Post-college is always a scary thought for many graduates, but not many can say they’ll be jump-starting this new chapter of their lives in Mexico. For Hanaa’ Tameez, her journalism career will start in Mexico City this July as she enters a three month fellowship with The Wall Street Journal.
As a journalism student at Stony Brook, getting the opportunity to write for a big name publication like The Wall Street Journal is a big deal. “At first I was like ‘Holy Shit,’ and then I thought, ‘okay how do I tell my parents?’ and then my third thought was like ‘Holy Shit,’” Hanaa’ said.
As the current Editor-in-Chief of The Statesman, a journalism advisory board member and mentor, Hanaa’s time at Stony Brook has revolved around journalism. “I think because I’ve been able to do a lot of different things and because I’ve had different experiences in the school of journalism and the classes I’ve taken, I really like everything,” Hanaa’ said, explaining that even though she writes for a campus newspaper, she is interested in all forms of new media, particularly investigative reporting.
“I really got interested in investigative reporting because I got invested in these stories for these people who didn’t feel they had a voice, so they’re minorities in that sense, and because I’m also a minority, I think it’s really important to elevate minority voices, which is what I want to do with journalism,” Hanaa’ said.
Coming into Stony Brook, Hanaa’ was sure she wanted to study journalism, but she says she was initially set to follow the broadcast track since she had four years of radio experience in high school. What made Hanaa’ switch over to print was her experience at The Statesman. “I think working at The Statesman all four years has given me a really good foundation, but it’s given me a really good foundation to do whatever I want in the future.”
Looking back on her time at Stony Brook, Hanaa’ said there were a lot of factors that brought her to where she is now. One that stood out, she said, was her Journalism 320 class with Professor Wasim Ahmad. “I was really invested in learning in his class because I felt like I left class everyday learning something new which I don’t think I had gotten before, or I hadn’t felt that in a really long time in school,” Hanaa’ said. She explained that the class challenged her as a student and a journalist, as Professor Ahmad pushed her and her classmates to pursue stories off campus and challenge themselves.
Hanaa’s hard work proved to pay off when Professor Ahmad advised her to apply for the Chips Quinn Scholarship, a scholarship that promotes diversity within the field of journalism. Wasim himself was a Chips Quinn scholar and told Hanaa’ she would be a good fit for the program, which takes winning applicants’ resumes and shows them to newspapers and media organizations across the country. After Hanaa’ was accepted into the program, she got an internship at the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I think taking 320 and getting to know Wasim and learning all those skills in that one semester set me forward,” Hanaa’ said. Professors like Wasim Ahmad and her freshman year professor and mentor Dean Miller are the ones that Hanaa’ says made a huge impact on her. “It’s really exciting for these people, for me to tell these people who have been there for me for so long,” she said,
Hanaa’s passion for journalism is coupled with an affinity for the Spanish language and Latino culture. A double major in Spanish, Hanaa’ said her interest in Latino culture began with the 2010 World Cup. After watching one of the World Cup games in her high school Spanish class, she became invested in the sport and set on going to see the game live. Although she never got a chance to go see the World Cup, she said that summer was when she realized her love of journalism and Latino culture. “I didn’t like not being there and not being able to tell the story I wanted to tell.” From there, Hanaa’s interest manifested through Latino music and telenovelas and even mastering the language- as much as a non-native speaker can, “I think I can get by,” she said. “I can ask for a banana. I’ll be okay.”
Being heavily involved in the School of Journalism, Hanaa’ said that one of her few regrets was not getting as involved in her Spanish department. Although she didn’t get a chance to create as strong a bond with the department as a whole, she made meaningful ties with the professors she has worked with. Hanaa’ reminisced on last semester, noting that her linguistics professor Lilia Ruiz Debbe was “like a mother” to her, especially through stressful times.
At the time of this linguistics class, Hanaa’ had just begun her duties as Editor-in-Chief of The Statesman, a job that comes with an immense amount of stress and plenty of long nights. Hanaa’ said there were many a Sunday night when the paper wouldn’t get done until three o’clock in the morning, so getting up for her eight-thirty linguistics class wasn’t always possible. After noticing Hanaa’s absence and demeanour, Professor Ruiz Debbe took Hanaa’ in and asked what was happening. “She was very sympathetic, but she was also very firm like, ‘You know that this is important too you need to be here,’ and so I really needed that kick in the ass,” Hanaa’ said.
With four years of memories and a degree under her belt, Hanaa’ urged words of wisdom to incoming freshman: “You have to get involved in some capacity, in any way, because that’s how you meet people.” Hanaa’ added that through her involvement on campus and within campus media she got to watch the university grow, something she said she’ll miss once she’s gone. “They’ll tell, ‘Oh Seawolves for life! You’ll always be apart of it!’ but you won’t be because you won’t be here everyday to see it grow the way I saw other things grow.” As a journalist here at Stony Brook, Hanaa’ said she’s had some incredible experiences and memories that she wouldn’t trade for the world.
“I loved every soccer game I shot as a photographer, I’ve loved every press conference that I’ve gone to, I got a media pass to go to Brookfest, I got to see the Arena as it was being built and all of these things are apart of Stony Brook history.”
As far as plans for the future, Hanaa’ said she won’t stop at Mexico City. As exciting as the opportunity is, like many other graduates, Hanaa’ is hesitant about the future.
“I’ve always been the type of person who is looking for the next thing, so I’m really excited to go to Mexico City, and I’m really invested in it but I also worry that’s only three months. What am I doing in four months, what am I doing in five months?”