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Sunday, April 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Melinda Spaulding Chevalier chases new storms

Courtesy Rice News

By Lajward Zahra     2/28/24 7:27pm

Melinda Spaulding Chevalier, Rice’s vice president for public affairs since August 2023, is more familiar with being the reporter than the story. Before working in communications, public affairs and higher education, she spent decades in journalism and was recognized by organizations like the Associated Press and the Emmy Awards.

“Growing up, I always wanted to be a journalist, and to be able to live out your dreams is something that I’m very fortunate to say I was able to do,” Spaulding Chevalier said. “I loved the act of interviewing people, writing about their stories and telling their stories.”

Spaulding Chevalier’s career started in New York. Soon after she graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., she began writing for Entertainment Weekly Online and Essence. She left New York for New Orleans in 2000 to become an ABC affiliate anchor and reporter before moving to Houston four years later, working as a reporter and anchor for KRIV FOX 26 — a position she stayed in until 2017.

“I got to witness so many events in history [as a reporter], from presidential campaigns to major sporting events,” she said. 

Covering the harrowing effects of Hurricane Katrina was a moment that stood out to Spaulding Chevalier in her reporting career, she said, because of her ties to New Orleans and the magnitude of the event. 

“I love chasing storms; it was my favorite thing to do. I’ve been in 15 hurricanes or tropical storms over my career,” Spaulding Chevalier said. “Hurricane Katrina was my most memorable assignment because I had a personal connection to the location. I had been a reporter in New Orleans and I was sent back to cover that, and I think that assignment was probably the most impactful for me in my career.”

Spaulding Chevalier began her foray into public affairs in 2017 as the vice president of communications at Texas Southern University. At TSU, she was able to lead marketing initiatives that significantly bolstered TSU’s visibility and reputation across multiple metrics, she said.  

“I never thought I would be in public relations. Honestly, my decisions were driven by family, and my desire to also take on a new challenge and leverage my storytelling skills for an organization with a mission,” Spaulding Chevalier said. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Spaulding Chevalier pitched the idea of broadcasting teachers’ lessons to D’Artagnan Bebel, the general manager of Houston’s Fox News station. Within two weeks, local educators were on air, providing condensed lessons to students who did not have access to devices needed for remote learning.  

Spaulding Chevalier said that she thought of the project when she herself had to accommodate her children’s abrupt switch to virtual learning, wanting to help those who could not afford to adjust as easily. 

“During the pandemic, I had a moment where I had just finished standing in line outside of a Target because my kids needed a Chromebook to continue with their education,” Spaulding Chevalier said. “I had a moment of sadness where I thought, ‘What about the mom or dad who couldn't afford to make this purchase?’” 

The project expanded to Fox News stations in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In Chicago, Spaulding Chevalier worked with her sister, filmmaker and producer Tamika Spaulding, to get the program on air. 

“We moved it from the Houston area to Chicago, which is where my sister lived at the time and she became my producing partner,” Spaulding Chevalier said. “It stemmed from us just wanting to be helpful. That's how our parents raised us, and I’m proud of the work that we did together as sisters.” 

At Rice, Spaulding Chevalier said she hopes to continue to invest in her community by amplifying the stories of the people around her and pushing for Rice’s success. 

“There are so many great stories to tell, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with campus partners to tell the most exciting and best story of Rice to build upon what’s already taking place here,” she said. 

Spaulding Chevalier said she believes that diverse perspectives add understanding to spaces and groups. She cited her comfort with being able to have difficult conversations as a strength at institutions like Rice.

“I am so grateful that I've been able to have a seat at the table because I think different voices are needed,” Spaulding Chevalier said. “Since childhood, I’ve had a comfort level talking about difficult things. I am happy to be a conduit of understanding among different groups of people.”

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