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Psychology

CWU Student Wins Governor’s Award, Brightens Students’ Mood

Jonathan Chi

A Central Washington University student’s advocacy assignment has had far reaching and unexpected results—expanding therapy services to CWU students and earning him the 2017 Governor’s Award.

Hengyu ‘Jonathan’ Chi, a mental health counseling graduate student, was selected by Governor Jay Inslee to receive the Governor’s Award. Chi will receive the award during the Students Serving Washington Awards Ceremony on Friday, April 28, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Chi’s award is in recognition of his research of light boxes and their use in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), in addition to his execution in making four boxes available for student use.

“What makes Jonathan unique is his ability to take his good ideas and actually implement them,” said Fred Washburn, CWU assistant professor in the psychology department.

“And that’s what … allowed him to put the light boxes in place, and that’s what put him at the top of both the President’s Award and now the Governor’s Award.” 

The Governor’s award is a statewide honor given to three students chosen from a pool of top student service leaders from Washington public four-year institutions.

“I was completely shocked and honored to have [this] award, especially considering how this was just a class assignment at the beginning,” said Chi.

Chi used his passion for research in light, how it cues signals and can affect mood and the human body to bring his assignment to life.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that is related to the change in seasons. Symptoms typically start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping energy and making one feel moody.

Chi’s research showed that light box therapy (phototherapy) is among the top treatments for SAD. It is also unique, in that it’s relatively easy.

Other SAD treatments include medications and psychotherapy. Chi expressed while these both work, the cons are that some people hesitate to take drugs while talk therapy can take time and the cost can be prohibitive.

After determining its useful effects and minimal cost (approx. $60 per light box), Chi was moved to make light boxes accessible to his fellow students. He reached across campus to build collaborative relationships with the CWU Student Medical and Counseling Clinic and Brooks Library that resulted at least 31 checkouts of the boxes last winter quarter.

Chi, who will graduate this fall, has not yet determined whether to continue working toward his PhD.

However, Chi has decided that he’ll use this fall to continue working on the light box project in hopes of bringing more awareness to students of their availability and benefits.

Four light boxes are currently available for checkout in the Brooks Library. A valid CWU student or staff ID is all that is required for check out.

Also of note is Chi’s grade on his class assignment. Not surprisingly, he earned a well-deserved A.

Media contact: Dawn Alford, public affairs coordinator, 509-963-1484, dawn.alford@cwu.edu.

--April 26, 2017

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