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From Yosemite to national leader

WASHINGTON — Katariina Tuovinen helps run Yosemite National Park, serious work that has now won her new opportunities and national acclaim.

Yosemite's chief administrative officer, Tuovinen is one of 12 high-achieving women named to an inaugural class of national leadership fellows. For the next year, she'll jet between Yosemite and Washington and network up a storm.

"What we really hope is these women will take the big step forward into the public realm and apply their skills to the benefit of the country as a whole," said Greg Oberg, program fellow for the American Democracy Institute.

The nonprofit group is sponsoring the Women's Leadership Program fellowship, whose winners will gather in Washington for the first time next week. The program starts with a reception Monday in the Capitol Visitors Center, where for a $1,000 contribution potential conference co-hosts have been offered the opportunity to "publicly associate yourself and your organization with a diverse group of extraordinary emerging leaders."

After a Tuesday conference featuring former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others, the fellows will meet in Washington monthly. They also will have one-on-one sessions, by phone or in person, with designated mentors.

The 33-year-old Tuovinen, for instance, expects to workclosely with a public policy professor at Georgetown University.

"I think it's an outstanding opportunity for me to have a mentor and to refine my leadership skills," Tuovinen said Tuesday. "It's pretty exciting."

Tuovinen is accustomed to achieving in different worlds.

She was born in Australia. Her mother is from Sri Lanka, her father from Finland and she was raised in Columbus, Ohio. She has racked up four college degrees, from Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

A National Park Service employee for five years, Tuovinen has been officially based at Yosemite since July. As the administrative chief, she oversees the budget officers, procurement managers, computer jockeys and other support staff often overlooked by park visitors.

"We provide the employees the tools they need to do their work," Tuovinen said. "We do a lot of behind-the-scenes work."

The fellows competed for the slots with essays and interviews. The first class of fellows also includes a speechwriter for Army Gen. David Petraeus, an assistant to first lady Michelle Obama and an emergency room physician who serves on the Virginia Board of Medicine.

"We're looking to empower a generation of women," Oberg said.

Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com or 202-383-0006.

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