A Non-Traditional Journey Leads to a Career of Helping Others
As the WIC manager for the Tulsa Health Department, Pam Holt manages a staff of more than 40 people and oversees a $2 million budget to help women, infants and children in the Tulsa metro area gain access to nutritious food and social services. She understands the importance of the program because she and her children were once a recipient of its services. However, the journey from receiving help as a young, single mother to giving back as a leader in the community was a non-traditional and winding route.
After graduating high school, Holt settled into a busy family life as a young mother to four children. Shortly after her youngest child was born and still in her 20s, she became a single mother with no college degree and an unknown future. Faced with managing her own household, she knew her journey was just beginning.
Holt took basic courses at the local community college and transferred to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah where she majored in dietetics. She chose the university because it had the degree program she was interested in, and it was close to her home and family. The low cost was also attractive, and it allowed her to enroll as a full-time student.
“My family’s support was critical in helping me earn my degree,” Holt said. “Their help allowed me to succeed as a student as well as a mother. That’s one of the most valuable gifts I was given.”
Holt also found support and encouragement from Alexandria Miller, her advisor and a now-retired professor at NSU. After seeing that Holt was particularly interested in health and nutrition and was seeking financial support to continue her education, Miller encouraged her to apply for the dietetics internship at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Holt thought it was a great opportunity with only one catch - she’d need to join the military, a choice she’d never considered. After taking and passing the required military exams and applying for the position, Holt was accepted and shipped off to boot camp.
“It was such a wild experience,” Holt remembers. “I’d never held a gun before let alone shot one, but I learned the basics of weapons right along with the science of nutrition and food. Plus, my kids enjoyed seeing their mom in fatigues, so the experience was definitely worth it.”
After returning from the non-traditional military education, Holt went on to earn her master's degree from Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. Shortly after graduating, she accepted a position at Tulsa’s St. John Medical Center as the food service manager. Her Army training helped her be a better manager and find ways to resolve and avoid conflict while seeking the best outcomes for her team and patients.
Eventually her training and experience led her to her current leadership position at WIC, a destination she planned for and worked hard to arrive at - even if she took a non-traditional route. Holt also serves on several organizational boards in Tulsa County, a responsibility she values because it lets her be part of the community and help more people.
“I encourage anyone at any time to find the educational route that best fits their desires and goals,” Holt said. “I didn’t take the traditional educational course, but I found schools, mentors and opportunities willing to help me succeed.”