Tatum Troutt is a current graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin, where she’s pursuing a dual master’s degree in Public Affairs and Community & Regional Planning. Her drive to advance social equity and empower historically marginalized groups propelled her through her undergraduate degree in social work in just three years.
It’s a mission that she’s been pursuing since middle school, after taking on a community service project so she could attend summer camp.
“A local organization offered to help me pay for camp if I could assist with a community service project that they were doing that involved yard work and painting houses for residents in our community who needed assistance,” Tatum explained.
“This experience … helped me to learn that I love service, but it also led me to my career path.”
Some of the housing conditions Tatum saw that summer opened her eyes to some of the differences that can exist in quality of life between race and class lines.
Even though she didn’t know it at the time, she said, “That first volunteer experience altered the trajectory of my life by instilling in me a passion for serving others in a professional capacity focused on urban management and its implications on social equity.”
She brings that to life in her graduate program by studying the intersection of social work, public policy, and urban planning, and “how to combat the systemic issues [of racism, sexism, and classism] that influence the ways cities are built and who urban amenities benefit.”
Tatum didn’t grow up believing the college experience was inevitable for her.
“My parents never imagined a life in which any of their children would have an opportunity to attend college,” she said.
Instead, she made the decision deliberately — both because she knew it would offer a path to financial stability, and because she wanted to elevate the way she was able to support her community and continue on the mission she already felt so strongly about.
“Being able to pursue this education, with the goal of eventually becoming a city manager, has been life changing for me by exposing me to people and ideas that have taught me to refine my ideas and perspectives.”
Leading Through Service
Despite a busy college schedule, Tatum stays involved in the community as a Travis County Volunteer Deputy Registrar, a volunteer for Front Porch Gathering, and as the professional development co-chair for the Community & Regional Planning Student Organization at UT Austin. She’s also the incoming co-president for the student chapter of the International City Manager’s Association.
That’s all on top of working two jobs: “I have been working tirelessly during this time to accrue as little debt as possible, but as a first-generation student, this has not been an easy task,” she said.
The $2,500 scholarship from the Young Women’s Alliance Foundation will help keep her school loans to a minimum. And, she knows that the hard work will pay off in the end.
“These experiences continue to shape who I am and will grow to be as a service-oriented leader.”
About the Young Women’s Alliance Foundation
The Young Women’s Alliance Foundation was established in 1997 to expand programmatic opportunities for YWA members and contribute to women and girls in the community through educational scholarships and an annual grant to YWA’s nonprofit partner organization, the Girls Empowerment Network. Support for the YWA Foundation comes from member fundraising efforts, proceeds from Austin Under Forty, the YWA Endowment Fund, and generous donations from individuals and corporations in Austin.