“Our CS faculty really value the Rice experience,” states John Greiner, Lecturer and Undergraduate Student Advisor in Rice University’s Department of Computer Science. “Just look at the ones who stayed at Rice.” Greiner goes on to list several Rice CS faculty members who discovered their passion for the rigorous program as students and decided to teach at Rice, to ensure the legacy for excellence continues.
“Keith Cooper, Joe Warren, and I were all undergrads here,” continued Greiner. “Dave Johnson came here as an undergraduate and stayed for his graduate work. We all experienced that strong student-faculty relationship. And the college system [for undergraduate students] is such an important part of the overall Rice experience, that I became a faculty associate at Hanszen, my own college.”
Greiner jokes about one class that has been taught by at least two former CS students. “The funny thing about Joe and me is that we both took a senior level algorithm class as sophomores and then ended up teaching that same class as faculty members. First Joe took it as a sophomore when Corky [CS Professor Robert S. Cartwright, Jr.) was teaching it, and then Joe stayed on as a faculty member and taught the course. Then I came along and took it from Joe when I was a sophomore. When I was hired as a CS lecturer, I started teaching the course and that’s when I began warning any sophomore taking the class to beware – they may end up teaching it next!”
Thinking about the current classes sobers him a little. “We’ve grown so fast in the last four or five years,” he sighs. “But each faculty member in CS is intent on doing as much as possible to maintain a close relationship with our students, to mentor them, be available to them through office hours and also as advisors. Most important though, is that we are so fully dedicated to continuing undergraduate research. You just don’t get those kinds of opportunities elsewhere.”
But Greiner also recruits resources for undergraduate students from beyond the hedges. “We bring in guest speakers on Wednesdays,” he explains. “These lunch talks by alumni and employers help expose our current students to life after graduation. Not just Google and Facebook, there is so much more out there –more options for employment. What do our students need to do to prepare for that? Not just ‘network’ and ‘get your resume together’ but how to actually work in a large company or a start-up. What is expected of their employees, what are their projects like, how do you talk to your boss, find a mentor, advance?” By bringing in alumni, business owners and other organizational representatives, Greiner hopes to help CS students think beyond the most common employment opportunities and find a role that really suits the students’ skill set, personality and personal goals. “And, there’s also a social aspect,” he grins. “CS students typically love to dig into problems and it’s easy for them to go deep into those complex issues. So the Wednesday lunches are a way to get them to look up from their screens and reconnect with each other.”
For more information on the largest academic department at Rice University, visit the Computer Science Department web site: http://cs.rice.edu.