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Psychology Spotlight

Julie Blankenship: Helping Youth Help Themselves

Julie Blankenship“Transylvania’s liberal arts program enhanced my problem-solving skills. That may be one of the most beneficial things a liberal arts program has to offer.”

As a graduate student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Julie Blankenship ’11 learned that adolescents living on American Indian reservations in the northern Great Plains are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than adolescents in the rest of the country.

As a student of psychology, she is interested in why that happens. “Adolescents of all cultural heritages experience change and anxiety as they develop abstract thinking and begin to take responsibility for the direction of their lives.” As a Transylvania studio art graduate pursing a master’s degree in art therapy, she knows she has skills she can teach these youngsters to help them develop appropriate coping mechanisms.

In 2012 Blankenship traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to pilot an art-based suicide prevention curriculum. Her interest in proposing a solution to a seemingly intractable problem is rooted in her experiences at Transylvania, where she witnessed widespread collaboration among the faculty and recognized the value of looking at a problem from multiple perspectives.

You might say it was inevitable that Blankenship would pursue a degree at Transylvania. After all, at least 12 of her family members—including her parents and two siblings—had attended. Although she looked at other colleges, Blankenship said “it was hard to deny the feeling of being at home on Transylvania’s campus.”

Once on campus, Blankenship embraced the challenges presented to her. “I was constantly being challenged, pushed, and asked to think critically.” She specifically credits her academic advisor, art professor Jack Girard, and her psychology advisor, professor Todd Van Denburg, for encouraging her to be the “best version of herself” she could possibly be. She also appreciates that, as her relationship with a number of the faculty deepened, they treated her more as a colleague than as a student. This prepared her well for her post-graduate experiences.

After finishing her master’s degree, Blankenship plans to get some work experience in her field before pursuing her doctorate in psychology. Because her mentors have never handed her “an equation for success,” she knows she will continue to rely on her education, her training, and her own resilience to identify and resolve the problems around her.

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