UCF alumna Jessica Fredericks ’07 is helping preserve American history as the new director of communications for the White House Historical Association.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy started the nonprofit association in 1961 to protect, preserve and provide public access to the rich history of America’s executive mansion.
Fredericks said it is a dream job for her. She’s always loved history, and she credits what she learned at UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and her relentless desire to learn new skills for landing the job.
She said one of the best things a student can do to succeed in their chosen profession or to jump into another career is to learn from successful people. She said she started that at UCF.
The caliber of faculty at Nicholson and the emphasis on real-world experience is what attracted Fredericks to UCF in 2005, she said. A Florida native, she was interested in attending NYU until she visited UCF. She majored in broadcast journalism, where she learned reporting, anchoring, editing, directing and operating cameras.
“The real-world experience I got while reporting for UCF’s Knightly News was reflected in my demo reel- from ride-alongs with Orlando police, to discussions with government leaders, to an investigative piece in collaboration with (Florida’s) Department of Children and Families (office in Orlando),” Fredericks said. “I had several job offers from news directors when I graduated because they were impressed with what I’d been able to accomplish.”
Throughout her time in Orlando, Fredericks co-hosted a radio program on WUCF-FM, interned at WESH 2 and CW’s The Daily Buzz, which ultimately landed her a part-time job.
She was a journalist for several TV stations in Florida after graduating and before moving to DC and taking a radio job at WAMU. That’s where she began her political reporting and anchored live coverage of the 2012 presidential election.
“I reported live from gubernatorial campaign rallies in Maryland and Virginia that featured former President Bill Clinton, covered former President Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity work while watching him construct houses with a team in Maryland,” she said.
From there she covered everything from interviews with New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani to Russian diplomats. She loved it. In fact, it was the Nicholson School of Communication that inspired her to go after her dream, she said.
She began thinking about a jump to public relations a few years ago because she realized she was a publicist at heart. While she was an award-winning journalist, she worked hard to get ready for the transition by taking on freelance projects to learn PR.
“I reached out to extremely successful people in the PR world for knowledge and advice, including the founder and CEO of one of the country’s top publicity firms representing musical artists,” Fredericks said. “I also read and continue to read articles and memoirs written by successful publicist and marketers.”
Following advice and learning from other professionals, Fredericks began her PR career with several freelance roles before joining The Washington Ballet. She was a publicist for superstar ballerina Misty Copeland. It was another incredible experience and career stepping-stone for her as she began the next leg of her career in her current role.
She’s always been a history buff, so when the latest opportunity presented itself, she jumped at it.
“I joined the White House Historical Association two months ago and the best part of my responsibilities is thinking up new ways to promote our many diverse programs, products and events,” she said. “The association was founded … to help the White House collect and exhibit the best artifacts of American history and culture.”
She enjoys being surrounded by people who share a passion for history and education. In her first few weeks on the job she helped coordinate the association’s annual luncheon honoring the birthday of Kennedy.
While Washington is now her home, Orlando and UCF especially stay close to her heart. She said she doesn’t miss a single copy of the Pegasus alumni magazine.
“UCF also has an infectious school spirit and pride that makes you want to be a Knight now and forever,” she said.