Date Title Description
Social Sciences undergraduate majors see rise in rankings

Niche 2019 Best Schools LogoSocial Sciences undergraduate majors are on the rise according to College Factual and NICHE.  

The Department of Psychological Sciences’ undergraduate program has risen to No. 5 in the nation according to NICHE, up from No. 6 last year.  The Department of Sociology’s undergraduate program and the Department of Anthropology’s undergraduate program are both ranked No. 8 on the 2019 Best Colleges for Anthropology and Sociology in America list released by NICHE.  

college factual logoRice University's undergraduate major in economics is ranked No. 12 in the country, according to the September 2018 College Factual rankings of U.S. undergraduate degree programs.  Last year, economics was ranked No. 15.  The program has moved up thirty-eight spots from the No. 50 spot four years ago.

"It is incredibly gratifying that our continued efforts to enhance the learning experience of our students have been recognized by this meteoric rise in the rankings,” said Antonio Merlo, Dean of the School of Social Sciences and George A. Peterkin Professor of Economics. “It is a testament to the School of Social Sciences' commitment to combine path breaking research with excellence in undergraduate education that is at the core of Rice’s mission."

Q&A with Vicki Mak-Romo, a Houston-native and Energy Economist from the inaugural MEECON Class of 2017

Q: What attracted you to the MEECON program?

A: As someone who already had a strong foundation in energy and economic policy, I wanted to attend a program that would help me develop quantitative skills, with a specific focus on energy markets. Growing up in Houston, I saw how the boom and bust of the oil sector could bring both prosperity and instability. And in my travels, I’ve been in communities with limited access to affordable, sufficient, or clean energy. While the energy market has enormous potential to expand and improve livelihoods, there are human costs and knock-on effects to the environment and wider impacts on the economy. With such a complex operating context, I realized that I needed further technical skills to prepare me for more analytical and specialized jobs to shape policy in the energy sector. The MEECON program was perfect for this.

Q: What was your career like prior to the program?

A: Before the program, I worked for three years as a bio-energy consultant for the United Nations (Food and Agriculture Organization) in Rome, Italy. In that position, I assisted in developing a portfolio of analysis tools to help guide policy makers in conducting initial assessments of in-country bioenergy potential, while considering environmental objectives and economic feasibility. I traveled to Senegal and Croatia to help deliver technical workshops on these tools. I also researched and collated data for the energy country context and policies in place for both Egypt and Turkey in order to support the governmental decision-making process.

Q: What is your career now after graduating from the Master of Energy Economics?

A: I am currently working as an Economist with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. I work in the Office of Enforcement and carry out forensic analysis of data relating to physical natural gas, electric power markets, and related financial products to determine if companies and/or individuals are involved in potential market manipulation schemes. If someone is found to have manipulated the market or behaved in anti-competitive behavior, then my team provides technical analysis for the lawyers within our organization to conduct an investigation to ensure fair play in the market. My team also assists Regional Transmission Organizations/Independent System Operators (RTOs/ISOs) in the surveillance of energy markets.

Q: What was the most memorable moment of your experience in the MEECON program?

A: My most memorable moment was the class trip we took to the South Texas Project – Nuclear Generating Station. Previously, I had minimal exposure to the generation of nuclear power except for some research into the massive changes in regulatory policies after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It was extremely interesting to visit the facility and gain a better understanding on how nuclear power is actually generated, safeguarded and how it contributes to the electricity mix.

Q: What was your favorite class in the MEECON program?

A: This is tough, as I appreciated all of my courses. They each came with a new challenge! If I had to choose, I would say Geopolitics of Energy with Professor Krane. The course merged my love of international relations, energy policy, and data into one. I enjoyed that the professor kept us engaged by bringing in different speakers, giving us a variety of articles to read, and assigning an exciting project at the end that specifically catered to each of our interests.

Q: What would you say to someone who is considering leaving their job for about one year to pursue a professional master's program?

A: Make sure you understand the reasons you would like to pursue the program. What are your goals and expectations? Take a look at the description of your dream job and read the requirements – what are they looking for in terms of skills and qualifications? If you believe that the courses in the professional master’s program will help you obtain your goals, then you should do it! A one-year program goes by very quickly and it is totally worth the effort, as it can mean a lifetime of joy in the work you do! 

RISE Lecture Series Enters Fourth Year

Pictured Above: Doyle Arnold '70 with Dr. William Sharpe, who delivered a RISE Lecture in March 2018, and friends from business school. (L-R: Polly Shouse, Rhonda Brooks '74, Dr. William Sharpe, Doyle Arnold '70, Mary Ellen Zellerbach)

With the awarding of the 2017 prize, 49 Nobel Memorial Prizes in Economic Sciences have been given to 79 economists.  Six of the 37 living Nobel laureates in economic sciences have presented Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics (RISE) Lectures. When Edward C. Prescott presents his lecture on November 1, 2018, he will be the seventh Nobel laureate in economic sciences to visit Rice University as part of the RISE Lecture Series.

Doyle Arnold, Economics ’70, aspired to increase the number of high-profile professors and lecturers visiting Rice's Houston campus.  In the fall of 2015, he generously sponsored the RISE Lecture Series to bring a steady flow of ideas on important topics of general public interest from the elite of the economics profession.  Now in its fourth year, the RISE Lecture Series brings two Nobel laureates in economic sciences to campus each year, one each during the fall and spring semesters.  The series grew out of Arnold's first conversation with Antonio Merlo shortly after Merlo came to Rice in 2014 to serve as Chair of the Department of Economics and the Founding Director of RISE.  Merlo is currently the Dean of the School of Social Sciences.

According to Arnold, the public lecture is not supposed to be about a highly technical aspect of economics, but rather about an economics-related subject of interest to and understandable by the well-educated public. "Each of the public lectures has been highly topical and understandable to the educated lay audience—ranging from Bill Sharpe talking about public and private retirement plan underfunding; Tom Sargent discussing the, believe-it-or-not, fascinating history of our national debt and even incorporating references to the Broadway play, Hamilton; Michael Spence talking about globalization," Arnold said.  "In all cases, we got the benefit of a world-class mind at work on problems that affect us all."  

The RISE Lectures are often planned around other campus-wide events including Homecoming weekend or the Board of Trustees meetings so that out-of-town alumni are more easily able to attend.  In addition to the one-hour lecture, speakers are given tours of Rice and participate in meetings with economics faculty and graduate students. “We ask these Nobel laureates to stay a day or two to discuss research topics with Rice economics faculty and students, so that our community can interact with those at the pinnacle of the economics field,” Arnold said, “I hope that these distinguished visitors take with them and share with others a highly favorable impression of the Rice community, which will enhance Rice’s reputation throughout the country and economics profession.”

Arnold had the opportunity to study under two of the previous speakers, Dr. Tom Sargent while at the University of Minnesota and Dr. William Sharpe, while earning his MBA at Stanford University.  Though he does not know Prescott personally, he looks forward to meeting him and hearing about the profound effect he has had on the way the Federal Reserve looks at monetary policy and particularly the way the Fed attempts to communicate its policy and actions.

Edward C. Prescott is Professor of Economics at Arizona State University and is the W. P. Carey Chair in Economics in the W. P. Carey School of Business. He has previously held faculty positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Minnesota, and The University of Chicago. He is a Senior Monetary Analyst at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank.

Dr. Prescott received his B.A. in mathematics from Swarthmore College in 1962, his M.S. in Operations Research from Case Western Reserve University in 1963, and his Ph.D. in economics from Carnegie Mellon University in 1967.  He is an aggregate economist theorist who develops and applies dynamic economic theory to problems in financial economics, economic fluctuations, public finance, growth and development, and international economics areas.  He and Finn Kydland were jointly awarded the 2004 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for their contributions to dynamic macroeconomics: the time inconsistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles.”

Dr. Prescott’s November 1 lecture will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the BRC Auditorium.  A reception will follow in the BRC Events Hall.  Admission to the lecture and reception is free of charge; however, space is limited so RSVPs are requested. RSVP using Eventbrite. Paid parking will be available in the BRC Garage. For more information about parking, visit

The eighth RISE lecture will take place in spring of 2019.  Details regarding the speaker and date will be released soon.  

The RISE Lecture Series is generously funded by Doyle Arnold '70.  Recordings of previous lectures can be viewed on the RISE website.

$6.6M grant from Arnold Foundation to fund Texas Policy Lab at Rice U.

Rice University’s School of Social Sciences will launch an effort this fall to work side by side with Texas’ officeholders and state agencies to solve some of the state’s most pressing problems. The Texas Policy Lab, which is supported by a $6.6 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), will use cutting-edge research and analysis to offer measurable solutions for policymakers.