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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

New Prof. Rivas to spread Japanese culture

While Grinnell’s English Department may sometimes touch on graphic novels, it takes a special professor to incorporate anime and manga into the usual curriculum. Assistant Professor of Japanese Zelideth Rivas, joining Grinnell’s Chinese and Japanese Department for the current academic year, has managed to do just this in her special topic course, “Youth, Culture and Childhood in Japan.”

Photograph by Mary Zheng.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New Jersey, Rivas moved around the world before coming to the Iowa cornfields. She comes now from Colorado, where she taught at Colorado College. Rivas’s specialty is modern Japanese literature and culture. Besides her teaching position, she is also working on a book project that will examine the competing nationalisms of Japan and Brazil.

“I aim to bring Japanese culture to the forefront of the classroom,” Rivas said.

In addition to teaching this special topic and Introductory Japanese, Professor Rivas is leading another special topic class that delves into her areas of expertise—”Representations of Asians in the Americas.” She describes her teaching style as energetic and engaging.

“I like to make sure my students don’t leave being confused,” Rivas said. “I always make sure students know they can raise their hands and ask as many questions until the matter is clear.”

Rivas’ enjoyment of sharing her knowledge made the decision to become a professor an easy one.

“I always knew that I enjoyed teaching. When I was in college I tutored a lot, I did a lot of part-time job teaching foreign languages,” she said. “I really enjoyed doing that—I enjoyed being in the classroom and being able to get students to understand things.”

As a newcomer, Rivas is still adjusting to Grinnell and its idiosyncrasies, such as the train tracks running through campus, but she does find some aspects of it familiar.

“It reminds me of Wellesley, where I went to college, except for the co-ed part,” Rivas said. “Grinnell has a big campus, yet it feels small because the professors are confined to a particular academic quad. That’s something new—I haven’t had that before where I taught, it was more spread out.”

Besides the faculty community, Rivas also enjoys living in the town of Grinnell, which she describes as “cute.”

“I still get lost every day,” Rivas confessed. “I’m learning little things—how to get to the hardware store, for example.”

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