CLA Welcomes Japanese Language Theory Specialist to Faculty This Fall

August 26, 2020

Nana SuzumuraA specialist in Japanese language theory, testing and assessment, Dr. Nana Suzumura is an avid proponent of foreign-language learning because she believes that foreign language classes can help promote diversity and deepen cultural understanding.

“It’s important for us as teachers to help students become respectful, responsible and courageous global citizens so we can live nicely in this country and in the world,” she says. “I think this is even more important now with the current political climate.”

Dr. Suzumura will join the Asian and Asian American Studies department in the College of Liberal Arts as an assistant professor of Japanese language and pedagogy this fall. Previously, she was a consultant for Avant Assessment in the development of new Japanese language test items. She obtained her doctorate in Japanese language and linguistics from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, in 2020. 

CSULB’s renowned Asian and Asian American Studies department drew Dr. Suzumura to the campus. In addition, the university’s passion for undergraduate education and strong focus on teaching, as well as research, is something she personally identifies with, she says. Dr. Suzumura will be teaching Fundamentals of Japanese classes in the fall.

“The whole department, especially the Japanese program, is very well known,” she says. “The current professors are very active in their industry and in their field. They are very passionate and knowledgeable about teaching undergraduates, and I thought it would be great to work with those professors.” 

The Japanese faculty at CSULB has a long history of conducting collaborative research projects on heritage language schools, dual immersion programs and offering teacher training workshops. Dr. Suzumura is enthusiastic about collaborating with other language programs and departments to help develop appropriate tools to enhance curricula and student learning outcomes. Dr. Barbara Kim, vice chair of the Asian and Asian American Studies department at CSULB, says Dr. Suzumura will be an active scholar-teacher committed to working with students and meeting their needs.

“She is mindful of the wide range of backgrounds, interests, strengths and challenges that students bring to her classroom,” Dr. Kim says. “We believe CSULB students will find her to be a thoughtful, engaging, energetic and accessible professor.”

Originally from Japan, Dr. Suzumura began her academic career at Nanzan University, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English language and literature. Her experience as an exchange student in the U.S. gave her an opportunity to examine her own cultural values, she says.

“Studying English linguistics allowed me to look at the Japanese language as an academic discipline, which I had never done before,” she explains. “Looking at Japanese through this new aspect gave me an opportunity to look back on who I am, to rethink and revisit all these things that I thought were normal.”

Dr. Suzumura continued her academic pursuits at the University of Iowa, where she obtained her master’s degree in Asian civilization with a specialization in teaching Japanese as a foreign language. While working on her degree, she joined the Upward Bound Project, a federal program that helps first-generation and low-income high school students prepare for post-secondary education. As an instructor, she developed Japanese language and culture curriculum lessons.

In 2006, Dr. Suzumura received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the University of Iowa for her exceptional work in the Teacher Education Program.  After graduation, she worked as an instructor and high school teacher developing test items, lessons and curriculums for beginning- and intermediate-level Japanese courses. As a teacher of Japanese language to American students, Dr. Suzumura says she has a strong desire to help students rediscover themselves and their own cultures.

“I want to encourage students to get to know themselves by learning something besides their own language and their own background,” she says. “That’s really the backbone of what I’m trying to do as a teacher.”

Profile story by Kevin Bollman