Faculty and Staff
Dr. C. Fred Higgs III joined RCEL as Faculty Director on July 1, 2016 following an international search. He holds a joint appointment as the John and Ann Doerr Professor Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Higgs earned a B.S. in MECH from Tennessee State University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He joined Carnegie Mellon 2003, where he headed the Particle Flow and Tribology Lab. In 2016, Professor Higgs was named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which in 2010 had presented him with the Burt L. Newkirk Award for researchers under the age of 40 who have made notable contributions in tribology. In 2007 he received a NSF CAREER Young Investigator Award, and in 2013 he received Carnegie Mellon’s top engineering teaching honor. Dr. Higgs looks forward to “working with the RCEL team to develop tomorrow’s ethical, emotionally intelligent engineering leaders who will enter the workforce ready to deliver innovative products and technologies.”
Kaz Karwowski joined the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) as Executive Director in July 2013 after four years with the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program (GEL) and three years with MIT’s Army ROTC Program. Prior to joining GEL, Kaz served in the U.S. Army Infantry Branch for 20 years and retired in 2009. Kaz has been developing leaders on college campuses through engineering leadership centers and Army ROTC programs for over 10 years. While at MIT and Rice, Kaz has been involved in the entrepreneurship community and has mentored multiple startups that have gone onto great success. Kaz has a deep interest in the leadership development of young people and feels that leadership and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. He served as Platoon Sergeant in Iraq and a leader with the 10th Mountain Division in Mogadishu, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Kaz also served in the First Armored Division in the Persian Gulf War.
David Van Kleeck joined the staff of RCEL in August 2014 following a 34 year career as a Technologist and Manager in Shell’s research and development organization. During his Shell career, he held a variety of positions in which he was responsible for process development, manufacturing technical service, and product support to several downstream refining and chemical businesses. Dr. Van Kleeck's research and management experience includes work in the detergents, solvents, resins, and glycols businesses. He was also active in Shell’s recruiting efforts for over fourteen years as a campus interviewer (Princeton, MIT, University of Houston, Rice) and had a parallel career in the Army Reserve, retiring after 32 years of active and reserve service in 2005 as a Brigadier General. He was commissioned in the Army through ROTC at Princeton University (1973). During his Army career, David commanded troops at the Battalion, Group, and Brigade levels. His assignments included active duty tours in Italy and Germany. He returns to Rice after receiving his Ph.D here in Chemical Engineering in 1981.
Tom Phalen joined RCEL in July, 2015 after a 38 year career with Fluor, a Fortune 100 Engineering and Construction Company. He brings proven leadership and management skills to the Center, having led large multi-cultural and multi-discipline teams in executing projects. During his career at Fluor, he held a variety of positions including process engineer, department management, engineering management, project management and operations management. Throughout his career, he led teams varying in size from a few members to over 2,000 as General Manager of Fluor’s Houston office. He has served as a Project Director on large projects and has led teams that included multiple offices and cultures simultaneously. Mr. Phalen combines technical engineering expertise with experience in project planning and control, and as an RCEL member, he strives to bring to the classroom the practical lessons learned from leading teams and managing people in today's global environment.
Germaine Porche specializes in working with organizations to produce performance breakthroughs in productivity and leadership. Her 21-years consulting experience is in coaching executives, individuals and groups at all levels to deliver high-impact business results. She is a dynamic deliverer of training programs that incorporate clients’ specific developmental needs, such as work redesign, productivity breakthroughs, time transformation, coaching and communication skills. Germaine’s consulting work has been multicultural including work in Europe, Indonesia, Israel and Canada. She is President & co-founder of Eagle’s View Consulting, an international coaching and management consultancy. Germaine is co-author of COACH ANYONE ABOUT ANYTHING: How to Help People Succeed in Business and Life, listed among Amazon.com’s Top 100 Business Books for 2003; the CD series, Ask The Coaches; and the new bestselling humor series, COACHING SOUP for the CARTOON SOUL. She recently released a completely new book, Coach Anyone About Anything: How to Empower Leaders and High Performance Teams.
Lecturer, Engineering Leadership
Mech Lab 104
Chuck Roberts joined the staff of RCEL in July 2016. Prior to joining RCEL, Chuck had a 37 year career in engineering and management with ExxonMobil. He held a variety of technical, operational, supervision, management and executive positions in the Upstream business. He worked in the drilling, exploration, production, project development/management, research, business development, planning, and human resource functions as an individual contributor, a supervisor, a manager, and as an executive. Of interest to RCEL, Chuck is the architect and implementor of ExxonMobil’s Upstream Professional Development system. This system provides the framework and processes for the technical and leadership development of all engineers, geoscientists, and commercial resources. He was a member of the organization responsible for identifying, developing, selecting, and supporting ExxonMobil’s technical and commercial senior leaders. He has lead multi-cultural, international, and global teams across all aspects of the Upstream business. Born in Montana, Chuck came to Rice in 1973. He studied Architecture for two years before focusing on Civil Engineering. He was conferred Bachelor of Science and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering in 1978.
Cesare Wright has a unique breadth of experience as an educator, media professional, and promotional visibility consultant. Since 2004, Dr. Wright has led STEM and Arts education programs in 25 countries as President of the Kino-Eye Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation. He has also worked as a filmmaker and Fox 26 News Editor & Special Projects Consultant. In collaboration with the Gracie family (founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), Dr. Wright directed the Gracie Women Empowered rape prevention series, which has now been adopted as the core combatives training for women in the U.S. Air Force. He currently serves as the faculty sponsor for the Aerial Robotics Club and Rice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club. Dr. Wright completed his Ph.D. in Visual & Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester and his M.F.A. in Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He also holds undergraduate degrees in Anthropology, Visual & Dramatic Arts, and Art & Art History from Rice University. His work focuses on representation theory and the intersection of technology, culture, and media. As a Lecturer and Leadership & Outreach Specialist for RCEL, Dr. Wright teaches and develops courses, leads the RCEL internship program, and manages the the Center's K-12 STEM initiatives. He also interfaces with industry and community partners to facilitate institutional relationships.
Jan Hewitt is a Senior Lecturer in Professional Communication in the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership at Rice University. She has ten years of experience working with the Cain Project for Engineering Communication at Rice and now provides support for engineering faculty and students. Her focus is written communication, especially for graduate students, though she is also available to consult with faculty. Each semester she offers two non-credit thesis-writing seminars open to graduate students ready to write an extended Ph.D. proposal, a master’s thesis, or a Ph.D. dissertation. She has also co-taught a required class in thesis writing for the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics. Workshops she offers include “How to recognize and avoid plagiarism” and “How to write a paper for publication.” Workshops can be tailored for a specific department.
Beata Krupa is Lecturer in Professional and Engineering Communication at RCEL and Lecturer in Management in the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business. She has over ten years of experience teaching professional communication, including courses in business communication, interpersonal communication, intercultural communication and Web uses in business. She also has many years of experience coaching students in public speaking and presentation skills. Before joining the School of Engineering at Rice, Dr. Krupa taught undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. level communication courses at the Jones Graduate School of Business, Jones International University, New York University, and College of New Rochelle. She also has many years of experience working as academic administrator for private institutions of higher education. She received her MA in Journalism from Warsaw University in Poland and her Ph.D. in Culture and Communication–Media Ecology Program from New York University.
Gayle Moran is Lecturer in Professional and Engineering Communication at RCEL. Most recently, she served as Lecturer in Business Communication at the Jones Graduate School of Business. Gayle has more than 20 years of professional communication expertise in a variety of industries including information technology, telecommunications, educational software, and travel technology, and has worked for major Fortune 500 companies including Electronic Data Systems (EDS), Nortel, Alcatel, and Xerox. She has held prior positions in executive coaching and communication, internal/employee communication, marketing communication, and technical writing. Gayle’s broad background includes developing and implementing communication strategies in global business environments. She holds a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas and has taught English full time and as an adjunct professor.
Tina Peterson, Ph.D.
Lecturer, Professional Communications
Abercrombie Lab A102
Tina L. Peterson is a lecturer in professional communication at RCEL. She has eight years of experience teaching journalism, media studies, and writing-intensive courses at Temple University, Penn State University, the University of St. Thomas, and Rice. Recently she served as a consultant to the non-profit group the News Literacy Project, directing their expansion to Houston. She is a long-standing member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, on whose leadership council she sits. She received her M.A. in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies from the University of Nottingham in England, and her Ph.D. in Mass Media and Communication from Temple University. Peterson is also the author of the children's chapter book, 'Oscar and the Amazing Gravity Repellent' (Capstone).
Beth O’Sullivan, Lecturer in Professional and Engineering Communication at RCEL is piloting a class on Communication for Engineers. She holds a joint appointment with the Jones Graduate School as a Senior Lecturer in Communication, where she has taught full time since 2000. In addition to her work with RCEL, she will be teaching in the Executive MBA and the MBA for Professionals programs.She brings over ten years of corporate communication experience, having served as Manager of Corporate Communication and Investor Relations for Oceaneering International, Inc., and as Corporate Communication Manager for a Houston-based independent oil and gas exploration company. She maintains an active consulting practice providing executive coaching in public speaking, interpersonal communication, and intercultural communication and serves as a pitch coach for entrepreneurs associated with the Texas Medical Center Accelerator program and for OWL-Spark. Ms. O’Sullivan received her M.B.A. from Texas A&M University and holds a B.A. degree in Biology from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
Amanda Prestia joined RCEL in 2014, bringing over five years of marketing and promotional experience. Prior to joining RCEL, Amanda worked in the AEC industry as the Marketing Director for Project Control, a construction program management firm headquartered in San Antonio, as well as the firm’s sports division, PC Sports. Amanda has a B.A. in Communication from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where she was an active member of the Pierre Laclede Honors College and a four-year member of the UMSL women’s basketball team.
Christine Gardner joined RCEL in 2010, bringing eight years experience as administrator for Rice’s Energy & Environmental Systems Institute and its affiliated Shell Center for Sustainability. She previously served a lengthy tenure as administrator for the Rice Media Center and director of its public repertory film program (the largest of its kind in the Southwest), and also as program manager for the University of Texas-Austin Annual Fund. She completed undergraduate studies in History and Visual Arts (Northern Illinois University) and graduate programs in Art History (University of Chicago) and Social Work (University of Houston).