When Natalia Orozco ’21 graduated in 2016 with an undergraduate degree in journalism, she never guessed she would ultimately find her passion in nonprofit communication strategy. But that changed once she saw the power communication can have to make a difference in the world.
“I believe that strategic communication is a key ingredient in shaping a better future,” said Orozco, who is now a director at Spitfire Strategies, a public interest communications firm focusing on delivering communication strategies that lead to meaningful social change.
Learning nonprofit communication strategy and making connections
Orozco started her career at Justice and Joy National Collaborative as a Portland associate working on social media and communication. By the time she left, she was director of brand strategy and communications. Although she had discovered an interest in strategy, she felt she lacked the vocabulary to clearly articulate her ideas to her team. So she applied to the UO School of Journalism and Communication’s (SOJC) and Strategic Communication Master’s program.
“I feel the strategy piece is something that often goes over people’s heads, which is also why I ended up where I did, because it’s very strategy led,” Orozco said. “After working in a nonprofit and now working with nonprofits, I’ve learned strategy is something people take for granted.”
In 2019, when she was looking to apply for a master’s program, Orozco knew she wanted to stay in the Portland metro area. She debated applying for both the Strategic Communication Master’s and Multimedia Journalism Master’s programs on the SOJC Portland campus.
“I was really intimidated before I did the in-person tour and visit sessions. When I looked at [UO master’s programs] online it said ‘mid-career,’” Orozco said. “As a young person in the role, you often underplay how much experience you do have, and how many experiences you have.”
As a master’s student, she was able to grow both her skills and her network. She met Erin Birx Hart, a member of the Strategic Communication Master’s program’s advisory Strategic Communication Leadership Network, at a networking event, and they hit it off. Hart is also an instructor for the program and a principal at Spitfire Strategies. Orozco said she learned a lot in Hart’s classes at the SOJC, especially about nonprofits and communication. Through Hart’s classes, Orozco was able to get a solid foundation in crafting communication strategy.
Hart, in turn, was so impressed with Orozco that she encouraged her to apply for a job at Spitfire right after she graduated.
“Natalia stands out because of her listening skills. She takes in information and feedback, asks questions and refines her thinking and approaches, all while maintaining and respectfully sharing her point of view,” Hart said. “Her approach demonstrates care for effective work and partnerships, and she builds relationships that are essential to our work.”
Making a difference with nonprofit communication
Orozco has worked at Spitfire for almost three years, doing a variety of communications, including developing communication plans for large and small nonprofits and foundations, building brands from scratch for new organizations helping clients land meaningful media placements and developing thoughtful messaging to help her clients reach their desired audiences.
“At my job, I get to work every day with other people working out a variety of different issues: nonprofits, for-profits (rarely), foundations — everything from getting people to vote for reproduction justice to a clearer environment,” Orozco said. “It’s special to support missions that I care about and learn so much all the time about the amazing work that people do throughout the country.”
Looking back on her time in the Strategic Communication Master’s program, Orozco is grateful for the doors it opened and how it has helped her career.
“Going to grad school was one of the best things I could’ve done for myself,” she said. “I think one of the greatest values I got from it was confidence and that I know what I’m doing.”
—By Sophie Fowler, class of ’26