For Wen S. (Charlie) Chern, retirement from Ohio State’s active faculty turns out to have been a milepost in his professional career, certainly not its end.
After spending two decades teaching and conducting research as a faculty member in Ohio State’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE), Dr. Chern became an emeritus professor in April 2007. Returning to Taiwan, where he was born and raised, he was appointed Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Economics of National Chung Cheng University in Chi Yi. He commutes to the university from Tian Wei, his home village in Chang Hwa County, about twenty miles away.
During the past six years, Dr. Chern has taught empirical microeconomics at the graduate level and has advised nine M.S. students. Four of them have written theses about the economic benefits of country-of-origin-labeling and journal articles based on seven theses have been published to date. Dr. Chern’s greatest accomplishment since leaving Columbus is that five of his advisees have received outstanding thesis awards: three from the Taiwanese Rural Economic Society and another two from the Taiwanese Economic Association. For the long-time OSU professor, the appointment at National Chung Cheng University has been a perfect way to end a productive career in university teaching.
Social and political organizing has also occupied much of Dr. Chern’s time since 2008, when he learned that the Taipower Company – a monopoly partly owned by the government – was going to build a high-voltage (345 KV) power transmission line (HVPTL) through Tian Wei. This alarmed Dr. Chern and his neighbors because exposure to the low-frequency electromagnetic fields that surround HVPTLs increases the risks of childhood leukemia and adult cancers. Dr. Chern has led a group of farmers and villagers to protest the project, both locally and in Taipei. Meetings have been held with elected representatives, public hearings have taken place, and Taipower has been sued.
The anti-HVPTL campaign has led to a research proposal that Dr. Chern submitted to Taiwan’s National Council of Sciences to investigate the impact of HVPTLs on farmland values. The proposal was successful, which has enabled him and two of his M.S. advisees to collect data and complete econometric analysis. The results of this analysis have been published in a pair of journal articles. The same results can also be used by affected citizens suing for compensation.
For Dr. Chern, fighting the local HVPTL has been a worthy cause and also has made people aware of what they can and should do to defend their own interests. He is currently writing a book about the experience.
August 23, 2013