Holly Plackemeier

Holly Plackemeier

October 12, 2021

Holly Plackemeier (2021)

Holly Plackemeier graduated from Truman in 2017 with a degree in Communication , specializing in Public Communication. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. where she is the Affiliate Manager at American Public Health Association. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outside – kayaking or hiking at any of the National Parks around the DMC (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area.

What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?

I graduated in 2017 with a concentration in Public Communication.

What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?

During my time at Truman, I was involved in the Alpha Phi Omega service organization and heavily engaged in community and campus volunteer coordination as the Public Relations & Event Planning intern at the SERVE Center from 2015-2017, where we planned the Big Week of Giving and Big Event.

Holly (far left) and friends on campus (2016).

Did you go to grad school? If so, where?  Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait?  Why?

I have not gone to grad school yet, but it’s certainly on the table! I’m interested in Masters of Public Health programs, focused on health promotion and education.

What was your first job after graduation?

The summer after graduating from Truman, I interned at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. as their Donor Relations & Stewardship intern.

Following the completion of this internship, I went down to Orlando, FL for the Fall 2017 Disney College Program, where I worked as a merchandise cast member in Epcot. I highly recommend this experience to anyone interested! Not studying abroad was a huge regret of mine during my time at Truman, and the Disney College Program was an opportunity for me to meet other students/recent graduates from all over the world (getting into the parks for free is an added bonus).

Holly (3rd from left) and her new friends while in the Disney College Program (2017).

What work do you do/What are you doing now?

I fell in love with Washington, D.C. during my summer internship after graduation and I always knew I’d find my way back here. I am now the Affiliate Manager at the American Public Health Association, based in Washington, D.C. My role allows me to explore my passion for health communication and information sharing with public health leaders across APHA’s 53 Affiliate state and regional public health member associations. Our team provides trainings,  and networking and funding opportunities to our Affiliate members to support their vital work. We also lead National Public Health Week, where I was the staff lead for Student Day this year – providing students with events and resources as they transition from public health student to public health professional. That has been my favorite part of my job so far!

How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?

The collaborative and diverse nature of my COMM courses has been tremendously helpful to me throughout my career. As someone who came into my degree with so many different interests, I loved that the program gave me ample opportunities to explore these various interests. I particularly enjoyed my Rhetoric, Media Writing, Publication Design & Layout, and Advertising courses. The classes I took within my degree were always helpful and almost always fun. How many other departments can claim that? My career journey has not always been linear, but I have been well prepared for any role I tackled thanks to my strong educational foundation.

Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?

Many have stated this before but, I was not a fan of Public Speaking. As an awkward college freshman, participation in this course felt like an act of cruelty at the time; however, it can’t be overstated how important this skill is to nurture. Developing the tools to clearly and effectively state your case to others is vital in both your professional and personal life. It was also incredible to see everyone’s growth from the beginning to the end of this course.

What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?

My greatest accomplishments at Truman were my fundraising and volunteer coordination efforts for both Big Event and the Big Week of Giving.

For folks who are unfamiliar, the Big Event is an annual event at Truman where students volunteer for a day of service in the Kirksville community and they are paired with a specific service project at a community member’s residence/organization. Big Week of Giving is a week of fundraising events to raise food and monetary donations to benefit the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri.

Holly (left) and a fellow SERVE Center intern presenting a donation to the Food Bank (2016).

During my last year planning Big Event, we had over 1,000 students volunteer, and during Big Week of Giving we collected over 1,000 pounds of food and raised over $1,000 for the food bank. I am profoundly proud of these efforts and what we were able to do for the community. I’m also grateful for this opportunity as it opened my eyes to my passion for living a life and career in service to others.

Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?

The education you will gain here is next to none. It will not be easy, but you will be amazed at all you accomplish when you apply yourself. I also loved how Truman provides so many opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom. While I was heavily involved at the SERVE Center, I know many COMM students found their home away from home in student media, which I did not get involved in and now regret.

Additionally, there are many different organizations for students to get involved in depending on their particular interest area (service orgs, Greek life, student government, club sports, etc.). If you are willing to put yourself out there a little, you will find your place here.

What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?

Get involved! Your time at Truman is truly what you make of it, so try absolutely everything to find out what you like, and what you don’t – both are equally valuable. Your involvement in these activities may even uncover hidden passions, as it did for me.

Holly hanging out in DC (2019).

What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?

The best advice I can give is to connect with individuals who have the career that you want. You should also reach out to folks who’d be willing to make a connection for you. Develop an ability to manage multiple priorities and projects. Additionally, you will collaborate on almost every project you are given, so it’s paramount to know how to work effectively with individuals who have different work styles. Group projects are great practice for this!

The advice I wish someone gave me as I was getting ready to graduate is to be open to the pivots life is bound to throw your way. Your career may not start off being exactly what you envision for yourself, so make sure your vision isn’t static. I’m so thankful I tried every experience I did. If you told me I’d be working in public health in Washington, D.C. right now, I would have thought you’d be lying!

What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?

Other than the french toast at Rosie’s Diner, I miss the close-knit community feel that Truman offers and being within walking distance from my closest friends.

What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?

“You really can get a job with a COMM degree!”

I’m clearly being snarky to all the Communication degree naysayers. This degree teaches you marketable skills, so you will not need to worry about post-grad employment. Every job I have ever applied to has emphasized the need for strong written communication skills.

If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?

I’d teach an elective course focused on building resilience and addressing burnout. The pandemic has put a strain on everyone’s bandwidth, capacity, and mental health. Never before has it been so important to prioritize taking care of ourselves. Truman students in particular are incredibly driven and hard-working, and we struggled to give ourselves permission to slow down. It’s critical to develop these self-care skills and create boundaries so you can give as much to your work and you do to the other areas of your life.

What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?

Many doors are opened to students pursuing a COMM degree and they can truly pick whichever path most aligns with their passions. That’s the beauty of a Truman COMM degree for me, the flexibility and the inherent value.

Holly and family celebrating her graduation (2017).

If you would like to learn more of Holly’s story, you can follow her on LinkedIn.


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