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Large group of students celebrating graduation, Winter 2018

Sunnya Hadavi

Sunnya Hadavi crossing her arms in a blazer

Hadavi Follows Passions While Leading Niner Times to New Heights

By Wyatt Crosher, Assistant Director of Communications for Student Affairs


Sunnya Hadavi may not have discovered it immediately, but an inner passion for journalism would reveal that there is more to the story for this international studies and data science major.

Hadavi, who grew up in South Charlotte, started at the University in Fall 2020, primarily virtual due to COVID-19. With her academic programs in the Belk College of Business, she also came to Charlotte with experience in her high school’s yearbook club, which included work in photography, design and writing.

Those passions ultimately led her to seek out the Niner Times, Charlotte’s student newspaper, though it took longer than she expected.

“Even if I'm not a communications major in college, I still wanted to be able to pursue that hobby. So for me, the Niner Times was the best option,” Hadavi said. “When I found out we had a student newspaper, I was like, ‘My gosh, have I been living under a rock?’ But really, it was just being behind the screen for COVID. Once I found out about it, I knew this is the place I wanted to be.”


Natural, but Developing Leader

Hadavi joined the Niner Times as a sophomore, taking over as assistant layout editor working on designs for the newspaper. By year two with the paper, she made the leap to editor-in-chief. It was a large increase in leadership responsibilities, but Hadavi said it felt like a natural move to make.

“I've known that I gravitate towards leadership positions, and I think it was a great challenge for me,” she said. “It required a lot of communication with my other peers and editors to really make sure that I’m making the best decisions here and not just acting out of self-interest.”

Leading by example was a main goal for Hadavi since first taking over as editor-in-chief. She has written stories, worked on breaking news events and goes to section meetings she may not be directly involved in so she can try to make decisions that work best for the whole publication.

Her efforts were noticed. In her first year in charge, the Niner Times won first place in the state for Newspaper Best in Show (online) by the North Carolina College Media Association. On a national level, the publication earned 10th place for its digital newsletter at the Associated Collegiate Press Best of Show Awards.

The Niner Times also grew its digital reach, gaining more than 1,000 Instagram followers and reaching more than 220,000 pageviews in the 2022-23 academic year.

Of the various projects Hadavi has been involved with, the Niner Times’ work on the Remembering April 30 issue and the issue on the Feb. 1 false active shooter incident are two works she is most proud of, both for the recognition they received nationally and by other students on campus.

“It's satisfying to see that we're not just doing this for fun,” Hadavi said. “Yes, it can be for fun, but it also has an impact.

Hadavi is now in her second year as editor-in-chief. And while the goal is still to continue growing the Niner Times audience, she is also focused on making sure the future of the publication remains bright.

“The first-year goal was like, ‘OK, people know we exist.’ People are seeing that we're also providing quality content and we're covering issues that matter to students. Building up that relationship with the student body and just our campus community as a whole, that hasn't changed,” Hadavi said. “But now I'm graduating. Our copy editor is graduating. So it’s just making sure that what we've done isn't in this vacuum and it lasts years after us.”

These two years as editor-in-chief, and three years within the Niner Times overall, have shaped Hadavi’s leadership development, as have her roles on the Niner Media and Student Union advisory boards. 

Overall, she said the boards have improved her ability to see different perspectives, and to recognize the significance of asking more questions to understand those views.

“It's been very eye opening. It's very easy to do things in your own bubble and just sit in a role or in an office and be like, ‘This is what we want to do,’ and just going for it,” Hadavi said. “But when you're sitting on the Student Niner Media board and you're in this higher position, you have to realize that what you're doing does not just impact your little bubble. You have to think about the community at large.”


Combining Passions

Hadavi has also found ways to work her journalism experience into her other passion: her two majors.

For international studies, Hadavi is interested in the blend between how the government interacts with the media and how media literacy shapes the public perception. On the data science side of things, she’s interested in the data trends happening with how people are perceiving and consuming the information they receive in the media. 

The combination of her interests helped to kickstart an idea to bring data more into the fold at the Niner Times.

“I love journalism. I think journalism and media literacy are important topics that you can apply to any discipline,” Hadavi said. “I'm working on being able to have a permanent way to incorporate data into our reporting. We're setting up the positions for that, and then hopefully reaching out to students who are interested in data science, computer programming and computer science to have them be involved and continue their passions.

“There's a lot of overlap, and I really enjoy finding those bits and pieces that do make the three things I'm interested in blend together and make them more exciting.”

Hadavi is a few months away from graduation and plans to pursue a master’s in data science. Her tenure with the Niner Times may be coming to an end, but her efforts within the publication will continue on.

Out of all the favorite stories and moments from her time with the paper — including a recent talk with Governor Roy Cooper — no individual moment compares to what Hadavi believes the Niner Times has accomplished as a whole over the past two years.

“When you have people in student newspapers that really care and they're putting in time and effort, we can bring attention to issues and feelings of the student body.” Hadavi said. “While individual stories that I've done really mean a lot to me, it's the collective that really makes me the proudest that I can be as editor-in-chief.”


Sunnya Hadavi is a participant in the Divisional Student Leadership Initiative (DSLI), an assessment initiative in the Division of Student Affairs that helps measure the impact of campus leadership experiences on student growth and development. Read more about the DSLI on the Student Affairs Research and Assessment (SARA) website.