Tam “Tallie” Phan ’21 Blends Academic Experience with Civic Engagement

From renovating a community recreation space for children in Hoi An, Vietnam, to helping to oversee a campus-wide blood drive at Plymouth State University, Tam “Tallie” Phan’s commitment to service has deep roots and far-reaching impact.

Phan ’21, an international student, came to PSU from Hanoi, Vietnam, where her philanthropic convictions were nurtured early on through her education and family. In her time at Concordia International School, a private, nonprofit, day school, Phan learned the importance of giving back to one’s community. “My high school really encouraged the mindset to be of service to others,” she says.

This service-minded approach came easily, having been modeled in her elementary school. As a child, she participated in schoolwide recycling days, celebrated the Day of Giving, and visited SOS Children’s Villages to connect with orphaned children cared for by the organization.

At home, Phan’s parents reinforced these community-centered messages. Her mom supported a boy, now a successful architect, in going to college. “When she told me that story, I realized how great of an impact you can have on someone’s life by giving them the help they need when they need it,” says Phan.  

The Buddhist influences she encountered growing up also inspired Phan to lead her life with empathy, mindfulness, and compassion. “It’s just such a big part of the culture,” Phan says. “The community comes first before our individual needs.”

Now 8,000 miles from where she grew up, Phan finds herself a junior at Plymouth State University. When she first started to think about college, Phan wasn’t sure where she wanted to go or what she wanted to study, but she was comforted by the extensive program options PSU offers and the flexibility to switch majors at any point.

After Phan was accepted to PSU, Associate Director of International Recruitment Sandy McGarr contacted her via videoconference. “I had so many fears as a high school student,” says Phan. “Then Sandy reached out to me and we connected right away. She really cared about me as a person. I knew if I could connect with her, I’d find other people like that here, too.” Just like that, Phan found a place where she could continue to feel a part of and do good in her community.

Recently named PSU’s 2020–2021 Newman Civic Fellow, Phan is recognized for her meaningful contributions to her local and global communities. The yearlong fellowship provides honorees at Campus Compact member institutions with training and networking for personal, professional, and civic development.

“Tallie has had such an incredible impact on our campus and throughout the broader community through her work as a student impact ambassador, the president of PSU Volunteers, and a participant in the Social Action Trips Program,” says Director of Community Impact Jessica Dutille. As a student impact ambassador, Phan plans and implements volunteer projects, mentors volunteers, and recruits students to get involved in the opportunities provided through the Office of Community Impact. These include service learning, service trips, and work-study placements with nonprofit partners.

“The connections you make through your experiences in service can really help you in the future when you’re looking for a job, facing struggles, or making lifelong friends,” Phan says.

“Students in these programs learn important leadership skills and strategies for addressing complex societal issues from community and systemic perspectives,” adds Dutille. “These programs are so important on a college campus. Students have opportunities to apply what they are learning in classrooms in practical ways that benefit local nonprofits and the broader community. In this way, higher education fulfills its mission of supporting the public good.”

Phan, a graphic design major, uses her knowledge and skills as vehicles for change. “I’ve always wanted to create positive impacts in my career,” she says. In creating flyers, posters, digital graphics, and other outreach materials for the Office of Community Impact, and by designing collection boxes for the United Way of Greater Nashua’s Youth Homelessness Fund, Phan blends academics and leadership, creativity and cause, using her art to connect with others and to inspire students to become change makers.

Standing by the Office of Community Impact’s motto, “Service is love in action,” Phan makes an invitation to all local, national, and global community members: “If you believe in love in any shape or form, that’s the very beginning of your involvement in service. You just need the ‘action’ piece.”

Press Release (April 2, 2020): Plymouth State University Student Tam “Tallie” Phan Honored as Newman Civic Fellow