Welcome to Praxis: Interview with Fiza Mairaj

A black back drop with the word welcome on top.

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Hi Fiza! Welcome to your first Axis post. You’ll be spending the next two years with us here at Praxis, but let’s start by looking backwards. Where are you from, and how did you end up here at the University of Texas at Austin?

I moved to Austin from Karachi, Pakistan to attend UT in 2016. It was a massive change, I had not anticipated the stress and culture shock it would bring. I did my bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 2014. I loved what I had studied and wanted to pursue my masters in radar system engineering. As soon as I had graduated, I got an offer to join Teach for Pakistan as a teaching fellow. I did not know that next two years are going to change my career path altogether. For two years, I taught Afghan refugee students in Karachi. I wanted to pursue formal education to continue my career in the field of education. I applied to do my master’s in educational policy studies in the U.S. Not only did I get accepted at UT, I also received a sponsorship to attend UT. It was like everything was working out in favor of UT and Austin became my home away from home.

After moving to Austin, I started taking an interest in how research and academic processes work. I got an offer from UT to do my PhD in educational policy and planning and I gladly accepted it. Currently, I am a second year doctoral student in College of Education.

And how about the University Writing Center? What is it that drew you to writing center theory and pedagogy? Have you spent a lot of time in Writing Centers before now?

When I got a job as a writing consultant at the University Writing Center in Fall 2018, I could not believe that I have reached a point where I can help other people write well. Just two years ago when I had started my master’s, I had trouble with writing even one-page papers. This difficulty was due to my undergraduate training as an engineer and I was trained to write sentences as small as possible to communicate basic ideas efficiently. My master’s program got me into the habit of writing and incorporating research. My time at the writing center as a consultant made me a better writer. 

As a writing consultant, I got to work with a diverse group of students and learned the unique challenges each student faces despite their first language or citizenship status. Praxis is another way for me to understand not only the writing center theories and pedagogy but also it will help me understand the world of academic writing and publishing.

Are there any especially memorable moments from your time working in Writing Centers that our readers might find interesting?

I cannot think of something particular. Instead, I will tell you what intrigued me the most. A lot of students came to me with personal statements and class papers which were deeply personal. I got to know so much about them through their papers and that these students were so brave and had such inspiring stories. How does one simply move on to the next consultee? I know, I will never forget them and their stories, I also know that I might never see them again. For me, this aspect of being a consultant is poetic and beautiful.

You’ve only been on the job here at Praxis for a couple of weeks, but what are you looking forward to the most? What do you hope to get out of this editorship?

I’m excited about this job because I am getting a chance to see this part of academic world so up close. My long-term goal is to establish an educational research center in Pakistan. This job will equip me with the necessary skills and tools that I need to meet my goals. Additionally, I am looking forward to reading the papers that come through and learning more about the writing center theory.