Lost in Japan

PROFile: Jeffrey Newmark, associate professor, religion and culture department, U of W

In the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) religion and culture department, associate professor Dr. Jeffrey Newmark enthusiastically teaches Japanese culture and language. 

Newmark was first exposed to Japanese culture during high school. An opportunity arose for students to apply to go to Japan for the summer. Newmark, who hadn’t travelled much before, decided to go for it. 

“I got a chance to spend six weeks that summer in a little town outside of Tokyo,” he says. “It was my first experience living in Japan.” 

Since that summer, Newmark’s passion for the language and culture grew. Newmark first started learning Japanese in university and went on to get a master’s degree in international education and a PhD in Japanese history. 

When it comes to teaching, Newmark says the best part is the wide range of students who attend his classes.

In fact, Newmark is often surprised at how many students are interested in Japan’s history, language and culture. He always wonders if he’ll get students who have a genuine interest in the topic but finds that it seems to draw in a lot of energetic students.

“There’s so much enthusiasm for a subject that I thought was narrow,” Newmark says, “but there’s a lot of appreciation for Japanese culture, for Japanese tradition (and) for understanding a different part of the world that many of the students haven’t been to.”

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

“That I know very little about Japanese anime and manga.”

What was your worst grade in university?

“I got a low C.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

“Oh jeez. I guess flight. I know it’s a boring answer, but the ability to fly eases up transportation.” 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

“I like reading horror novels (and) horror short stories.” 

Published in Volume 75, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 10, 2021)

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