Skip to Content

### Breaking Barriers: First Vietnamese American Elected to Nashville Metro Council

March 13, 2024

Photo Submitted

Terry Vo (center) with her father, Tuan Van Vo, and mother, Tra Thi Pham.

Embarking on her journey of studying abroad while at the U of A, Terry Vo had no inkling that it would pave the way for a groundbreaking chapter in her life.

Motivated in part by her international academic experiences, Vo recently secured her position as the inaugural Vietnamese American elected member of the Nashville Metro Council, representing District 17. Her decision to enter politics stemmed from a desire to amplify the voices of Asian Pacific Islanders within the council.

Vo emphasized the significance of having representatives from diverse backgrounds, stating, “Policies and decisions impacting the Asian and Pacific Islander communities are being formulated, yet the absence of elected officials from these communities often results in overlooked perspectives.” Reflecting on her upbringing as a child of Vietnamese immigrants in Arkansas, she highlighted the unique viewpoint of individuals raised in a cultural milieu distinct from that of their parents, often referred to as third culture individuals. Vo underscored the importance of incorporating such nuances into leadership roles.

Her foray into civic leadership traces back to her tenure as an Honors College student at the U of A, majoring in international relations with a minor in Asian studies and Japanese business orientation. Venturing into study abroad opportunities early on, Vo participated in a European Studies tour following her freshman year and explored Japan during her sophomore year as part of an economics program under the Walton College.

However, it was during her junior year, when she was selected for a year-long direct exchange study program, that her trajectory took a transformative turn. This exchange initiative between the U of A and Kansai Gaidai University facilitated a profound impact on her Japanese language proficiency and personal growth. Subsequently, an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo further honed her language skills and influenced her career trajectory post-graduation.

Following her U of A graduation, Vo ventured to Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program before relocating to Nashville to work at the Consulate General of Japan. Her overseas experiences prompted her to pursue additional academic endeavors in Australia as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, culminating in a master’s degree in governance and public policy from the University of Queensland.

Upon her return to Nashville in 2015, Vo delved into the realm of politics, serving as the director of communications for a mayoral campaign, a role that sowed the seeds for her eventual candidacy seven years later.

Recalling the pivotal moment of her electoral victory, Vo shared, “The culmination of years of hard work and dedication was encapsulated in the official announcement of my victory on Aug. 3, 2023. Witnessing the validation of our efforts with the blue checkmark next to my name was an overwhelming and joyous experience.” Surrounded by her closest friends and family, she cherishes that triumphant moment as a testament to perseverance.

Despite her relocation from Arkansas, Vo remains deeply connected to her roots in Fort Smith and proudly upholds her legacy as a Razorback alumna. Advocating for a new wave of leaders, she recently engaged with the Zomi community at the Khaudo Fall Harvest in Nashville, aiming to inspire and empower individuals, especially the younger generation, to envision a future in leadership roles.

Vo’s aspiration for her legacy is clear—to ignite a spark of civic engagement within the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, fostering a culture where running for office is not just a dream but an achievable reality. She envisions her journey as a trailblazer to pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive political landscape.

For further details on study abroad opportunities, please visit [ppp2].