Celebrating 30 Years of the Baker Institute


We had the incredible opportunity to attend the “Raising a Meaningful Voice” themed gala honoring Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The Baker Institute is a leader in data-driven research on foreign and domestic policy issues. The Institute drives and balances dialogue between private and public sector leaders, and topics range from economic crises to international relations.

To commemorate this milestone, the gala featured an evening of reflection, conversation and celebration. The Baker Institute welcomed renowned statesmen and former Secretaries of State, James A. Baker III and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The conversation was moderated by Norah O’Donnell, the Managing Editor and Anchor of CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell. In the past, the Baker Institute has welcomed the likes of Former President Barack Obama and Former Minister of Finance of Iran, Hushang Ansary.

BI Gala Crowd
Hillary Clinton on Screen

The black-tie gala was themed “Raising a Meaningful Voice” in tribute to Baker’s words. In a time of trials and tribulation, the act of raising a meaningful voice has never been more prominent. It encourages us as college students to engage in meaningful dialogue to support all student voices. As students interested in and studying policy and law, it was surreal to see purveyors of American foreign policy in the flesh and hear their thoughts on the current state of the world. Norah O’Donnell was a fantastic mediator and facilitated a lively, but direct conversation that yielded some truly eye-opening insights from Secretaries Clinton and Baker. Hearing about their experiences yielded real-world applicability of the theories we’ve learned as students in political science, policy, and economics classes over our three and a half years at Rice. It was the perfect culmination across disciplines. 

Group of students
Student Pair Photo

As members of the press, we were able to preview the venue beforehand and interact with the Baker Institute team, which included many undergraduate students.

A large team of Rice students welcomed guests, guided them through the venue and helped behind the scenes. Members of the Baker Institute’s Student Forum (BISF) attended as guests, sponsored by event donors. 

“As Co-President of BISF, I’m excited to be a part of a group that increases student engagement with public policy and provides various learning opportunities to Rice students,” said senior Nithya Shenoy. “Just last month, the BISF Executive Board and several other Rice students were fortunate enough to attend the 30th Anniversary Baker Institute Gala, which featured former secretaries of state. I was excited to attend and interested in hearing the opinions of those experienced politicians. Overall, the gala impressed upon me how complex any political process is and the importance of having productive discourse.”

Approximately 1,000 people attended the event, which was co-chaired by Franci Neely, Ann and Karl Stern, and Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, Jr. Over 3,000 individuals tuned in to the livestreamed event, which was also broadcast on C-SPAN and KHOU.com.

Being a small part of an event of this scale was an unforgettable opportunity. From securing invites to getting dressed up in formal wear for the evening, this was definitely one of the top experiences we’ve had during our time at Rice. We are so thankful to the Baker Institute’s Events Team for the invitation to this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.


Naman and Devika

- Naman and Devika 


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