NEWS Rice names new provost
Marie Lynn Miranda, an acclaimed researcher and the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, has been named provost of Rice University.
Miranda specializes in research on environmental health, especially how the environment shapes health and well-being among children. She is a leader in the evolving field of geospatial health informatics and has studied, for example, the impact of racial residential segregation on health. She is the founding director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, a research, education and outreach program committed to fostering environments where all people can prosper. The initiative’s peer-reviewed research has been cited extensively, including in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s integrated science assessment on revisions to the national ambient air quality standard for lead.
Miranda’s outreach efforts include direct engagement in communities affected by environmental exposures. Her work has garnered more than $43 million in sponsored research as a principal or co-principal investigator, plus an additional $14 million as investigator. This research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization and multiple foundation sponsors.
The Children’s Environmental Health Initiative is currently headquartered at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, where Miranda has served as the dean and professor since 2012. She also holds a position as professor of pediatrics and of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan’s School of Medicine. At Rice, her primary appointment will be in the Department of Statistics.
Prior to joining the University of Michigan, Miranda served for 21 years on the faculty at Duke University, where she was initially in the Department of Public Policy. With her increasing interests in environmental health, she became a professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Department of Pediatrics and a faculty member in the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program and the Duke Global Health Institute.
Miranda said she was excited by the possibilities for interdisciplinary research and learning at Rice. “Even in the information age, with the ensuing democratization of knowledge, colleges and universities hold the greatest potential for helping students to bridge the chasm between knowledge and wisdom, especially so in the residential college setting,” Miranda said. “In both the curriculum and the co-curriculum, we have the opportunity to help students explore how different cultural perspectives shape community dynamics, how poetry and art can help child refugees heal, how engineers and designers must come together to find solutions that will be embraced by the public, how teams of thinkers can do extraordinary things like discover buckminsterfullerene.”
Miranda also has a strong record of international engagement. She has worked in Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Sweden. At Michigan, she is working to build partnerships in China, India, Brazil, Mexico and both East and West Africa. She maintains an active research program in East Africa and is involved in a multi-university initiative focused on strategies to combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.
Miranda currently serves on the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the NIH.
Miranda grew up in Detroit. The child of immigrants, Miranda has particular insights into the changing demographics that are shaping U.S. higher education.
“Growing up brown in a black neighborhood in Detroit, and later doing research almost exclusively in disadvantaged and minority communities, have kept me attuned to issues of inclusiveness,” she said. Shaped by parents committed to education as the mechanism for opportunity, Miranda said, “The fact that I now have the privilege of serving as the next provost of Rice University bears witness to the power of education to transform lives.”
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke, she earned her A.B. in both mathematics and economics. Although she worked for Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as an undergraduate, her favorite sport is baseball – and she has already seen the Rice Owls play in Reckling Park. A Truman Scholar and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, Miranda has a Ph.D. and M.A., both in economics, from Harvard. Miranda is married to Christopher Geron and has three children, Thompson, Mariel and Viviana.
Miranda’s appointment as the Howard R. Hughes Provost becomes effective July 1.
NEWS Groundbreaking for Harrisburg METRORail overpass set for March 14
The Green (East End) METRORail Line will commemorate the beginning of construction for the new Harrisburg Overpass with a ground-breaking ceremony on Saturday, March 14 at 9 a.m. The observance will take place in the 6200 block of Harrisburg near the METRORail Service & Inspection Facility.
The program will include the groundbreaking with dignitaries and community leaders and light refreshments after the ceremony. The overpass design is the result of community input and combines the “History of the East End” and a “Garden Wall," incorporating white LED lighting with blue accents at the bridge columns to enhance the appearance of the lower side of the bridge.
METRO's Board of Directors voted on January 29 to move forward with the Harrisburg Overpass, awarding the contract to McCarthy Building Companies, Inc . The bridge will be built along the Green Line (East End), near the Gus Wortham Golf Course, allowing cars and trains to travel over the Union Pacific East Belt freight rail line running north-south, west of Hughes Street. The half-mile overpass will complete the Green Line which is scheduled to open this spring.
NEWS City announces proposed new contract for HPD
Houston Mayor Annise Parker was joined by Houston Police Officers Union President Ray Hunt this morning to announce a proposed new contract for the rank and file at the Houston Police Department (HPD).
The agreement, which requires ratification by union membership and City Council’s approval, addresses pay concerns that have hindered HPD’s ability to attract and retain officers. It also includes several cost-saving concessions.
“This contract will for the first time in a long time bring HPD’s entry-level salary to market level,” said Parker. “It will also address market inequities in ranks at HPD that are currently being paid below the market. HPD is the premiere law enforcement organization in Texas. To maintain that position and continue to be able to offer the best crime-fighting services around, we have to retain our veteran officers as long as possible and be an attractive career prospect for young recruits. That means offering competitive salaries.”
The contract includes the following pay adjustments:
- An increase in base pay for probationary officers from $35,000 to $42,000, effective June 1, 2015
- $32 million of adjustments starting in July 2016 and spread out over two years to address market inequities within various ranks
- A 3.48 percent across-the-board increase on July 1, 2018
In addition, the agreement modifies the City’s financial obligation for accrued time off when an officer leaves the department, creates a financial incentive for officers to pass an annual physical agility test, eliminates paid time off for physical fitness training, changes the promotional testing systems to help ensure all officers have equal opportunity to be promoted and creates a financial incentive to entice experienced officers to pursue investigative positions.
“The men and women of the Houston Police Department thank Mayor Parker, former City Attorney David Feldman, current City Attorney Donna Edmundson and Assistant City Attorney Natalie Deluca for negotiating an extremely fair contract for both the officers and the citizens who pay our salaries,” said HPOU President Ray Hunt.
The rank and file was scheduled to begin voting on the agreement this afternoon. It will be on the City Council agenda for consideration February 18. Providing these necessary approvals are obtained, the agreement will become effective immediately and last until December 31, 2018. The rank and file will receive two percent cost-of-living adjustments July 1, 2019 if there is no agreement on a new contract by then.
NEWS $830K grant awarded for Busby Park
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department has been awarded an $830,000 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Urban Outdoor Grant for Busby Park. The grant will be matched with Capital Improvement Project monies to complete a $1.6 million dollar renovation of Busby Park. The grant is one of four recommended for awarding by the T.P.W.D. Commission on January 22.
"Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grant funds make a difference in the lives of our communities here in Houston and across the state," said Joe Turner, director, Houston Parks and Recreation Department. "The Busby Park grant, for example, will provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the Houston-Trinity Gardens and Kashmere Gardens neighborhoods. We are very appreciative to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for this grant funding."
Since 2004, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department has been awarded 16 grants totalling over $12 million dollars in grant funds from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in the form of Urban Outdoor, Urban Indoor, Recreational Trail and CO-OP grants.
The $1.6 million dollar renovation project will redesign the park to include outdoor recreational opportunities and a natural element to the park. The scope of work includes: design and construction services, demolition, site preparation, and grading. The proposed features of the project include: new playground development, a practice field with back stop and soccer goals, a community and rain garden and a prairie habitat area, outdoor exercise stations, a walking trail, a half basketball court, a seating plaza with specialty paving, picnic tables, benches and trash cans, picnic shelter with grill, perimeter fencing, site lighting, as well as native tree plantings with associated drip irrigation.