Allison Ivie lives life with intention.
Tapping into her experience of being raised by a single parent and volunteering at Catalyst Domestic Violence Services as an undergraduate helped shape the course of her career. Ivie (English, Gender Studies, ’11) chose a profession that allows her to advocate and empower organizations that focus on women and families because her experiences exposed her to the inequities and obstacles women face.
After graduating from Chico State, Ivie earned two master’s degrees in public policy and women and gender studies from Brandeis University and completed the Congressional Fellowship on Women and Public Policy through the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute. Today, she is the vice president of Center Road Solutions, a woman-owned lobbying firm in Washington, DC, that works with nonprofits and foundations, including Sandy Hook Promise, to enact policies that advance social change.
As they work toward laws that address issues like youth suicide prevention and social media safety, Ivie feels that she is honoring her mother, Gale, who passed away seven years ago. Working tirelessly to provide for her two children “in a system that tried to keep her down,” Gale inspired her daughter not only with her dedication but her determination to fight against injustice and passion for her career in public health and making life better for others. That, Ivie said, is why she joined Center Road and works to find solutions to inequities through policy changes.
Why is working with nonprofits serving women and families so instrumental to the world around us?
It goes back to how I was raised and what I saw with my mom. She worked so hard to provide for me and my brother in a system that tried to keep her down. My mom, who helped put my dad through grad school, received one year of alimony after 16 years of marriage. She had to cash in what little retirement she had to keep the house we were living in during the divorce. At the time they married, women were barred from opening a credit card in their name. She was seen as an extension of her husband—not an autonomous person with their own needs and goals in life. She fought like hell to make up ground and provide a better life for me and my brother, and she did. It just shouldn’t be that hard.
The misogynistic and paternalistic nature of our society—“the system,” or whatever we want to call it—consistently keeps women back. And those were and are policy decisions that our nation has made to keep certain demographics down and unable to get ahead. No one should have to go through what my mom did—it’s absolutely inexcusable. So, to the extent that I can help, that Center Road can help, to course correct some of these inequities, that’s why it’s so important. These are women that support the nation. Women do so much and are under-recognized for it. The cycle of poverty is not out of someone’s moral failing—it is absolutely policy decisions that we have made in this country to keep the power dynamic how it is.
How did your degree in multicultural and gender studies influence your career?
It helped me to acknowledge and take pride in that we all consist of multiple identities and that when you bring your full self to something, you can’t leave feminism (or another piece of you) at the door. You also have to own your lived experience and how you present yourself. It also helped me understand and acknowledge the different biases and oppressions that other groups face … and what can you do to help support them or even just acknowledge that that exists.
Learning about different cultures—even our vocabulary and how we talk about gender and sexuality and the fluidity of it—helped me stay on my toes. We should always be learning and listening from other people and keeping an open mind. The gender studies program helped provide that foundation to learn that your experience is very important, but that’s just one out of thousands. I also learned what can you gain from listening to others and how that can help spring more empathy to the world, which I think we seriously lack.
What do you value most from your time at Chico State?
Everything I learned and the connections I made there because it has tremendously influenced everything I’ve done. I have lifelong friendships—from teammates that I ran with (on the cross country and track teams) to professors to the man who cut my hair (he went to my grad school graduation) to people I volunteered with. That’s been so important for me to have found that family. It also provided me the opportunity to learn about myself and others and what I wanted to do next. It was very interesting to come back to Chico as a 35-year-old (for the Gender & Sexuality Equity Coalition’s 24th Annual Womxn’s Conference) and reminisce about who I was then. I’m still processing that in a lot of ways.
What or who inspires you?
Definitely my mom and her dedication to public health and helping others—having the realization that we have a responsibility to take care of one another. Just knowing what she accomplished in her short amount of time here and the difference that she made in so many people’s lives helps remind me, “Yes, I’m only one person, but I can do a lot.” You can never know the impact that you can make on someone’s life. She still inspires me every single day.
How do you Do and Dare?
Every day I feel like I engage with people from very different political affiliations and beliefs to try to come to a compromise or a sense of understanding to get something across the finish line—to dare that a policy like XYZ is even possible. That’s very challenging on any given day. There is an act of bravery to it, especially with people you’re not familiar with or who you’re speaking to for the first time. A lot of it is trying to figure out how can we get there together and what that could look like. That’s why I think a lot of our job entails the do and daring and believing that it’s possible. Then we just go for it and figure it out.