Welcome to Praxis: Interview with Alejandro Omidsalar

So, Alejandro. Tell our readers a bit about yourself.

I’m from southern California. I moved around a couple of times as a kid, so I generally tell people that I grew up in a steady orbit around Los Angeles, mostly in the San Gabriel Valley—home to some of the finest Mexican, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese cuisine in the world. In 2011, I graduated with a BA in English from UC Berkeley. After that, I took a year off to apply to various graduate programs; that was an easy decision to make, because I’ve wanted to work in the field of higher education since the beginning of high school. I moved to Austin in summer 2012 and I’ve been enjoying researching, writing, and teaching in the English department here at UT ever since. I’m currently one chapter into a dissertation that examines the function of gods and godlike figures in American horror fiction, stretching from Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Ligotti. When it comes to personal interests, I try and divide my spare time between reading comic books, listening to metal, and watching horror movies.

And how did your interest in writing center work and pedagogy come about?

Like many of my fellow graduate students in English, I made money on the side during and after college as a writing tutor. I’ve always enjoyed the editorial process and firmly believe that helping others improve their writing is beneficial to my own development as a writer. Though the program has since shuffled how it trains students, I’ve been involved with writing center work here at UT since my third year in the program. I was initially content to work one-on-one with students as a consultant but, after a while, I wanted a new challenge and pursuing a position at Praxis seemed like a great way to learn more about the theory informing writing centers.

Are there any especially memorable moments in your time working UT’s writing center that our readers might find interesting?

While it’s not roll-out-the-red-carpet-and-sound-the-trumpets memorable, I’m proud to say that, for every semester I’ve worked at the writing center, I’ve fostered positive and productive relationships with various undergraduates who regularly came to work with me. Collaborating with each of them on their various projects over the course of one or more semesters was very satisfying, both in terms of the pedagogical practice I got out of these sessions and the feeling of accomplishment each successful consultation gave me. Again, not super memorable, but it was my favorite part of being a writing consultant.

I remember during your interview that you mentioned that you were interested in working with the Axis blog. Would you mind speaking to that interest a bit?

What I like most about Axis is the fact that it demonstrates how multi-faceted writing centers can be. More often than not, undergraduates see the writing center as a penalty box for bad writing, a place where you’re sent when your work isn’t up to snuff. While it is a respected journal, Praxis is pitched to an audience that already understands and appreciates writing centers. A publication like Axis is pitched to a wider audience. Its various features, like interviews with professionals in the field or essays by former and current writing center staff, show off the wide variety of interests and applications relevant to our work. I think of Axis as a publication that could do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to convincing people, especially undergraduates, that writing centers are more than just places to improve your prose and process.  

If there’s one thing about Praxis you would like to change, what would it be?

I’ve spent more than a little bit of time in the trenches of the digital humanities, so I’d be interested to see if we could be more proactive in collecting information on PRX and figuring out what kinds of projects we could establish with the institutions feeding us their information.  

Do you have any goals for your time at Praxis? What do you hope to get out of this editorship?

Aside from doing my best to make sure that Praxis remains a high-quality journal, I’m just excited to learn about writing center theory/pedagogy and the inner workings of academic publishing.

Well, that and I’d like to write an Axis post about Archie Comics or death metal. Possibly both in the same post. That would be pretty cool.