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NEWS | May 14, 2024

Navy Engineer Deepens Cultural Ties Through Performing Arts

By Brianna Alexander (CTR), Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Corporate Communications Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Division

Lauryl Nakagawa, an engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, began her unique journey in Hunan, China, where as a baby she was adopted by a Caucasian mother and Japanese father from the United States.

She lived in Ventura, California, throughout her childhood and graduated from California State Polytechnic University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Her path intertwines a blend of cultures that shape her identity and professional pursuits.

"To me, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means sharing fun and different cultural aspects of our heritage that are sometimes not known to other cultures,” Nakagawa said. “Growing up American with a Chinese background and a Japanese father provided me with a fusion of cultures."

Despite the challenges she faced in school due to teasing, Nakagawa found solace in cultural clubs, connecting with her roots through Chinese and Japanese traditions. Immersing herself in performing arts, Nakagawa embraced her heritage through Chinese dance clubs and festive Japanese dancing, finding a deeper appreciation for her diversity.

"Performing arts helped me connect with both my Japanese and Chinese sides, allowing me to act on my culture and perform it," she said. “Being a part of these traditional dance groups from a young age also helped educate and introduce me to others with similar backgrounds to mine.”

Although not genetically Japanese, Nakagawa was accepted by her fellow festive Japanese dancers, who helped her appreciate her multicultural upbringing, she said.

“They were very open and friendly,” Nakagawa said. “They helped educate me and made me more confident in expressing my family heritage, and my own.”

Today, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month holds a special significance for Nakagawa as it spreads awareness of different cultures and encourages people to learn about others traditions in engaging ways. Recalling the acceptance and warmth she received from both Japanese and Chinese communities, Nakagawa emphasized the importance of learning about one's roots and engaging with cultural activities. She encourages others who want to learn more about their culture to explore their heritage through various means, including culinary, performing arts, and other traditional activities.

"I was very fortunate to come from a loving family who supported me learning more about my Chinese culture," she said. “I would tell anybody who wants to get more in touch with their roots to do something that they can connect and engage with whether that's food, activities or another specific aspect of the culture.”

As Nakagawa navigates her eight-year career as a Navy engineer, she embodies the spirit of diversity and inclusion, and promotes a workplace that values different backgrounds and experiences. Connecting with her culture through performing arts exemplifies the power of embracing one's heritage and appreciating the beauty of diversity in all its forms.

NSWC Corona Division has provided analysis and assessment for the Navy since 1964. With experience in gauging the Navy’s warfighting capability, NSWC Corona is a leader in NAVSEA data analytics. Corona utilizes networked data environments, data and visualization, and measurement technology to bridge the Navy’s data silos, enabling informed decision-making for the warfighter. Anchor to the Inland Empire Tech Bridge, NSWC Corona is located in Norco, California, with detachments in Fallbrook and Seal Beach and personnel in 14 additional locations.