Catherine "Cat" Dehdashti
Public Relations Manager and Writer, University of Minnesota Extension
Joined the U: Started working at the U in 1994 and joined the UMCF in 1996.
What is your favorite aspect of your job? Writing is my first love, but I've discovered that I can direct photo shoots. It helps that I work with fantastic freelance photographers, so I can focus on finding a way to make the photo tell the story in harmony with the text.
Getting out for the photo shoots is one of the ways I get to see U of M Extension in action. Meeting the people who use the research and education for the good of their communities--that's what makes the stories matter to me and how I can make them matter to our audience. We usually write our stories before we shoot them, but I often get some new little nugget or quote on the photo shoot that I can sneak into the story at the last minute.
What excites you about working at the U/your unit? U of M Extension reaches people in all parts of the state, even children and teens through 4-H. Education for people in every county isn't what people always think of when they think of a major university campus, but improving lives is what a land-grant U is about. Our main areas are agriculture and environment, youth development, gardening, families and, communities. Those are rich topics, and always changing.
It's exciting to see University research being shared everywhere, far beyond campus. I know that the outreach piece is a part of other units too. I briefly worked in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and saw their research helping children overcome major impairments. It was what felt most meaningful to me in that department, so I'm happy to work in Extension where it's core to our mission to bring the research and education out to the people where they live.
What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota? Get out of your office when you can to see the people affected by your department's good work. You might feel like you're chained to your desk a lot, but every once in a while look down and notice that there is no chain there after all.
What is your favorite place on campus? Many people on the St. Paul campus would say the horticultural research gardens on Gortner Avenue, and I agree. But in the middle of winter, I treasure the rare chance to visit the greenhouses. The smell of the soil and plants when it's below zero outside (and the bright lights!) boost my energy until the landscape comes back to life.
Favorite book/author and do you prefer paper or e-book? Three books that are amazing to read together, in this backward time-period order: Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, Book of Night Women. Different authors and time periods, but they form a trilogy to me.
Favorite word and word that annoys you? Favorite word: Potion. Words that annoy me are flush and flesh, as in "flush it out" and "flesh it out." I hate when people say those two things in work meetings. Gross!
Favorite place on Earth? North Carolina Outer Banks. I have a little obsession about the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.
Before I die, I would like to: Visit Iran. My husband came here from there when he was only 18 and hasn't been back. I think I want to see it more than he does! I want our children to see the famous Persian gardens and Persepolis, and I'd like to hang out and cook with my husband's old aunties.