Ethnomusicology department chair

Rice in Department of Ethnomusicology chair's office (1997).  

Q. You have had a long history at UCLA of being an administrator. It was only a few years after you arrived that you became chair of the Department of Ethnomusicology. Could you tell us about some of your successes as department chair?

A. I can't always remember everything that we did, but I would say that the most significant change that I made as an administrator was simply to figure out a way for students to go through the program in a reasonable time. When I came here, there was a student in the program who was an outstanding student and who has gone on to a distinguished career, but I believe she was a student at UCLA for more than ten or fifteen years, and that was because there wasn't a very clear path for her, when she was here, through the program. When I was here, it wasn't that bad, but students were spending way too long on their master's thesis. They could spend three years or more writing a master's thesis, and I advocated to the faculty that we not require a master's thesis any more; that if we regarded the Ph.D. as a kind of proto-book, let's regard a master's paper as a kind of proto-journal article, which could be written within the framework of a two-year master's program. And ever since that time now, all of our students have gone through the master's program as a cohort. They’ve all graduated and gotten an M.A. in two years. They have gone on to their Ph.Ds and everybody has pretty much finished in a timely fashion. So I think administratively that might have been my main contribution. I don't know if there was a contribution intellectually, really.  We have so many faculty members here, all of whom are making their contributions. It is one of the greatest strengths of UCLA: that we all work on the curriculum together. That was a revision that the faculty got together on.  I think it's been very successful from the point of view of students and getting them through the program in a timely manner, and getting them out there onto the job market.

Q. You also made sure that students had a role in the process when the department had to make important decisions. Is that something that you consciously thought about?

A. Absolutely. I characterize myself, although I don't look like it now, as a child of the 60s. But in the 1960s I looked like a child of the 60s, with my long hair and beard and so on. (Laugh) In the 1960s the students tried to take over the university and I've always been very sympathetic to students and the idea that they should have a prominent role in their education and in administering their education. So, I've always advocated for their membership on committees and other kinds of things. That's just a part of who I am.

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