Profile – Saldana
Edited by Mary O’Connell
“I think if you can help people, even just a little, then you feel gratified.”
The small island of Formentera lies at the tip of the larger and better known island of Ibiza. Formentera has a temperate/warm Mediterranean climate and transparent waters. One tourist Web site bills it as “the last Mediterranean paradise”; looking at pictures of the island, one finds it hard to disagree. The residents of Formentera have worked hard to preserve the island’s pristine environment, and so far they have succeeded.
This is where Omar Saldana spent much of his childhood, from ages 7 to 16. Of Formentera, he says, “I think it’s a great place to grow. I had a large group of friends. We had beach parties almost every week.”
At age 16, Omar moved, alone, to Barcelona to study arts. Later, he entered university where he had the good fortune to meet Professor Alvaro Rodriguez-Carballeira, an ICSA member and recipient of last year’s Margaret T. Singer Award, who was to become his mentor. The professor introduced Omar to cult-related issues.
When I started studying psychology, I knew I wanted to investigate something related to persuasion. Then I met Full Professor Alvaro Rodriguez-Carballeira. He said he was conducting research on processes of manipulation in group contexts, which I found very interesting. In the following months, I became interested in the topics related to cults. But it wasn’t until I went to the ICSA conference in New York that I was really captivated by the subject.
Omar, 27, is currently studying at the postgraduate level in a program entitled Methodology in the Health and Behavioral Sciences at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain’s National University for Distance Education. Last year, at the ICSA conference in Barcelona, Omar won an award for best student poster. The research he had conducted was called “EAPA-G: Preliminary Results of an Instrument for the Measurement of Psychological Abuse in Group Contexts.” Omar wants to be a researcher and continue studying psychological abuse, persuasion, and influence in group contexts.
Omar is well-rounded, enjoying music (jazz) theater, film (The Artist, his most recently viewed), hiking (last year he hiked with his girlfriend from Spain into France), and reading. His dog is named Huana. Huana, nobody’s fool, currently makes his home on Formentera with Omar’s parents.
ICSA is a global network of people working to help those harmed by destructive groups. It is one of the largest organizations of its kind. ICSA depends upon new members, and particularly young members, for its continued existence. Thus, young, passionate people such as Omar Saldana are precious. Undoubtedly, he will have a long and splendid career and an equally long and splendid association with ICSA. “One of the happiest moments was when I received the award for my research last year in Barcelona.”