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Dr. Yiwen Chiu
Associate Professor

1 Grand Ave., Cal Poly
NRES 180-504
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
TEL: 805-756-2972
yichiu at

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Environmental Management & Sustainability in Taiwan

Program Highlight

  • 5 weeks (Program is hosted in Taipei & Changhua)
  • 8 units of Cal Poly GE credit
  • NR 360 - Ethnicity and the Land (C4 and USCP)*
    NR 323 - Human Dimensions in Natural Resources Management (D5)*
    * Both courses are listed as approved electives under Cal Poly’s Chinese Minor and Sustainable Environments Minor
  • 11 day trips or overnight excursions
  • Priceless journey!

As Cal Poly has strived to promote sustainability in practice, there is an urgent need to offer a new learning opportunity addressing sustainability challenges from the aspect of environmental management. Moreover, there is a limited number of global programs related to the core curricula of CAFES, minimizing the study-abroad opportunities for the second largest college in Cal Poly. To overcome this challenge, Dr. Yiwen Chiu (Natural Resources Management & Environmental Science) developed a brand-new study abroad program in 2017 with the support from Cal Poly International Center. We successfully took the first cohort of students to Taiwan in Summer 2018 and then the following year. The Taiwan Program will significantly increase not only the diversity of Cal Poly global programs, but also learning opportunity for Cal Poly students who are interested in sustainability, environmental protection, or Chinese culture in general. The new proposed program will take advantage of Taiwan’s natural and ecological environment allowing Cal Poly students to discover sustainability challenges and proposed management approaches by applying skills learned in classes.

Program Introduction

Locations of Taipei and Chunghua in Taiwan.

The five-week Taiwan Program will take place at two distinctive locations: Taipei, one of the most populated international cities in the world, and Changhua which is famous for its historical and cultural characteristics. This special arrangement can facilitate a rich learning experience by exploring diverse cultural variance, social characteristics, sustainable challenges, which cannot be achieved by an in-class learning environment. 

Cal Poly students will have an opportunity to learn about contemporary environmental challenges ranging from community to global levels from social, cultural, and political dimensions. The course will be housed in two collaborative institutes, National Taipei University of Technology (NTUT, Taipei) and National Chi-Nan University (NCUE, Changhua), with additional field trips to explore environmental and social characteristics challenging sustainable development. By attending this program, Cal Poly students will have an opportunity to intensively interact with bilingual Taiwanese students (peer advisors and student volunteers) to not only conduct in-class activities, but also explore various travel destinations during weekends. This peer-learning process is a unique setting and opportunity offered by this Program for enriching Cal Poly students’ learning experience. During the first two weeks in Taipei (northern Taiwan, all lectures will be housed at NTUT with the support of CPGC-approved service providers in arranging student housing and streamlining transportation to synchronize field trips. Cal Poly students will check in nearby across street from NTUT campus. From week three to five, students will stay in Changhua (central Taiwan). NCUE will facilitate the teaching and housing demand, in addition to support transportation for excursions. Students will stay in a hotel near by NCUE during this period of time.

Successfully complete this Program, students will earn 8 GE credit units from these two courses:

  • GE C4 and USCP: NR360 Ethnicity and the Land (4 units)
  • GE D5: NR 323 Human Dimensions in Natural Resources Management (4 units)

Each teaching section (at Taipei and Changhua) will include in-class lectures, group-based project activities, and field trips, which will all be led by Dr. Yiwen Chiu. Lectures will aim to cover the discussion on fundamental concepts, whereas group activities and field trips will allow students to carry out projects and compile relevant information. Field trip destinations will include national/regional parks, experimental forests, and historical districts demonstrating the implementation of sustainable practices. Students will be organized in groups of three or four to conduct group projects which aim to assess selected topics related to sustainability and provide solutions. Following chart shows a breakdown view of all activities on a weekly basis.

Past Program Highlights

Why Taiwan?

With an area size about 4 times bigger than San Luis Obispo County, Taiwan is a small island packed with stunning natural landscape and diverse ecosystems. Taiwan is also the world’s 20th largest economies, and also home to one of the world’s largest cities in metropolitan population. With its dramatic topography, Taiwan has extremely high ecological diversity supported by various climate features ranging from tropic to frigid zones. This unique socioeconomic and environmental characteristics make Taiwan a perfect living classroom to learn the sciences of natural resources and ecology. Following is some additional characteristics of Taiwan helping you put this island into perspective and provide some vivid images of what the Program entails.

  • Area size 12 times smaller than California
  • Climate ranges from tropic to frigid zones
  • Species richness per area size is 60 times higher than the world average
  • World’s 15th most competitive economy
  • One of the most densely populated countries in the world
  • Home to 14 recognized aboriginal tribes
  • Lowest fertility rate in the world
  • One of the most liberal country in Asia
  • One of the safest country for travelers, female and solo travelers in particular
  • 159 universities, 31 of which are located in Taipei!!
  • One of the most studied "too-good-to-be-true" national health systems in the world

Taiwan skyline

More about the Beauty of Taiwan

Proposed Excursions

To take advantage of Taiwan’s city setting, some in-class activities can also take place at outdoor. For example, if the weather permits, the instructor and peer advisors will take students to hop on a bus to visit some other universities or local communities that are only minutes away from classroom. In addition, there will be seven field trips (day trips or over-night trips) taking students to visit destinations where Taiwan's unique ecological and cultural features have been preserved.

Jinguashi Old Street

Jinguashi Old Street

Day trip

This is a popular travel destination that was shaped by its gold and copper mining industry which reached its peak production in 1938. But within 40 years, Jinguashi’s mine reserve was depleted taking this area into a devastating economic depression. However, because of its landscape and nostalgic atmosphere, this area’s become a popular travel destination since 1990s. Given its unique socioeconomic transformation, it’s also become a well-studied area in the realm of social and demographic dynamics.

Yang Ming Shan

Yangmingshan National Park

Day trip

The second fieldtrip in Taipei will take students to visit Yangmingshan National Park (YNP).  YNP features a scenic vista elevated over 2600 feet, above the entire Taipei Basin. This stop point will allow students to grasp a big picture revealing many environmental challenges that have resulted from over population including the geographical and socioeconomic driving forces leading to the “urban heat island.” YNP is also one of the rare volcanic landscapes and ecosystems in Taiwan, attracting nearly 4.5 million tourists every year. This increased tourism has dramatically increased environmental stresses, which have led to the establishment of various environmental education and wildlife management programs at YNP.

Guandu Park

Tamsui Mangrove Conservation Area

Day trip

This estuary park is a well-known stopover site for migration waterfowl with global ecological significance. This area is also a protected habitat for Kandelia obovate, a rare tropical plant more commonly known as a mangrove, primarily inhabiting estuaries between Hong Kong and Japan. Tamsui is one of the largest mangrove habitats found at the highest latitude in the world. This unique climate and estuary nurture extremely high biodiversity attracting scientific communities to establish various long-term monitoring programs here.

ITRI campus

Industrial Technology Research Institute, ITRI

day trip

While transferring from Taipei to Nantou, students will stop by ITRI at Shintsu to learn about relevant political and scientific instruments to mitigate the impacts of climate change at a regional and national level. ITRI is a national research institute primarily sponsored by Taiwan Environmental Protection Agency. It is also the leading think tank in assisting with the development of national strategies to mitigate the impact associated with climate change and energy consumption. Students will take the newly established Taiwan High-speed Railway afterward from ITRI to Taichung Station where a shuttle will be arranged by NCNU to take students to Dasyueshan (see next destination).

Guanwu Forest Recreation Area

Guanwu Forest Recreation Area

3-day overnight trip

Attributed to its dramatically rising elevation, peaking at 8200 feet, Guanwu is one of the most unique areas in Taiwan where students can walk through boreal, temperate, deciduous, and coniferous forests in one day. Guanwu also houses a segment of the national trail system exhibiting the diverse “cloud forest” ecosystems. The educational complex located near the main entrance can fully support our learning and teaching needs. Students will learn more about community ecology and landscape ecology here.

Xitou Education Forest

Xitou Nature Education Forest

2-day overnight trip

Established in 1970, Xitou is a forested property of the National Taiwan University (NTU) and primarily under the management of the Department of Forestry for supporting research and education. It is approximately 55 miles away from NCNU, with a rise in elevation from 2600 to 6650 ft. Home of the oldest Ginkgo biloba (one of the twelve living fossils to science) forest stand in Taiwan, Xitou attracts more than 1.5 million visitors each year to embrace its peaceful atmosphere. Xitou has long history of facilitating various environmental training programs and research projects, is famous for the ecological education, and is well equipped with a teaching and research facility. Xitou is also a living laboratory revealing the transformation from timber cultivation to forest conservation. Students will explore recreational management and environmental monitoring practices in this trip. Before arriving Xitou, students will make one stop at Luku, an agricultural town famous for Oolong Tea plantations, to learn about the economic impact of the tea industry and how this one particular economic activity has shaped Luku to what it is today. This is a great opportunity to explore the interaction between socio-economic driving forces, watershed hydrology, and landscape ecology. Later in the afternoon, students will arrive Xitou and stay in one of the four housing facilities there.

Puli local communities

Local Tours near Central Taiwan

multiple day trips

During our short stay at Changhua, these two weeks will be packed with trips to visit five to seven different destinations. These destinations all have very unique historical, cultural, or agricultural significance which are selected to foster student’s learning in sustainable development from the social dimension. Many of them are well-known study targets in the field of environmental economics, community resilience, and natural hazard mitigation. These local day trips will introduce rural development, and self-sustaining communities fostered by cohesive efforts from academia, local NGOs, and stakeholders. Students will have an opportunity to share local people's stories, and learn how they strategically rejuvenize their hometowns.

About the Faculty Leader

Dr. Yiwen Chiu arrived at Cal Poly in 2014 and is currently the lead faculty directing the teaching and research in quantitative sustainability, environmental life-cycle analysis, and environmental management. Dr. Chiu grew up in Taiwan, and received her bachelor degree from National Taiwan University located in Taipei. She also had four years of working experience as a project manager and researcher at NTUT at Taipei. Spending more than eight years in Taipei, one of the most liberal cities in Asia, she naturally embraces the desire for adventure, and living in different countries has been one of the essential elements in her life. She had lived in many different cities including Bournemouth, UK, and Zurich, Switzerland, Minneapolis and Chicago. This unique background allows her to blend into new cultures easily and comfortably. Her education and research has also greatly benefited from the opportunities to network with diverse communities including local NGOs, national associations, and scholars from the world’s leading institutes. Therefore, Dr. Chiu highly values the impact of international learning programs and how they can enrich a student’s learning experience.

After moving to the States in 2004, she still visits Taiwan frequently on an annual basis for conference trips, invited presentations, and professional networking. Therefore, she is extremely familiar with Taiwan and have extended experience with its academic, cultural and governmental setting, which can be applied directly to facilitate the Taiwan program. Dr. Chiu’s latest research aims to promote research and education in sustainable practices by engaging STEM students who are enthusiastic to learn and driven to reach higher academic standards. All courses she taught share the same key objective: to reinforce the relationship between humans and nature, and to strategically manage anthropogenic activities for sustaining natural systems. Her ultimate goal is to help students realize their unlimited potential, and prepare them to take challenges and tackle hurdles no matter what their future career pathways will be.

Financial & Safety

Consumers in Taiwan have a high purchasing power in comparison to many other countries, indicating the economic viability for visitors, especially those from high-income countries. The cost of living plus rent is approximately 33% less than the US average. Although Taipei does appear to have a much higher living cost than other cities in Taiwan, the Taiwan Program will only spend two weeks in Taipei to minimize the expense without detracting from the learning experience. For the rest of the time, students will mostly stay in Chuanghua. Central Taiwan is the most scenic region providing much higher living quality with a relatively lower living cost than other areas in Taiwan. Taiwan is also famous for its well-developed public transit systems. For example, the Taipei Metro System was voted as one of the cleanest (no food or drink is allowed) public transit systems in the world with an average fare of $1 per ride. To travel across Taiwan along the west coast in as short as 4 hours costs about $45 by taking the new High Speed Rail System. Traveling from California to Taiwan (Taipei), there are frequent direct flights departing at both SFO and LAX, with an average airfare ranging from $1000 to $1300 during a peak traveling season in summer. US citizens with valid passports can enter Taiwan without a visa, which also helps lower costs. 
Taiwan is not classified as an area with any degree of hazard concerns under a U.S. State Department Travel Warning ( Several excursion destinations are located at remote mountainous areas, students who are motion sensitive might experience car sick. Therefore, all students will be advised to prepare for motion sickness before departure. Illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes are not a risk factor. Specific safety measures will be provided in Cal Poly orientations, by the U.S. State Department website, and the CDC website. Taiwan is constantly selected as one of the safest and most friendly place for single travelers. 
Like other developed countries, there has been a strong momentum of supporting human rights and equality across different ethnic backgrounds and gender in Taiwan. As Taiwan is widely exposed to international culture, the public are very friendly to people of color and international visitors. Moreover, during the Program, bilingual Taiwanese students will be recruited and keep Cal Poly students company to explore local culture. The arrangement will facilitate a diverse and vibrant peer-learning environment.

For more information

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