Nicola Tannion on Connections, Symbols, and Motivations
Nicola Tannion is fascinated by the underlying patterns, connections, symbols, and motivations that connect human beings cross-culturally through ritual and myth. “By presenting hidden paradigms, I hope to shift discussions or assumptions just a fraction in order to break down barriers and invite deeper dialogue,” Tannion says. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Antioch University Seattle, the distinguished 2016 alumna continued exploring these themes as a doctoral candidate in Mythological Studies and Depth Psychology.
Tannion’s current work is focused on looking at current Irish/American political and social justice issues from a mythological and depth psychological lens. This month, she is presenting at the 23rd Australasian Irish Studies conference in Sydney, Australia, on how one particular symbol connects three distinct periods in Irish history and how women used the power of that symbol to connect to their ancestral heritage, thus ensuring victory for their cause.
Tannion is also interested in the ways individuals carry familial or intergenerational trauma and their role in healing the archetypal narratives of their ancestors. “Human beings aren’t fixed,” she says. “Our bodies renew their own cells every day and so too can our stories be reimagined.”
Her academic journey began long ago when she was living in Amsterdam. There, Tannion met an AUS student (now an alumna) who told her that Antioch offers a bachelor’s in Liberal Studies program that includes courses on both spirituality and social justice. She was immediately intrigued. A few years later, her partner received a job transfer to Seattle, paving the way for Tannion to enroll in the BA in Liberal Arts program as an international student (Tannion has dual Irish and Australian citizenships).
As a student at Antioch University Seattle, Tannion found her element and began to flourish, both professionally and personally. “I loved the diversity of classes, most of which were non-traditional but which always shifted or deepened my view of the world or self-in-the-world,” Tannion says. She appreciated Antioch’s unique educational model, which comprises lectures, art, student presentations, group work, and deep collaborative discussion. Tannion also felt respected by her instructors. “Professors treated us with respect and an understanding that as returning adults learners we had invaluable life experience which enriched the learning experience of all,” she notes.
Throughout her three years at Antioch, Tannion met educational challenges head-on by learning how to pace herself, practicing self-care, and prioritizing time with family and friends. She incorporated mindfulness exercises into her routine to keep her grounded during stressful times. For example, she was very nervous about presenting in front of her peers after she first started school. As she had to present in front of class nearly every quarter, she learned to visualize herself presenting beforehand, and this technique, along with practicing mindfulness and slowing her breath, enabled her to stand up in front of her peers and share the material she had prepared.
The education she received at Antioch taught Tannion to see the world in new and different ways, preparing her to go on for her PhD. “Without a doubt, Antioch provided an extremely solid foundation of critical thinking, academic writing, and a deep understanding of social justice issues,” she says. “Antioch also taught me to work under pressure, plan for success, and hone presentation skills.”
Perhaps most importantly, Tannion learned to recognize and question the implicit biases of her educational materials and her teachers. She went into her graduate studies with the capacity to seek whose voice was missing from the dialogue and to speak out when minority voices weren’t included in her readings and discussions. Tannion was able to develop and hone this capacity during her time at Antioch.
Since graduating from Antioch, Tannion has also had the pleasure of returning to Antioch as an instructor in the BA in Liberal Studies program. She has taught courses on loss, grief, and community grief. Continually inspired by her students, she notes that watching them discover their innate potential is a privilege. “The students at Antioch have a wealth of diverse life experiences, each a unique story and set of skills and challenges they have overcome in order to get into the classroom. They are juggling lives, children, families, jobs, and other personal experiences yet week after week they show up, tired but curious, and engage,” Tannion says.
To current and prospective AUS students, Tannion acknowledges that there are challenges to pursuing an education. But, she also reminds them that there are limitless possibilities. “At times it will not be easy, you will doubt yourself, your abilities but the program and professors are there to guide, support, and encourage you along the journey,” she says. “Take classes that are not in your area of interest nor that you need to take for credit. As a student, you will benefit from a diverse range of professors experiences and areas of expertise, utilize that opportunity.” She adds that she is deeply honored to be a part of the Antioch community.
Learn more and connect with Nicola Tannion at www.nicolatannion.com.