Hannah Harn (COM ‘20) is a pretty cool person. Okay, so I might be a little biased. She is one of my best friends, after all. But both objectively and subjectively, Hannah is totally dominating the radio world at BU.
Hannah studies Journalism in the College of Communication here at BU, a career choice she is already well on her way to preparing for. After interning at WTBU her freshman year, Hannah went on to become a co-host of the BU in the Morning radio show, as well as host Astronomical Space Case, a show of her own creation inspired by sci-fi pop culture and hard-hitting space news. Formerly, she wrote for the News section of The Daily Free Press, Boston University’s only student-run newspaper. Miraculously, Hannah also balances her journalistic commitments with leadership and a social life as a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, the BU sorority we are both a part of.
When I visited Hannah at her BU in the Morning radio show to listen, observe, and laugh along with her and her co-hosts, her voice was the loudest and most joyful sound in the room. Well, besides her occasional singing outbursts while her director, Adrian, played tracks ranging from vintage rock to Beyonce’s biggest hits.
In true Hannah fashion, she multitasked during song and commercial breaks by studying and surfing the web. Of all the women I know at BU, Hannah is one of the only ones who never stops thinking about her next move. As one of Hannah’s co-hosts remarked on the air, Hannah has two voices inside of her: a quiet yet driven hard-worker and a giant radio personality who is bursting with exuberance.
Both on and off college campuses, it’s unique to find a radio station as inclusive of rising female journalists like Hannah as WTBU is. In fact, according to the Women’s Media Center 2017 annual report, women only make up 33% of radio and TV news directors. If that wasn’t bad enough, women are more likely to work in smaller radio markets than men.
With all of that in mind, I decided to sit down with my BFF Hannah to talk about gender, confidence, and of course, radio with the hopes of finding answers and inspiring rising female journalists.
Me: Hi, Hannah! Since I’m here to talk to you about radio, I’m sure many readers are wondering how you got involved with radio and WTBU in general.
Hannah: I started on BU in the Morning as an intern my freshman year. I was only in the studio on Monday mornings with [my] then-director Juliet, current director Adrian, and a couple other [members of WTBU]. It was kind of a “first come, first serve” setup with intern slots, so I just got lucky. It’s been so amazing and I’ve met so many fantastic people. We get so many opportunities to do interviews and review shows, so I feel a lot more important than I probably am.
I’d never done radio before WTBU, so it was a fantastic introduction to the world of broadcast radio. You get so many opportunities to try new things and even develop your own shows and podcasts. I can’t imagine a better way to get acquainted with radio [than joining WTBU].
Me: I can’t believe you’ve never done radio before! I know you used to perform in show choir back in high school. How do you think your experience as a stage performer prepared you for hosting a radio show on WTBU?
H: My history in performing arts definitely helped me come in with confidence, especially because I didn’t worry if I looked okay because all the audience gets is your voice. It helped me feel more aware of how I sounded and how I spoke on air, especially in terms of being a host for a flagship show. It’s kind of a self-awareness thing.
Me: And I’m sure that confidence helped when you decided to start your own radio show, too! Could you talk a little bit about how you came up with the idea for Astronomical Space Case?
H: I originally got inspired to do [my radio show] Astronomical Space Case when a good friend of mine from my summer job decided to switch her major to Astronomy. I’ve always been fascinated by space and science fiction and all that jazz, so it just kind of came to me. The show was originally much more science fiction focused, but it’s now much more centered around actual space-related news with the occasional on-air Star Wars trailer viewing and conspiracy theory breakdown. It’s so casual and we just want to have a good time while on air. I’m hoping to bring in some guests this year, like local professors, to talk about major breaking news [in the field of astronomy].
Me: As your friend, I’m so happy you’ve had such a positive experience in radio, but I know not all women feel the same way. How might being a woman at WTBU be different from being a woman at another radio station?
H: I’ve never been with another radio station [but] I do know, however, that when I listen to the radio at home, I always get man after man. Don’t get me wrong; if the broadcast is good, I’m not going to complain. But there does seem to be a bit of an imbalance sometimes [between the number of men and the number of women on-air].
I feel very much like an equal with WTBU, whereas I often hear women pushed into more subordinate positions on other [college radio] stations. But I tend to have a very Type A personality, so I don’t usually let people push me to the background of a conversation unless I want to be there.
Whenever I meet another DJ it’s an immediate connection. I’ve always felt very much supported and accepted for my personality. And fitting in or being like everybody else has never been my thing. I’m going to be myself whether the world likes it or not. Every now and again you meet someone you disagree with politically or socially or what have you, but it’s all about mutual respect, regardless of gender identity or sexuality. I wouldn’t say I emphasize my femininity so much as I emphasize who I am and who I want to be.
Me: So, how can we as college women express our femininity and our uniquely female views in any workplace while still maintaining that sense of equality?
H: I work as a whitewater guide in the summers, which is definitely a male-dominated field. I’ve even had a coworker tell me he didn’t trust me to do something because I was a woman. But even then it wasn’t about expressing my femininity. It was about proving that biological sex has no say in what I can and cannot do.
My expression of my femininity comes in my compassion towards others, my maternal tendencies as the “mom friend,” and my love for taking care of people. I also tend to express my femininity in the way I handle situations. I’ve seen men try more aggressive forms of conflict resolution, but I tend to prefer more diplomatic pathways.
Regardless of what gender you identify as, you’re not going to get anywhere or express anything positive if you don’t respect your fellow man. And when I say your fellow man, I mean it completely devoid of gender association.
Me: I know your mom is a lawyer, so she also works in a very male-dominated field. How has her example inspired you to take on this challenge?
H: My mom is a lawyer who specializes in California Gaming Law, so casinos and all that. She’s a strong woman in what is a VERY male-dominated field, and she’s always impressed upon me that my being a woman has no bearing on what I can or cannot do. Watching her as I’ve grown up has given me a very strong sense of what it means to be a genuine, whole-souled person. She doesn’t give up just because things aren’t going as planned. She improvises, adapts, and overcomes obstacles.
Me: Do you see yourself as that kind of mentor for other girls in radio?
H: I think I’m in a position to serve as a mentor for anybody who wants or needs one. I do hope to one day be a prominent female voice in radio…[and] maybe cut through the constant male gabbing on air. And in terms of responsibility to do this, it’s everybody’s responsibility to advocate for the people around them. People are [dependent] on other people. You can’t get anywhere without help or support or encouragement [from others].
Me: Last but not least, what would you tell another BU woman who wanted to join WTBU but wasn’t sure if she could or should?
H: I’d tell any other young woman or girl who wants to join WTBU that they should do it. It’s so amazing and you meet the most interesting people. Everybody who sets foot in the studio genuinely wants to be there, and that makes all the difference. I feel so at home in the studio and behind the board, and I hope that other young women can find that sense of rightness there, too. And besides, who wouldn’t want another friend in their workplace?