I hope that this wonderful residential college system will continue to provide an atmosphere that encourages students to exchange ideas and opinions respectfully, to develop and use their gifts, and to experience, on a deep level, Rice’s explicit culture of care. – Shirley Fregly ’88

Shirley Fregly ’88 knows all about the benefits of residential college life. As a student at Brown College, Shirley learned to fully appreciate the open and respectful exchange of ideas and opinions. Now a Brown magister, along with her husband B.J., she wants to pass along that tradition of productive discourse to current Brown students.

In the years after graduating from Rice, Shirley brought B.J. and their kids to campus whenever they visited family in Houston. These experiences convinced B.J., a professor of mechanical engineering, that Rice’s residential college system was an ideal blend of the academic and the personal. In 2017, B.J., who specializes in musculoskeletal modeling research, joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering as a professor.

As luck — and perhaps fate — would have it, Brown was looking for a new magister just as the Freglys were making their move to Houston. The couple moved directly into the Brown magister house, excited to fill their new role within the college. Recently, we asked the Freglys about their new home, new roles, and their hopes for Brown College and its exceptional students. Here’s what they had to say:

What motivated you to apply to be magisters?

We have enjoyed working as a couple with college students ever since our dating days, when B.J. was a Ph.D. student at Stanford and Shirley was a legal assistant in San Jose. After we got married, we frequently had college students over for dinner in our small one-bedroom apartment on the Stanford campus. Our apartment was so small that B.J. had to sit inside the pantry so we could get three people around our kitchen table! At the University of Florida, we continued serving as mentors to a group of college students who ran our church’s youth ministry program.

Over the years, Shirley has shared many of her experiences from Brown. These stories helped B.J. realize that the residential college system made Rice the perfect place to combine his desires for a top-notch academic environment with a campus structure and culture that facilitates faculty interaction with students. We are both thrilled to be at Rice and to have the opportunity to work closely with the amazing Brown College students who live right next door to the Brown Magister House.

Shirley, how did your experience as a student at Brown shape your vision for residential college life?

I loved my time at Rice. I met people from all parts of the country and the world. We often had different perspectives and opinions about the meaning of life and how best to live it. The great thing was that we spent hours and hours exchanging ideas and expressing our opinions in respectful and healthy ways. We also spent hours just living life together and supporting one another. It was a rich time, and I still have close friends from that season of life.

I hope that this wonderful residential college system will continue to provide an atmosphere that encourages students to exchange ideas and opinions respectfully, to develop and use their gifts, and to experience, on a deep level, Rice’s explicit culture of care.

B.J., you work with students in academic and personal roles. What insights do you draw from these two endeavors?

When I think about my academic and personal interactions with students, I don’t see them as separate from one another but rather as a synergistic blend. When I was an undergraduate student at Princeton trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I realized that I didn’t want a career where I worked during the week so that I could play on the weekend. Instead, I wanted a career where I could live an integrated life, where my career and personal life were mixed together in some meaningful non-traditional way. Being a professor gives me ample opportunities to mix the academic with the personal — I just have to keep my eyes open for opportunities to interact with students. Being a magister simply expands those opportunities and makes it even easier to blend the academic and personal sides of my life in a very natural way.

If Brown students took away one lesson or ideal from their residential college experience, what would you want that to be?

As magisters, we want to provide an environment where students can experience and understand the “culture of care” in all of its manifestations. Whether it’s looking out for friends at a party or engaging respectfully, healthily, and fully in conversation with someone with a different viewpoint, the culture of care can start and grow here in the hedges. Rice students have the gifts and drive to change the world, either within their given sphere or on a world stage. We hope that they will spread their Rice experience of culture of care well beyond the hedges.


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