Alumna Teiya Shimomura's experience in the classroom connected her to a local historian and an opportunity.
Teiya Shimomura is staring at a set of paintings inside the Washington State History Museum. The work is colorful, a rich palette of bright yellows, oranges and greens leaping from the canvas. The images are at once vibrant and sobering. The artist, Roger Shimomura, is Teiya’s grandfather.
Roger Shimomura and his parents were forcibly removed from their Seattle home in 1942 after then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. “They were incarcerated in Minidoka, Idaho,” said Teiya Shimomura. “My grandfather was three.”
The Shimomura family returned to Seattle in 1945. Roger Shimomura went on to earn a degree from the University of Washington before staring a long and prolific career as an artist. His work focuses on the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II, particularly the period of incarceration from 1942 to 1945.
Teiya Shimomura has seen her grandfather’s works lots of times. This is different. Shimomura completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UW Tacoma in March. She is also currently working with author/historian Tamiko Nimura on the South Sound Day of Remembrance scheduled for May 18. The event commemorates the impact of Executive Order 9066 and remembers those whose lives were touched by the subsequent forced removal and incarceration. Those lines — earning a degree and the Day of Remembrance — meet at a point hanging on a wall inside the history museum. Said Shimomura, “Looking at his work, I understand that I am the direct result of my family’s fight, their activism and their resilience.
Day of Remembrance
When: May 18 (admission is free) Where: Washington State History Museum
4:30-7:00 PMLetterpress Daruma posters with Write 253, origami, and coloring table. Explore the exhibits REMEMBRANCE and Resilience.
5:30-6:30 PM Screening of Sansei Granddaughters’ Journey and question-and-answer session with artists Na Omi Judy Shintani and Reiko Fujii.
6:30-7:00 PM Procession from Washington State History Museum to Union Station led by Tamiko Nimura. Complimentary ceramic cups from local artist Teruko Nimura for the first 25 participants.
7:00-8:00 PM “Scholarly Selection” talk from UW Tacoma — Preview of digital exhibition Tacoma’s Japantown with panel discussion featuring Tamiko Nimura, Sarah Pyle, and Chris Beyer.
The youngest of two siblings, Teiya Shimomura grew up in Kent. She attended Kent Ridge High School before coming to UW Tacoma in the fall of 2019. “I wanted to go somewhere that was in a city and that offered small class sizes,” she said.
Shimomura wanted the full college experience so she decided to live on campus. “My roommate was someone I knew from Kent Ridge and we were excited to start this new journey together,” she said. “It was amazing. There were always events going on and there were always people around.”
That initial exuberance ran headlong into COVID-19 and the eventual shift to online learning following a stay-at-home order issued by Governor Jay Inslee. “I really struggled with my mental health during the early days of COVID,” said Shimomura. “I just remember feeling isolated and concerned about not knowing what was going to happen next.”
Shimomura’s COVID experience had an impact on her thinking. “From a young age I feel like I’ve been good at listening and having empathy for people,” she said. “I knew I wanted a career path that emphasized these abilities and allowed me to do something around mental health.”
Shimomura decided to pursue psychology as her major. “I’m taking a different route than I originally intended,” she said. “I thought I wanted to be a therapist but now I’m focused on going a more diversity, equity and inclusion route.”
As it turns out, Shimomura’s last assignment was a paper for Assistant Teaching Professor Cassie Miura’s class. “It was about AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] mental health post-COVID and the idea of race-conscious hiring and how we need more AAPI therapists in the workforce,” said Shimomura.
Miura played a pivotal role in Shimomura’s UW Tacoma education. “Before Dr. Miura’s class, I had no idea there was a vibrant Japanese community in Tacoma prior to World War II,” she said. “Tacoma’s Japantown included part of what is now UW Tacoma and it was enlightening to learn that when I walk around campus, I am walking in the footsteps of people who look like me.”
While in Miura’s class, Shimomura read Tamiko Nimura’s graphic novel “We Hereby Refuse,” co-authored with Frank Abe. “I was blown away by the book and got the chance to meet Tamiko when she came to our class,” said Shimomura. Nimura holds an appointment as acting affiliate assistant professor in UW Tacoma’s School of Urban Studies. “During the visit she [Nimura] talked about this job opportunity helping coordinate the Day of Remembrance.”
Funding for the Shimomura's research assistant position comes from UW Tacoma’s AAPI THRIVE project, which is lead by School of Education Dean Rachel Endo, Associate Teaching Professor Tanya Velasquez and Miura. The THRIVE project is the result of a $2 million ANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Student Serving Institution) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The program is “designed to increase institutional capacity to serve and improve programming” for ANAPISI students as well as students from low-income backgrounds.
Shimomura got the job and has spent the past few months helping to plan and organize the Day of Remembrance. "Planning this year's Day of Remembrance has been an amazing way to educate myself on the local history of Japanese incarceration while commemorating their resilience and pain," said Shimomura. "It means so much to me that we can hold an event that ensures their resilience and trauma is not forgotten."
A few weeks after that event, Shimomura will participate in Commencement. Following that, a much-needed break. “I love being in classrooms and I love learning new things,” she said. “I want to go to graduate school but I’m planning on taking the next year off.”
Shimomura might not be a professional artist like her grandfather but she is a painter of sorts. The brush might be a pen and the canvas a page, but it is her pen and her page. “My great grandparents didn’t know what was going to happen next,” she said. “They couldn’t have known that in 80 years they’d have a granddaughter who completed a bachelor’s degree. Graduating from college is a big deal, but to me, it feels even bigger.”
Learn from dealmaker and Seattle sports legend Bob Whitsitt as he shares highlights from his new book Game Changer. Join us October 3, 2023 at 12:30pm, Milgard Hall MLG110. All welcome. Admission is free.
Former student Arabelis Wally has received a prestigious fellowship at Johns Hopkins University that will support her graduate work. The Thomas Scholarship is awarded to "exceptional students from ... minority-serving institutions to pursue PhDs in STEM fields ... ."
The average tire contains more than 400 chemicals and compounds, including 6PPD, a tire preservative that transforms to 6PPD-quinone in the environment. Researchers at UW Tacoma and WSU Puyallup discovered 6PPD toxicity. The Center for Urban Waters' Ed Kolodziej is quoted.