Story Pitch: More than 1,700 Rice Owls help Houstonians recover from Hurricane Harvey

By Newsroom America Feeds at 5 Sep 2017 Rice University Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations


David Ruth 713-348-6327

Amy McCaig 713-348-6777

More than 1,700 Rice Owls help Houstonians recover from Hurricane Harvey

HOUSTON – (Sept. 5, 2017) – While Rice University was closed last week in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, more than 1,700 Rice students, faculty and staff mobilized to help – both to assist victims of the devastating storm and to keep campus up and running. summary of their efforts is below. The full story is online at, along with videos and pictures documenting their efforts.

Justin Onwenu, president of the Rice Student Association; Caroline Quenemoen, associate dean of undergraduates and director of inquiry-based learning; and Tom Kolditz, director of Rice's Doerr Institute for New Leaders, are available for interviews.

Story summary:

On Aug. 25, as Houston and the rest of southeast Texas was preparing for Hurricane Harvey to make landfall, Rice students, faculty and staff were already brainstorming about how to help during and after the storm, which turned into one of the worst natural disasters in Texas history ( .

At the request of Provost Marie Lynn Miranda, Rice's Doerr Institute for New Leaders, Center for Civic Leadership, Student Association and Graduate Student Association collaborated quickly to create the Rice Harvey Action Team (R-HAT), an effort to match volunteers with specific community needs in the coming weeks and months. The effort came together as the storm was ending, and h ( ttp:// ( was launched to make it easier for volunteers to sign up. Computer Science Professor Dan Wallach helped build a critical set of tools to support the effort. More than 1,700 students signed up to help, in addition to faculty and staff who volunteered their time.

Quenemoen oversees Rice's Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), which provides students the opportunity to be engaged citizens. She said that students, faculty and staff were been hyper-focused on "taking care of their own" – both members of the Rice community and fellow Houstonians."We have been in regular communication with members of the Rice community and our long-standing partners in the city of Houston," she said. "We have many established relationships from previous service learning opportunities and are listening to what people need and quickly responding. We're very fortunate that Rice volunteers are very willing to do absolutely anything they can to help people at this time."

Volunteers began working Aug. 30 at local shelters, including NRG Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center; the Houston Food Bank, where they packaged 31,710 meals in the first four hours of operation Aug. 31; and as part of demolition teams to help storm victims clear out damage to their residences and businesses.

"Everyone has been so anxious to help out," Onwenu said. "The students on campus feel so lucky to be safe and were so eager to get out and help members of our Rice community and other affected Houstonians."

Evan Flack, a Duncan College senior, helped with house cleanup efforts in Houston's Meyerland neighborhood and visited one of the local synagogues to do food preparation.

"We (Rice students) were totally fine, and in a position where we needed to help those who need assistance and extra manpower," he said. "Almost all of my experiences at Rice have been connected to the CCL in one way or another. This experience has helped me understand the value of volunteerism, especially when there is a very clear need. Anyone can do it, and it is so valuable to the people who need it."

Rice community members can sign up to volunteer for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts at h ( ttp:// ( . Rice has also established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which will support Rice employees and students who have been negatively impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Rice outreach activities to benefit Houston in its recovery efforts. For more information or to donate, visit

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6327.


Follow Rice News and Media Relations on Twitter @RiceUNews ( .

Related materials:

How Owls are helping fellow Owls and other Houstonians recover from Hurricane Harvey:

Photo links: (

Photo credits: Rice University/Brandon Martin/Jeff Fitlow/Tommy LaVergne

Video links:

More than 1,400 Rice students volunteering following Hurricane Harvey:

Rice University offers support after Harvey:

Video credits: Brandon Martin

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,879 undergraduates and 2,861 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to

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