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Elanie Steyn

Gaylord Extra: April 2023

Faculty Feature: Elanie Steyn

By Abby Hanley, Gaylord College Class of 2023

Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication recognizes Associate Dean and Associate Professor Elanie Steyn.

Steyn has been a member of the Gaylord community since August 2007, teaching and inspiring her students. She was born and raised on a farm in South Africa.

“Life was simple and carefree. We didn’t grow up rich in terms of money, but we grew up billionaires in terms of love,” Steyn said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in business communication in South Africa, Steyn received a Commonwealth Scholarship and continued her studies at City University in London, earning a master’s degree in communication policy studies. She received her PhD from North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus.

She said she realized she wanted to live and work abroad again at some point. In 2006, she applied for an assistant professor job at Gaylord College. She received a call from former dean Joe Foote, offering her the job; she took it sight unseen and has been at OU ever since.

Steyn said she works to inspire women by helping them discover who they are and what they stand for. While encouraging the women at OU to live out their dreams and aspirations in spite of what others want them to believe or how others want them to act, she says she learns from her students every day.

“They live and grew up in a world I did not. Seeing them change their views on gender, representation and leadership as we discuss issues related to these in class inspires me to help them find more of their voice and advocate for their seats at the table,” she said.

Steyn said she also continues to be inspired by the women she met while working with journalists in Bangladesh soon after coming to OU. In spite of prejudice, stereotypes, a lack of opportunities and outright discrimination, these women remained committed to what they were doing as professionals, she said.

The women in Bandladesh found ways to cover stories, go to sites considered too dangerous for women, find their way home late at night, care for their families and send their children to school, Steyn said.

“They somehow found ways to overcome the challenges they faced, and that inspired me and showed me that most things are possible if we are serious enough about it and committed enough to make it happen. These women are not only an inspiration to me, they also teach me how to be a better person and how to collaborate more with others, even when it is difficult and when it doesn’t come naturally,” Steyn said.

Steyn leads by example by living boldly and being outspoken for what she believes in when it comes to any form of equality.

She consistently pushes the women around her to find a place at the table and when they are there, to speak up. She strives to speak out against injustice, unfairness and exclusion, even if doing so comes at a cost.

While International Women’s Day is a day of celebration for all the amazing things women do around the world, Steyn pushes for women to be celebrated every day and at all stages in life.

“From the unseen achievements of women bringing about change in their day-to-day lives to the women doing groundbreaking things such as finding cures for diseases and governing countries and communities, these are the women young women should see as role models who inspire them to be great. They should be change-makers in society in general,” she said.

“When I look at women and what they achieve in spite of many challenges, I am hopeful,” she said.

The world will always place obstacles in the paths of women, but the challenges are more severe for women in patriarchal societies and those living in poverty or facing outright discrimination, Steyn said.

“Somehow, though, women find a way to overcome, albeit at a high price in many cases. These are the women who need the world to be aware of their realities and the severity of their lives,” she said.

Elanie Steyn