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NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – Westminster College’s English Department recently hired a new assistant professor.

Trisha Cowen, Ph.D., had a very interesting resume with a lot of experience from the Olympics to writing a novel manuscript confronting Japanese sex slavery.

Cowen gained experience when she worked as a sports journalist for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Which introduced her to a new culture and added to her interest in further travels.

New WC English Professor, Dr. Trisha Cowen.

“The most interesting part of reporting at the Olympics was simply the Olympic Newsroom. In the Olympic Newsroom you have so many people from all over the world working together on topics they are really excited about,” Cowen said.

She also received a scholarship to do research for her Novel Manuscript Five Thousand Days of Autumn – which she wrote in the narrative of a Japanese Comfort womannamed Nakashima Wakana (Kana). Which tells the story of Kana moving to the United States with her American husband.

The term Comfort women describes about 20,000 to 310,000 women who were either forced or tricked into prostitution during the Asia Pacific War. These women were rounded up and imprisoned in comfort stations where they were raped and abused by military personnel from 1932 to 1945.


Trisha Cowen at comfort station in Nanjing, China 2013. Courtesy of Trisha Cowen’s website.

“Due to a grant I was able to travel to Tokyo and Japan and go to the comfort women museum, and I did a lot of research there that enabled me to find a comfort station in Nanjing, China, and later travel there, and stand in some of the rooms, and even though it was a rundown building it was exciting for me,” Cowen said.

Cowen’s ten years of research helped her better understand the diverse, haunting, and lost stories of the comfort women.

“It was sad and yet exciting to be able to find one of the locations where the comfort women were brought because I was able to learn more about their experiences by being in the same room that many of the comfort women were brought to when they were brought to China,” Cowen said.

Dr. Cowen traveled across the world, and she is excited to bring what she learned from that experience to her students, here at Westminster.

“I was hoping to bring a new and exciting energy to Westminster College, and to bring some new and exciting courses that will excite the students, and hopefully bring a new perspective on literature and writing,” Cowen said, “I’m really excited to be here.”

Cowen would love to travel with her Westminster students and show them around Asia.

Trisha Cowen Teaching her Inquiry 111 class.

“Travel is such a great addition to education, and one of my favorite ways to teach students about a new culture would be to take them to Asia, and introduce them to Asian food and restaurants,” Cowen said.

The research was financially provided by the Marion Clayton Link Fellowship in Creative Writing and the Rosa Colecchio Travel Award for Dissertation Research, which Cowen received.

“As a white American woman writing in the narrative of a Japanese comfort woman was difficult and took a lot of research to accomplish. Visiting comfort stations and museums in Japan and China aided my writing,” Cowen said.

She received her doctoral degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at Binghamton University (SUNY), in New York. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

For her work in Asia she received Binghamton University’s Graduate Student Award in Research Excellence. She received this award because the novel is the first to capture the experience of a comfort woman of Japanese descent.

Her creative work has appeared in The Portland Review, Bitter Oleander Press, 2 Bridges Review, and many others. She is the 2014 winner of the Gertrude Press Chapbook contest for fiction.

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