New government relations director joins Rice’s Public Affairs team

Melissa Shute, a seasoned political and public policy expert, became Rice’s director of government relations Jan. 3.

In her new role, Shute will work with the leadership of Rice’s academic and administrative divisions to identify and prioritize legislative goals at the local, state and federal levels. She will also lead the development and implementation of government relations strategies to increase the university’s profile and secure research funding. She’ll also work to link Rice faculty experts with policymakers at the state and federal levels.

Melissa Shute

Melissa Shute

“Rice’s visibility and impact have grown steadily in Austin and Washington, D.C., over the past few years and we can count on Melissa to build on that progress,” Vice President for Public Affairs Linda Thrane said. “Higher education faces many challenges and we’ll be working with new folks in the White House, Congress, the Texas Legislature and government agencies to build new relationships, fortify existing ones and find opportunities to advance Rice’s priorities and share its expertise on the many issues facing our state and country.”

Shute joins Rice from ConocoPhillips, where she served as manager of federal government affairs and most recently as manager of global public policy. She also acquired extensive legislative counsel experience while serving for U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Pat Roberts and as oil and gas legislative counsel for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“I’m excited to join a university with an exceptional reputation especially in research,” Shute said. “My initial focus will be to provide strategic advice and information to Rice policymakers on public policy issues and lead the process of developing Rice’s legislative agenda and strategy.”

She will also work with community relations and university relations directors to build grassroots and grasstops networks and databases.

Shute holds a law degree from the University of Tulsa and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association and the Women in Energy Network.

Shute succeeds Cory Kennedy, who left Rice to pursue a private business venture.

About Kendall Schoemann

Kendall Schoemann is a staff writer in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.