ConventionSouth

MAY 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ M A Y 2 0 1 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 12 In 2015, Deesha Dyer advanced to what many would consider the pinnacle of the meeting and event planning profession; she was named Spe- cial Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary for the Obama Administration. Her path to reaching this achievement was far from typical. A Philadelphia native, Dyer was enrolled in a four-year university the fall after she grad- uated from Milton Hershey School, a private philanthropic boarding school in Hershey, Pa. However, her college plans were cut short when she returned home during her first year, due to financial hardships. She went to work as an assistant at the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, where she honed her skills of detail orientation and project coordination. At the same time, she took on a side-gig as a free- lance hip hop journalist, which she credits with teaching her how to exercise resourcefulness and work with a variety of personality types to complete her story assignments. At the age of 30, Dyer returned to school and pursued a degree in women's studies. While taking classes at the Community College of Philadelphia, she became an intern in the Of- fice of Scheduling and Advance at the White House. This was the start of her seven-year tenure there. She advanced to become Asso- ciate Director for Scheduling Correspondence (2010), Hotel Program Director (2011), and Deputy Director and Deputy Social Secretary (2013), before being named the Special Assis- tant to the President and Social Secretary at the White House. During those years, Dyer traveled with the president and first lady, representing the White House on press, lodging and event site logistics. She oversaw a team that coordinated the visit of Pope Francis, State Dinners with heads of states, historic international summits and diplomatic events. In addition, she nego- tiated and booked White House performances with Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar and the Broadway musical Hamilton. She also collaborated with colleagues on award ceremonies, sports cham- pionship visits and cultural celebrations and produced policy-related events on education, military support, healthcare, immigration, cli- mate change and civil rights. Dyer was a featured guest speaker at Ren- dezvous South 2017, held at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center in Virginia's Blue Ridge and produced by ConventionSouth. During that event, we had a chance to gain some personal insights from her about her background, her work at the White House and her future plans. Did you ever dream, when you were growing up, that you would be work- ing in the White House one day? I did not! When I was young, the White House could have been on a different planet for all that I knew about it. I grew up in Philly, so it was a place we sometimes saw on school trips. But I never thought I'd be personally involved in politics, especially at the national level. Then, the seemingly impossible happened. How did you find out about the in- ternship that got your White House career started? I was involved in mentoring young girls in Philadelphia, helping them learn about the opportunities for internships, scholarships and studying abroad. During this time, I learned about an internship at the White House. I liked President Obama and had a dream of working for him, so I applied. (Dyer was a student her- self, at this point, having returned to college to complete a degree.) As you moved into different roles in the White House, how did your skills and experience help you? I experienced an unusual set of circumstances. White House interns don't typically get to meet the president. However, when I had been there just a short time, the tragedy at Fort Hood took place, in November 2009. Most of the presi- dent's advisors were in Asia for a summit. The White House needed someone to go to Texas with President Obama to meet with the fami- lies. Because of my history of community work and my organizational background, I was cho- sen. I had 48 hours to arrange a 20,000-person event. I was asked to make arrangements for the president to visit survivors in the hospital, to meet some of the families of those killed or injured, and to attend the rally I had put to- gether. I first met the president on the flight to Fort Hood. How did your internship lead to other positions at the White House? When my internship ended in Decem- ber of 2009, I had no plans to stay on at the White House. I wasn't really sure Washing- ton, D.C. was for me. But the experience had taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to and I had learned a lot about how the government works. Then my supervisor on the White House staff moved to another job and I was asked to fill her job. So, in June of 2010, I planner profile: Deesha Dyer Former Special Assistant To The President And White House Social Secretary, Obama Administration; Creative Event & Strategy Expert; Writer Q: Q: Q: Q:

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