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Saniya Ghanoui receives the 2020 Graduate Student Leadership Award

2020 Graduate Student Leadership Award winner Saniya Ghanoui

The Graduate College is pleased to announce Saniya Ghanoui, a doctoral student in the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences as the winner of the sixth annual Graduate Student Leadership Award.

On-campus and nationally, Ghanoui uses her scholarly training to address public needs and connect with new constituencies in the intertwining areas of digital history, history of sexuality, and menstrual health legislation.

Ghanoui served on the founding Editorial Board for SourceLab, a History Department initiative that involves undergraduates in the curation of digital editions of historical sources, and has played a significant role in developing curriculum around it. Ghanoui has guided undergraduates in the production of six digital editions, recruited high school students to the program, and helped write a major grant building collaborations with other universities. According to a faculty member in the department, “Saniya’s enthusiasm, vision, and skills in the creation, analysis, and presentation of digital records have made this program possible.”

Ghanoui’s leadership in using digital technology to increase access to historical knowledge extends beyond our campus, as well. She is a Senior Producer on the podcast Sexing History, where she produces segments and mentors assistant producers. She is also an editor at the peer-reviewed blog Notches, which focuses on the history of sexuality. In that role, Ghanoui helps scholars communicate their research to broad audiences in ways that are timely, accessible, and rigorous. “Saniya is, by every measure, the epitome of a public-facing intellectual,” wrote another faculty member.

In addition to creating new ways for the public to engage with historical scholarship, Ghanoui has seized opportunities to connect her work to current issues. As a Board Member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, Ghanoui led an effort to introduce the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act for a vote in Congress. The Act would establish funds for research into the risks from dioxin, synthetic fibers, and chemical fragrances found in menstrual hygiene products.

In granting her the award, the Graduate Student Leadership Award selection committee lauded the range of Ghanoui’s contributions, but also their cohesiveness. They also recognize, throughout all of her contributions, a strong commitment to mentoring and developing others.


The Graduate College is also pleased to announce three recipients of Special Recognition in Graduate Student Leadership. They are:

Mia Adams, a master’s student in Library & Information Science in the School of Information Sciences and African Studies, for her work with nonprofits in Tanzania and here in Champaign-Urbana. Adams founded the Tanzania-based nonprofit Ujamaa Coming Together and serves as Director of Development for Three Spinners (founded by Alexandra Van Doren the 2017 Graduate Student Leadership Award winner).

Sulagna Chakraborty, a doctoral student in the Program in Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology in the School of Integrative Biology, for her leadership in developing interdisciplinary collaborations and curricula on campus. Chakraborty led a group of scholars in the creation of the first One Health curriculum on campus. She has also served on the Graduate College’s SAGE (Students Advising on Graduate Education) advisory board.

James Steur, a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, for his contributions to sexual assault prevention efforts at the University of Illinois. Steur worked with the Women’s Resource Center to enhance the assessment of bystander intervention training and served on a University system-wide task force on sexual misconduct.


The Graduate Student Leadership Award is sponsored by The Graduate College and its student advisory group, SAGE (Students Advising on Graduate Education). Begun in 2015, the award was created to recognize graduate students who have exhibited outstanding service that has positively impacted the campus or wider Urbana-Champaign community.

For more information about the Graduate Student Leadership Award, visit the Graduate College website at