The exceptional quality of life in the residential colleges is a central reason why Rice University is consistently ranked #1 by the Princeton Review for its overall quality of undergraduate experience. An important factor contributing to quality of life in the colleges is the on-site presence of informed and responsive Magisters.
With Dr. José Aranda, I have served twice in the capacity of College Magister. Currently (since 2013), I am the Magister of Brown College. From 2004-2010, I served as the Magister of Baker College. In 2010, I served as the Inaugural Magister of the newest college at Rice, Duncan College. The opportunity to serve in this unique role has offered equally unique insights into the structure and daily workings of the university, and into undergraduate thought and challenges.
Residential Colleges. What makes the residential colleges (there are eleven) not dorms-in-disguise is that each one is run by an elected student leadership, or College Cabinet. Cabinets hold regular college-wide meetings, oversee a major budget, as well as they coordinate lots of additional student leaders who put together an astonishing number of annual events — everything from research talks, to peer academic and personal advising, to zany community celebrations, to sporting events. Students even elect justices empowered to police their peers in certain circumstances and to decide college-level judicial cases.
Magisters. The senior academic administrator in each college is the College Magister. The Magister is a tenured faculty member who lives with his or her family in a house provided by the University on campus. “Magister” is a classical Latin word meaning “teacher” and has been used historically as an academic title for a scholar. Magisters typically are people who work well with undergraduates and who see creativity, smarts, and joy in the controlled chaos of everyday undergrad life. We tend to laugh a lot!
The University charges the Magisters with several crucial duties:
–foster intellectual health and vitality in the colleges
–develop and support student leadership and government
–act as liaison between students and other administrative offices on campus (Dean of Undergraduates, Academic Advising, Faculty, Honor Council, Counseling Center, Student Judicial Affairs, Housing & Dining, Rice University Police Department)
–oversee a staff of College Coordinator and Resident Associates, and sponsor ongoing college and university programs
Brown College (2013-
Brown College is on the northeast end of campus — a bit of a walk from most parts of campus. Students say that the walk over, or the outlier “destination” location of Brown, provides for a very close knit student community. Brown is known for producing SA Presidents and very strong College Presidents. Brown’s unique character has to do with its social conscience, willingness of students to reach beyond the hedges, and more recently, a growing interest in music. We take pleasure in talking over lunches and dinners about what the different parts of campus (sciences, social sciences, humanities) have to offer one another.
Baker College (2004-2010)
Baker is the founding, oldest, and smallest college. It sits in the center of campus, and its commons frequently get talked about as as Hogwarts II. During the years at Baker College, I instituted a program called Girl Talk, which eventually hosted speakers and became the model for today’s “Healthy Relationships” portion of O-Week. We carried on the tradition of Port Talks, begun by our colleague in history and an RA at Baker at that time (later the Weiss College Master), Professor Alex Byrd. The final years at Baker we had the idea to create a “sister” or mentor relationship between Baker and the college being built at that time — Duncan College. So in the very last year of our time at Baker, we actually were Masters of both Baker and Duncan simultaneously. The “sistering” that Baker did with Duncan, and the tremendous leadership of the Baker President Megan McSpedon, made for an amazing welcoming first year for the new Duncan students.