Learn more about opportunities for student engagement with the Houston Education Research Consortium.

Purpose of Student Engagement

HERC was created as a research-practice partnership in order to turn research into actionable items to target issues in education. We believe that more research-practice partnerships are the key to connect academia and policy, so we want to train the next generation of researchers to work in this unique, productive environment. When we work with students, our goal is to provide enriching experiences in which students get to engage directly with researchers and their respective research. Yes, our students help us produce research, but our goal is to cultivate a curiosity for the best way to target issues of educational inequity and implementation of academic findings in the “real” world.  

Who are we? 


Sarah Asson

“I got involved in HERC because I wanted to see the process of how research can be applied directly to practice and how it can work to make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve helped on several different kinds of HERC projects—for example, for one project I researched how states across the country measure achievement gaps and for another I created college preparation packets to be compared in effectiveness to an intensive college preparation program. Besides working directly on projects, I also really enjoy sitting in on the meetings between HERC researchers and HISD staff to hear the questions, feedback, and collaboration that take place between them. It makes the research feel so tangible and relevant, which is really cool.” Sarah Asson 2019 Rice graduate. 

Nehamia Ankoor

"I got involved with HERC after taking Dr. Turley's Sociology of Education class my sophomore year. As a low-income, first-generation college student, the research HERC was doing to help reduce educational inequality in Houston spoke to my heart. Furthermore, opportunities for hands-on social science research can be hard to find, but HERC makes it very easy to get involved regardless of your skill level. I continued to stay involved through my senior year because I felt the projects I worked on as a research assistant were making a meaningful impact on the lives of Houston students for the better... Through HERC, I have learned how to write detailed literature reviews, conduct in-depth interviews, craft surveys, and code and analyze quantitative data. More importantly, I learned about all the behind-the-scenes aspects of creating and executing a research project that you often don't hear about. All of these skills helped me find a job immediately after I graduated, and I know when I go back to grad school I will be extremely prepared to handle whatever is thrown at me."  Nehamia Ankor, 2018 Rice graduate. 

Erin Ye

“I wanted to join initially because of Dr. Turley. I had a class with her about social inequality and I really enjoyed studying about different social dynamics that we have always overlooked. After talking to Dr. Turley about my research interest, I was encouraged by her belief that research should be valued more importantly and used during the process of decision making. I started to attend meetings HERC held, which are welcome to all students and got to know more about the research HERC was doing and what kind of impact it is making in the Houston community. I have been with HERC for a year and I have learned a lot from the researchers and the post-docs here. Most of my research knowledge [has come] from my experience with HERC which I can use in many classes at Rice. I encourage students who are interested in education and social welfare to join HERC and get to participate in real projects that are influencing students' life in Houston. It was a challenging time and it was something to be dealt with very seriously. Because of that… I am able to be a better student.” Erin Ye, 2019 Rice graduate. 

Chidera Ezuma-Igwe

“The past semester at HERC was my first time conducting sociology research… I am so happy I stumbled upon this opportunity to do research, work with professionals about sociology, and explore sociology. My project consisted of me coding over 50 transcripts of high school seniors to learn what factors influenced their decision to attend college. I used Atlas, a coding software - it was my first time using a program of that sort - but my mentor took the time to teach me how to use the program. Overall, this semester I learned the importance of organization, clear communication, and good sociology research. I worked closely with professionals and developed the necessary communication skills. After this semester, I feel more comfortable in a professional environment. The mission of HERC to eliminate education inequality has motivated me to continue pursuing sociology research and learning more about how to eliminate inequality. I am happy that HERC was my first experience doing research, it is a good environment that supports measures in place for new undergraduate researchers.”  Chidera Ezuma-Igwe, 2020 Rice graduate.

Juliette Richert

“I’ve been working with HERC since the 2017 fall semester and have had the opportunity to use ArcGIS to track students who were affected by Hurricane Harvey, to edit policy briefs meant to be read by HISD leaders and to sit in on a meeting for HERC’s regional partners. There are so many moving parts that make this research-practice partnership model effective, and I have had the opportunity to work with innovative leaders and researchers in HERC. I think what’s made my experience here so special is the amount of attention and care to ensure that I am continuously engaged and learning. I came to HERC with absolutely no research experience and, as an Economics major, very little sociology background. Thanks to the supportive attitude of HERC, I’ve been able to grow in both of these fields. Just as importantly, HERC supplies an academic setting where I am contributing to the fight against educational inequity.” Juliette Richert, 2020 Rice graduate. 

Get Involved

SOCI 327 & 328

SOCI 327 and 328 are our guided research courses (syllabus). SOCI 327 is offered in the fall, while SOCI 328 is offered in the spring. They are variable credit hour, so they can fit your schedule. In order to register with HERC, you will need Dr. Turley (turley@rice.edu) to sign a special registration form, which will then need to be turned into the registrar. When Dr. Turley signs your form, make sure to discuss how many hours you will be earning. For every 1 credit hour you earn, you will be expected to work 3 hours. 

Please note that you are only able to take each course once. After you have taken both SOCI 327 and 328, you will be able to continue your relationship with HERC working for pay. 

Social Policy Analysis

SOPA majors at HERC have the opportunity to fulfill their capstone requirement with HERC. You will be exposed to how HERC navigates our partnerships with the school districts and the steps we take to affect education policy. An example of a project with HERC may look something like an “evaluation of Pre-K intervention programs designed to close the achievement gap and reduce costs in K-12 education.” 

You can learn more about Rice's SOPA program on their website and Rice's General Announcements

Learn More


We are working on many projects ranging in topic from decentralization to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to college readiness. You can learn more about our published research here: kinder.rice.edu/houston-education-research-consortium

If you would like to come to one of our brown bag research meetings to learn about our research in progress, contact Shauna Dunn (shuana@rice.edu) to get more information. 


Undergraduate Liaison Contact

Shauna Dunn