Where are you from?
I am from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. After graduating high school, I came to Lethbridge in 2002 following in the footsteps of an older cousin. He had gone into criminal justice at Lethbridge College (and is now an RCMP officer in Maple Creek, SK). It seemed like a good idea at the time to follow suit, but once I arrived in Lethbridge things changed quickly. I took some classes in the humanities and social sciences and found sudden interest in anthropology, religious studies, Indigenous studies, psychology and philosophy. Before long, I had taken all the courses I could at the college and then decided to transfer into the University of Lethbridge. It was a natural step forward. Once I arrived at the U of L, my curiosity sort of exploded in all directions. I eventually found my intellectual home in the Department of Religious Studies, owing to the incredible exposure the department offered into Asian history, philosophy, mythology and ritual, and the supportive mentorship of professors in the department (most of whom I can now call colleagues!). I also continued to take courses in other disciplines. I ended my BA at the U of L with an honour's thesis in the Department of Native American Studies under the supervision of Dr. Leroy Little Bear. It examined Blackfoot philosophy in sacrifice and healing. I continued my education and received an MA in anthropology from Trent University and a PhD in anthropology at the University of Toronto.
How long have you been at the U of L and what do you do here?
I've only been teaching at the U of L since January. For the past two years, I was lecturing at the University of Prince Edward Island. So far, I'm having a blast here at the U of L, my alma mater. I'm teaching Religious Studies 3300 – Religion in Contemporary East Asia. I've been blessed with engaged students and our classes are dynamic and fun. It's extra special for me to teach this class as I was once a student in this department. Coming full circle is a satisfying experience as my goal has always been to do for my future students what my former professors did for me — open doorways, ignite curiosity, and inspire.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is seeing that look of learning in the eyes of students during class. That's ground zero for their education and for my pedagogy. Those moments arise most frequently during class when an unexpected story from fieldwork comes up (either from my time with the Blackfoot or in Japan), but it could be an idea as well. Then there are those moments when I am the one with that look of learning in my eyes when the students are engaged in a deep discussion or during a presentation. That is even more satisfying.
We’ve heard you’ve just been awarded the Reischauer Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship in Japanese Studies. What will this fellowship allow you to do?
The postdoctoral fellowship I was offered through the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University is a very high honour. There is more to the story than I am able to say just yet, but this appointment will serve as a great launching pad for a book project I am working on that explores recent innovations in Japanese mountain asceticism (Shugendo in Japanese). There are fascinating developments in this religion that have yet to be fully documented. I am uniquely positioned to do the research owing to my networks in Japan and am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves at Harvard. For now, I am happy to begin this project in affiliation with the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University, where I am currently a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow.