Thursday, October 6, 2011
Take 5 with Seigo Nakao
Composed of a diverse array of faculty, staff and administrators, the Oakland University community is unique, creative, and dedicated. As part of a continuing effort to explore the various roles and lives of our Golden Grizzlies, the News @ OU website presents a new interview series. We invite you to share these stories and “Take 5” with OU.
“Take 5 with Seigo Nakao”
Seigo Nakao is an associate professor of Japanese for the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. Since joining the Oakland community in 1992, Seigo has been patiently working to grow the Japanese program at OU by developing new courses and cultivating new faculty. He was born in Nagasaki but went to school in Tokyo, and considers the city as his hometown. Seigo earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature at New York University and has taught all levels of Japanese, including courses relating to Japanese culture, history, literature, theatre and cinema.
1) How has the Japanese program evolved in your time at OU?
When I first began at Oakland University, Japanese was not even a minor. We offered only six courses total. Over the years, the Japanese minor was created, and then the Japanese major. We have created many new courses and significantly increased the number of students in the programs. It took 16 years to develop the coursework to get where we are, it was a very long process. It has been difficult to find the right faculty, and now we have many interesting course offerings in Japanese literature, film and history as well. I feel that I have achieved many of my goals here, and it is a good feeling to have. Patience does pay off.
2) Why is it important for modern students to study foreign languages?
I think it is a pitfall to be only one sided. It is important to understand different cultures as they become our partners worldwide. I teach a course about Asian literature as a Western fantasy of what Asia is like. It is important to not view cultures from just one angle, as you often end up projecting your own ideas on that culture. Class discussions offer many views and help students to develop rounded opinions. It is always interesting when we have a foreign student in class, it makes the discussion exciting and shows how international Oakland is becoming. New perspectives benefit all.
3) Do you have any pets?
I am very much a fan of cats, they are very easy to please and are able to express joy so effortlessly. They need so little attention and are satisfied with things that are small and simple. My cat was a stray and wandering until she came to my house. She stayed and liked people. I think our encounter was destined. I didn’t like cats before, but have become a fan of them through her. It was a discovery of self, my cat revealed a part of me that I didn’t know.
4) Do you have a favorite movie or genre of film?
Yes, I am a movie fanatic! I have many favorite Japanese directors like Mikio Naruse and Kaneto Shindō, who has been making films for 50 years. I saw a retrospective of his career and am glad that he is getting recognition. I also like the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who made “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” I think these young directors can be audacious and outrageous and more exciting because they care less what the audience thinks. They just make the films they want to make. I think Woody Allen is a great filmmaker. I recently saw his newest film, “Midnight in Paris” and thought it was a wonderful tribute to the city. I like many Japanese and European movies. Their films seem more accidental and can be charming and surprising.. Sometimes the U.S. films are too organized and recognizable.
5) What do you enjoy most about your job?
It is fulfilling to see the growth of the program. The number of students in Japanese has grown from about 130 to roughly 450. I see more and more students interested in Japanese, taking many different courses. I also enjoy working on Oakland University’s campus. I think the campus has become very attractive. Over the past five or six years, it has become more beautiful. There is great attention to repairs, and many trees and flowers. It is a real pleasure to stroll on our campus.