Conversation with Yvonne Romero da Silva, VP of Enrollment

Few admissions professionals are as knowledgeable about the competitive landscape in higher education, or as innovative in their approach to student recruitment, as Rice’s new Vice President of Enrollment Yvonne Romero da SilvaShe knows something about world-class institutions: she received an undergraduate degree in mathematics from MIT, a master’s in education from Harvard, an MBA from Stanford and a doctorate of education from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Rice, she earned widespread recognition as vice dean and director of admissions at UPenn, where she set national standards for strategic planning and for evaluating applications. Now at Rice, she embraces the opportunity to do what she loves best: increasing access and opportunity at what she calls a “national treasure.”

What drew you to Rice?

There really aren’t other institutions like Rice anywhere in the Southwest. It is so well-regarded for its academic excellence. Our students are highly sought after around the world. Rice is so connected to the city of Houston, with its proximity to Latin America, the different industries and opportunities for growth, and diversity in all forms. Really, I was drawn here by many of the same things that attract our students.

When you tell the story of Rice with the story of Houston, combined with the quality of the academics, it’s a great selling point for the type of exceptional student that Rice really serves best.

How can we make Rice even more successful in the competitive arena of college admissions?   

When families discover the quality of education and community here, they often are very pleasantly surprised. We want that surprise to happen as they're thinking about places to apply to, not after they've been admitted. So we need to continue to broaden awareness of what Rice has to offer, like the fact that our students are so happy and so connected with one another and with the faculty. When you tell the story of Rice with the story of Houston, combined with the quality of the academics, it’s a great selling point for the type of exceptional student that Rice really serves best.

Who are the students that Rice serves best?

Our students want to be pushed to discover their intellectual possibilities. They aren’t content to sit back and just have their education happen to them. They also want to be connected to students who represent voices from a range of places and experiences — and know that each of those voices is valued. That’s one of the great pleasures of our work: to value all the voices that make up a university and create more opportunities for deserving students to engage in a Rice education.  

That’s a key point of the V2C2. How do we expand access and opportunity to more students?

One way is to look at our current financial aid practices and policies to see how we can ease the financial burden for families across a spectrum of need.  Currently, our price is less than most of our peers. More than half of our undergraduate students receive financial aid, and 72 percent graduate from Rice without debt. Yet there is still a cost some families, including middle class families, can’t consume wholly within their circumstances.    

How can Rice continue to strengthen its commitment to affordability?

We’re projecting that we’ll need to raise about $200 million in new scholarship endowments to support a broader range of families. We may need to be more flexible in allowing students to take full advantage of a wide range of scholarship sources in meeting their financial needs. We may also create scholarship packages that support study abroad or research opportunities, or even a fifth year of study.

Students have such a great number of offerings available to them. We want Rice to stand out for its commitment to supporting students of all means, to upholding the values of our community, to overcoming adversity and to contributing to diverse conversations. We need to look broadly at the qualities that we want to define the university and have the resources to back that up.

Our students want to be pushed to discover their intellectual possibilities. They aren’t content to sit back and just have their education happen to them. 

How can the Rice community help?  

Help us make Rice the number one choice for students and families. Continue to support scholarships. Interview students for admissions. Be ambassadors in your community, whether you’re in Texas, Chicago, Raleigh or Shanghai.  There are so many examples where a student from outside Texas came across a Rice alum, parent or friend, and they were met with sheer joy. Share the experience that Rice has to offer, so that students joyfully come and really appreciate all that Rice can do for them.

 

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