Katherine Olsen Flaate

Katherine Olsen Flaate

September 25, 2018

Katherine Olsen Flaate (2018).

Katherine currently lives in Oslo, Norway after living, studying and working abroad for the majority of her twenties. She works on advocacy for The Change Factory ensuring that the experiences of children and youth are listened to by key decision makers.

Going where life takes her she has worked with an HIV/AIDS NGO (non-governmental organization) and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in India. She contributed to solving the refugee situation in Europe working on settlement of refugees in Norway and advocating for humane asylum policies as the Vice President of Norwegian Red Cross Youth. Her Red Cross work continued in Nepal before she finished her masters in International Development Studies.  In 2015 she was named an Emerging Young Female Voice of Norway.

Additionally she runs the Norwegian online platform for and by young people Flyt Frem. In her spare time she enjoys making comics, dancing and spending time with loved ones.

What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?

I graduated in 2011 with a double major in Public Communication and Sociology and Anthropology.

What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?

Katherine and friends from Students for Social Change (2010).

During my time at Truman I was actively involved with a wide range of activities. To mention some; I was a TV reporter for News36 (now TMN-TV), president of Students for Social Change (Sociology Club) and held a Peace Fellowship through the American Friends Service Committee. I was a volunteer and then my senior year Co-chair of Arts of Education at the Women´s Resource Center. I also co-founded the Cultural and Societal Honor Society for Sociology/Anthropology students. My senior year I was a founding member and project liaison for the Service Board.

I highly recommend students to get involved and engaged in activities. It´s a wonderful way to meet great people and apply yourself in creative ways while learning new things.

What was your first job after graduation?

After graduating I moved to New Delhi, India to be a Princeton-in-Asia fellow at the HIV/AIDS advocacy, care and support NGO Naz Foundation (India) Trust. I learned so much here that I have brought with me in my work since.

What work do you do/What are you doing now?

I am settling back into life in Oslo after living and working abroad. I recently defended my master thesis about protection and prevention of human trafficking in natural disasters. Currently I am working with advocacy for a Norwegian organization, The Change Factory (Forandringsfabrikken) that ensures that the voices and experiences of children and youth are heard with the aim to improve child protective services, mental health and the school system.

Additionally, I am the Editor in Chief and Co-Founder of Flyt Frem.  The first of its kind in Norway Flyt Frem is the online platform where millennials set the agenda and write about issues they care about ranging from social issues, politics to health and life-style.

Did you go to grad school? If so, where?  Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait?  Why?

Katherine participating in a social media campaign about international humanitarian law (2016).

I recently completed my graduate degree in International Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

To get more hands on experience and to figure out what I really wanted to do I took three years before I pursued a Masters degree. During these years I among other things worked with communication and public diplomacy at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi and with unaccompanied minor refugees in Norway. The work experience that I gained both before and during my Masters degree was very fruitful both personally and professionally. It helped me determine what I wanted to study further and what I was looking for in a program. For me it was very important that the program had room for in field research to conduct research for the thesis. I combined my graduate school with working with settlement of refugees and being the elected Vice President of Norwegian Red Cross Youth with responsibility for our advocacy work.

As I studied International Development I decided to take one year of leave during the degree to be a Youth Delegate for the Norwegian Red Cross working on capacity building of youth to identify and meet local humanitarian needs in a hilly district in midwest Nepal.

How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?

I think the education has helped me in several ways, both as a person and professionally. Having to take courses also outside of my majors ensured a wider foundation of knowledge that is quite useful when continuing to apply new knowledge and skill-sets. Several of the courses I took at Truman had practical components. Either having to conduct research and write in-depth research papers, pitching story ideas and then writing the stories, or by creating and developing projects.

One of my favorites that I learned a lot from was in Political Communication.  In that course we created blogs to follow the Midterm Election in 2010. I learned a lot while also having a lot of fun.

(Editor’s note: It took a little bit, but we found the blog. You can look at it here.)

Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?

That is a very good question.  Although I disliked taking statistics, I have found that it has been very useful in conducting research and also in my work. I think we learn something useful, and sometimes not so useful, from everything. And you never know when that knowledge might become useful.

What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?

I did so many awesome things while at Truman that I truly cherish. One of them was directing Vagina Monologues. Another was being part of the team that arranged the first live convergent journalism coverage of the Midterm Elections in 2010 (Editor’s note: Unfortunately, we could not find this video). It was so much fun, and nerve-racking to be the TV-anchor and doing analysis and interviews as the results were coming in. I was also part of establishing and building up organizations, and the insights I gained from that has been very fruitful also after graduating from Truman.

Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?

It is an incredible place to study. Not only is the academic level solid, professors approachable and the classrooms have a great space for learning – what is really wonderful is that you can also apply what you learn through being actively involved in organizations, internships and research teams throughout your studies that can really set you up for your professional life after. I think this has been really beneficial for my path upon graduating.

Being involved, at least for me was a great place to learn and form wonderful friendships with inspiring people.

What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?

Get involved with something, there is something for everyone. Find out what you are interested in learning more about, and then I am pretty sure you can find a space to do it. If not, you can start it yourself. The opportunities are there to grab. Don´t just think about it, do it. Get involved with the Truman Media Network for sure.

Katherine on Norwegian TV talking about the Nobel Peace Prize (2015).

What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?

Follow your heart in the things you do. Find out your WHY – Why do you want to go into this line of work? Is it to tell people`s stories, to keep people informed, to contribute to policy changes, to contribute to empowerment and betterment of humanity? When you know your why, then do the things that aligns with that. Figure out what skills you need to be able to do that work, and make sure you do something you like and enjoy. Personally, I have really liked doing work that I enjoy regarding issues that I really care about.

My idealistic childhood dream was to become a doctor. I wanted to work with Doctors Without Borders. I was quite heartbroken when I realized that my strong suits were not in sciences such as physics and chemistry. That’s when I started to think about why I actually wanted to do this type of work. The answer was quite simple; I want to contribute towards making the world more just and humane. I don´t need to be a medical doctor to do that.

I then examined what I am actually interested in and where my more natural skills lay. From there I went on the path I am currently on. Since then I’ve worked both directly refugees in Norway and developed and implemented a national campaign related to the tolerance of refugees in Norway.  I’ve also advocated for more humane asylum policies in Norway.

What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?

Katherine and her college flatmate college, Kjersti (2011).

I miss being able to have an idea and then having the space and opportunity to be able to try to make it happen. An example of this is a Social Awareness Film Festival that Students for Social Change managed to start with very little funds. I also really miss the incredibly wonderful people that I spent time with at Truman.

What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?

“Communication: the foundation of everything.”


If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?

Media and communication: A key in advocacy work.

This course examines the role of media and communication in advocacy work. The student will learn how to develop an advocacy campaign, its strategy, tactics and key tools in creating a plan of implementation. A combination of theory and practice will aim to build the capacity of the students in creating advocacy campaigns that can have positive impact for social change in communities, regions, countries or the world.

If you would like to learn more of Katherine’s story, you can follow her personal Instagram or her comic Instagram.


If you want to learn more about the Department of Communication, contact us!