From the Student Director: A word to freshmen about leadership

Welcome fellow Owls! And congratulations on being part of the Rice University Class of 2021. We are so excited to have you here and can’t wait to see the impact you will make at this university, and beyond.

Many students come into Rice aspiring to change the world through engineering. I want to introduce you to a program that will help you make that happen: the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL).

My name is Emma Baker and I’m majoring in Mechanical Engineering. I am one of the 160 engineering students pursuing a certificate in Engineering Leadership at Rice. Through a combination of labs, classes, projects, and leadership opportunities, RCEL helps turn engineering students into engineering leaders before they ever leave this campus.

As the 2017-2018 RCEL Student Director, here are some things I’d like you to know about the RCEL Certificate Program:

  • Leadership CAN be taught and there is a need for engineering leaders. RCEL is founded on 20+ core leadership competencies, from empowering and delegating to strategic management, from leading change to building power and influence. The RCEL Program is here to help you develop, practice, and refine your leadership skills now, before you go out into the “real world” and try to learn them in your first engineering job. Our students are applying these skills every day in their classes, group projects, extracurricular activities, internships, and ultimately, in their careers.
  • RCEL teaches you to be the leader you already are. You have a leader inside of you, even if you don’t realize it. Too often students think “Oh, my personality isn’t strong enough to be a leader,” or “I know what leaders are like and that’s definitely not me.” The truth is, you don’t have to have a certain type of personality to be a leader. RCEL doesn’t try to mold you into a one-size-fits-all generic leadership style. The RCEL faculty is here to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.  You then develop the skills to make you a successful leader by being YOU.
  • RCEL opens doors to exciting engineering experiences and opportunities. Talk to any student in RCEL and you’ll be surprised at how much this program offers. I know I have been. During my three years in RCEL, I’ve completed internships at a global engineering services firm, at a UAV start-up, and in Dr. Fred Higgs’ Particle Flow and Tribology Lab here at Rice. I’ve served as a teaching assistant for entry-level RCEL classes. I’ve been mentored by two Rice engineering alumni, receiving invaluable guidance on my career path.  I also coached a middle school drone camp focused on STEM technology, innovation, and leadership. I even traveled to Liverpool, England, for an engineering leadership student exchange program, courtesy of an RCEL scholarship. There is so much to learn and do here!
  • Yes, you can fit it into your schedule. And it is flexible. (Only 10 credits over four years!)

More than 200 students have done it and you can too! The RCEL Program consists of 10 credit hours over four years. We have students who are double majors and students with multiple minors.  Some entered Rice with numerous AP credits, some had none! You can spread your RCEL classes out over four years (that’s what I did!) or squeeze them into two. In my experience, even with the credit cap, it is completely manageable to fit RCEL into your academic curriculum.

On behalf of all of us here at RCEL, welcome to Rice! If you’d like to learn more, you can email us at This email address is answered directly by students. You can also contact me or any of our student leaders listed on the RCEL website.


Emma Baker is a senior mechanical engineering major from Spring, Texas, and is in McMurtry College. During her time at Rice, Emma has been heavily involved in RCEL (Rice Center for Engineering Leadership) and ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). This year, she serves as Student Director for RCEL and President of ASME. She is also a teaching assistant for ENGI 140: Professional Excellence in Engineers. Emma is also involved in the Rice Annual Fund and was on the Rice cheerleading team during her freshman and sophomore years. She is passionate about helping students have the best experience possible at Rice and is always a smiling face to talk to. In her free time, Emma loves to work out at the Rec while listening to country music and then go to Sonic for a Route 44 vanilla Diet Dr Pepper!

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