From urban revitalization in Houston’s Third Ward to displacement due to climate change in East Africa, students are engaging with a broad range of policy topics at the Baker Institute this fall. The institute offers a number of ways for undergraduate and graduate students at Rice and other colleges and universities to get involved with current public policy issues — the kinds of opportunities that are key for building the next generation of policy-thinkers and informed citizens.
“I would encourage students to consider the opportunities that the institute presents to become informed on these issues of public policy, national policy, foreign policy and international relations,” Ambassador David M. Satterfield, institute director, told the Rice Thresher recently. “[These are issues that] will affect their lives every day in the future.”
Forty-six Rice students are research and administrative interns at the Baker Institute this fall, many working directly with fellows and scholars and others assisting with the institute’s central operations. At the Edward P. Djerejian Center for the Middle East, eight student interns are collaborating with the fellows to examine topics in connection with pressing world affairs, including the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the Arab world, refugees and migration, and the intersection of gender and displacement in the Middle East and North Africa.
Meanwhile, four student interns are working with experts to assist with immigration research and other projects through the Center for the United States and Mexico, including the center’s Mexico 2025 and Beyond initiative, Trends in Trade project, and the Mexico Country Outlook. In particular, student collaboration has been an intrinsic part of the center’s Judy Ley Allen Mexico Centered Podcast — whose founding host, graduate fellow Enrique Quezada, stepped down last month after five years. (His last episode, a conversation with center director Tony Payan, aired on August 18.)
Through the Center for Energy Studies, two student interns are working with fellows to research hydrogen in Latin America and life cycle analysis topics, in addition to four other interns — ranging from undergraduate freshmen to seniors — who have joined energy and transportation policy fellow Ed Emmett’s Texas highway mapping project.
Texas policy is also the focus of research by the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth, where students are examining topics including small business regulation and urban revitalization, and by the Center for Health and Biosciences, where Rice undergraduate Grace Kneidel is working with health policy fellow Vivian Ho to develop a price comparison of selected health care procedures at Houston-area hospitals. The Center for Health and Biosciences also supported five interns this summer through the EMERGE program, which provides mentorship and training to college students from underserved communities through paid internships. Two EMERGE interns, Alan Beltran Lara and Cindy Nguyen, worked with Ho and health economics scholar Marah Short on a report that estimated potential profit gains associated with lowering employee health care spending at Fortune 500 companies, which was published by the Baker Institute earlier this month.
In addition to supporting the work of the centers, student interns are also collaborating with fellows through the institute’s programs. Six students are working with fellow Kirstin R.W. Matthews on a number of projects through the Science and Technology Policy Program, including data analysis and reports on the use of stem cells in research and clinical treatments; the arguments used by anti-vaccine advocates; and how science policy topics are communicated by the White House to policymakers and the public over time. Two interns are also assisting Steven W. Lewis, the institute’s C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow, with research through the China Studies Program.
Lewis also leads the Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program, which saw its 19th cohort of undergraduate students embark on policy internships and research in the nation’s capital this summer. “We’re excited to be approaching our 20th cohort, in summer 2023,” said Lewis. “With our recent cohort this summer, we saw the beginning of a return to in-person research internships, and more demand than ever for our excellent policy research students, with many obtaining research positions in top think tanks in DC. In all, since 2004 the program has helped 179 of our best and brightest policy students to gain experience in the policy domain in our nation's capital."
The program’s participants completed internships this summer at the Center for American Progress, the Urban Institute, The Brookings Institution and other highly ranked think tanks, where they assisted scholars and analysts on critical policy topics including security, poverty and education, health and social justice.
Back at Rice, members of the Baker Institute Student Forum (BISF) have been preparing to kick off a full calendar of events, beginning with a panel discussion on abortion care in Texas on September 29. BISF will also host a panel discussion on the energy implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in October, and in November will host its biannual debate between Rice’s College Republicans and Young Democrats as well as a panel discussion on China and Taiwan.
“BISF is excited to continue holding events that engage the undergraduate community with various public policy topics,” said BISF co-president Thomas Kovac. “This year, we are looking forward to putting on multiple panels and are excited to announce the return of the Rice Democrats vs Rice Republicans debate after two years without the event. We are grateful for the support of the Baker Institute and take pride in being the student branch of such a prestigious institution.”
Learn more about the ways students can get involved with the Baker Institute here.