We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Malissa Sanon and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dr. Malissa, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
Malissa Sanon was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Broward County), to two Haitian immigrants. She is the youngest and the only daughter of 4 children. She is an alumna of Westwood Heights Elementary, Parkway Middle, and South Plantation High School. After high school, Malissa enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) where she majored in psychology and minored in sociology. In 2012, Malissa was inducted into the Hall of Fame at FGCU. As a psychology major and sociology minor, Malissa learned the importance of mental health and wanted to learn more. Malissa decided that she wanted to study mental health counseling and continued her education. She received her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from FGCU in 2015. After completing her master’s degree, In the fall of 2015, she started her doctoral degree at Florida Atlantic University. Within two years of starting within the Ph.D. program, Malissa received another master’s degree in Higher Education in December of 2017. To Malissa, the field of study higher education was new and the coursework was tedious. However, Malissa quickly learned that she was already using the student development theories in her work positions. Since she is passionate about mental health, Malissa knew that she wanted to dedicate her research to mental health and helping her community. So Malissa began to explore more about mental health concerns, particularly in Black men. Dr. Malissa Sanon successfully defended her dissertation “If You Can’t Make A Sound, Make A Peep: A Narrative Inquiry of the Lived Collegiate Experiences of Black Male Students Who Dealt With Suicide Ideation” in November of 2020.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am so proud that I am able to be apart of the 2% of individuals holding a doctoral degree. If you told me in high school that I would have a Ph.D, I would have dismissed the thought. I did not see myself earning more than a bachelor’s degree. But once I was doing the work, surrounded myself with like minded people, and actually gained the confidence, I knew I could go above and beyond. That was the hardest thing I had to overcome. Over coming those negative thoughts about myself. I had to change my thinking of “I am not deserving to be in these seats” to “God is granting me the opportunity to be in these seats.” I remember my first day in my doctoral program I went home and told my brother, “They don’t look like me or talk like me” and he encouraged me that even though I look like a misfit, I am more than cable of getting the work done. It is not what others think about you, it is all about what you think about yourself.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Sunday- Brunch at Yolo restaurant and lounge on Las Olas. Monday- Fort Lauderdale Beach and eat at Aruba Beach Café. Tuesday- Extreme Action Park and eat at Cuisine Lakay. Wednesday- Sawgrass Mills Mall and Bahama Breeze for dinner. Thursday- Funky Buddha Brewery. Friday- Rhythm & Vine (eat, drink, and dance). Saturday- Wynwood art district (Brickhouse bar at night).

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Wow! There are truly many people that I would like to give credit to my journey. First and foremost the Lord Jesus Christ who is my protector and provider. My steps are ordered because of God. Next, my wonderful parents who go above and beyond to meet my needs. My brothers Pedro Louis and Rob who serve as my second parents and my biggest cheerleaders. My host of uncles, aunts, and cousins who serve as my prayer partners, comedians, and encouragement squad. My sister-friends who have been there from day 1, who uplift me when I am down, who listens to all my stories, and who corrected me when I am wrong. My Bethel, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida Atlantic University, We Fight to Tell Stories, and Michigan Tech families who always have my back and helped build my foundation.

Instagram: @MalissaSanon
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/malissa-sanon-a8a879170/
Twitter: @MalissaSanon
Facebook: Malissa Sanon
Youtube: Malissa Sanon

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