The New Rice Global Paris Center houses the university’s first satellite campus

Photo courtesy Caroline Levander

By Michelle Gachelin 9/6/22 11:27pm

Rice is opening its first international campus in Paris, which aims to be fully operational midway through next spring semester. The Rice Global Paris Center will be Rice’s hub in Europe, expanding education and research opportunities for students and faculty alike and facilitating strategic collaborations with global partners.

The center will be housed in the Hôtel de la Faye, an hôtel particulier or grand townhouse first built in the early sixteenth century, according to the opening ceremony brochure. The building, currently unoccupied, was also the site for the center’s launch ceremony on June 29.

Caroline Levander, Rice’s vice president for global and digital strategy, said the university’s existing footholds in Paris made the city an attractive location.

“Paris is a wonderful urban environment [and a] very international city where Rice already has a number of mature programs,” Levander said. “So there were a lot of reasons why it made sense to think about expanding our existing academic programs.”

According to Levander, the initiative was bolstered by President Reginald DesRoches’ commitment to furthering Rice’s international reach. DesRoches said that a Paris campus will provide faculty with opportunities to further research and scholarship collaborations with European colleagues, and support teaching across all disciplines during the academic year and summer.

“The Rice Global Paris Center builds on Rice’s presence in Paris, which started 20 years ago with the Rice Architecture Paris Center,” DesRoches said. “We want to expand our presence in Paris so that we can increase our research and scholarly impact, expand our international visibility and grow Rice’s reputation as a top-notch research university.”

Levander estimates that the building will be ready for use in about five months, once it is officially approved for public use in accordance with France’s planning regulations.

The new center will also provide study abroad opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students from all fields of study, according to Levander.

“For Rice students — undergraduates in particular, but graduate students as well — [next] summer semester is the one to look out for because I would hope and anticipate we’ll have a number of Rice summer school courses available in our Paris campus,” Levander said.

The building has Six classroom spaces with varying levels of capacityaccommodating around 125 students in total.

Levander said that the establishment will function as a smaller Rice campus in the heart of Paris, and that its central location in the Marais district sets Rice apart from peer institutions.

“At our opening, the mayor of Paris Centre, Ariel Weil, thanked Rice University for bringing the university back into the center of the city,” Levander said. “I think that is something that we are very proud that we’re doing. So many Parisian universities are gradually developing space on the periphery of the city — I think we are very different in that we are bringing students right into the center of Paris life.”

Brian Bishara, who had the opportunity to attend the launch ceremony as part of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen’s International Summer Experience in Engineering Design Paris summer internship cohort, said that he was impressed by the new building.

“The new place is amazing, compared to what it was. I think they have the only vineyard in Paris, and that alone is so cool. They also have a well [and] multiple stories, and it’s also in the heart of Paris in a really great location,” Bishara, a Lovett College sophomore, said. “Unfortunately not all of it was open for us to check out, but what we were able to see was a huge step up.”

Peter Rodriguez, the dean of Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, said he plans to leverage the new property by increasingly hosting courses in Paris for the MBA program’s global learning opportunity, which has already hosted courses in other locations around the world.

“For us at the business school, it’s an opportunity to gain business experience through Rice-owned property,” Rodriguez said. “We require that every MBA student complete the Global Field Experience, where they work on company problems abroad for courses that focus on consulting needs or local projects.”

Talia Levy, a French Studies minor who participated in the Rice in France program this past summer, said she is interested to see the scope of the center’s research offerings.

“Especially as someone both with a French background and also pursuing STEM research, I’d be interested to see if the use of the campus [would overlap with] something like the [Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication] and the Rice in France program, or if it would be exclusively graduate research or research specifically in the biomedical field,” Levy, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said.

Levander urges interested students to contact her by email with any input about the center.

“This is a big experiment for Rice — we want it to be successful,” Levander said. “Our students are really smart and innovative. We’re at this wonderful moment of wanting our community to be creative with us, and students are a crucial part of our communities, so ideas are welcome. Nothing’s off limits right now.”

Rodriguez echoed Levander’s statement, saying that the center offers new possibilities.

“We’re still trying to figure out what we can do there,” Rodriguez said. “I think you’ll see lots of efforts made to offer courses, short experiences or faculty conferences. It’s wide open at this point, but it’s a great opportunity to try new things.”

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