STEM honors students now set sights on Rice

Sep 5, 2022Courtney Morris
STEM education

San Jacinto College STEM honors students will get the boost to finish their associate degrees and transfer to top-tier institutions through the College's new partnership with Rice University.

Now in its pilot year, Rice's Take Flight STEM Pathway is for high-achieving San Jac and Lone Star College students exploring science, technology, engineering, and math fields. It has two goals: increasing the number of community college students engaged in STEM and positioning them to pursue higher degrees.

Although Rice doesn't have transfer agreements with other institutions, it could establish one with San Jac by spring 2023.

Beginning with the fall 2022 class, the College's honors program will identify strong freshmen in STEM programs to pursue Take Flight. Together, San Jac and Rice will expand these students' horizons in STEM education and careers.

Preparing for takeoff

REU student
A San Jac student presents at a Rice REU poster symposium.

For the past 15 years, Rice has brought talented community college students on campus for summer research experiences for undergraduates, or REUs. Rice faculty who head these REUs encouraged university leaders to expand that partnership.

The seed took root.

In fall 2020, Rice's associate provost Dr. Matthew Taylor, Central Campus department chair of physical sciences Dr. Rachel Garcia, and Central Campus dean of health and natural sciences Dr. Rhonda Bell began discussing how Rice and San Jac could team to meet the national need for more STEM and diverse graduates.

"Not getting accepted into a four-year school is a common misconception about why students choose to attend community college," Garcia said. "We have high-achieving students with 4.0 GPAs whom we need to serve and help achieve their academic goals."

Rice trustees also wanted to engage with community colleges. The conversation went from helping these students grow their research skills to preparing and positioning them to transfer to institutions like Rice. Although Rice accepts some transfer students, few so far have come from community colleges.

"What the board, provost, and I have put at the forefront is getting the talent from our own backyard," Taylor said. "We have good community colleges in town with good honors programs and first-generation, low-income students. We should look for that talent and develop that talent."

Launching into higher degrees, careers

While completing their associate degrees, San Jac Take Flight students will participate in ...

  • Virtual information sessions with Rice admissions, engineering and natural science schools, transfer students, and STEM student organizations
  • Summer seminars on STEM inquiry and communication skills
  • Academic conferences with industry networking opportunities
  • A Take Flight day at Rice with visits to a classroom, a residential college, and an undergraduate research symposium
  • Research presentation opportunities

Strong students who want to apply for admission to Rice will complete core STEM courses and an associate degree at the College with advising from both schools' faculty and staff. Many will also participate in summer REUs and a summer transition program at Rice.

In Take Flight's pilot phase, six San Jac students participated in Rice REUs this summer. Garcia and Bell thank Rice leaders for supporting this transfer program.

"Take Flight is an excellent program to support student success as they transition from community colleges into research institutions," Bell said.

While Rice might seem financially out of reach for San Jac graduates, the Rice Investment financial aid program promises full tuition, fees, room, and board for students from families with incomes and assets below $75,000 a year. For incomes below $140,000, full tuition is covered. For families outside the income ranges, Rice covers 100% of demonstrated need.

"If Rice admits you, that means we believe in you and are committed to removing financial barriers to your ability to afford coming to Rice," Taylor said.

Learn more about Take Flight at or

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