Homecoming week marked Emily (Petty) Dredd’s first visit back to the Missouri Southern campus since she graduated in 2000.
“It’s been great to reflect on where a lot of things started for me,” she said. “It’s hit me as to how many aspects I’m still carrying on – athletics, my academic career and international studies. All those things have carried on into who I am now.”
Dredd’s return to Joplin was for business – as a White House advance associate preparing for the ribbon-cutting event at Joplin High School on Friday, Oct. 3, which will include remarks from Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
“I’m working closely with the school and their already arranged plans, with Secret Service for security for the event and with the media,” she said. “Today I had a meeting on how much barricade will be used and we met with an eagle handler. You never know what a day is going to bring.”
Originally from North Carolina, Dredd’s family moved to Northwest Arkansas her senior year of high school. She chose to attend Missouri Southern because she received a track scholarship and the school was close to home.
An English major, her focus was on professional writing – specifically grant writing.
“I talked to the university grant writer and asked how she got where she was,” said Dredd. “She told me to work and familiarize myself with nonprofits.”
After graduation, she served as the managing editor for the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy and later as a writing specialist for St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. It was while working at the University of Oregon that she became involved with the school’s successful bid to host the U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field.
Then Sen. Barack Obama was in the early stages of his presidential campaign and attended one of the track meets – a visit that Dredd helped to coordinate.
“(His campaign) was planning to be in Portland the next week and his staff asked if I could come help with that,” she said. “It ended up being five different events. I coordinated private interviews and several different activities. (Obama) said, ‘Are you on my team now?’ and I said yes.”
She sold her condo, her car and bike and began traveling the country to coordinate events for the campaign. Moving to Washington, D.C., she continued to work for the White House while also serving as the director of scheduling and special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, as well as the director of external affairs for the National Women’s Business Council.
Now living in Los Angeles, Calif., she continues to work with the White House on advance visits both in the U.S. and abroad, coordinating events for the President and First Lady, as well as the Vice President and his wife.
“Every trip is different,” she said. “There’s always a different hurdle to jump over. Sometimes you land somewhere and there are three different languages you’re dealing with, and you’re working with embassies and Secret Service. I feel honored and lucky every trip and use it as an opportunity to learn something new.
“I look at all of the events I do as a dance. You have all these different players with different needs and you make it all work as smoothly as you can. I love that part of it.”
During her visit to Missouri Southern, Dredd took time to meet with members of the cross country team and talk about how she got to where she is today.
“I told them that you never know when you’re going to meet someone,” she said. “You could be in your sports bra, you could be in your business suit or you might be writing an article. You just need to be open to opportunities and possibilities.”