After graduate school English instructor's goal is to teach in the Western U.S.

Posted Thursday, September 11, 2008 - 12:00am

n one of CEU's newest staff members, Jason Olsen, around campus and confused him for a student. Don't be fooled though, Jason has his master's in fine arts degree in creative writing and is in the process of defendin his PhD assertion.

For those who haven't had the pleasure to meet Olsen, he teaches creative writing, Western American literature, introduction to writing and intermediate writing.

Those of you who are in any of his classes know that Olsen is a relaxed guy. He usually begins classes by asking each student a personal psychologically revealing question. For example, what is you favorite color? He prefers to avoid lectures; instead, he likes to have discussions with his class. He loves hearing students' creative work and their opinions. Most people who take a class from Olsen would consider him a friend.

He was born in Southern California and lived there long enough to be loyal to the Anaheim Angels. He grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, and studied English at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. While studying in Vegas, he also worked as a clerk at a local pharmacy.

Upon completing his undergraduate at UNLV, he moved to Spokane, Washington, where he completed his master's in fine arts in creative writing at Eastern Washington University. From there, he moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan where he studied poetry and taught classes at Western Michigan University. He also studied in Prague through a WMU summer program.

While in Kalamazoo, he created and taught an innovative course that involved writing on non-traditional surfaces. No, this doesn't mean he encouraged kids to tag Walt Whitman on the sides of local buildings. An example of this course would be a project his class did. They wrote poetry and quotes on speech bubble shaped Styrofoam board and hung them up on trees all around campus. Needless to say, this created tension with the campus landscapers.

His time in Kalamazoo was also spent tutoring high-risk kids in the area. He tutored 4, 5, and 6 grade children in English and mathematics. He also applied the success of his non-traditional surface writing class to tutoring the children. However, rather than letting the kids outside and causing a fuss with their parents, he let the children write on jigsaw puzzles and paper airplanes. Olsen was also a visiting poet to several schools in the Kalamazoo area.

While in school he studied literary editing and design, meaning he was an editor for literary journals coming out of the schools. Also, he has had several of his poems published in literary journals including Hayden's Ferry Review, the Florida Review and Hanging Loose.

Some of his favorite authors include Robert Lulls, Dennis Johnson and the Romantic poetry of Percy Bysshe Sheller and John Keats.

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