By: Samantha Sanchez
Dominican University’s Lund-Gill Chair is one of the most esteemed positions that the school can offer to scholars. The purpose of this position is to bring a thoroughly established mind to campus with a specialization in a field related to the arts and sciences. The current 2010-2011 Lund-Gill Chair and Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence is Chia-Feng Chang, a scholar in the academic field of Chinese medicine.
“Over the past few years, the Lund-Gill Chair has engaged students and our broader community in dialogue with wonderful scholars from a range of fields,” said Jeffrey Carlson, dean of Rosary College of Arts and Sciences. “This is the first time we have been able to link the chair with a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence. Professor Chang’s first public lecture on traditional Chinese medicine had a packed house, and we enjoyed a fascinating presentation and discussion.”
The Fulbright program is a highly competitive program that allows for the international exchange of scientists, scholars, students and artists. The process of securing a Fulbright scholar was long but rewarding, according to Ann Charney Colmo, professor of political science, international relations and diplomacy. An extensive application process that included essays, restrictions (Chang could not have visited the U.S. in the last five years) and international phone conferences preceded Chang’s arrival. Although the process was time consuming, Colmo says it was more than worth it.
“We are very pleased with how much she really is a scholar,” Colmo said. “How lovely it is to see that dedication and scholarship, and at the same time we learn so much about the Chinese culture. She’s just wonderful.”
Chang’s interest in Chinese medicine came from a term paper she wrote during her undergraduate career. The topic was on small pox in the Qing dynasty, and she took such an interest in the topic that she was motivated to pursue it further in graduate school. Chang received her doctorate from the department of history at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and her master’s degree at the Institute of History at National Tsing-Hua University.
This year marks Chang’s first time teaching a class in English, but she has visited other American universities for both research and study reasons. She has spent some time at the University of Chicago and Harvard University and notes that all three schools have different appeals.
“The structure of the universities are so different, but people are very warm here with everyone greeting each other,” Chang said. “It’s a small university, but everyone knows everyone. It’s quite different.”
Chang has just begun her second semester teaching an honors course at Dominican. Her current class, titled “The Healing Art in Society,” is taught in a seminar style, and the subject matter varies slightly from her fall course which was titled, “History and Philosophy of Chinese Science and Medicine.” Both classes explore how Chinese medicine differs greatly from Western medicine. The former takes the whole body into account and the person’s connection with nature, while Western medicine is almost entirely specific and very rarely takes anything into account that isn’t an exact science.
Maria Deri, a double major in Italian and international relations, was a student in Chang’s fall course. Deri particularly enjoyed how Chang’s personal background influenced her teaching.
“I appreciated her wealth of knowledge about traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and also her firsthand experience as Taiwanese,” Deri said. “She comes from a country that uses both medical systems (TCM and Western biomedicine), and though we do have a few TCM practitioners in the US, her observations about when people usually sought the TCM or Western treatment, depending on their symptoms, was particularly interesting.”
Deri also says that Chang’s relaxed approach to lectures and enthusiasm for students’ questions made her a compelling professor to study with.
Chang’s responsibilities as Lund-Gill Chair also include presenting two public lectures. Her second lecture is on the topic of Chinese pharmacology and ethical issues. It will be hosted by the Siena Center on Feb. 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the Priory Campus Auditorium.
Chang will be leaving the U.S. in May. She has plans to complete a book about the history of pediatrics in China when she gets back to Taiwan. The first draft of the two-year, government-funded project is due by the end of July 2011.
While Chang is an expert in the field of Chinese medicine, she hopes that her students take away something more when they leave her class.
“I want students to be exposed to a different culture that makes them look at themselves more than before,” Chang said. “If you never travel, then your whole world is just Chicago. Students should travel to a place where they are unfamiliar with the language and learn from that experience.”