Alumna puts sexuality out in the open

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alumni-awards-logo-2Nothing tells the story of Athabasca University better than the success of our students and alumni — people who are making their marks on the job and in their communities.

Meet Nina Sangra, MC ’16, AU Future Alumna recipient, Calgary


AU Future Alumni recipient Nina Sangra, MC ’16 [photo credit: Mclain Swift, 2016]

It takes a special person to be a good therapist, especially when helping individuals along the healing journey from sexual violence. They should be able to determine the right questions to ask, figure out the right levels of sensitivity to present, and possess both an innate and a learned gift for listening and empathy.

More importantly, this person should be particularly skilled at addressing the taboo topics (that led the individual to counseling in the first place) — to keep them alive and unsilenced — so that their peers in the helping professions can openly contribute to more healing.

Athabasca University Master of Counseling student Nina Sangra has those special traits. Moreover, she has contributed them to her research at AU and to the many not-for-profit communities in which she has worked and, ultimately, has helped to transform.

Flexibility yields art and skill

It is for these reasons we have awarded Nina our Future Alumna distinction.

Nina is a Calgary-based counselor at a community organization that provides therapy for people who have experienced sexual violence. She will graduate later this year. Her AU schooling and on-the-job education have led her to affirm: “there is art and skill involved in being a therapist.”

The ability to create balance for herself as an AU student is something she equally applies to her full-time counseling role. The university’s built-in flexibility helped steer that. So does the support she receives daily from her colleagues.

“I have a really good support network and a really good team,” says Nina.

“It makes a really big difference. As a counselor, it’s really important to have regular supervision and consultation — I have that built in.”


Nina Sangra, MC ’16, standing beside her Ted Harrison print – the annual award presented to notable Athabasca University alumni. [photo credit: Heidi Staseson, 2016]

She enjoys the one-on-one therapy with her clients and the fact the role allows her to use a variety of skills she’s acquired through her research and training.

“I can really bring both my head and heart into the work — and both of those are pretty strong. It allows me to be a bit flexible and adaptable. I find that very sustaining and very rewarding,” she says.

As a counselor, it’s really important to have regular supervision and consultation — I have that built in. ~ Nina Sangra, MC ’16, AU Future Alumna recipient

Nina hopes her work and applied research will one day contribute to grand-scale change. In the meantime, nothing is more gratifying than knowing she’s making a difference — even for one individual.

“Being a witness to people’s healing and their ability to change — it’s fulfilling and rewarding on a lot of levels.”

She’s also grateful her Athabasca University Master of Counselling program enabled her to study while simultaneously work as a therapist.

“I got to do what I loved to do,” she says.

“At the end of the day, I absolutely enjoy the work, and I feel really lucky that I picked the right profession for me. It really feels like a calling.”

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