Chris Plyman, 2009
BA Liberal Studies
Chris Plyman served as an Army intelligence officer with peacekeeping operations around the globe – South Korea, Haiti, Bosnia, Cold War West Germany and more.
After 24 years of tactical intelligence, he was burnt out. So he spent two years completely and utterly adrift, as he describes it.
This native Seattleite knew he had the GI Bill, which would finance his education. Still, he says, he was frustrated with the approach of other colleges and universities.
"I need to tune in to myself," Plyman says. "What did I want? Where did I want to go from here?
"So one day I was walking down Sixth Avenue and there was Antioch University. It looked like a place where I could do some exploring, some development and answer a lot of questions had."
Why Antioch University?
"The professional military culture is very conservative. I wanted to hear other voices I hadn't heard before," he says.
He talks about the self-awareness and integrity he was able to take with him when he chose to accept contract work in Iraq. "I had written my autobiography and had begun a journey of self-reflection through the initial classes I took," says Plyman.
While in Iraq, he began to get in touch with his spiritual side, with meditation and prayer every morning and evening.
"I also did further studies in Islam. My interest in – and appreciation of – Islam came from the desire to better understand the spiritual practices of those I'd just spent so much time with, as well as how Islam informed and helped shape their culture. The impact my inquiry had on my own spirituality was to broaden my understanding – and acceptance – of that which is holy in all of us. I started to define some of the places I needed to go," Plyman says, adding, "It gave me closure."
After six months in Iraq, he was injured.
"When I came back home, I found my area of concentration, Psychology, especially as it related to post-traumatic stress disorder and transitions. I saw the connections with spirituality as well – the spiritual self and mental health and well being," he explains.
The focus of his senior synthesis is the life of veterans and how trauma follows them through life.
"Reflecting on your experience inevitably affects you," says Plyman. "Antioch University allowed me to turn inward and reflect.
"For me, Antioch University has afforded a very personal journey rather than professional development. Other universities wouldn't have suited my journey as well because at the time I was drifting. At a university with a regular curriculum, I would have continued to drift. Enhancing my résumé is not the point."
Plyman's self-exploration has reawakened his interest in art and how it depicts the human price paid in war. He became fascinated with Picasso's depiction of the horrors of the 1937 Spanish Civil War in the Basque town of Guernica.
He has been able to take elective courses in art at a local community college and is thinking about art school when he graduates.