College opens the Rice Center for Teaching

Ella Marx

The Rice Center for Teaching was announced at the Sept. 21 faculty meeting. (Samuel Riley/The Williams Record)

The College has launched the Joseph L. Rice III 1954 Center for Teaching, the first center at Williams dedicated to helping faculty develop their pedagogies and providing them with resources for their development as teachers.

President Maud S. Mandel, Associate Professor of Biology Matt Carter, and Senior Lecturer in Psychology Susan Engel announced the establishment of the Rice Center at the Sept. 21 faculty meeting. Carter serves as the center’s inaugural faculty director, and Engel is the center’s first senior faculty fellow.

“We see the Rice Center as being inviting, useful, and inspirational to faculty at all stages of their careers and across all departments,” Carter said at the faculty meeting.

Developing a center for teaching was one of the goals outlined in the College’s recent Strategic Plan, which was released in 2021. An ad-hoc committee proposed a teaching center for the College based on faculty input and research into similar centers at peer institutions.

The Rice Center will aim to provide faculty members with opportunities to receive constructive and non-evaluative feedback about their teaching, foster conversations among faculty about pedagogy, and allow professors to learn from the expertise of staff at the College. The center will also employ a full-time associate director.

“We want the Center to provide faculty with the space, time, and resources to enjoy conversations about teaching,” Engel wrote in an email to the Record. “Most of us work here because our scholarship and our teaching feed one another. The center should nourish our love of working with undergraduates.”

Fully funded in perpetuity and named after its donor, Joseph L. Rice III ’54, the Rice Center will be across from the Mabie Room in Stetson Hall. It will provide faculty with private offices and a meeting space with books and articles on teaching and learning.

This year is the Rice Center’s “soft opening,” according to Carter, as the space will be renovated over the summer. Once the renovation is complete, the College plans to host a grand opening, and many of the Rice Center’s functions can then be fulfilled through the center’s physical environment.

Still, the Rice Center plans to hold several events before its grand opening. For example, the Rice Center plans to sponsor a guest speaker during Winter Study, a session on mentorship led by athletic coaches at the College, and an event focusing on ways for faculty to address their classes after handing back the first graded assignment of the semester.

To Carter, professors will not be the only members of the College community who will gain from the Rice Center’s resources — students will also reap the benefits.

“Although the Rice Center for Teaching will be a faculty-facing institution, the ultimate beneficiaries will be students,” Carter wrote in an email to the Record. “Great teaching implies great learning. Therefore, the impact that the Center has on faculty will ultimately lead to tremendous opportunities, experiences, and intellectual growth for our students.”

This article was updated on September 29 at 9 a.m.