INSPIRING WOMEN: Alyssa Volkmann

Alyssa Volkmann is quickly become part of my circle. I met her last year when she was in New Orleans with one of Hamline’s Catalyst spring break service learning trips. More recently, she has been helping me with some blog research and editing. I’m still getting to know Alyssa– but everything I know about her I love! We have lots in common and share some similar passions.

Alyssa is smart, bold, invested in supporting women around her, and socially conscious and critical.

Alyssa grew up in Northern Wisconsin with her mom and sister. Her parents divorced when she was young, so she spent her childhood with her mom and her big sister as her main caregivers. She has always really loved education. Despite economic obstacles, her family always told her she would go to college. Not only did she love school, but she had access to an awesome, small school that prepared her extremely well for high school where she graduated in the top 20% of my class as an honor roll student. She was very involved (a woman after my own heart!), participating in organizations like Model United Nations, German Club, National Honor Society and Student Council.

Now, Alyssa is at Hamline where she has declared a double major in Social Justice and Sociology (my fav!) and is considering a Social Justice concentration in Public Health and Youth Advocacy. She’s also involved in a plethora of organizations at Hamline on including Pride Black Student Alliance, the Hmong Student Alliance, Asian Pacific American Coalition, and is on the executive board of Spectrum - Hamline’s under-graduate LGBTQIA organization. And, naturally, she also works for the McVay Youth Partnership.

Alyssa plans to study abroad and recently got accepted into a study abroad program next spring with HECUA’s (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs) about Democracy and Social Change in Northern Ireland. She’s on track graduate in May ’17 and when she does, she will be the first person in her family to graduate from college. After graduation she plans to work for a non-profit organization that allows her to work with youth. Then she hopes to attend graduate school for sociology.

In her free time, Alyssa likes to spend time with friends, go out for pho in St. Paul (she says this is the best thing ever during long Minnesota winters), make mix CD’s, explore the Twin Cities and watch documentaries. She is a big lover of the outdoors, so she also jumps at any chance to go sightseeing and hiking.

Alyssa reminds me a bit of myself when I was in college! She seems to be involved in some similar activities and have several similar passions and inspirations. I knew I liked her when we met last year and I’ve been happy to stay in touch over social media since. Working together a bit recently has been great as she is incredibly patient with me and my overwhelming business.

I am admire Alyssa taking on a study abroad experience that aligns so well with her studies in sociology and social justice. When I learned she has studied German, I assumed she would go to Trier like I did in college but was pleased to hear about her decision to study in Northern Ireland as it will assuredly have more depth with themes of social justice and social change.  I also admire Alyssa’s bold voice. I love how she posts radical information and statuses over social media. I look forward to staying connected with Alyssa to see what exciting and world shaking things she’s working on.

I love what Alyssa shares related to her inspirations and advice below. . .

What inspires you? What do you care about deeply? 

“I care deeply about social justice and I am inspired by vulnerability, empathy and honesty. When working towards social justice, it’s extremely emotional and personal work. In order to be successful in in any capacity, it is necessary to work with people and build relationships and I admire people who are willing to be honest and vulnerable to establish interpersonal relationships with colleagues who share common goals. I believe that opening up and sharing your honest story and listening to others with empathy are necessary in working towards social justice and I am inspired by those who give so much of themselves in whatever work they do.”

Who are women in your life or throughout history that inspire you? 

“My mom is one of my biggest inspirations in my life. She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. Growing up, I feel like most kids go through the stage where they say they will never become their mom, but the longer I am away from home, the more I feel myself becoming my mother (haha). I am so thankful that she raised me to believe in myself and the value my opinions, while also letting me form my own opinions that are different than hers. Although I am growing to be like her in many aspects (smart shopping, cleaning, sarcastic and thoughtful), we are also extremely different. Luckily, we embrace that difference. After coming to college, I came out as queer and though my mother is not apart of the community, she has worked hard to understand my identity and has been extremely supportive. She puts in a lot of effort to grow with me and understand my opinions on things and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

“Another woman who has inspired me is Audre Lorde. I love how unapologetically authentic she is. Women like her are the trailblazers that have made it possible for women to celebrate the intersections of their identities and practice solidarity among women with identities different than our own. Her wisdom is something that I seek when I need guidance or feel burnt out because she has a magical way with words that inspires me to move forward. One of my favorite quotes of hers is, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” I truly believe that our work as women will never be done until every woman in the world is free from whatever is oppressing her. This is something I carry with me in the work I do on my campus, in the classroom and in my personal life.”

If you had one piece of advice to your former self (10+ years ago), what would it be and why? 

“Stop negative self-talk NOW! à I wish that someone would have stopped me from developing this habit before it became as ingrained in my psyche as it is now. I know that I have accomplished a lot and that I am someone of value; however, there are days where my self-talk becomes very negative and once it begins to go down that path, it is extremely hard to stop the process. This habit is not beneficial to me and it uses up so much of my important, much needed energy that I could be putting into productive things. While I know that this habit is problematic, it’s extremely difficult to change it when it’s so much apart of me. I feel like it takes away a lot of my light, and I wish that someone had taught me how important it is as a child to develop the habit of positive self-talk. I can feel the difference in the energy I give off when my self-talk is positive, and that’s one of my biggest inspirations to continue changing this habit. I would like to challenge you to instill the value of positive self-talk in every person you have the opportunity to work with, especially young people, because I truly believe it could change lives.”


This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!