LEXINGTON — Deb Fiddelke, the new chief communications and marketing officer visited Lexington High School on Tuesday, Oct. 16. Fiddelke is touring schools throughout Nebraska in an effort to recruit graduating seniors to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Fiddelke seems especially suited for her role at UNL as communications officer. She grew up in Kearney and earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from UNL in 1990 and 1991 respectively. She also holds a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Fiddelke worked with former U.S. Representative Doug Bereuter of Nebraska and Deborah Price of Ohio. From there she served as press secretary for Chuck Hagel’s successful 1996 Senate campaign. During Hagel’s first term she served as communications director and senior policy advisor.
“While I was working for Hagel it was great to travel back to the state and see parts that I had never seen growing up,” Fiddelke said, “You feel like you are not just working in Washington D.C. but you are working for your own congressional delegation.”
Fiddelke then moved to the White House and worked under President George W. Bush from 2004-2008. In her role as special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, she advised five cabinet appointees through their Senate confirmation hearings and promoted the president’s legislative affairs in the Senate.
She also served as deputy assistant to the president for legislative affairs. In that assignment she served as the White House point person in negotiating immigration legislation in the Senate in 2007 and guided the reauthorization of the president’s international AIDS program.
“The White House opportunity came out of the blue,” said Fiddelke, “I never dreamt I would be able to do that, my dreams did not go that big. It was absolutely incredible to work there.”
She said after six years in the White House, she was ready to return to the Midwest.
Fiddelke traveled to Chicago and served as a senior member of the government and international relations teams which sought to bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016. Fiddelke described her role at Olympic bid as, “the non-Hollywood version of Olivia Pope, I worked on corporate relations.”
In 2010 she joined the Edelman’s Chicago office, where she provided corporate reputation, issues management and crisis communications counsel to clients.
In 2013 she joined SC Johnson and became the firm’s head of global public affairs and communications and later its senior director for global government relations. She handled global government relations between SC Johnson and several Latin American countries. By this time she had figured out, “communication is my passion,” she said.
Fiddelke started her position at UNL on April 30, 2018. She joined the rebuilding process which was underway in the communications department to better promote UNL to the world.
“We sat down and thought of things that were true to UNL to help us distinguish ourselves,” Fiddelke said, “There are so many amazing things going on at UNL, we offer a BIG 10 education, with the feel of a small campus and many scholarship opportunities.”
Fiddelke and her team created a new tag line for the school as part of the rebuilding process. “In our girt, our glory,” is already decorating t-shirts and posters at the university.
“Nebraskans work hard, and we have been humble for far too long,” she said, “There are also so many great things going on at UNL, I am so impressed and learn something new every day.”
When asked about why she returned to Nebraska, she said, “The job opportunity brought me back, it’s an opportunity to do what I love and with an institution I am very passionate about.”
She said the public schools in Nebraska are amazing but that has not been the case everywhere she has lived. She added Nebraska is the perfect place to raise a family, which is why she is raising her own son in Nebraska.
Fiddelke said in terms of recruitment, UNL is one of the few universities that recruit from every high school within the state. She had her colleges have been traveling from school to school, asking the students questions and in turn answering the student’s questions about UNL, the size, the scholarship opportunities, etc.
“Some students think UNL is too expensive, but if you are a student who is doing well academically, then you will have an opportunity for a scholarship,” she said.
Fiddelke comment on her position and communication, “When you write, you have to do so in a way that conveys something in a way that people understand it,” she said.
Now that she is back in UNL, Fiddelke says she is grateful for the opportunity to serve her alma mater, “This is my dream job,” she said.