Saniya Lee Ghanoui ’07
Class of 2007, Major in Communication Arts
The Communication program offered me ample room for exploration, allowing me to combine my interests in media, gender, and sexuality studies to become both a critical media consumer and media producer. My entire career has been based around these interests, and my time at MMC really helped put that foundation down for my graduate studies and subsequent jobs.
1.) How has your undergraduate experience in Marymount Manhattan’s Communication and Media Arts program influenced your post-grad studies and/or career? Were there any particular lessons/skills you acquired that helped you?
Due to the small liberal arts structure of MMC, I was able to connect with my professors and fellow students in ways that provided me personal attention to hone my critical analysis, writing, and presentation skills. These three traits have been the foundation for my graduate studies and career. The Communication and Media Arts program offered me ample room for exploration, and I took classes that ranged from sound studies, to screenwriting, to interpersonal communication. The interdisciplinary nature of the program allowed me to combine my interests in media studies, gender and sexuality studies, and media production so I could become both a critical media consumer and a media producer. After MMC, I earned my MA in Journalism from Emerson College (Boston) where I studied the way news programs cover women’s health issues. After that, I worked in broadcast journalism while earning my second MA in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU. I finished my graduate work where I earned my PhD in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a dissertation that explored the history of twentieth-century sex education in the U.S. and Sweden. My entire career has been based around my interests in media and sexuality studies, and my time at MMC really helped put that foundation down for my graduate studies and subsequent jobs.
2.) Do you have any fond memories of faculty or specific classes? Did these help you grow as a professional?
I have many fond memories of the MMC faculty, many of whom encouraged me to explore new avenues of research—ones I had not even thought of myself. Two professors encouraged me to publish my writing, and that support boosted my own confidence in my work, research, and articles. My final year capstone class was with Laura Tropp, and I wrote about stereotypical representations of gender roles in movie trailers and advertisements. I remember I found a restaurant near MMC that had movie advertisements glued to the men’s urinals, and I sneaked into the men’s restroom to take photographs for my final project. Laura offered wonderful comments on my paper and with her support, I presented that essay at my first conference.
I also took David Linton’s class on the social construction and images of menstruation. It was only the second time he had taught the class, but I became enraptured by our discussions about the cultural impact of menstruation and women’s reproductive health. Menstrual research has been a continued through line in my work—one that I am still active with today. It was through David that I learned about the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, and I am currently a Board Member of the SMCR.
After I had earned my first MA, I came back to MMC to teach as an adjunct professor in the Communication and Media Arts and Gender and Sexuality Studies departments. I treasured having the opportunity to connect with MMC students through different avenues—first as a student myself and then as their professor. During my time teaching at MMC, I met Jenny Dixon who became a wonderful colleague supporting my work and offering me guidance in the classroom. I never felt that I was just another student or another adjunct while at MMC. The professors connected with me to support my own interests and offer advice on how to improve myself as an instructor, leader, and scholar.
I am pleased to say that I feel like many of my professors at MMC transitioned to mentors and then colleagues and friends.
3.) How has your education prepared you for your new role as Program Director at OBOS Today?
In terms of subject areas, you can trace my role as Program Director at Our Bodies Ourselves Today directly to MMC! My interest in women’s health, gender and sexuality studies, and media piqued during my time at MMC. It really set the foundation for where I am today. In my classes, I remember discussing how society constructed our understandings of sexuality, gender, race, and disability and these lessons are the blueprint in my role at OBOS Today. As part of our mission, OBOS Today is carrying on the mission of the original Our Bodies Ourselves initiative. We are creating a digital platform to provide the most up-to-date, trustworthy, and inclusive health and sexuality information for women, girls, and gender diverse people. My role combines many of the skills and lessons I learned at MMC.
Outside of the classroom, MMC was a very welcoming place for me, and that provided opportunities for me to get involved in leadership positions that had nothing to do with my major. For example, while I was not a theatre major, I become involved with the theatre department, working on a couple of shows, and developed many friendships through that work. This was important because it made me see that my education was not only in bringing critical analysis to my research. By getting involved outside my studies, I developed project and people management skills and learned how to tune my interpersonal communication skills. These are lessons that served me well both in graduate school and in my current position with OBOS Today.
4.) Anything else you’d like to share/plug? Accomplishments, projects, general life updates?
Even though I am an academic, it continues to be important for me to carry my interests outside the classroom and academia. To that end, I have become a leader in the digital humanities as a way to bridge academia with the greater public. I have been a producer for the podcast Sexing History since its inception. Now in its third season, Sexing History examines how the history of sexuality shapes our present, and we tell fascinating stories about all facets of sexuality and gender history. I am also an Editor for the international blog Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality, where I have commissioned, edited, and published two series: one on the history of global sex education and one on sexuality and disability. Lastly, during my time at Illinois, I co-created a digital history initiative called SourceLab, a program that combines undergraduate research with digital publishing opportunities. While I started or become involved with these projects after my time at MMC, the confidence I built and the zeal I developed during my undergraduate education prepared me for these roles.
Outside of my work, I am still an avid runner and try to run one marathon a year, although the pandemic interrupted that goal!