Danya Issawi

Danya Issawi graduated in May 2018 a degree in journalism and a minor in psychology. She grew up in Kansas City and is the daughter of two Syrian immigrants. She was editor for the opinion section of the University Daily Kansan, and her work has been featured in publications including USA Today and the Dallas Morning News.

I was yearbook editor in high school. I loved it but it was tireless, thankless work. Our book was almost 600 pages long, so we didn’t sleep for almost an entire month of senior year. It taught me about how to be a leader and how to interact with people.

I went into KU as a pre-med student. I went to my first day of classes my sophomore year and I texted my mom, “I can’t do this. I don’t think I want to be a doctor. I love storytelling.” I thought she was going to be upset, and she texted me back: “Follow your dreams.” I walked straight to the advising office and said, “I’m changing my major.”

I interned for the Dallas Morning News last summer, which was amazing. One of my first articles that ran full page in the Sunday paper was about me growing up Muslim in America and being a cheerleader. Being this oxymoron. I was terrified to run it. I got tons of emails of support. 

I like editing, but it’s almost more difficult than writing. When you’re writing you can see the formula of the story, but when you’re editing you don’t know how much liberty you have to change other people’s words.

My favorite thing to do is find a restaurant that has really good fries. I love to try new recipes. I’ve recently been on a vegan kick. I’m not vegan at all, but I love making vegan recipes for some reason.

I interviewed a 17-year-old Syrian refugee named Ala in Istanbul for a project I was invited be be a part of. I just sat with her for two hours. You could hear all these kids playing and yelling outside. We were both crying as I was interviewing her. It was such a powerful story, and she was such a powerful girl for only being 17. I did the interview two-and-a-half years ago, and I still think about the interview. 

My dad came to the States when he was 18. They’ve sacrificed so much for my brother and me. It drives me to work as hard as I can and to reach a certain level of potential and ability and success so that I can pay it back to them and let them know that everything they gave up was worth it.

We grew up in a post 9/11 era. I was grappling with my identity, and I didn’t know how much of my Arab culture I wanted to influence my American culture. It always felt like I was just kind of walking on this tightrope. I didn’t like speaking Arabic in front of my friends.

Christiane Amanpour is such a badass to me. She is so knowledgeable and educated about so many things. She doesn’t take BS from people and doesn’t get involved with low-hanging fruit.

I love to travel. I’ve studied abroad and tried to go to as many places as possible. I went to London twice while I was abroad and every time was just wildly fun. We had a really good group of girls go to Paris. I gained three new very close friends.

I went bungee jumping in Switzerland. I was the first one to jump. We jumped out of a gondola and when I jumped out all I saw was white snow. 


Forest Lassman is from Lawrence and graduated in May 2018 with a degree in journalism with a minor in English. He has previously written for the University Daily Kansan.