Melinda Spaulding Chevalier named VP for public affairs at Rice

Melinda Spaulding Chevalier

HOUSTON – (Aug. 2, 2023) – Melinda Spaulding Chevalier, an Emmy Award-winning communicator, brand strategist, crisis management expert and community affairs leader, has been named Rice University’s next vice president for public affairs.

Melinda Spaulding Chevalier
Melinda Spaulding Chevalier (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

Spaulding Chevalier, who most recently served as vice president of communications and advancement at Texas Southern University and executive director of the TSU Foundation, will now lead efforts to elevate Rice’s visibility, reputation and relationships in Houston — statewide, nationally and internationally.

Assuming the role Aug. 14, she will head 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.

“Throughout her career, Melinda has garnered and leveraged public trust and accountability for data-driven results,” President Reginald DesRoches said in a message to the Rice community Wednesday morning. “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.”

“I’m honored to join President DesRoches and the Rice leadership team during an exciting time in the university’s history,” Spaulding Chevalier said. “I look forward to working collaboratively with the talented public affairs staff and all campus stakeholders to strategically drive increased awareness of the world-class Rice brand and cultivating critical government and community partnerships.”

During her time at TSU, Spaulding Chevalier’s 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.

Over the past year, Spaulding Chevalier 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.

As a consultant and producer, she 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 recognized by The New York Times.

Prior to her work at TSU, Spaulding Chevalier 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.

Spaulding Chevalier 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.

A native of New Jersey, she 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.

Spaulding Chevalier and her husband, Felix Chevalier, have a daughter and a son, Landon and Felix II.

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. Falk stepped into the role after Linda Thrane retired from the position at the end of last year.