How did you decide to become a University professor?
The major factor for me was that I grew up in an academic family in an academic community. My father was a professor of African and Middle Eastern history as well as a dean, and my older sister is a professor of Colonial Latin American history. And my mother has a gift for reading aloud, and she took me to the public library – a lot! I value being a part of the challenging, thought-provoking, dynamic community that surrounds a university.
What do you consider to be your most notable professional achievement?
I work in the fairly new field of Latin American science fiction, and I believe that studying this literature leads to a more complex and complete understanding of Latin America. I am especially proud of my role in several projects that share new research with others, such as writing a book on the foundational works of Latin American sf, coordinating the expansion of coverage of Latin American and Iberian sf in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/latin_america), and exploring Latin America’s contributions to the genre with students in my courses at ISU – from the short film “Viaje a Marte” [Journey to Mars] in Spanish 303, to alternate ways of imagining history in Colonial Latin American civilization and literature courses, to full-blown stories / comics / films / novels in senior seminars.
What has been your most memorable international experience?
I have studied abroad in Argentina and Spain, had an amazing experience in Brazil on a long research trip, and traveled for shorter trips to other countries in on five continents (ok, I was only in Asia for an afternoon, but visiting the ruins of Ephesus was very memorable!). But my most memorable international experience would have to be my longest one. After finishing my B.A. in Spanish I moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where I taught EFL (English as a Foreign Language) for four years. The quantity as well as the quality of time I spent there has meant that Portugal is an integral part of who I am. Every journey broadens you and changes you, but living and working in Portugal for so long is the closest I have come to feeling utterly at home in a culture other than the one into which I was born.
What is the last foreign country you visited? Is there a place in that country that you recommend anyone to visit?
I travelled to Lima, Perú in October 2012 to speak at a conference on Latin American fantastic literature. It was in the middle of the semester, so I was only able to be there for a week and was unable to travel outside the capital, so my recommendations are from a short but wonderful trip: the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (founded in 1551, the oldest continuously operating university in the Americas, with excavations of Incan ruins taking place right on campus), the Feria del Libro (a huge book fair), and any great restaurant where you can experience ceviche, lomo saltado, causas, and more. I dream of returning to to Perú to visit Cuzco and Machu Picchu and more.
What has been the most interesting or unusual course you’ve taught at ISU?
One thing I appreciate about the courses I’ve taught in our department is the tremendous variety – each one develops a different combination of skill sets, from grammar and pronunciation to research skills and critical thinking. Some of the more unusual courses I’ve taught are capstone courses that consider genres from magic realism, to fantastic literature, to science fiction – not only because these topics are close to my heart, but because students are able to engage in original research and use the themes to explore their own interests.