Nancy Tangon is a CPA student representative at the University of Alberta. Her South Sudanese family has played an enormous influence in her life, including her decision to pursue a career in psychology.
With her friend Priscilla Ojomu, Nancy created the online forum Canada Confesses, where they collect anonymous testimonials from people that shine a light on the racism that exists under the surface in Canadian society. They spoke with the CPA podcast Mind Full about their project. https://soundcloud.com/user-389503679/mindful-9-canada-confesses-01162023-mixdown-1/s-Y9IhuOvB5gY
“We did a three-hour boot camp over Zoom about how to create a presentation and become a better public speaker.”
The first lesson, when it comes to creating a presentation, is not to make that presentation three hours long. A boot camp though? That can be as long as you like. In this case, Nancy Tangon and her CPA Student Representative colleagues at the University of Alberta chose the boot-camp format – and the Zoom format – out of necessity. Because of the pandemic, many things have become more difficult. Finding ways to connect with people virtually has resulted in a fair amount of chaos – and a ton of creativity as well!
Such was the case when Nancy and her fellow student Priscilla Ojomu were looking to create a project. Pre-pandemic, they met in On-Site Placement’s Diversity Awareness & Skill Building Youth Program on campus – in-person, if you can remember when we used to do such things! Through that program they learned a lot about issues affecting diversity in a number of settings, and were tasked with creating a project at the end of the course. Unfortunately, by that time COVID-19 had arrived and the project would have to take a virtual form.
Over the course of the pandemic awareness of many issues has increased – particularly those dealing with discrimination and inequality. In Canada, many of us felt isolated from those issues – like they were a uniquely American thing, or that we were somehow better off. As Priscilla says, “a lot of Canadians aren’t aware that these issues exist in huge numbers within Canada”. So how could she and Nancy help to increase that awareness?
Their answer was Canada Confesses. A project that started out small but has since taken on a much larger audience and significance. The concept was simple. There’s a disconnect between what Nancy and Priscilla learned in their program, as well as their own lived experiences, and what fellow Canadians understood to be the situation. So they created a place where marginalized people could tell their stories anonymously, access resources to help them, and help other Canadians understand the reality of what’s happening in our country. It’s not the anonymous poster who is confessing, although they call the posts ‘confessions’ – it’s Canada itself that is confessing to the ongoing harms and structural marginalization of many communities. You can hear all about Canada Confesses on the CPA podcast Mind Full.
As the co-creator of Canada Confesses, Nancy has not yet submitted a ‘confession’ of her own – she’s very busy! In addition to running a suddenly successful online platform which continues to grow by leaps and bounds, she is also a fourth-year psychology major and biological sciences minor at the University of Alberta. She maintains a strong presence in the CPA, with two years as a Student Representative on the campus and a significant role on the CPA’s human rights and social justice committee as one of the leaders of the subgroup for ableism and disabilities.
“I was a little bit intimidated to [join the Human Rights and Social Justice committee]. Everybody who’s a part of it is either a grad student or a professor, and at first I felt a bit like the undergrad student tagging along. But it’s been really great! I got to learn a lot from Dr. Ada Sinacore and Dr. Laurie Ford, who’s also a part of our subcommittee.”
Nancy, undergrad or not, brings a lot of experience to the CPA board committee – and to her life, her studies, and her activities. Much of this stems from her family and her community, with whom she is very close. Her family on her father’s side is from the Bari tribe in South Sudan, a place Nancy has been able to visit only once. She keeps up contact and correspondence with her family who remain there, and also maintains strong ties to the South Sudanese community in Edmonton.
“The South Sudanese community in Edmonton is fairly large, I know a lot of people here – especially compared to when my family used to live in Halifax. I even see some of the community members in my classes, which is really cool. When I decided to go to university, I wanted to do something amazing in my community. In the South Sudanese community, psychology is very interesting to a lot of people.”
Her family, and her community, were some of the factors that shaped Nancy’s desire to go into psychology in the first place – and even had a guiding hand in deciding on some of the courses she took once she got there. Nancy’s family loves to talk about their dreams. She says, “when I wake up I have to talk about my dreams. I talk about it to at least five people before I start my day! I have to analyze it just a little bit, I have to get someone else’s interpretation, and I absolutely love dream analysis.” Of course, she felt she just had to take that particular psychology course before she graduated, and now speaks excitedly about the ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ levels of dream analysis.
It didn’t take long for Nancy to determine that psychology was the right program for her – or in which direction she wanted to go with it.
“I was inspired by my very first professor on my very first day. Her name is Dr. Peggy St-Jacques. She was pretty new to the university at the time, and she was doing research in memory. I said, I don’t know exactly what I want to research, but that is certainly what I want to do as a lifelong career.”
Nancy is now well on her way, working as a research assistant and planning for a future where research is part of her every day. She’s particularly drawn to developmental psychology, and hopes to work with pre-school children between the ages of three and five. It will be a long road, but Nancy has the determination, the ingenuity and the curiosity to make it a successful one. And when she does, it will be another in a long line of successes that started right there in Edmonton.
“When I started working on Canada Confesses, it was almost impossible to see where we would end up. I’ve had the chance to meet so many people working in the same field, and to interact with other projects online. Now, I have a best friend for life, an amazing team, and so many things to anticipate for the future.”