Cain Project in the News

The US News’s America’s Best Graduate Schools 2005, which came out in May, featured an article on “Dilbert’s Dilemma.” The article began as follows:

Poor Dilbert, armed with only a pocket protector and a skinny strip of a tie, this sad little engineer makes his way through a bewildering corporate workplace, socially clueless in a nerd-hostile world. Sure, he’s just a comic strip character, but in engineering education, Dilbert represents the problem. ‘He’s the stereotype that engineers have been saddled with forever,’ says Albert Gray, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers. . . . It’s also an image that engineering schools and professional societies across the country have been trying to combat for the past several years.

Caroline Hsu, who authored the piece, reviews what engineering schools across the country have been doing, and concludes with an upbeat assessment of the George R. Brown School of Engineering’s approach:

In 1998, Rice University received a $5 million gift to establish the Cain Project, a program dedicated to improving communication skills in engineers and scientists. Through voluntary, no-credit courses, faculty teach workshops that help grad students develop writing and presentation skills. The thesis writing workshop is perpetually over-enrolled; students don’t dare miss a session for fear of permanently losing their seat to a wait-listed candidate. And they are learning that better soft skills make better engineers.

Since the article was written, the Cain Project has expanded its workshops for graduate students and now offers a Leadership and Professional Development Program with over twenty workshops of varying lengths as well as the thesis writing groups. It’s nice to be recognized in a national guidebook to graduate education!

Cain Project Is a 2004 Conference Sponsor

The Seventh National Writing across the Curriculum Conference was held in St. Louis in May with support from Cornell University, Washington University, nd Rice University’s Cain Project. The Cain Project was host to the sixth national conference earlier in 2002. The 2004 Conference attracted over 400 faculty from many disciplines who are involved with teaching students about writing and presentations in their courses.

The theme of the conference was “Writing across the Curriculum from an International Perspective.” The Cain Project sponsored a video made up of contributed photos and video footage from WAC programs across the world. Representatives from universities from Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Americas participated in the conference. The Cain Project has been providing new opportunities for students to learn about international issues through sponsorship of “Preparing to Communicate in Five Countries, Many Cultures” and participation in the new Mayan Resorts Academic Conferences.

Cain Project
The Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication helps Rice students become expert speakers and writers. Because of Gordon and Mary Cain’s generous gift, undergraduate and graduate students in science and engineering are developing the communication skills necessary for successful professional leadership.
Linda Driskill, PhD
Project Director
  Tracy Volz, PhD
Assistant Director
Rice University
PO Box 1892 - MS-340
Houston, TX 77251-1892
Phone: (713) 348-6141
Fax: (713) 348-6175

Leadership and Professional Development
The Leadership and Professional Development Workshops are designed for graduate students only. The workshops are non-credit, and participation is voluntary. Some workshops have size limits. Most are held on Thursday or Friday afternoons. A few are held on Saturday mornings. A full schedule of dates and times can be found on the web site:

Managing a Thesis Project
Responding to Student Writing
Giving Lab Lectures & Chalk Talks
Technical Presentations
Reading Journal Articles
Presenting a Business Plan
Writing for Publication
Thesis Writing Groups

Presentating Data
(slides & papers)
Designing a Teaching Portfolio
Building Interviewing Skills
Using Professional Ethics
Presenting Research Orally
Defending a Proposal orThesis
Writing for Business


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