Dear Rice Community,
I am writing today with another exciting announcement about new Rice leadership.
Melinda Spaulding Chevalier, an Emmy Award-winning communicator, brand strategist, crisis management expert and community affairs leader, has been named Rice’s next vice president for public affairs. Melinda will lead the essential efforts to elevate Rice’s visibility, reputation and relationships in Houston — statewide, nationally and internationally.
A nine-member search committee of faculty, staff and board of trustees members selected Melinda after a nationwide search was launched in January by Isaacson, Miller, one of the country’s leading executive search firms. The committee was co-chaired by Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Seiichi Matsuda and trustee emeritus David Rhodes ’96. Melinda will assume the role Aug. 14.
Throughout her career, Melinda has garnered and leveraged public trust and accountability for data-driven results. She is a collaborative and innovative expert in media, higher education and nonprofit organizations. A veteran in journalism, multimedia strategy, stakeholder engagement, corporate events, fundraising and government relations, Melinda has served executive and cabinet-level boards and as a chief spokesperson, ambassador, public affairs leader and trusted adviser.
Her most recent role was with Texas Southern University, where she served as vice president of communications and advancement as well as executive director of the TSU Foundation for six years.
During that time, her responsibilities included the annual formulation and implementation of the strategic development plan for the TSU University Advancement division, which includes the Office of Marketing and Communication, Office of Development, Alumni Relations and KTSU 90.9 FM radio. She was the university’s chief spokeswoman and advised the university’s president, board of regents and nonprofit foundation board of trustees on university messaging and public relations. Melinda also elevated the institution’s and executive team’s brands through media placement, advertising and written communication for internal and external audiences.
Over the past year, Melinda and her 25-member team increased TSU’s media mentions by 41% and overall fundraising by 35%. She led and conceptualized regional and national marketing campaigns in collaboration with enrollment colleagues, resulting in a 32% increase in applications. A social media strategy she implemented has led to a 206% increase in followers and engagement for the university’s main handles. During her tenure, the team also led an overall university brand assessment. As a consultant and producer, Melinda also worked closely with area K–12 districts in Houston and Chicago during the height of the pandemic to produce innovative and urgent broadcast programming to fill educational needs for students, an effort that was recognized by The New York Times.
Prior to her work at TSU, Melinda spent 20 years in print and broadcast news. She was a news anchor and reporter for 13 years at KRIV Fox 26 Television Stations Group in Houston, a news reporter for the ABC affiliate WGNO in New Orleans and a producer for KTLA News in Los Angeles. She also has written and edited for Essence Online and Entertainment Weekly Online and Essence Magazine in New York.
Melinda has received honors for her work, including two Emmys, one for best spot news coverage and another for best reporter. In 2022, she was named one of Houston’s most influential women by Houston Woman Magazine. She serves on the College and University Foundations board for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and is a senior fellow with the American Leadership Forum (ALF).
A native of New Jersey, Melinda earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Howard University and master class credit from Louisiana State University’s Manship Graduate School of Mass Communication.
At Rice, Melinda will lead the more than 35-member team that serves the university in various critical areas, including creative services, government relations, marketing and digital communications, multicultural community relations, news and media relations, and university relations.
Jeff Falk, director of news and media relations, has led the public affairs office and team as interim vice president for public affairs since January. Jeff stepped into the role after Linda Thrane retired from the position at the end of last year.
Jeff has done a wonderful job over the past seven months and will be a huge asset to Melinda as she steps into her new role. I look forward to continuing to work with Jeff and to establishing a strong relationship with Melinda. I support her strategy and efforts to tell the wonderful stories of the Rice community and further Rice’s reputation beyond its current reach and to new audiences around the world.
Please join me in welcoming Melinda and giving her a warm Rice embrace when she assumes her role with Rice later this month.
President Reginald DesRoches