From a global studies master's program to the forest

Kathryn Desvignes Holder

January 29, 2024 - 11:00am

One of the top federal positions in Oregon has recently been filled by a global studies alumna. 

In 2017, Kathryn Desvignes Holder earned her global studies master's degree, specializing in cross-cultural communication and Africa. She is now the public affairs officer and public engagement lead for the Umatilla National Forest. In this role, she communicates directly with legislators, county commissioners, state, and local leaders, stakeholders, advocates, and the general public to bolster partnerships and collaboration with the forest services’ programs and projects. 

In this capacity, she leverages educational materials, video productions, photography, press releases, newsletters, public meetings and more to engage the diverse voices surrounding the forest. 

“My international focus gave me a competitive edge in securing this position, plus my strong research skills, focus on cross-cultural communication, and internship experiences all played a key role in putting me at the top of the candidate pile," Desvignes Holder said. 

Originally, Desvignes Holder chose to pursue her master's in global studies because she served two years in the Peace Corps in Zambia, teaching fish farming. While there, she connected with a nonprofit called Kwasha Mukwenu, meaning “Friends Helping Friends." 

"Through my development efforts with their team since 2011 I have seen them grow from one to now five training and education centers, working to help support people who experience disabilities," Desvignes Holder said. "This work aligned well with a global studies master's degree, focusing on public impact and public service.” 

Desvignes Holder credited her education and these experiences as the launchpad to look at jobs with federal service. 

“My communication and collaboration skills were enhanced due to this degree," she said. "It helped me understand that I love engaging with a wide diversity of people because I learn so much about myself and the world through the perspective of others. It also taught me self-advocacy, how to create an elevator pitch, how to find my voice and feel confident in it, and it gave me the tools necessary to reach my goals.”

Desvignes Holder is excited to start this new leadership role and encourages others to pursue a degree in global studies. 

“When I was a global studies student at the University of Oregon, I felt so appreciated, supported, and welcomed by faculty and staff," she said. "Don’t take that for granted. They have built an incredible team—you will not find that everywhere and I feel very appreciative. It really is a supportive community that just doesn't quit!"