By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations
Jade Tate, ’14, spent this spring as a White House intern in the Office of the First Lady in Washington, D.C. Using skills gained from internships and a bachelor’s degree in event management from UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, Tate assisted with a variety of events, from press conferences, dinners and receptions to bill signings, national championship team visits and movie screenings.
She credits her professors for preparing her not only to excel in this prestigious internship program, but also for supporting her during the competitive application process. Although Tate’s internship ended on May 1, she already secured a full-time job in the events industry as a sales assistant at The Jefferson, Washington, D.C.’s finest, small historic hotel.
For the benefit of other students considering the program, Tate shared details about her experience as a White House intern and what it took to get there:
Why did you decide to apply for a White House internship?
As my graduation date approached, I began to realize the Orlando area is highly saturated with hospitality seeking professionals specializing in the hotel industry. I knew that I wanted to work in the events field and only the events field, so I needed to place myself in a city where I felt I would thrive. Quite frankly, I knew that I would be in a highly vulnerable and transitional phase of my life and wanted to put myself in a position to succeed. A few months before [the White House Internship application deadline], my active duty Air Force parents were notified they were going to be stationed in the National Capital Region. I researched internships in the Washington D.C. area and came across the White House Internship Program and saw that the Social Office within the Office of the First Lady was an option. I realized I would have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself and gain invaluable experience and exposure to event planning in a highly visible office. Additionally, I would be able to depend on my family for emotional, spiritual and financial support.
What was the application process like and how did you prepare?
As with any major decision in life, conducting research is very important! Just like any application, I started off with researching the White House Internship Program and previous events conducted by the Social Office within the Office of the First Lady, my primary office of interest. As I gathered more information about the possible office I could be selected for, I definitely fell more in love with the positions and that helped fuel my desire to complete the application to the best of my ability.
This program is highly competitive. Why do you think you were chosen? What do you think made you stand out?
Yes, definitely highly competitive! It was something that kept ringing in my head when I was applying. Washington, D.C. is the political epicenter of the United States and as an event management major with no political experience or involvement, it scared the living day lights out of me! Interns however come from a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds. Coming from a hospitality background, I knew I would be a different type of candidate, but nonetheless very useful in the Office of the First Lady. Throughout my college career, I was constantly involved in the event industry, from internships to catering to my starting my own business. I made sure I was constantly getting a wide variety of experience.
Describe a typical day as a White House intern.
First, when planning events, no day is typical…ever! In my office, when I arrive at work, I do my morning rounds to make sure everything is set for my supervisors that day. E-mails are always the second thing I do because they give me a sense of what is happening in the office that day; I also respond to any outstanding event requests we receive. As interns, we help things flow more smoothly for the event directors. Personally, I handle a lot of photos from events – processing and staying in contact with the right people to make sure those who come to our events receive their photos. On event days, I assist the event’s point of contact with any last minute details that need to be finished (photo cards, announcement cards, seating card placement, interoffice communications) before doors open for the event.
What kinds of events are you assisting with?
One of my favorite things that attracted me to this internship and has proven to still be one of my favorites is the varied event experience I’ve received. We do movie screenings, dinners, receptions, message events, The First Lady’s Let’s Move! or Reach Higher initiative events, bill signings, national championship team visits (pro-sports) and press conferences. Every day is a new adventure and each event has its own personality.
What’s the best or most memorable experience you’ve had so far?
The best experience I had so far would definitely be our African American History Month Reception. For this specific event, I helped bring in a youth orchestra from the local D.C. area to play. It’s fulfilling to know that it was more than simply putting on an event; it also touched lives.
Do you feel Rosen College prepared you for this opportunity? Are there any skills or lessons you learned that you’ve been able to apply to your work at the White House?
Rosen College provided so many opportunities to grow as an event professional! The professors are honestly the most influential part. In an industry where experience and working in the field are where you gather the most information and knowledge, the staff is what makes the difference. Don’t get me wrong, the education behind the industry has helped me prevent myself from making mistakes that ignorance could have caused and helped me gain a worldly perspective on the industry that I love to be a part of, but there is no comparison to the professors/mentors that I have gained through my time at Rosen College. Ms. A’Rion Raymond — I took every one of her classes that I could — was one of the most inspiring and down to earth professors. She graciously wrote one of my letters of recommendation for this internship. Ms. Deborah Weissberg was a gem from my first Intro to Hospitality class in my first semester at Rosen College to my senior year Communications class. She was such an inspiration and a driving force behind my confidence to apply. She also edited my resume before I submitted my internship application. I cherish the professors so much and the education they are willing to instill in their students — they truly love us.
What’s next for you after the internship ends? What are your plans?
I recently accepted a full-time position as a sales assistant at The Jefferson, a luxury hotel in D.C. I am currently applying to graduate schools and public relations programs to complement my Event Management degree. In addition, I am taking this time to really enjoy this new phase of life and being back home with my family. The possibilities are endless in D.C. and honestly, that is one of the most invigorating feelings.