For some Rice University students, being at Rice on an almost daily basis does not stop at graduation. Some, like Andrew Bowen, director of the Levant Program for the Baker Institute's Center for the Middle East; Dylan McNally, research analyst for the Baker Institute's Mexico Center; and Neely Atkinson, senior lecturer in statistics, come back to research or teach at Rice.
Bowen (Martel '08), who grew up in Arizona, said he chose Rice because he liked the faculty-student ratio, the quality of the residential college system, the buildings, the interaction with professors and being in a big city.
"I didn't choose Rice based on its Middle East studies reputation," Bowen said. "I was more interested in Rice being a small community in a big city. I'd never thought initially I was going to come to Texas. I was trying to decide between Duke and Rice and really liked [Owl Days]."
Bowen, who received a bachelor's degree in Political Science and was involved with the Leadership Rice program, the executive committee of the Student Association for two years and had a brief involvement with residential college life, said Rice's small departments and more limited course selection pushed him to be more liberal arts-minded.
"The absence of many courses in different departments really kind of pushed me to look beyond my major and interest," Bowen said. "Because I said, 'oh, if there's only a set of, say three or four classes I really need to do or are offered,' it really pushed me to be more liberal arts-minded. So I took classes in English, [and in] a range of [subjects]."
According to Bowen, Rice underwent a lot of changes during his undergraduate years.
"I entered Rice the same year and months that David Leebron entered as president," Bowen said. "So I really saw [Leebron's] wider vision for Rice, in terms of his Vision for the Second Century, his call to conversation. Really, the changes both in wanting to increase the student body, develop the infrastructure of the university, the expansion of the residential colleges and [the] degree of faculty changeover and staff administration."
After getting a master's degree in the history of international relations and a doctorate in international relations. at the London School of Economics, Bowen came back to work at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy with its Founding Director and Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Edward Djerejian.
"It wasn't pre-planned," Bowen said. "It just was an opportunity that arose from what was happening in Syria at the time."
Bowen said he developed a deep interest in the Middle East particularly after 9/11, and wanted to better understand what drove American foreign policy decision making in the region.
"Seeing the impact that those events had on both Americans' perceptions with the region, and the regions' perceptions as well with the United States," Bowen said. "I started Rice in Fall 2004, about a year into the Iraq War. [My] freshman or sophomore year of high school was when 9/11 happened. Of course, [I'm] not saying 9/11 is reflective of all of the Middle East. For the most part I found the understanding of the region was not really strong in a lot of American public opinion."
Bowen said students should enjoy the many learning opportunities Rice has to offer, including studying abroad and learning a language.
"Take classes in subjects you normally wouldn't take, and get involved in different activities — but also keep in mind what life is after the hedges," Bowen said.