Personal Statement

Before she came to Goddard Nancy Morgan worked in arts administration: she managed an arts council, an artists in schools program, and an art gallery, and was program director at the Smithsonian Children’s Theater. She now facilitates writing and manages the Arts in Healthcare program at the Lombardi Medical and Research Center in Washington DC.

Nancy: After writing my way through personal crises, leading workshops and witnessing the empowerment people experienced after a day of expressive writing, and after enduring professional careers at odds with my own passions, it was time for Goddard. There I found people who had also experienced the power of words and could guide me along a path of individualized learning, self discipline and discovery that led to my current work. I loved the different perspectives and areas of expertise of my semester advisers – writers, psychologists, environmentalists, all enriching and supporting my investigation of writing and health. I so appreciate the emphasis on a totally individual approach to meeting learning objectives. The ability to choose the resources, practicum and thesis focus, with guidance but not coercion, freed me to really focus my energy on what I wanted to learn and achieve. This approach motivates one to continue learning after the degree is earned.

My thesis entitled Cancer Stories began with a synopsis of crises related to cancer in my own family, crises I interpreted and resolved through writing. Part two was a review of literature related to the health benefits of writing. Part three was a series of short stories and poems. Goddard moved me to the center of creativity, gave me confidence in my ability to write and to teach others. Transformative Language Arts at Goddard was magical, inspiring, exhausting, life-affirming. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, especially because the outcome mattered so much to me. Other degrees are tucked away somewhere. My Goddard diploma is on my mantel.

The job I now have at the Lombardi Cancer Center is a synthesis of my personal and professional life and very close to a perfect fit. I give workshops and meet individually with cancer patients, their family members, chaplains, nurses, medical school students, and congregations. I release people from the burden of critiquing so they can express themselves freely and beautifully. I’ve helped people at the end of life compose letters to their infant children. I also conduct research about the health benefits of writing, based on the work of James Pennebaker and others.

From Nancy’s thesis, Cancer Stories: Evidence of the Transformative Power of Language:

I recognize the faces of the newly diagnosed

shell-shocked, clutching a spouse’s hand

anguish a small blue flame

lighting the deepest layers of the soul

birthplace of the new self.