Allison P.

Name: Allison Plattsmier

Studying at Vanderbilt: Graduate student studying Community Development and Action

Where you did your undergrad/what you studied there: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, B.S. in Political Science: Public Administration and Nonprofit Management with a minor in Entrepreneurship

Involvements at Vanderbilt: President of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Graduate Student Council Representative for VUPD’s Community-Oriented Results and Expectations Committee, Peabody Career Services Peer Career Mentor, Peabody Honor Council HOD Appointee

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Favorite place on campus: Ingram Commons Fireside Lounge

Favorite show on Netflix: Gilmore Girls or Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Celebrity crush: Scott Michael Foster

Every time I talk to you, you’re raising awareness for another service project. What are all the different organizations you’re involved with? And what is your main job?

Ongoing Volunteer Projects: Client Liaison for the Heimerdinger Foundation Media Relations for Doing Good Fundraising/Grant Writing for Radio Free Nashville FUTURO Arts Leadership Committee Deputy Chair of Young Professionals in Transportation- International Volunteer Leader for Hands on Nashville DoSomething.org Ambassador PwC Advisory Council Public Engagement Task Force for Moving Forward Initiative Development/Administrative Volunteer for the American Red Cross Special Events Volunteer for Humanities Tennessee, Nashville Children’s Theatre, NeedLink Nashville, Nashville Striders, and the Arthritis Foundation 

Service Projects: Close the Loop- fabric/textile recycling drive Love Letters- making Valentine’s cards for Senior in the Meals on Wheels program Guns Out- rallying students to speak out against campus carry Thumb Wars- rallying students to speak out against distracted driving Birthday Mail- making cards for homeless youth Elephant Tusk Force- flagging the illegal sale of ivory on Craigslist Power to the Period- collecting period products for women in homeless shelters PB & Jam Slam- collecting non-perishables for the local food pantry

My current job is Associate Director of Programs and Development for the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee. I plan our two major programs, the Transit Citizen Leadership Academy and the Transit Government Leaders Conference. Both are aimed at educating the public about the current state of transportation in Nashville, what’s working in other areas of the country, possible solutions, and how to secure funding for these solutions. I also help track expenses, create fundraising packets, handle board relations and media relations, work with our partner, MP&F to coordinate social media and the website, and make sure the organization operates efficiently.

 

When did you start doing service and what inspired you to make it such a priority in your life?

I first started volunteering when I was 13 with my youth group, but I feel that my dedication to volunteering really started at the age of 16. When I was 16, I had a thought, “If I were to die, right at this moment, what kind of impact have I made on the world?” I realized that the purpose of life is to make a difference in the lives of others and I wanted to dedicate as much of my time as possible to doing something for others. I started out helping my mom at a Habitat for Humanity build, and I fell in love with it. I volunteered as a Team Leader for the Tennessee Kidney Foundation’s Gift of Life Walk. We raised $1,500 and were named the highest fundraising school that year. I volunteered again the following year, and I was named 5th Highest Individual Fundraiser. It became my passion. I volunteered 300 hours over the next two years and decided it was what I wanted to pursue as a career as well. 

 

You’re also in the first year of marriage. What have been some of the highlights and challenges of being a young newlywed? 

Highlights: Everything! Kris is truly my best friend. We’ve known each other since middle school and there is a lot to be said for growing up with someone. We have both changed a lot over the years but one thing that hasn’t is our relationship. We have always had a deep-seated respect and love for each other that I think is what makes him the perfect partner! 

In terms of actual events, we’ve really enjoyed going to concerts together. This year so far, we’ve seen Blink 182/All-American Rejects/A Day to Remember, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas, Peter Cetera, and Andy Grammer and Gavin Degraw with a few more planned before the end of the year. Music has always been something that we have shared in common from the first time we performed together at the Hume-Fogg talent show to our brief stint in the same band. We’ve always been connected on that front. In terms of the biggest adventure, we went to Barcelona for 10 days for our honeymoon and that was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Since we’ve been in college during our whole relationship, I don’t think we’ve ever had 10 days off work and school to just be with each other so that was wonderful. There’s also something to be said about working together to navigate a new culture. 

Challenges: Honestly, the biggest challenge as a young newlywed is that everyone seems to either underestimate you or feel that they can control every aspect of your relationship. We have been patronized a lot, told that we’re too young for this kind of commitment, that we don’t know how hard it is to make a marriage work, and other things of that nature. Everyone has an opinion on when we should have kids, what our priorities should be, and it gets exhausting. We are each other’s biggest support system. Throughout our relationship, we have succeeded both academically and professionally and, having lived together the last four years, we have always been financially stable and able to handle everything life throws our way. Since we’ve been married, none of that has changed, so I just wish people would stop questioning our relationship based on our age. Other than that, I would say we aren’t able to spend as much time together as we’d like to at times. We are both in graduate school and work full-time, so sometimes it can be hard to just have time to ourselves. But, that’s something we’ve always handled really well. We’re not the type of couple that need to spend a lot of time together in order to validate our love. No matter how busy we are, I know he’s always there for me and he knows I’m always there for him. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. 

I heard you just went to the White House. Like, literally went inside as an invited guest. Tell me more about how you got the chance to go and what it was like to go behind those big gates. 

I was invited to the White House based on my work with DoSomething’s Guns Out campaign. For the campaign, students were encouraged to take a picture of themselves flexing their “guns” and tweet “These are the only guns I want on my campus” at Chancellor Zeppos. Colleges competed across the nation to see which college could rally the most students. 

In one week, I rallied 81 students, more than any of the other colleges that were competing. Because of this, we were chosen to receive a $1,000 grant. With this grant, we implemented a “Get to Know the Officers” series with the Hustler, and we have organized a law-enforcement appreciation event in conjunction with Vanderbilt’s Homecoming. Additionally, I have furthered my work through my appointment on VUPD’s Community-Oriented Results and Expectations Committee. My advocacy with regards to this issue has been centered around increasing safety and security measures to ensure gun violence prevention. I was invited, along with 10 other students, to discuss these efforts with three senior White House officials--Paulette Aniskoff, Kyle Leirman, and Bess Evans who all work with the Office of Public Engagement. 

The session was two hours long and consisted of testimonials by each of the students, regarding what advocacy work they had done, and then a Q & A with Paulette, Kyle, and Bess over how we can do more and how we can overcome challenges we have faced so far. After leaving the White House, we all had lunch together and decided we would like to continue our work by creating a National Gun Violence Prevention Coalition and recruiting students from universities across the nation. 

Overall, the whole experience was very surreal. I still can’t believe it happened. While it was a huge honor to be invited, I was even more blown away to get to meet such passionate student activists that are doing great work around the country. Also, because DoSomething believes in the power of youth, it was nice to be validated because of my age rather than dismissed because of it. It means a lot to be told that your voice matters. 

Congrats on being named one of Nashville’s Top 30 Under 30 and being nominated for Nashville Business Journal’s 2017 Women of Influence Awards! What all does that mean, and how does it feel to be recognized for all of your hard work?

Thank you!!! It means a lot. I first found out about Nashville’s Top 30 Under 30 last year when Kris nominated me and I was really disappointed when I wasn’t chosen so I was blown away when I received it this year. It says a lot about how I have advanced professionally in the last year. Nashville’s Top 30 Under 30 is an event hosted by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Based on nominations, professionals are invited to submit an application and then the committee chooses the top 30 nominees based on professional and philanthropic achievements. Once you are selected, you are tasked with raising $3,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation before the event in April. 

I love the event because not only am I being recognized for the hard work I have put in over the last few years, but I get the opportunity to do something I love to support a wonderful cause. We also get an opportunity every month to network with the other honorees, so I am looking forward to learning from everyone. I am 99% sure that I am the youngest honoree, so I am going into it as a valuable learning experience. 

As for Women of Influence, every year the Nashville Business Journal recognizes women in Middle Tennessee who are shaping their companies, improving our communities, and paving the way for the next generation of influential female leaders. I was nominated in three categories: 

Community Supporter recognizes women who go beyond the call of duty to devote time, energy and resources to support their community. Dynamic Duo recognizes a pair of women who work as a team and contribute equally to a project or mission Nonprofit Leader honors women who display high energy and skill in a leadership role at a nonprofit institution or organization.

Given that I am new to my career in comparison to many of the other nominees, I am unsure whether I will be selected or not but it is definitely an exciting prospect, and I will be extremely honored if chosen. When everything’s said and done, I value these awards not because of the award itself but because of the people it gives me the opportunity to meet. Just being among the most influential women in Nashville would be an amazing award in and of itself.