Jones School EMBA assistant director receives Whitaker Scholarship

In her nearly 10 years at the Jones Graduate School of Business, Assistant Director of the Executive MBA Program Melissa Cote has witnessed the transformative power an MBA has on the lives of countless students. Now Cote is ready to undergo the transformation herself — a challenge she will undertake as the newest recipient of Rice’s Whitaker Scholarship.

Melissa Cote

Melissa Cote

These full-tuition scholarships are awarded to one benefits-eligible Rice staff member each year through the Whitaker Scholars Program. They are designed to help staff who have demonstrated an outstanding managerial contribution and potential for even greater achievement in their pursuit of a superior business education.

Cote is well aware of the rigors and demands she will face when she begins her classes this month. As assistant director of the EMBA Program, she aids Jones School students from the moment they matriculate through graduation — and beyond — with almost everything that occurs outside the classroom. “This ranges from creating class schedules and making sure students have the materials they need to co-leading the annual Jones EdGE Intersession Abroad course in China to everything in between,” she said. “Because the executive students have full-time jobs and families outside of school, our office tries to make the nonacademic pieces run as seamlessly as possible — though the academics are up to the students!”

Cote said she knows several students who have already gone through the Executive MBA Program with a Whitaker Scholarship, and she is grateful that she too has been given the chance.

“The fact that we have this program that essentially pays for the full degree is an amazing opportunity for both the staff member chosen as well as for the university,” she said. “(The MBA will) give me a common language with which to speak to my students, as well as to more fully understand the struggles of going to school while working full time. In the long run, it will provide me with the tools necessary to move into a more senior role at the university.”

First awarded in 2007, the scholarships recognize the importance Rice places on investing in the development of high-potential staff and in the important contribution a Rice MBA can make in that development.

“The Whitaker Scholars Program is really designed for somebody who is looking to take the next step in their career, take on greater responsibility,” said Bill Glick, dean of the Jones School. “They’re selected through a very rigorous process. First, they have to get into one of the MBA programs for fully employed individuals — either the Professional or the Executive MBA — and from there they go through another round of interviews to get the Whitaker Scholarship. It’s a very challenging, highly prestigious honor.”

Mary Cronin, associate vice president for human resources, echoed the dean’s comments about the importance of the Whitaker Scholarship to staff development: “Rice’s ability to effectively support our mission of teaching and research critically depends on the effectiveness of our staff. The MBA provides the tools and experience to improve our staff’s effectiveness, and we welcome Melissa to the team.”

To be eligible for the Whitaker Scholars Program, applicants must be full-time, benefits-eligible employees of Rice for at least 36 continuous months before the semester for which they apply. They must have direct supervision of projects and/or other employees at Rice or be in a position requiring knowledge of business and financial principles.

Applicants must also be admitted to and enrolled in the Jones School, have the full support of their dean or senior administrator and agree to a minimum two-year commitment to remain employed at Rice after graduation from the MBA program.

The Whitaker Scholars Program is named for the late former dean of the Jones School, Gilbert Whitaker Jr. Learn more about the program at


About Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans is a senior editor in the Rice's Office of Public Affairs.