Student Spotlight: Hannan Abdikadir

Advertising & Journalism Senior '23
Hannan with camera


1. What has been your journey as a student at UT? (i.e., internship/job experience that you will take with you once you graduate).

So, I actually didn't do much my freshman or sophomore year, but my junior year, is when I really picked photography back up. I've always done it, but I never took it too seriously. I started working for the Daily Texan, the newspaper on campus, in their photo department. And I did a lot of sports photos for them, not so much anything else, just because that's where my interests were at the time. I did mostly basketball, some track, and then some softball. And then I started working for the recruiting department at Texas Football, which is where I'm currently interning. I got that internship through one of my friends who had already worked there. They told me to apply, and I did, and went through an interview process. So, I started working for football, mainly in August, right when the season was starting. I did some recruiting for them. I did some photos for the Texan as well. I went to Lubbock with the Texan to cover the Texas Tech game. I did the Baylor game and a couple of other stuff. But photo, primarily through the Texan.

I also do some content on and off for a few clients, one of them is former Longhorn Marquise Goodwin. I met him a year ago, roughly, at the Orange and White spring ball football game. It's like a scrimmage game. I met him pre-game, and he was really just - He's a big personality. He was really funny and outgoing but also so incredibly humble, and we got each other's information. Then, a few days later, he reached out to me to do a shoot at the Hermès store that was opening on South Congress. I took some pictures, he liked them, and a few weeks later in May, his wife Morgan had just given birth to their son, Marquise Goodwin Jr., and they asked me if I would do their announcement photos while they were still at the hospital. So, that's partially where it started.


2. What experience or person made the biggest impact on where you are today?

I would have to say it's people - my parents. I've been blessed to have parents who provided really well for me, I never really had to worry about finances or putting myself through school or anything like that. I’ve been really really fortunate. My dad is the provider of my family, and he instilled a strong work ethic in me at a really young age. I remember him and my mom would always say, “If you have work to do, it gets done today. You're not pushing it back. We're not waiting.” At the time it was scary, right? Like, “Oh my God, I don’t want to do this right now. Oh my gosh, I can't mess up.” You know? They kind of instilled that drive and ambition, and they set a standard of “You're not good enough until you're good enough.” So, not stopping until you're where you want to be at and not getting comfortable when you feel like, “Well, you know, I've kind of done everything. I did all my work, so I don’t have to study.” It wasn't ever like that in my house because there was always something to be done. There's always more to do, there's always a way that you can improve yourself. And both my parents were very firm on making sure that my siblings and I knew our place, and knew that just because they could provide, that they weren’t going to do it forever, and that we had to pull our weight in some way and show responsibility.

It's paying off right now. I’m seeing it paying off with work and college. All those things that they were so nitpicky about, that I hated, are now things that have made work so much easier for me.


3. What sparked your interest in advertising and/or public relations?

So, I came in as a journalism major, and I thought it was going to be the route that I ended up going, just because I thought, “You know, I'm a good writer, and I'm interested in the news.” Then 2020 hit, and it was a really, really big year for the journalism industry. I think having people call news ‘fake news’ and having to do all this research and fact checking, and just constantly hearing terrible, terrible news every single day was just so overwhelming, and I hated it.

I took an advertising class my sophomore year “Advertising and Pop Culture, “and I loved it. It was like a breath of fresh air. I remember thinking “this isn't terrible.” And I took some more classes, and I loved them. I was initially going to switch my major to advertising, but I figured, I'm almost done with journalism, and I’ve already worked so hard so I might as well just get them both.

Feeling like I couldn't change the news industry specifically as a journalist, was something that I struggled with, because so many people don’t trust the news or they hate the news. But I also know that advertising dollars funds most news. So, I thought, “Okay, if I can get on one end of it and really just see what the money is funding, maybe I can make a change in some small way.” And I started working in sports, and I love it.

I was never interested in sports as a kid. I did ballet as a little girl, and I played tennis but I hated it. And coming to college, I was like, “I'm not interested.” I never really went to football games like that my first two years, because I didn’t care to. But I started working in sports, and I thought, “Okay, you know what? Maybe there really is a space for women in sports, and maybe I could explore working in sports marketing or sports media.” Being a photographer, just seeing what I could do and where I could take my skills. And the kinds of people that you meet, the networking that you can do, kind of opened up a new world for me. So, advertising is definitely something that I see myself doing in the future, for sure.


4. Why did you choose UT’s program?

I picked UT partially because being from Dallas, it was far enough from home, but not crazy. UT has a such great, great programs. The Moody College of Communication is ranked really high. There are so many great journalists who’ve came out of here, and at the time that's what I was looking at. I was also looking for a great comms school, incase I ever decided to change my major. There's also a bunch of other great colleges here like Moody that are highly ranked which is impressive. I really like it here, it's a pretty cool place to be.


5. What has been your favorite memory about the program so far? (could be a person, place, idea, or experience.)

Let’s see, there's a couple. I had Professor Dalthorp for some of my advertising classes, and he's another reason why I got into sports. I took his class as a general elective, and I thought I was just going to blow through it. I thought, “This should be an easy one. Athletes are going to be in this class so it’s not going to be too hard.” And I learned a lot more than I thought I would. I took two of his classes, and they were both two of my favorite classes that I've taken. He’s a great professor with such great experience, and it's unbelievable that he's had the career that he's had, and yet he's still so humble. I learned something new every day in his classes. Every time I talk to him, or even when I'm working, I’ve had moments where I’ll be like “Oh, that's what he meant when he said that.” Being in his classes also really helped me figure out what I wanted to do once I get my degrees. It was the push that I needed. That’s been one of my favorite memories here at Moody. As easy as the classes were, he had some good information, and it definitely helped me figure out what my career path could look like.


6. What words of advice do you have for those applying to or already in the program?

It's very easy to just say, “Oh, you'll do great. Just work hard.”

You have to want it. If it's not something that you're ambitious about, and that you're excited about - If you're a freshman, in four years, think about yourself with your degree, and if you're not like, “I'm so excited to start working,” and thinking of all these possibilities, then I don't think it's for you. I think college is a good place to figure out what's for you. And it took me a while to figure it out.

So, unless you're excited, and, like I said, there's great professors here, so it's not that there's a lack of experience or knowledge, because it's there. If you're not excited, then I don't know that you'll make the change that you want to make in the world, or that you want to see in the world. So, until you find that spark - Maybe it's a class, maybe it's a professor, maybe it's one lecture. You sit in on one lecture, and that lecture has you, like, “Oh my gosh, this is mind blowing. I want to do this.” I’m not going to say it’s pointless, but it is going to be difficult. And, you know, in the long run, you're already paying to be here. So, at least pay to learn something you’re  actually interested in and can see yourself doing.

And network! Talk to anybody and everybody who will listen to you. If you want a mentor, or just someone to talk to and help you figure out where you want to be, look for people who are doing what you want to do and talk to them. Most people are willing to help. I'm always willing to help somebody if they ask me a question, or if they're like, “Hey, I'm trying to do this,” or “I want to do what you did,” I'm always more than happy to help. Reaching out to as many people as possible who are already in the position that you want can be so lifechanging, because more often than not they're willing to help you get there. Most people are kind are a willing to help. So, networking is another major and important thing, especially in communications. Our field is really interesting because there's a lot more variables involved and it’s not a straightforward path. It's a people's industry, so it really is about who you know and how far they’re willing to vouch for you.


7. What has been your favorite non-academic pastime as a student at UT-Austin?

Game days. Even though I work them sometimes, they're always fun. Seeing people tailgating, going to games, and you're with your friends and you're so excited, and it's this really interesting environment where everybody's on the same side. At least if you're a UT student then hopefully you want us to win. But it's this really interesting environment where we’re all on the same side, we're all happy when we're winning, and if we're losing, then we're all upset. And we just put everything aside, politics don’t matter, your mood or whatever you had going on before goes out the window. If they're about to win, up in DKR, we're all excited. If you’re in Moody and they're about to win, we're all excited. Or in Greg - it's just, it's this amazing experience of everybody being on the same side, which in today's day and age is so painfully rare.

I don't know, you don't see anything like that, at least not on a campus like this, where everybody has differing opinions and views. It's such a nice break where you can look at people like, “I don't know you and you don't know me, and even though we just met, we're all rooting for the same team,” it’s refreshing. It's just such a great experience.

And spending time with my friends is another fun pastime. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some great people who’ve brought me a lot of joy and made my experience at UT better. Just hanging out with your friends and doing stuff wholesome, good stuff. Always wholesome stuff.

And then right back to networking. It's not necessarily a hobby, you know, you don’t always necessarily enjoy it but sometimes it's fun. It’s another pastime if we’re being technical. There’s several incredibly smart, talented, and successful people on our campus and it would be a shame not to take advantage of the access and proximity all that knowledge.


Check out more of Hannan’s work here: