According to Change magazine, Dr. R. Eugene Rice (57) is one of a small group of “idea leaders” in American higher education whose work has made a difference on a national scale.
Gene is currently making a difference internationally as well, using his vast knowledge of higher education to assist faculty and students in war-ravaged nations. He has spent the last two
summers in Liberia and the West Bank, studying ways in which faculty development might help countries rebuild after prolonged civil strife.
Gene described Liberia as a country decimated by the civil war that ended in 2003. The University of Liberia is a case in point: all the metal was taken from the university and even the grass was removed by starving citizens desperate for a source of nutrients. Many faculty members fled or were killed. What’s left is the need for healing and rebuilding. Gene and his team are working with teaching
assistants and faculty members who remained through the war hoping to rebuild the university after the conflict was over. They also have a grant to work with faculty and students on coping with post-war trauma. Gene says that these provocative experiences in Liberia and with the Palestinian universities on the West Bank have made him reflect on what is really important in life: the depth of the human capacity for evil and the need for God’s forgiving and redemptive love.
Today a national and international figure in higher education, Gene attributes his initial inspiration to his own professors at Pasadena College.
“Pasadena had an extraordinary faculty – much as Point Loma does now,” he said, noting especially the intellectual openness and professors’ willingness to engage in thoughtful dialogue about the relationship of faith and learning.
Gene said Pasadena offered him the right balance of “support and challenge.”
“If you have too much challenge, students will become overwhelmed and retreat,” he explained. “And if you have too much support, they stagnate and don’t grow. For me, Pasadena College was ideal, given where I was in my life’s journey.”
Of his college experience, he also recollects “spending more time with faculty in the college vans and in professors’ living rooms than in the classrooms,” as he ventured out on field trips, in student government, with the choir, with his quartet, and with the debate team. What he’s learned through his extensive studies of higher education is that these “van” types of learning experiences are vital to academic growth. Active and collaborative learning and out-of-the-classroom faculty-student interactions are highly effective educational practices, according to “what we are learning about learning,” he noted.
Innovative educational practices like these have been of continual interest to Gene. After graduating from Pasadena and earning both a divinity degree and a doctorate in religion and society from Harvard, he began his professional career at the University of the Pacific (UOP) as professor of sociology and religion and later as chair of the Department of Sociology. The reason he chose UOP was because his former PC professor, Dr. Warren Bryan Martin, invited him to help initiate one of UOP’s new experimental schools, Raymond College.
The “cluster college” concept they started at Raymond allowed larger schools to “grow by getting smaller” – a model other universities, including UC Santa Cruz and UCSD, have followed. Later, he chose to work at Antioch College, where he was vice president and dean of the faculty, because of its innovative work-study program that deeply integrated the concept of experiential learning into the curriculum.
Gene has also served as a senior fellow with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and, for 10 years, he was director of the national Forum on Faculty Roles and Rewards for the American Association for Higher Education.
Currently, Gene is senior scholar at the Association of American of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and holds an appointment with Antioch’s innovative Ph.D. program in leadership and change for experienced professionals. He is working with faculty initiatives at AAC&U and has a deep interest in “the engaged campus” as a new prototype for academic excellence. Carnegie is developing a new institutional classification that recognizes the significance of community-based learning and service to the larger society. Gene sees PLNU as moving in this direction with its curricular emphasis on Christian service, active and collaborative learning, involvement in the local community, and engagement abroad.
Gene sits on a number of national boards, is a speaker in high demand, and has had far-reaching influence on higher education. He made a significant contribution to the Carnegie report Scholarship Reconsidered and the widespread deliberations it generated and has written extensively about changes in the lives of faculty and their work. His most recent writing has been on the place of religion in the contemporary university. He has received the Danforth Fellowship, National Endowment of the Humanities Research Fellowship, Mina Schaughnessy Scholar’s Award, The Academic Award from the Council of Independent Colleges, and an honorary doctorate from Marietta College.
Gene has two children, Mark and Sarah. He and his wife, Sandy, who is a psychologist and has a distinguished chair in conflict resolution at George Mason University, enjoy tennis, traveling, and attending Georgetown’s Dumbarton Methodist Church, where Gene sings in the choir and serves as a trustee.