Mark Rice clearly remembers sitting at his dining room table one night in 2017 when he got a phone call from President Kerry Healey. She was calling with a job offer: acting provost at Babson College.
More than a year since his return to Babson, Rice has been named provost. As the College’s chief academic officer, he leads the institution’s academic priorities, working closely with deans and faculty across campus. Rice shares that he’s most inspired by the extraordinarily connected community at Babson. Here, he talks about his family, career, and the class he’s teaching this semester.
The Rices have a family motto.
Mark Rice has earned three degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)—two in engineering, plus a PhD in management in entrepreneurship. “I’m a three-time RPI nerd,” he says. Rice and his wife have two adult daughters. Throughout the girls’ childhood, the family motto was nerd is a beautiful word—a line that even made its way into the maid of honor’s speech his daughter gave at her sister’s wedding.
Rice is an entrepreneur.
For Rice, entrepreneurship is about looking for ways to make things better and trying new things. “It’s about creating the future: a new product, process, service, or business model,” he says. In that sense, he always has been trying to make things better, and always has been entrepreneurial. In 1979, Rice was one of four co-founders to launch a solar energy company out of the RPI business incubator. He worked on the company for seven years, learning a lot in the process. “Really smart people can work on a product, but if you don’t have someone who can make a business out of it, you’re just a product development team,” he says.
Persistence changed his life.
Rice and his family lived in Texas in the mid-1980s. As the economy soured in oil-soaked Texas, he began looking for jobs elsewhere. “I wanted to run the incubator at RPI, where I had originally started my business,” he says. More than 100 people applied for the job. Rice remembers a call from the head of the search firm. “He told me there was good news and bad news—I was among the top 12 candidates, but only the top six were going to be interviewed.” Rice didn’t give up, and reconnected with RPI’s first incubator director in a bid to land an interview. “A few days later I got another call. They said I’d been professionally persistent and invited me to interview, and that job changed my life.”
He has been at Babson before.
Rice was at Babson from 2001 to 2010, as a professor of entrepreneurship and dean of the Graduate School. One thing that hasn’t changed? Babson remains an extremely engaged community. “Babson is an unusual business school, and the level of enthusiasm and engagement of our faculty, students, and alumni is phenomenal and very inspiring.”
Rice is at home in the classroom.
This semester he is co-teaching The Ultimate Entrepreneurial Challenge, an undergraduate class he describes as “way cool.” If the roles were reversed and he were a student, Rice’s top picks would be a poetry class with Professor Mary Pinard and a marketing class with Associate Professor Lauren Beitelspacher. “I had so much experience with graduate students when I was dean, so I’d be excited to learn something new in undergraduate classes,” he says.
Keep an eye out for Rice at Trim Dining Hall.
“Bala (Iyer, dean of faculty) and I go to Trim once a week to hang out just for fun,” says Rice. When Rice isn’t eating out, he’s typically cooking for himself. While living in Texas in his 20s and 30s, Rice discovered a new world of spices and flavors. “I grew up eating very bland American food where the only spice was salt, but now my favorite thing to cook and eat is Indian food.”