Ask Rice University general counsel Richard A. Zansitis what he likes most about his job, and he replies, without hesitation: “I like working for a place where ideas matter.”

Rice University, a private research university known for its distinguished faculty and academically gifted students, occupies 285 acres near the heart of downtown Houston. Within its three-mile campus perimeter, rimmed by flowering hedges and live oak trees, approximately 850 full-time, part-time and adjunct faculty members teach more than 4,800 undergraduate and graduate students. Countless university employees — from groundskeepers to the president of Rice, David Leebron — contribute in myriad ways to implementing the university’s mission statement: “to provide an unsurpassed undergraduate education … to produce internationally distinguished scholarship and research and excellent graduate education in carefully focused areas … and to serve the continuing educational needs of the larger community.”