As Kinder Institute embarks on a new journey, inclusive prosperity is our north star

PERSPECTIVES :  Jun. 29, 2022

In the summer of 2010, my husband and I drove over 1,000 miles to move to Houston with our 1-year-old and 3-year-old. Not more than 20 minutes into our journey, our 3-year-old began asking, “Are we there yet?”


In the summer of 2010, my husband and I drove over 1,000 miles to move to Houston with our 1-year-old and 3-year-old. Not more than 20 minutes into our journey, our 3-year-old began asking, “Are we there yet?”

I left one of the nation's top institutions in my field and came to Rice for two reasons: I wanted to come back to my home state, and I wanted to do research that mattered.

The very first entry on my Rice calendar was a meeting on July 6, 2010, with Steve Klineberg. Steve was in the process of setting up the Kinder Institute after just having received a generous gift from Rich and Nancy Kinder. As I shared with him my plans to start the Houston Education Research Consortium, he encouraged me to house it within the Kinder Institute. In fact, Steve was present in my very first meeting with Rice administration, he was present in my first superintendent meeting, and he was present in my very first meeting with potential funders. I don't know whether Steve knew he was cultivating the institute's future leadership, but I'm extremely grateful for his mentorship, his encouragement, and his inspiration.

As we turn to the Kinder Institute's next phase, I'm honored to build on Steve's legacy, as well as the strong foundation set by Bill Fulton, who took a relatively obscure team in the basement of Sewall Hall and turned it into a well known and highly respected Institute. It's a privilege to step into this role with so much to work with.

But if you ask me like my son did, “Are we there yet?” My answer is like I told him: “We're just getting started.”

It's time to take the Kinder Institute to the next level. It's time to move beyond research that identifies problems to research that identifies solutions—and not just solutions that address symptoms, but solutions that address root causes.

You see, I'm not interested in helping those in need—yes, you read that right.

I want to help eliminate need.

Please don't misunderstand me. I grew up poor. I know firsthand what it's like to be in need, and I know what it's like to be the recipient of that kind of help. We must absolutely continue to help those in need. But we can't stop there; we have to move beyond Band-Aid solutions.

That is precisely where research can be extremely powerful. Through research, we can develop solutions that eliminate need and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to build and share in Houston's prosperity, an inclusive prosperity. But we can't do this alone.

Over the last decade, we've learned through HERC's partnerships with school districts that research is truly impactful when the users and producers of research work hand in hand. That is why, going forward, all of the Institute's research will be done in direct partnership with organizations that can put our research to use in meaningful and impactful ways.

Our partnership with United Way is the first of these new partnerships. And there are many more to come. In addition to our partners, I am grateful for our home institution, Rice University. I've been working closely with our provost and incoming president, Reginald DesRoches, who has bold plans—not just about making Rice great, but also about making Houston great. I'm honored to be a faculty member at an institution that takes seriously its commitment to serve our community—and not just through occasional service projects, but through our greatest asset: our research. That is the mark of an elite institution.

I am thrilled and humbled to be the next director of the Kinder Institute. I look forward to working with our outstanding team, our partners, our funders, and all of you. I can't think of anything more exciting than improving lives through data, research, engagement and action.

Like my 1,000-mile journey with two toddlers, it's going to be a long and challenging journey. But we will be so glad we did it, and more importantly, so will future generations.

Turley officially becomes director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research on July 1. 



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