UW Tacoma alumna Jordan Wilkerson has long had a fascination with weather. “When I was a kid I remember seeing a water spout and being terrified but also mesmerized,” she said. Wilkerson earned a communications degree in 2014 and now works as a weather anchor at Seattle’s KING 5.
Wilkerson came to the Pacific Northwest from Florida in 2010. Her then boyfriend (they’ve since married) was in the Navy and had been assigned to Naval Base Kitsap. Wilkerson had mixed feelings about moving away from home. “My dad died not long before we came out here,” she said. “We had a great relationship and losing him took a toll.”
Wilkerson lived in Washington for two years before deciding to return to school. She’d already completed an associate’s degree from a community college in Florida. Initially, Wilkerson wanted to attend the University of Washington in Seattle and work towards an atmospheric sciences degree. “I got accepted but it was for the evening degree program,” she said. “We lived in Poulsbo at the time and I didn’t feel comfortable traveling on a ferry at night or driving an hour-and-a-half each way.”
A few people mentioned UW Tacoma to Wilkerson and she decided to investigate. “I visited the campus and it felt very comfortable,” she said. Wilkerson enrolled in the winter of 2013. During her senior year Wilkerson worked with Internship Program Manager Julie Miller. “In this business you really need an internship to get a foot in the door,” said Wilkerson. “Julie really was a great mentor and helped me along the way.”
A dogged Wilkerson sent countless query letters and applications to different stations but didn’t hear anything back. “I remember crying in Julie’s office and telling her this might not work out for me,” said Wilkerson. Not long after she got a call from KOMO. “I went through the interview process and met with Steve Pool,” said Wilkerson. “I just told him that I really needed this, that if he gave me an opportunity I wouldn’t let him down.”
Wilkerson interned at KOMO for the last six months of her undergraduate career. “Steve was amazing,” she said. “He taught me how to use the graphics system and give me pointers when I practiced in front of the green screen.”
Following graduation Wilkerson worked as a reporter and weather anchor at KEPR-TV in the Tri-Cities. “My husband stayed in Poulsbo and for 10 months we made it work long distance,” she said. Wilkerson’s husband received transfer orders to Charleston, South Carolina and the couple moved to the Southeastern United States. Wilkerson took a position at WCSC-TV and worked there until moving to the Seattle area. “We loved it here and were hoping to get the chance to come back,” she said.
Wilkerson is currently working on a meteorology degree from Mississippi State University. “I have about a year left and then I’ll go from weather anchor to meteorologist,” she said. “I’m taking two to three classes at a time right now online and it’s been challenging to balance school with a full time job.”
Wilkerson did her first weather broadcast in middle school. “We had morning announcements at our school and I auditioned to do the weather,” she said. “I got it. The show was pre-taped so I had to ride my bike to school and be there by 7:30 in the morning and class didn’t even start for another two hours.”
At one point Wilkerson considered being a storm chaser. “For a while I really thought it would be cool but then I got older and realized how dangerous it was,” she said. And, yes, Wilkerson lists Twister as one of her favorite movies. “It’s fascinating to think that nature can create something so powerful,” she said. “You know when the conditions are right for a tornado but don’t necessarily know if they’ll develop or where they’ll touch down.”
Wilkerson graduated from UW Tacoma at age 27. For a while her future seemed cloudy. “There were no guarantees,” she said. “My family didn’t have much money but I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship so I could afford school.” Wilkerson braved many storms and ended up exactly where she hoped to be. “My advice to current students is to keep going,” she said. “There is always a way to make your dreams a reality.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org