort of, like, that moment in time when you decided that you wanted to go into academia. If we could, sort of, go back, if there's, sort of, like, a point where you decided that you wanted to take that step.


     

    [05:57]Amy: Yeah. There were actually two points. One, I decided I wanted to go into academia, and then one when I realized what… in academia, what I meant by that. So, in high school, I wanted to be an English professor. I'm not really sure if I knew what that meant. It's I liked to read. I wrote some really bad poetry. And so, you know, I think that seemed like, kind of, a good job. It was more of the image of.

    Once I got into school I, kind of, realized that I was actually a lot better at the quantitative side and the mathematical side. I ended up still doing a lot in English, but, kind of, navigated more towards econ and finance.

    And then, at some point in my, in my courses, I realized by, you know, I was not the student that you had to encourage to come to the office hours. I was always in the office hours, not because I was trying to ask, you know, get an A, as much as I was just discussing different issues. And I, kind of, started to realize that the questions I was asking were a lot more about the whys and the hypotheses of how to get things. And they were different than what some of my colleagues were interested in going on applying.

    So, that was probably the moment. I, kind of, remember sitting in a couple professors’ offices and having a discussion, and one or two of them saying, “Have you ever thought about a PhD and being a professor?” I didn't come from an academic background. So, a lot of times, people do. And what I mean by that is my parents, I mean, my dad went to college, but at, you know, at night at the local community college to while we were all born so, as opposed to my kids who grew up in an academic house. So, yeah.

    [07:25]Scott: Yeah. No, that's really cool. I'd be curious, sort of, along your journey if there are any, sort of, like, individuals that particularly stand out as, sort of, influential in that…

    [07:35]Amy: In getting there?

    [07:36]Scott: In getting there.

    [07:37]Amy: Yeah. I mean, I think, early on, I mean, it would be just my love of knowledge. There was a high school teacher, Greg Himeseth, who, he was the instructor for world history, but I think the more important thing was he just made you think. So, you know, no matter what idea or view you came up with, he would argue the other side. I mean, in today's polarized world, it would've been quite bloody in the classroom, I think.

    But, you know, then he just really pushed you to think and to think outside the box. And so, I think that's where that kind of love of asking the questions and the, and the whys, kind of, came from. And of course, there were others along the way, but that's the first one in about 10th grade that I remember thinking that that's, you know…

    And so, even in high school, the research projects were what I loved. So, I mean, to, kind of, digging into and understanding some of those things.

    [08:27]Scott: Okay. That's fantastic. I'd be curious just to, sort of, kind of, up to your, kind of, post in Michigan, sort of, can you catch us up chronologically some of the things that, sort of, took place, kind of, through that and what were some of the inflection points that, kind of, got you there? I know that you and your husband both have a career in academia.

    [08:46]Amy: So, we're skipping from, you know, I was 10th grade to…

    [08:49]Scott: To, you're in academia, you wanted to be an English professor, made that pivot.

    [08:58]Amy: Yep. And then, I… just somebody gave me some very good advice. And that was don't go straight to get your PhD. Go out and get a “real job.” And I did. And I think that the best thing that that taught me, besides giving me some real-world experience, was it just teaches you a work ethic that you just don't have in school to have that, kind of, you know, “9:00 to 5:00,” but really, you know, 7:00 to 8:00 job at a bank.

    And so, that was… but it also took me about two months to realize that I wanted to go back to school. So, I worked for a couple of years, but that's… I think that would be one inflection point. Met my husband at the bank or somewhat through the bank. And we went off to grad school together, got married two months before grad school. So, I like to say my honeymoon was... He started a year after me, so I was in grad school, and he was unemployed. It was, you know, the best way to start a young marriage, yeah. But yeah, went to grad school. And then, after grad school, my first role went back to Indiana, which is where I got my undergrad. Didn't think I'd ever leave Indiana because it was my alma mater.

    But Michigan came knocking. And it was just… it was a great opportunity for us. It was… the kids were about to start school, so it was the right time. And we moved to Michigan. So… and the kids moved out, and here I am. So…

    [10:11]Scott: And so, starting as, sort of, a family, I like to call it, kind of, a startup family versus maybe a joint venture that, sort of, happens where you've… you're building up from the ground up through working through, kind of, early career, et cetera. And was just, as you, sort of, took on the opportunities there at Michigan, can you start to paint a picture for us, the decision making around, sort of, going from a teaching, kind of, role and background to more of an administrative-focused career?

    [10:39]Amy: Yeah, I mean, some people plan out their careers. I think I, kind of, slipped into most of them. I loved my research. I loved my teaching. I was not, everyone used to always say, “Oh, you're going to be a dean,” because I was, kind of, put together, I guess. But I was like, “I'm never going to be a dean.” And I didn't think I wanted administration.

    But then, the business school, as many business schools were doing, were in this real state of flux. They were trying to figure out what the portfolio should be in business, which was a very strategic decision. You know, they had the MBA, and should they add more masters? The MBA was having a little bit of shrinking problems. And so, the dean, kind of, came and asked me to take, kind of, a new role that would realign and think about the strategy.

    So, I, kind of, saw it as a temporary gig, if you will. And so, I thought, “Well, that's… that would be, kind of, fun and interesting.” I, kind of, work on financial strategy. And I did that for a few years. And then, similarly, a conversation ended up getting me to central administration as well, kind of, talking about what the possibilities were, which I can elaborate, if you want.

    [11:40]Scott: Yeah, please, we'd love to, sort of, kind of…

    [11:42]Amy: Yeah. So, after a few years working in the, in the business school and in the dean's office and, kind of, realigning the portfolios, opening some new programs, closing some programs, which is much harder than opening programs, I started having conversations across campus with some people at Central, the provost in particular, that would come up around the fact that there's not a sustainable model for higher education in the United States, that, you know, that's the tuition going up, this is a state school, so you can think about it from all the things you read about.

    And I just, kind of, volunteered, like, “Well, if there's ever a really cool committee or something that I could be on that would be investigating that, that's really aligned with my passions, as well as, you know, somewhat my background…” And it turns out that the position of running the budget for the University of Michigan, which is a faculty position, was open.

    So, she asked me to lunch, offered me the job. And I was there for seven years doing that. So, yeah. So, it was… and I loved it. I loved seeing the whole university, as much as I loved being a part of the business school. For me, it was once I, kind of, you know, was out and looking across the different disciplines and working across all of the different disciplines and making everything from, you know, the music school to the engineering school, kind of, excellent and happen, it was, it was one of the most fulfilling jobs I've had, I'd say, since early research, you know. The first few years of research are really exciting, but that was, too.

    [13:04]Scott: How did that, kind of, perspective and experience there shape, kind of, your stance and view on some of the key issues that are circling around the academia today, sort of, having that visibility, that early visibility, across a university?

    [13:20]Amy: Yeah, a few ways. I mean, first off, and this, kind of, comes off with coming to Rice, is it was, you know, Michigan’s a place that it’s excellence across the board. And so, to me, it’s really important that I'm at a place that has excellence across the board. That, you know, it's not one school that's really wonderful and then everybody else is, kind of, living in the, in the shadow. And so, you know, Rice really had a commitment and has a commitment to excellence across all the disciplines. And that was important to me.

    The other piece is the, I'd say, the mission piece. I mean, I think that, you know, Michigan's a public, so it's, kind of, part of who a public is, to have that mission of making a difference in the students' lives. And I think in privates, the same thing is there, but sometimes it can be, it can come out differently. But at Rice, I definitely found the same thing. It has a, had a social, a social good echoes that I thought seemed like a public almost. I mean, not, it's not a public, but the, but the commitment to that. So, that, I think, also shaped and seen all of the impact of… that you have on the students and really wanting to have that impact on society, more broadly. Yeah.

    [14:31]Scott: Yeah. I wanted to double-click on, sort of, one more, kind of, feature of the, your experience there in Michigan was, sort of, the pandemic and some of the challenges with student mental health and, sort of… can you just, sort of, take us through some of the high points, low points, sort of, that experience?

    [14:48]Amy: Yeah. Well, it's, you know, for everyone who managed a university or a company through this, you know, it, kind of, brings back a little bit of shock. I mean, the first memory was, you know, the day you decide to close down, right? And you're all 13 people in a room and you're figuring out, “What the heck are we going to do, you know, if the only emergency plan we had was if there was a snow day?” And that wasn't going to… and at that time, of course, we all thought, okay, a couple weeks, you know. So, it was a lot of uncertainty.

    And I think that that was one of the big challenges in managing, was managing through that uncertainty. Higher ed hadn't done a lot of that. I mean, there'd been maybe a financial crisis, but it's a relatively, I mean, we're doing a lot of the same things that we did 200 years ago when it comes to educating and such. And so, changing that model on its head that quickly I think it taught all of us a lot of things.

    You know, one was you had to all work together. There was no silos. You couldn't, you couldn't you couldn't, kind of, just stay in your school or stay in your lane. And so, I think there was this coming together that it was really transformative, both as a management, as a management position, but also at the university.

    And then the other, because of that, is you start to, kind of, break down those silos. That's, kind of, what came from some of the mental health stuff you just referenced. You know, at a, at a, at a university, and Rice is a little different this way, but in most universities, you have, kind of, you know, you've got your student support over here and you've got your academics on the other side. And they're different places.

    But to a student, they don't think of themselves as different. They don't walk out of the classroom and now they care about their, you know, their mental health. And they're… it's the same. It's all, it's all comes together and it impacts for them to thrive. And that became really transparent, not just because the students were struggling, but because we were working together in a way that hadn't been.

    So, I launched, co-launched, with the dean of students a mental health initiative that really, kind of, looked at that holistic approach to really, not just student mental health, but also the factors that go into it — academic stress, you know, racism, concerns about sustainability — I mean, all the things that, kind of, impact a student, and to think about how you think about that student holistically to support them.

    [16:55]Scott: Awesome. Well, I want to come back around to that. I think, as we, sort of, shift chronologically to your decision to come to Rice, and we'd just love to, you know, aside from maybe better weather at other times of the year…

    [17:08]Amy: Not today

    [17:09]Scott: Not here, not in August, but I don't know if Rice has a snow plan. We certainly have a weather-related plan.

    [17:14]Amy: I think you have a hurricane plan, which probably is, yeah…

    [17:16]Scott: We'd just love to know from your perspective, like, what... why Rice, as you were, sort of, making that decision?

    [17:21]Amy: Yeah, I mean, I think it… I mean, you know, first and foremost, it was because it's a great university, right? So, when they came knocking, I was going to at least talk, right? So, I think I have to be honest that part of it was that. But, you know, to move my, you know, I've been there almost 20 years to move across the country and to think about it, there were a few things that stood out.

    One was it was and is an incredibly exciting time here at Rice. I mean, the change that is going on, I am, I am only, I am one of many, many that have started in the last year. And the transformation of what Rice wants to achieve, I mean, which is already an excellent university and wants to, kind of, raise up and also think about how it's managed and run and really, and in order to be able to support that, that was really exciting to me.

    So, a lot of that's, kind of, that's the president's vision. That's Reggie's vision. So, that was a piece of it. But it was also the community. I mean, I'd been at 19 years at University of Michigan. So, I knew how to get things done. I knew the people. I loved the people. So, if I was going to go someplace, I wanted someplace that had a community that I could become a part of.

    And so, I really made an effort the first, well, really first year, but certainly first few months to, kind of, just get to know people so that I could. And the more I did, the more I confirmed, it's a great community, yeah.

    [18:37]Scott: We were talking a little bit about this, sort of, in the, in the run up with some of the move in things happening this weekend and other things. I'd just love to know, sort of, in the… in your time here, so far, what are some of the things that stand out from a traditional standpoint?

    [18:51]Amy: Yeah. I mean, so even though I say I came here somewhat because of the community, I don't think I was fully aware of the undergraduate, the way the undergraduate community, the college system that is here. And so, that's what you're referencing somewhat. I spent all this. If you don't know, the undergrads had move in on Sunday, and if you've never seen a Rice move in, then it's worth just driving around and seeing. And so, it really defines the community.

    You know, kids are in the car, or I guess 18-year-olds, I guess, they're kids to me. And, you know, they know their names. They're running out. They're, like, “Amy, so glad you're here.” And I, you know, I've dropped two kids off of it at universities. And it was just, it's just this welcoming experience that, I think, from day one just puts students in a place where they don't have to worry about, “Am I going to meet somebody? Am I going to have friends?” And it has that kind of nurturing, supportive kind of network.

    And so… and that's very indicative of what the overall community is at Rice. And it's just, I was seeing it through that lens. So, I can't say I came here for that because I didn't realize that when I came. I felt the community, but I didn't know those aspects. But that was, I think, one thing that really surprised me. Honestly, I wish my kids had had, you know, it would be a lot easier of a start to college if you had that kind of support network, yeah.

    [20:01]Scott: I wanted to explore a little bit, just, sort of, how do you see, kind of, the future of Rice and the, sort of, the coming steps, how the strategy is unfolding? I think all of us that are close to the university appreciate that things are meaningfully different today than they were five years from now and wanted to just, kind of, explore when everything goes according to plan, it never does, but when things go according to plan, what is… what will be different about Rice? What will be the same on, sort of, a, kind of, a pick a horizon, five years… 

    [20:30]Amy: Yeah, five to ten, that's what we both would talk about. I mean, I think that the first thing, I mean, as I've gone around and met people and I did, kind of, develop, started those relationships, I just mentioned, one of the things I asked people was, “What do you love about Rice, i.e., what do you want me to not screw up, in some senses, with the change?”

    And so, a lot of that was around the care of the students and the, and the, and the commitment to the students, either the graduate students or the undergrads. There is just this incredibly deep… you know, you've got a connection with the faculty that you don't see in a lot of places.

    So, I don't think that that won't change. I mean, so, you know, are we going to grow? Yes, but we can't grow so much that we can't keep that commitment, you know. And when I say we're going to grow, you know, undergrad’s already been in a phased in growth. Many of our graduate programs are growing.

    Rice is just, it's an amazing institution. So, I think being able to educate and impact more individuals is part of the mission. But to continue to do that, how Rice is. So, we're not looking to, you know, to be thousands and thousands and thousands more. So, I think that's one piece.

    And the other is around, as I said, excellence across the board. But I think there's some pockets that are just amazing excellence when it comes to, especially, research. And so, thinking about how we can enhance that even further. So, how we can take and build connections between schools. So, for instance, energy and the environment. So, we have some researchers that are, you know, humanities and social sciences and the hard sciences and business that are really studying how all of these things interact and bringing all of that together in Houston, which is the, kind of, energy capital.

    There's just some real possibilities that haven't been fostered. I mean, people have been… they're great people here. They're doing great work. But it hasn't been fueled as much as it could have been. And so, I think, in this next phase, there's going to be even more.

    And I think that's important, not just for society and the research, but also for the students, because more and more getting involved and understanding your impact of the, what you're studying in the classroom or the research you're working on with the professor is what students want to do, because in the roles that they're going to have, they're going to be deciding those and impacting those decisions and those challenges.

    [22:46]Scott: Well, I've got, kind of, a question that's, sort of… Rice University, broadly, is a deep research institution. And we're here at McNair Hall. Majority of the people in the room are associated with the business school. There's an effort and a drive with the bringing now undergraduates to the business school and building more of that connective tissue between Rice Business and Rice University. And can you talk about, sort of, that… the balance that universities and, maybe, and Rice specifically, has to, sort of, wrestle with from a, sort of, focus on research versus a focus on business and commercialization and, sort of, the opportunities that that, sort of, presents for the student body, kind of, broadly, sort of, that intersection?

    [23:35]Amy: Yeah. That, kind of, research teaching tension, is that what you, kind of, mean? Yeah, I think a lot of people think of that that way. Like, it's a zero-sum game. You know, if you give more in one way, you're going to give less another. And I really don't think that. That may have been true when I went to school, maybe. But I don't think it is anymore.

    So, I'll, you know, I'll use the undergrad example. You know, a very easy one is, if you want to go to med school and you're 18 years old, you need experience researching in a lab. I mean, that was not the case 20 years ago, but it is. And so, the connection between research and teaching has become even closer.

    And I think the same thing for the undergrads you mentioned in the business school. Understanding the whys. The questions I said, I guess maybe I just think this because this is how I thought. But when I was younger and I was asking those whys. That's what we want to teach them. We don't want to just teach them the finance tools, you know, go do your NPV, you know, put calculation.

    It's really understanding the why, because the problems they're going to be solving are the problems that we don't even know what they are yet. And so, I think that one of the reason I think it is, kind of, a synergistic, the two, the two sides, is because it teaches you how to think about the problem that you haven't thought of yet.

    And I think research is a way to do that. And so, the more you can, kind of, discuss that and bring that together… and, you know, by research, I have to be clear, I don't, I don't just mean in a lab research. I mean, there's a ton of amazing research being done here at Jones and in social sciences and humanities, all of that, as well as in the creative practices in architecture and music. All of that comes together to, kind of, help people better understand the problems and the challenges.

    [25:12]Scott: While we're on this topic, I wanted to ask just, sort of, for those that are thinking about research, what kind of advice do you give to, sort of, a prospective student that's thinking about, kind of, a research career? What does one look for as they, sort of, self-select into that kind of experience?

    [25:28]Amy: I think you have to be pretty independently motivated. I mean, I think, you know, it is one of these things that you have to, kind of, have that self-drive. And you… it can be… though it's… though there's a lot of team science out there, it is often something you're doing harshly on your own. So, I think you have to, kind of, think about that.

    But I think that, if you're someone who likes to deeply think about a problem for long periods of time, it's incredibly rewarding. There's other ways you can do it and have a more applied aspect to it as well. So, I think that's one piece. And it's a long road. I mean, so my daughter's getting her PhD, so I've had these conversations at home, even. And, you know, I mean, you have to make tradeoffs of how long it's going to take to get that PhD, if that's the case. And there's other avenues to be able to follow your passions, if that's not what you, what you'd want to go through, yeah.

    [26:21]Scott: I'm just, sort of, curious, like, the some of the challenges that academia broadly is facing from your view in 2023. You know, there are… with artificial intelligence and ChatGPT and, sort of, this shifting landscape of what education means and the benefit or role of a university degree, etc., like, what are, what are some of those challenges that are, sort of, top of mind? And how do you think that, sort of, Rice is positioned to, kind of, address, kind of, the definition of education into the future?

    [26:57]Amy: Yeah. I mean, I think, to do it and to do it well, you have to keep evolving. And so, I think Rice is… it's a relatively young university, I mean, compared to many universities. And because of that, it's actually, I think, nimble. And this, kind of, looks to the future. And I think that's a beneficial.

    When I was talking about what I… you know, the asking the questions, why, I think that's really the key, is setting kids and students… not kids, sorry. But up to be able to answer those questions.

    And so, for instance, you brought up the ChatGPT. I mean, you can talk about it and say, oh, we need to squash it. We need to flop students. They're going to cheat. How are we going to do that? And to some extent, sometimes your work has to be your work. And there is some piece of that. But on the other side, these are the tools, these are the areas that they have to understand and navigate in a way that, in 10 years, is going to be even more different, you know.

    And I think it's really just, kind of, teaching and being able to adapt and teaching them how to utilize that in the workplace or in their organizations. I mean, it's just an example. When I first started teaching, you know, business calculators were becoming really popular. And so, we lamented in finance that we, you know, “Oh, my gosh, we don't want students to be able to use these business calculators. You just put five buttons and the answer comes out.” And so, for the first few years, we actually didn't let it. You had to use the equations. Show your work. But a decade, that was not the case anymore. At some point, that tool is there. You embrace the tool, you know. And then, you, kind of, build on top of it.

    And so, something like ChatGPT or a business calculator, for instance, just lets you, kind of, expand even further, what can you do? If you, if you use it for a shortcut and you stop asking the whys, it's not a good thing. But if you can, kind of, build from that, I think it sets the students up even further to go in the future and thrive.

    [28:45]Scott: The other, sort of, key focus areas that you'd like to touch on for the next, kind of, couple of years, what are, what do you anticipate, sort of, spending most of your time?

    [28:54]Amy: Well, the other piece is faculty hiring. So, because Rice is going to be growing a bit, it's grown a little bit in its undergrad, it's growing in its graduates, we have a plan to hire about 200 new faculty. So, Rice has, you know, about 500 to 600 tenure track and around 700 to 800 FTEs, if you can include the non-tenure track as well. So, 200 is a big, a big number.

    And so, thinking about what that means, it's not just, kind of, adding where we are now, but really thinking about where are those places for comparative advantage. Where are the questions of the future, AI? You know, where are the things that Rice is really well-poised to do amazing work in, or maybe energy and sustainability? What are the big problems of today? Equity issues across, you know, many dimensions, everything from health to wealth.

    And so, you know, I think, as we think about, those faculty, we want to think about shaping the university in ways that we can address and be set up to address those problems. So, that's probably one of the most exciting, because, you know, I mean, that's a… transforming the who the university is in the, in that way and create and bringing in faculty that'll help that cross disciplinary work that I mentioned before is a real opportunity.

    [30:11]Scott: It's really exciting. Amy, we're thrilled that you're here, not only here in the room, but here at Rice.

    [30:17]Amy: I'm thrilled to be here.

    [30:17]Scott: I think it's the… there's a, really, just an incredible time in Rice's history to be here. And we're all anxious to see how that's going to impact the Jones School, broadly, but also, Rice, sort of, universally. And so, thank you for coming and spending a little bit of time with us.

    [30:34]Amy: Yeah, thrilled to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

    [30:36]Scott: I would like to, sort of, pause now and open up for some audience questions, if we could go ahead and do that.

    [30:45]Amy: Great.

    [30:45]Scott: All right, first question.

    [30:46]Jeffrey: So, Jeffrey Likings. So, how do we get to play a role and connect the fabric? Because what we're working on, people say, well that's too big. But I also was here at the Jones Graduate School and was one of the members of the first cohort, Global Energy Leadership Program. And so, we want to blend all of that, give Rice the framework, but we also want to connect Rice to Houston, to Prairie View, to Texas A&M, and to the wider world.

    [31:19]Amy: Yeah. Well, I think much of that are the same goals that we have. I mean, when it comes to, you know, you're talking about, kind of, a connection with other partnerships in Houston, as well as industry, for lack of a better word, and so, I think. making that connection… you mentioned Paul Cherukuri, our vice president for innovation. That role was created, essentially, to, kind of, build those bridges, be it in the expansion that we're talking about over in the Ion or bringing people together.

    And, you know, I, kind of, said energy and the environment, but, you know, really, that's going to be a broad initiative that we're launching that would include sustainability. I mean, water is, you know, people say, if we're going to have another world war someday, it's probably going to be over water. So, I completely agree with you. It's a, it's a huge issue.

    And so, in fact, even today, I heard a research initiative that was really talking about that. So, I think, you know, as we build… and many of the faculty we're hiring are less about, “Hey, let's hire somebody in X department,” and it's more, “Let's hire somebody who's going to be studying sustainability in water,” and it doesn't matter what department. So, I think it will help facilitate much of what you're talking about.

    [32:23]Jeffrey: Thank you very much for your time.

    [32:30]Randy: Hi, I'm Randy Batsell, one of your emeritus faculty.

    [32:33]Amy: Hi.

    [32:33]Randy: I wanted to ask a question that allowed you to talk about your research. So, when you were doing that, what was the most exciting discovery, the most important contribution that you did that made such a big difference?

    [32:44]Amy: Oh, gosh. So, probably, one of the things that I found the most impactful would been towards… it was, I won't say towards the end of my research, but it was towards the later stages when I started to get more into gender economics.

    And so, there was a large movement across… well, across the world, but in Europe, in particular. There was a bit of a study on how to do that, and it was done through quotas. And whereas, in the United States, in order to be able to get more gender diversity on boards, it was done more through, I'd say exposure or, kind of, showing the data. So, I’m making the data.

    So, the project that I did that was, I think, very impactful was really looking at the impact of those, of those quotas in one country, which was Norway, and what… and how successful it was. And there were many follow-on papers that were not mine that, kind of, looked at, you know, I thought of it as, you know, “Are you breaking the, kind of, breaking the glass ceiling, if you will, from the top? It was still about boards. And does that, in long term, help, you know, women rise up even further?”
     

    And so, that I think was just a burgeoning start of a research. And so, I think that was, and I was in the earlier stages and many, I'll credit the people that came after me because I got into administration. But it's just the bringing in that diversity into the boardroom, into the corporate ranks was something that, if I, if when I ever go back to research, that would be one of the things I would pick up on. Yeah.

    [34:13]Randy: Thank you.

    [34:15]Andrew: Good evening. My name is Andrew Ward. I am a first-year student or incoming first-year student, class of 2025. So, I too am a Michigan native. We were at the University of Michigan at around the same time. Houston weather is a lot different than Michigan, Texas in general.

    [34:32]Amy: It is.

    [34:34]Andrew: So, my question is centered around the community, the greater Houston community, the Rice community. The fabric of Houston and Rice is completely different than Ann Arbor. So, I'm just wondering, as far as co-curricular learning, experiential learning that can be applied in the classroom for business school students, also, undergraduate students, do you envision or have any thoughts as far as what plans could look like for certain learning that could take place outside of the classroom for students that would contribute to the work that's going on in the greater Houston area, if there's anything that's unique to the Rice Business School or the Greater Houston area, similar to the work that's going on, going on in the Metro Detroit area.

    [35:33]Amy: Yeah, no, I think that's… so, first off, yes, Michigan and Texas are very, very different. So, certainly weather-wise, but also especially Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is, kind of, a... it's a little bubble, right? It's a college town. And so, I mean, it has some connection to the greater Detroit area, but not to the, to the extent of being here in Houston.

    And so, I think some of the advantages are this incredibly diverse, economically, some people very economically challenged, others very not economically challenged. So, I think a lot of the issues that are incredibly important in all of society, if you could solve them in Houston or you could solve them in Texas, you would solve them nationally and maybe internationally as well.

    And so, I'm a, I'm a big believer in engaged learning. When I was, one of the things that is quintessential of the, of the Michigan business school, but you all should be here, Rice is much better, but is a required, kind of, six-week project where you're, kind of, embedded into a problem and thinking about how to solve that.

    And so, I ran that for a long time. And I do, I saw the impact it had on the students, kind of, applying it. And so, there's opportunities for that here at Jones as well. I don't think it's required here, but it's… there's certainly opportunities. And so, finding ways to do that with this, kind of, making an impact in Houston.

    So, for instance, Houston has one of the largest unbanked or underbanked communities in the country, which means, you know, people are not having access to funds. We have the Kinder Institute here and the Baker Institute that are both well-steeped in those issues. And so, thinking about partnerships between some students at Jones and maybe Baker and Kinder in order to be able to look at some of that, those are really exciting opportunities.

    And I could say the same around whatever your passion would be around education. And so, I think, and I love the idea of business education, addressing the inequities that are out there and taking the tools that you learn and the way you think in business in order to be able to solve that. It's not what everyone always thinks of as business, but I think this generation, and I'll put you in that, you're younger than me, but is thinking in that way of the impact. So, yeah. But I don't want to propose a new course or anything, because I'm not teaching these days and Peter's standing right behind you, but yeah.

    [37:52]Andrew: Thank you.

    [37:53]Amy: Welcome.

    [37:56]Audience: Amy, I was listening and I had a question. I thought, of course, I don't need to introduce myself. You come to us with fresher eyes than many of us have about Rice. And you come from, you know, viewers in Michigan is known for that breadth and excellence and so much skill. When I think about Rice, I think about all the things we could do to, sort of, expand awareness and grow the reputation of the university. And speaking as someone who spent the majority of your career outside but now can be inside, do you have any thoughts or things you would tell us that we need to amplify in our messaging outwardly to, sort of, raise the recognition of what's great about Rice and maybe get other academics and other folks around the country to look at us and see us in a clearer way than they do now?

    [38:41]Amy: Yeah. No, I think that's an important point. I think one part is actually just accepting that the rest of the world may not know how great Rice is. I think that's a good starting point. You may have even heard me say, because we talk a fair amount this story, but, you know, when I came, when I said I was moving to Rice, I remember telling somebody at Michigan, and they went, “Oh, that's good.” Like, I could tell they weren't really sure, like, where's Rice? And then, two days later, they came back and they said, “Oh, my gosh, I've got to tell… my daughter's got to look at that school. We're getting ready to do college. It's great.”

    I move here and I meet my neighbor and I tell them I'm the provost at Rice. And she literally jokingly curtsied because… and I mean it's just because that is how Rice is viewed, but it's not the way it's viewed everywhere. And so, I think there is a huge amount of getting it out there. And, you know, Michigan used to always say that they had Midwestern modesty. I'm not sure that that's true. But Rice has a little bit of that as well. And so, I think, just getting that name out there. And, of course, you know, a lot of people have different views of Texas and Houston, so you have to, kind of, overcome that as you do it.

    But a lot of it is what's already happening here and just, kind of, living up to those expectations, kind of, you know, setting the bar high, and then making those connections. But it means, kind of, leaving this area, you know, going out and, you know, you know, going out and talking to the business school deans across the country and so that they know who you are, so, the provost in the AAU know who I am and, you know, Reggie having a national platform so that people take notice. And I think that's going to be key.

    [40:10]Audience: Perfect. Thank you very much.

    [40:13]Scott: All right. I don't know if… Amy, you've got the mic. If you want to, if you've got any, if you've got any closing thoughts or comments, I don't want to put the, put you, sort of, any pressure on you. You don't have to, but if you've got any closing thoughts or comments before we wrap up.

    [40:27]Amy: Yeah. Well, I mean, since I'm sitting in the business school, I guess, I'll, kind of, wrap up a little bit with that. I mean, one of the things I talked a lot about cross discipline and building the connections or working out in Houston and that one of the last questions, and I think one of the things I am excited about, and you mentioned earlier having undergrads as a part of the business school, is the Jones School even more being connected to the rest of the university.

    I think that's one of the things that having undergrads will do just naturally because they navigate the campus. And so, I think that makes people have that connection. But the same thing with the MBAs and the others is, kind of, thinking about where are there opportunities for joint projects and joint, because I think that all business schools, I don't, you know, have a lot… sometimes people just joke at Michigan that there was a moat around the Ross School of Business, and there wasn't. And we worked across a lot of areas, but, you know, I think that just people don't always work across those institutions as much.

    And so, I think the more opportunities there are for the Jones students to interact with Houston, but also just the community here at Rice, more broadly, is a, is a great opportunity, not just for Jones, but for everyone else as well. Yeah.

    [41:37]Scott: That's a great way to close. Thanks again for coming in.

    [41:40]Amy: Thank you. Thanks everyone for coming.

    [41:44]Scott: Thanks for listening. This has been Owl Have You Know, a production of Rice Business. You can find more information about our guests, hosts, and announcements on our website, business.rice.edu. Please subscribe and leave a rating wherever you find your favorite podcasts. We'd love to hear what you think. The hosts of Owl Have You Know are myself, Scott Gale, and Maya Pomroy.

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