HOME制度センターへようこそ ≫ 客員ファカルティーにインタビュー! 第11回

客員ファカルティーにインタビュー! 第11回

Prof. Ian Coxhead is a development economist specializing in the study of growth, trade and development, with a regional focus on East and Southeast Asia. His primary research effort focuses on the responses of labor markets, migration and educational choices globalization. He also works on interactions of globalization and environment in developing Asia. He is a professor at the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison and served as department chair from 2012 until 2017.
During the three months he stayed with us as a Visiting Faculty, Professor Coxhead’s focus in research was to investigate school dropouts and school persistence in developing Asian economies, and to continue work on the climate change challenge to development Asia. At the same time, he has been very keen in absorbing Japanese culture and the language, which you will soon learn in the interview. His presence around at the CEI has filled us with joy and happiness every day! 

“Well, I’m a nomad, apparently!”

Q: Where and how did you grow up?
I was born in Hawkes Bay, one of the major wine producing regions in New Zealand. My house was next door to the original cabernet sauvignon vineyard in New Zealand, and I am very proud of that! My father was a dentist. We moved to Dunedin when I was three. Here it was much colder and it was a city settled by the Scottish people who migrated in the middle of the 19th century, so the tradition was quite different, more serious. I finished high school there. I didn’t want to go to college straight away, so I did some odd jobs around in New Zealand for a while. 
When I was around 20, I moved to Australia and I lived there for the next 13 years. After a while I went to college, and then to graduate school and met my wife, got married and we moved together to the United States in 1991. Wisconsin-Madison invited me, because they were building faculty strength in South East Asian area studies. They wanted to recruit an economist because they wanted to have a complete coverage of people with South East Asian knowledge.  We planned to stay there three to five years, but ended up staying in Madison ever since! 

“There’s no secret…”

Q. How many languages do you speak?
I loved studying languages from the time I was at school. When I was a Master’s student and a Ph.D., I went to the Philippines twice and lived there for almost a year and a half in total. I went to the International Rice Institute which is in Los Ban?s about 60km outside Manila. I learned to speak Tagalog because I’m a very sociable person and also because I believe that if you are in a country where English is not spoken, then you should learn the language at least as much as you can and you’ll have more fun if you do! So I had lots of fun in the Philippines and made lots of friends there!
I also speak a little Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese. 
Q. What is your secret for learning Japanese so fast? 
There is no secret! (laugh) I work very hard at it. I spend about one hour a day studying Japanese every day while I’m here. I use lots of different sources to learn, too. I go to the community center, kominkan, once a week for a Japanese class, but I also attend the Saturday morning chat class there, and that is great, because there I am learning how to comprehend and speak at a natural speed. I also have two or three books and I spend a lot of time with internet sources. I have kanji flash cards on my computer! When I look up the word in my dictionary, I look at the kanji and see what it is made of and I see what other words, what other compounds are made with that kanji and so there I try to learn to recognize and learn about it through its context. With flash cards I try to learn about 20 kanji a day, and so far I have learned about 500. Now I can recognize individual kanji, but it is much more difficult to go from individual kanji to reading words and sentences. You have the advantage of studying when you are very young!
I am pretty good at Tagalog, and I can speak a little Thai. Thai has tones that are difficult to learn, but they have only 46 characters so learning to read Thai is much simpler than learning to read Japanese. I learned to read Thai, because we lived there for seven months when my daughters were four and two. I taught at Thammasat University and my four years old went to a Thai pre-school, where they didn’t speak any English. Every day I will take her to her school on ferries and songthaew which made us both quite tired! (laugh) She would come home with homework to learn to read and write Thai. It would be like take one character from the Thai alphabet and practice writing it and of course, I had to do her homework for her! And that is how I learned to read Thai! (laugh) 

“We were the first Western group to visit Vietnam after the Vietnam War… And it was one reason why I became an economist”

Q. Was the Philippines the first South East Asian country you’ve been to?
No, it was the first one I’ve lived in. My first trip to South East Asia was to Laos and Vietnam in 1980. It was five years after the Vietnam War. I didn’t know at that time, but it was the first group from Western countries to visit Vietnam after the war! What I saw there was a tremendous deprivation among other things. The extent of the deprivation I had no concept of before, because I grew up in a rich country and I never saw anyone who really didn’t have enough to eat. I saw something I never imagined and that made me very interested in economic development. I was a history major but I decided to switch to economics because I wanted to find out how these countries could escape this kind of poverty. By the time I went to the Philippines, I was already an economics graduate student. I haven’t changed much. I’ve been asking the same question ever since. 
Q. So have you found some answers to your question?
There is no suitable single answer… Vietnam has been quite successful, a great example of a country which has grown from absolute poverty in one generation.  But the Philippines is different, it hasn’t changed much the entire time. If there is a secret to success, it is that everyone has to pull in the same direction. The government has to make growth possible with good policies and good institutions. If they do, investments will come which will make workers productive. Productive workers are happy and ambitious, they invest well in health and education for their children. Those children will grow up healthier, better educated, with better opportunities than their parents and that’s how growth happens.  In the case of Laos, it is a socialist country, and they have a penalty for economic growth mostly because it is a land locked country. And did you know that it was the most heavily bombed country anywhere in the world anytime? Unexploded ordnance is still their No. 1 problem. There are lots of sad things about Laos.

“I thought about nothing else but my work for six months and that was fun!”

Q. When did you first decide to become a researcher?
I wrote an under graduate thesis which took about half a year and those days before the internet, I didn’t even have a phone. I just spent my time in the library and in the apartment and I thought about nothing else but my work for six months…and that was fun! I loved it and it turned out that I got a very good report on my thesis from my advisors. I was a top student of my class that year which was very encouraging. I had a summer experience at the research university during that time where I saw all these people getting paid for just thinking about research stuff, and I thought that’s easier than doing manual labor for a living, which I had been doing before! But it is rewarding isn’t it? I was very lucky. I was very lucky being born in a rich country with a good education system. I had lots of opportunities and I didn’t waste all of them. 
Q. Which field trip was the most impressive?
Most probably the first one, because that was the first time I saw “poverty”…. Also Vietnam at that time was a police state, and that made it another reason why it was the most impressive visit. Even to us, as casual visitors, we could see that people were unwilling to speak freely. Sometimes we had the experience that people were removed, taken away from our company when they tried to speak to us. Then I understood that freedom is not taken for granted. That was a big experience.

Life in Kunitachi, working with Hitotsubashi

Q. How did you get to know about Hitotsubashi?
When I was a history major, I specialized in Asian history and I read everything I could find about Asian countries, especially Japan, China, and India. So I knew a lot about Japan, but I learned about Hitotsubashi much later. I guess through colleagues who had visited. It’s a famous and prominent university in the world of economics, not just within Japan but outside, and I thought it would be an interesting place to visit.
I’ve been visiting Japan for about fifteen years and this is my first time to come here, and I feel happy every day!
Q. How do you feel about living in Kunitachi?
Kunitachi is fabulous. I love living in university towns. In America, I live in a town where the university is the main industry. And so Kunitachi feels very familiar because of that. It has really nice characteristics, it feels like a community. And of course, Hitotusbashi University is physically like going to work in the park! 

“Go both ways along the Chuo-Line!”

Q. What would you recommend for a first time visiting researcher to do in Japan?
Japan is fun and Tokyo is super fun! There are literally infinite possibilities and anything you want to do, you can do and lots of things you didn’t even know you wanted to do, you can do them in Tokyo. You can experience so many different things here, from the food to the cultural life and everything else. It is amazing. And of course the best thing about Kunitachi is that it is kind of equidistant between the city and the mountains. So I will recommend to everybody to travel both ways along the Chuo-line. When we first came here, Ingrid and I got on the wrong train one week end. We wanted to go to Takao-san, but ended up in Otsuki!. We got off at Otsuki, and I looked on my iPhone to see what we can do here. There was Saru-hashi (monkey bridge)! It was so beautiful and classic, a work of art. It is also immortalized in works of art like Hiroshige’s. So we were amazed to find this and to visit this bridge by ourselves. So that’s my advice to people visiting. You should go both ways along the Chuo-line!
I would also recommend to study Japanese. It is difficult to do some things in Japan without knowing the language. Going out to restaurants and knowing what they have to offer and being able to order is extremely difficult unless you only go to places with picture menus. 

“Ask good questions!”

Q. What are some of your long term goals?
Any development economists have the same goal, which is “to make some difference in the world”, to have the feeling that something you did or you said contributed to making others’ life better. 
Q. Please give us your recommendations to the young Japanese researchers in the same field.
University researchers have a hugely privileged existence. They get paid to pursue ideas about which they feel passionate. Very few people in the world can describe their job in that way. So that is a huge privilege and it’s a great opportunity that I think which comes with some responsibilities. When you choose the questions for your research, you should think about the broader benefits to humankind of the work that you do. So I think you have a great opportunity as a researcher to follow your passion, but also in my view at least, you have an obligation to try to do something good for the world. To choose the questions that you ask, carefully. Asking good questions is important to us. But also asking questions which you feel people would care about your answer is very important. If you ask good questions, people will remember your research. That is more important than having the latest technique or anything else. 
Q. So how can they learn to find a good question?
Reading good books and meeting researchers that you can look up to is important, but in the end you have to internalize it. You have to know how to ask yourself whether it matters or not. You have to interrogate yourself. You can’t rely on others to invalidate what you do, because in academia, people are not very good at that. So I think the best researchers are their own strongest critics.
We sincerely would like to thank Professor Ian Coxhead for sharing his life story in his very busy time. His vision in life has given us a lot of inspirations! His eagerness to learn and to understand while at the same time enjoying life at the fullest must have been  making a great impact not only to his work but to the people around him, to move one step forward to a better life! We wish him and his family the very best in their future endeavors. 
Interviewed on Nov. 15, 2017, by CEI staff, Akiko Ito, Michie Kano, and Yoshiko Kizuka.