Junior Emily Ju has been shaping her understanding of Chinese medicine — and all types of psychology — since the age of 12. This summer, spent at her grandfather Yang Zhixun’s Chinese medical clinic in Beijing, was the intersection of her Hillsdale education and her own psychological perspective.
She has something to show for it: During the interview, she conducted acupuncture.
Ju spent her days at Qingxin Chinese Medicine Clinic learning to practice acupuncture, observing kindergarteners and adults jointly learning the fundamentals of Chi, and growing under Zhixun’s continual mentorship.
“His clinic is unique because of the treatment he provides,” Ju said. “It’s based on research invented by my great-grandfather.”
The goal of Zhixun’s clinic is combining the foundations of early Chinese medicine with external medicine. It retains the ultimate goal of the practice, combining mind and body for the healthy cycling of energy — Chi — with the advantage of being noninvasive.
“In order to be the healthiest we can, we should stay in harmony with our environment,” Ju said. “The problem happens when we act out of harmony and create an imbalance in our body.”
Chi is just as important now as it was a century ago to Ju, her family, and Chinese culture. All of Ju’s work at Qingxin involved that interaction between mind and body, in which each part helps or hurts the other.
Specifically, she delved into precise observations of children, four-year-olds to fourth-graders, who came to the clinic for instruction in all manners of traditional medicine.
“There is a curriculum my grandfather created for young children — preschoolers can learn what my grandfather teaches, and kindergarteners too,” Ju said. “I was keeping track of the behavior of these students.”
Not only was Ju getting valuable field experience for her minor course of study, early childhood education, but she was also honing the skill that spans all the social sciences: The ability to observe, without bias.
Associate Professor of Psychology Benjamin Winegard sees the value of experiences like Ju’s.
“I would say the most important thing is to know the research methodology well,” Winegard said. “That translates across disciplines.”
He said there are intersections between spirituality, tradition, and philosophy everywhere in psychology. Any student who finds these intersections is just a bit better equipped to observe objectively and creatively.
Ju had to apply that creativity when she saw one student was becoming progressively more disruptive.
“She would intentionally block the view of everyone behind her during our, say, gratitude songs,” she said. “She would pick on the class role model; he was then at the brunt of the blame.”
Ju said even the smallest behaviors, like repeatedly taking apart and then reassembling her pencil, were indicative of problems with the student’s Chi — problems she could resolve with guidance. This student was ill; there was a reason, in mind or body, for her not to pay attention.
Freshman Meghan Dudzic said she recognizes the necessity of observing the whole person to help them best.
“I’ve done a lot of work with younger kids, specifically disabled kids with down syndrome in local schools,” she said. “Connection with other people is so important, either in a career or understanding the human person.”
Ju was able to resolve the situation with the student. She attributes it to a unique combination of Chinese medicine exposure, Assistant Professor of Psychology Collin Barnes’ reminders not to “deconstruct the man” when observing, and her grandfather’s guidance.
Ju said her return to Hillsdale would provide parallels to her learning — even if she did not always agree. There were already parallels she took with her to China.
“I heard a similar story in an education class,” she said. “There was a child with a lot of behavioral problems — he would put children up against the wall, knocking things down from the shelves — and teachers could not understand what was wrong.”
As it turns out, the child suffered birth complications that resulted in reduced oxygen reaching the prefrontal cortex, where all decision-making begins. Again, a student was ill, and listening to parents, teachers, and doctors gave insight that would frame a proper solution.
Ju’s return to Hillsdale was a return to Western medicine, she said.
“Western science has no starting point in studying what Chniese medicine tries to describe about the human body,” she said. “It doesn’t really have a theory about how the human body as a whole is supposed to work. What is the man?”
According to Winegard, psychology provides processes to study all of them.
“I’m interested in big-picture, synthesizing research,” he said.
Ju aims to continue pursuing her major in psychology and minor in early childhood education, her summer enriching and nuancing the two fields more than ever. She hopes to follow her grandfather’s daily mantra.
“If you want to do great things, you first have to learn how to be a person,” Zhixun said.