Athletics Department Spotlight: Rice Owls

Rice Athletics has greatly enhanced the student-athlete experience through recent initiatives, including a partnership with Athlete Network.

Rice Athletics embarked on a journey for continued growth with a new, five-year strategic plan charting the department’s Vision for Victory. Released in April 2019, Vision for Victory “is a strategic plan that reflects the ambitions and values of those who care most about Rice Athletics and its future,” says Director of Athletics Dr. Joe Karlgaard.

Input from over 1,300 Rice constituents was collected, resulting in three strategic priorities. One priority—to promote academic, personal, and professional development by supporting academic excellence, providing opportunities for professional and personal growth and fostering participation by student-athletes in all that Rice has to offer—has proven an early success for the Owls in the form of the SOAR (Student-Athlete Opportunities for Advancement through Rice Values) development program.

Dr. Joe Karlgaard addressing attendees at the 2019 Beyond the Hedges networking and career exploration event.

The SOAR program is rooted in Rice University values (Responsibility, Integrity, Community, and Excellence) while fostering additional opportunities for Owl student-athletes to become champions at Rice and beyond. In collaboration with several units across campus, the SOAR program provides opportunities for personal growth and professional preparation to assist student-athletes as they transition in, through, and beyond Rice University.

Through these efforts, SOAR makes use of programs and partnerships with campus-based units such as the Doerr Institute for New Leaders, the Center for Career Development, Multicultural Affairs, Office of International Students and Scholars, Student Success Initiatives, and the Association of Rice Alumni, among others. Collaboration with these units ensures that student-athletes not only have access to programming that meets them where they are, but that these programs and opportunities are accessible, engaging, and integrated into the student-athlete experience. Spring 2019 saw enhanced programming for student-athletes as a direct result of these partnerships.

Life After Rice: Men of Color Student Athletes participants, along with Assistant AD, Student-Athlete Development, JP Abercrumbie (center) and Associate Director, R Association, Brett Parker (left).

A now-familiar partner in current and former student-athlete engagement efforts, the Association of Rice Alumni served as a co-host and sponsor for the “Life After Rice: Men of Color Student Athletes” luncheon. An exclusive opportunity re-engaging several alumni athletes, this collaboration among SOAR, the R Association, Association of Rice Alumni, and Multicultural Affairs, fosters opportunities for successful alumni to connect and network with current Owls. Providing career advice and sharing life experiences to assist in ensuring that current Owls are positioned to prosper, Life After Rice events take on different themes to assist Rice students in the various stages of academic, personal, and professional development.

In addition to Life After Rice events, career exploration and professional preparation opportunities abound as SOAR reaches “Beyond the Hedges” to provide resume building, interview assistance, personal and professional mentoring, and networking opportunities to Rice student-athletes. The 2019 Beyond the Hedges event featured collaborative insight from the R Association, Association of Rice Alumni, and the Center for Career Development, in addition to engaging several Athletics sponsors and other supporters to enhance personal and professional development opportunities available to the Owls.

To assist with these efforts, SOAR & the R Association have teamed up with Athlete Network to create the Rice Owls SOAR Network.

Rice volleyball players at the Beyond the Hedges mock speed interviewing session.

JP Abercrumbie, Assistant Athletic Director, Student Athlete Development at Rice Athletics notes, “The SOAR Network will assist us in sustainably fostering opportunities for our student-athletes to be engaged in the vast resources available for their academic, personal, and professional advancement. This Rice-specific branded network will be a great tool in streamlining access to the extensive resources available at Rice University. We strongly believe this partnership is going to elevate our engagement opportunities with current student-athletes, alumni, and various members of the Rice Athletics community committed to ensuring Rice student-athletes become champions at Rice and beyond.”

Along with providing cutting edge data insights and reporting to athletic administrators and campus partners, the technology solution will also immediately provide the tools to modernize professional preparation and placement services, offer robust mentoring programs, and expand the R Association.

For additional information, please contact Rice Assistant Athletic Director of Student-Athlete Development JP Abercrumbie (