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Taran Cardone, Ph.D. is a 2023 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Taran Cardone Committee

Taran Cardone at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Steven S. Taylor, Committee Member, Dr. Donna Ladkin, Committee Chair, Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Member.

Dissertation Committee

  • Donna Ladkin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Jon Wergin, Ed.D., Committee Member
  • Steven S. Taylor, Ph.D., Committee Member


metaphor, conceptual metaphor theory, phenomenology, arts, student success, student development, adult development, self-authorship, meaning making, college students, leadership

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This study focuses on better understanding students and their internal worlds through conceptual metaphor theory and sensory language. Using a phenomenological and arts-based approach, I examined students’ metaphorical constructions of their college experiences and the sensory language and information informing those constructions. By engaging participants in a multimodal process to re-see their experience through connoisseurship and criticism, I explored the following research questions: How do students metaphorically structure their college experience? What sensory language do college students use to describe the metaphorical dimensions of their college experience? How does sensory information shape the metaphorical structuring of their college experience? Through conversations centered on participant-generated images and chosen sensory language, I identified five complex metaphors that represented participants’ constructions of their college experience: college is an unwieldy package; college is up, forward, and out; college is current and future nostalgia; college is a prism; and college is a movie and peers are the soundtrack. By considering these themes, it may be possible for educators to better partner with diverse learners to design personally meaningful experiences that support student development and success. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( and OhioLINK ETD Center (


Taran Cardone

Taran Cardone

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0002-9715-2638

I chose the Antioch University PhD in Leadership and Change program because it aligned with my authentic self. The world needs more authentic people who show up as themselves, living their strengths, doing what comes most naturally to them. My entire vocation­—no matter the field or position­—is centered around this belief. My mission is to help others remember their magic and show up as their authentic selves. I bring this outlook and purpose with me to every environment I find myself.

I combine a variety of approaches, ideas, and interests especially my background in adult development (self-authorship in particular), transformative learning, and conceptual metaphor theory. I also bring in my expertise with restorative practices, and various personality assessments including my work as a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. I listen and ask questions to see where I can be of service and then partner with individuals and communities to imagine what’s possible when they author and design their own lives. The participants in my study taught me the critical role that metaphors play in shaping learners' perspectives and experiences. They showcased the enormous value of metaphors for exploring perceptions, beliefs, identities, and actions central to meaning making and transformative possibility.

My previous work as a student affairs educator led to my focus on learners in the collegiate environment. I served on three college campuses including as Leadership Coordinator at Miami University (Ohio), Director of Student Life Curriculum & Residential Staff Development at Lehigh University, and Director of Strengths-Based Learning / Director of the Office for Learning Partnerships at Virginia Tech. I also created a model of practice known as personal learning design, which helps learners design and maximize their experiences. To implement this approach, I collaborated with student affairs divisions on two campuses to oversee bLUeprint at Lehigh University and ExperienceVT at Virginia Tech. It was a joy to support learners in using their strengths, reflecting on what mattered to them, and sharing those reflections in the form of their bLUeprints and ExperienceVT maps. I also developed and facilitated living-learning communities, which combined personal and group coaching, and the entrepreneurial work of supervising, marketing, recruiting, fundraising, and coordinating an organization.

I first landed in Higher Education because I experienced the power of transformative learning environments myself. I studied Speech Communication (BA) and Spanish Language and Literature (BA) with a minor in Italian Language and Literature. I was intrigued with the way humans communicate and the many ways they were similar and different. I became so involved on campus that I was taken with the idea of supporting young adults in their development and studied Student Affairs in Higher Education (MS) at Miami University (OH). In my professional work, I saw the importance of leadership and change for improving learners' experiences, which led me to studying Leadership and Change at Antioch University (MA and PhD)

I have since expanded my perspective and work beyond higher education through coaching, entrepreneurship, consulting, and podcasting. As it turns out, there are human beings who desire transformation everywhere. I believe that transformation is contagious and, when one person changes, it changes everything. And when we transform together in community, we change the future and become more fully human.