Making an impact with feminist media studies

Ivy Fofie and Leslie Steeves sit at a small table in an office looking at a laptop screen
Communication and Media Studies Ph.D. candidate Ivy Fofie (left) first met Professor Leslie Steeves while living in Ghana. Steeves, who was in the country on the SOJC’s Media in Ghana trip, took the opportunity to personally deliver Fofie her acceptance letter to the Ph.D. program. Now they work together every day to further Fofie’s research in feminist media studies. Photos by Jeremy Parker.

Ivy Fofie is both a researcher and a practitioner. She has already built a strong career in Ghana as a journalist and public relations professional. But it has long been her dream to become a researcher — particularly in the field of feminist media studies — so she can uncover the unrecognized contributions women have made to media.

And when UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Leslie Steeves hand-delivered her admissions letter while on an SOJC Media in Ghana trip, Fofie knew she had found her academic home-away-from-home in the SOJC’s Communication and Media Studies Ph.D. program.

“I knew this must be a supportive community,” said Fofie. “Everybody including the administrators had been so kind and keen about my joining the program.”

Fofie was also excited about Oregon because of the diversity in the graduate program, the flexibility of the program in allowing her to chart her own area of research and expertise, and the immense support and responsiveness of faculty, particularly her co-advisors, Steeves and Professor Seth Lewis.

From practicing media to researching feminist media studies

Before moving to the United States, Fofie worked as an assistant lecturer at the University of Ghana, where she taught graduate classes in print and broadcast journalism as well as cultural studies. She also held a position as an associate faculty member at the Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy, where she taught undergraduate classes in gender and African studies. Fofie felt comfortable in this role, as she already had experience with public speaking as a journalist for the campus radio and as a reporter for the Public Affairs Directorate of the University of Ghana.

She was also well-versed in the material she taught because of her involvement with several multimedia endeavors: She wrote for Ghana’s public newspaper the Daily Graphic, worked as a consultant for the private media and tech organization Penplusbytes, and acted in public relations roles for international agencies like the German Development Corporation and Theovision International.

“My initial plan was to build a career in the comms industry as a journalist and later a PR professional before retiring into academia,” she said. “But, after reporting for the campus radio and online newsroom and being assigned to university beats, I had the privilege of covering different scholarly lectures, which built my love for it. Then I also witnessed the inequalities in newsrooms, especially with regards to women, so I decided to focus my research around gender, inequalities and media.”

portrait of Ivy Fofie
Doctoral candidate Ivy Fofie plans to continue her research after graduation to bring attention to women’s contributions to media in the Global South as an assistant at a research institution.

Researching feminist media studies at the SOJC

As an SOJC Ph.D. candidate, Fofie’s research focuses on media history, political economy and the important relationships between women and media. Initially inspired by contemporary women’s work in radio, she realized that “if contemporary women are doing such amazing work in media, they must have learned from somewhere or [by] following a trajectory.” So she started to uncover women’s buried contributions to development in their communities through media work.

“My research addresses a blind spot in feminist media history, political economy and media women’s relationships with gender and sexuality, both historically and contemporaneously,” Fofie said.

Fofie has found that women’s role in nation-building through media — while large in scale and vastly important — does not garner enough attention because national histories have traditionally been written from a male-centered and elitist perspective. This issue has attracted the notice of feminist scholars like Fofie who are working to uncover important female work, including how women’s contributions to local language media have aided nation-building and feminist activism.

“This project is an attempt both to understand the roles of local-language women in broadcast culture and correct historical knowledge gaps,” she said.

Fofie’s work has earned several honors. She is one of five recipients of the competitive Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship, a joint fellowship at the UO and two other Oregon universities. She is also the elected international liaison for the feminist scholarship division of the International Communication Association.

In the future, Fofie plans to publish a book that encompasses her work on the political economy of women’s media. She also hopes to bring attention to women’s role in advancing other forms of media in the Global South, including film.

But she has already achieved her goal of becoming a researcher at the SOJC.

“[Research] was a lifelong dream, except I didn't think it would come this early,” she said. “I love research because of what we are able to learn from the things we uncover, to improve on the things in the future.”

—By Jillian Gray, class of ’25

Jillian Gray, class of ’25, is a public relations major with a minor in digital humanities. Outside of Allen Hall Jillian enjoys watching “Gilmore Girls” and taking trips to Barnes and Noble. Connect with Gray on LinkedIn.