Ching-Chiang Chen helps transform field of rehabilitation counseling in Taiwan

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Alumni Profile

Chen helps transform, advance field
of rehabilitation counseling in native Taiwan

UW–Madison alumna Ching-Chiang Chen retired from her position as a professor and head of the Graduate Institute of Rehabilitation Counseling at National Kaohsiung Normal University in 2012.

She has not, however, slowed down. Indeed, it appears Chen’s passion to help people with disabilities — and drive to transform and advance the field of rehabilitation counseling in her native Taiwan — remains as strong as ever.

Among her current projects, Chen is: executive director of the Special Education Association of the Republic of China; executive director and cofounder of Friends of Youths with Intellectual Disabilities Taiwan; a consultant for five regional vocational rehabilitation resource centers; and a member of the Promotional Committee of Vocational Training and Employment for Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Labor.

“Despite official retirement from the university, I am keeping quite busy,” Chen writes in an email interview.

Ching-Chiang Chen
Ching-Chiang Chen received her Ph.D. at UW-Madison in 1992
before returning home to play a leading role in transforming and
advancing the field of rehabilitation counseling in her native Taiwan.
Chen was born in Taiwan in 1956 and was educated in her homeland until completing counseling psychology master’s degree work in 1982. While working toward the master’s degree, Chen says she volunteered with students with disabilities and became concerned about their career development prospects. After taking a course on rehabilitation counseling, Chen felt the field would be a great fit due to her experience in counseling and concerns about the career development of people with disabilities.

In 1985 her husband received support to pursue a doctorate at UW–Madison. Chen headed to the United States a year later and met with UW–Madison’s Norman Berven, who today remains with the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education as a professor emeritus. Her study plans, however, were put on hold for a few years due to the death of Chen’s father and the birth of her son.

Chen entered the Ph.D. program with the department in 1988, noting she struggled with culture shock and often felt like an outsider.

“But I also learned lots, including the importance of support networks for people with disabilities and thinking about the individuals with disabilities as consumers or customers,” says Chen.

She completed her doctoral work in 1992 and returned to Taiwan.

“I would like to express my deep appreciation to all professors who taught me at UW–Madison,” writes Chen. “They gave me a sense of mission. Their unconditional trust, support and encouragement to a foreign student deeply influenced me and I cherish my association with all of them.”

Chen landed an assistant professor post with National Kaohsiung Normal University’s Department of Special Education that same year, earned grant funding and spent two years traveling across Taiwan.

And over the next two decades, Chen played a leading role in changing the face of rehabilitation psychology in Taiwan by helping to:

  • Develop nation-wide, community based job placement services that were officially inserted into national legislation.
  • Draft the Implementation Guidelines of the Vocational Evaluation for Individuals with Disabilities, which was incorporated in the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Protection Act as a necessary service.
  • Launch in 1997 and continue to develop an internet based, vocational rehabilitation service and management system for people with disabilities.
  • Develop and set up, with UW–Madison alum Ming-Hung Wang, master’s degree programs in rehabilitation counseling at three major universities in Taiwan.

These examples are only a few of the many ways in which Chen has made a lasting and meaningful impact on her field in Taiwan.

“I have learned very valuable life lessons from people with disabilities and their parents,” says Chen. “I believe that accepting disabilities, embracing disabilities — and even beyond disabilities — are the lessons that each of us need to study through our lives.”