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Student Spotlight Interview: Devin Mack

March 8, 2018

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Devin (they/them/theirs) and I am a 22 year-old Seattle native in my second year of the Japan Studies MA program. My hobbies include knitting, writing, and video gaming. よろしくお願いします。


Why did you choose the Japan Studies program?

I chose the Japan Studies MA program after graduating in 2016 from UW with a BA in Japanese Linguistics. Having little background in the cultural, political, and economic qualities of Japanese life I wanted to gain an understanding of the workings of Japanese communication in a more holistic context.


Would you say that you have changed (intellectually, personally, etc.) as a result of attending the Japan Studies program?

I have absolutely changed as a person and as a scholar since I first joined the program. My perspectives about Japan, and also about myself and my own assumptions have changed. Since becoming a part of the Jackson School I’ve integrated a more global sense of awareness into my daily life. I’ve enjoyed engaging with classmates and those in my cohort regarding similar interests. Our conversations have ranged from rising tensions in the South and East China Sea, to heated and academically sourced debates about anime. It’s an amazing experience to learn about, and be a part of, Japanese research in the field of international studies.


What were your research topics for your MA completion?

My two papers were for Drs. Andrea Arai and Kyoko Tokuno. The first was an analysis of the way the role of the full-time housewife is changing in post-recessionary Japan, and was inspired by some great informal interview data for a class project on gender. The second was an exploration and redefinition of Shinto religiosity in Miyazaki films, and it came out of a term paper that rebutted a Danish film scholar’s claims that Miyazaki is a militant far-right nationalist.

What surprised me most is that I came to understand how much research is left to do on so many topics in Japan Studies. It made me realize that our thoughts and our research even as MA students can be an important contribution to the field of Japan Studies.


What are your plans after graduation? How do you see your time in the Japan Studies Program as helping you in the future?

My plans for after graduation started out with the thought that I would complete a concurrent certificate in secondary and post-secondary Japanese language education, and I would become a Japanese language teacher. However, as my knowledge and my class schedule developed, I realized my scholarly passions lay elsewhere. Now, I’m intending to pursue the UW Certificate in Museum Studies to become a curator of East Asian arts and artifacts.


What advice would you give prospective and current Japan Studies MA students?

Don’t procrastinate! No matter how long you have left until the deadline, the revisions and the work still need to be done.

Research and write about topics you want to write about! Being an MA student often affords more liberties to be creative and to find a topic you want to explore in-depth. Writing papers that you are passionate about will give you more material to choose from when you decide which papers to expand into your thesis research papers for the program.

Stay on top of your Japanese language skills! The courses needed to fulfill the Japanese competency requirement don’t count toward your program GPA, but you’ll need to retain the language for any future field work.

On the same note, complete as much Japanese language coursework as you can before entering the program, or during your first year. That way you free up a few credits worth of space in your schedule to explore other things.

Finally, keep in contact with your cohort! The structure of our program, and of the Jackson School at large, creates a network of peers and alumni who are great resources for you. But more importantly, your cohort is comprised of people who not only offer different perspectives and knowledge, but who also take the same classes and professors, and know what you’re going through. Your cohort (and your graduated senpai) can be essential sources of both academic and moral support.


Visit Devin's Student Profile