Mary Husain champions cultural diversity with CineCulture

Mary Husain

By Payton Hartung, student news intern, University Communications
Originally published on Feb. 24 on

Dr. Mary Husain loves leading multicultural discussions that allow students and the campus community to better understand different cultures, to develop global awareness and to see the value of cultural diversity.

Husain received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications at Fresno State in 2001 and 2004, respectively. She earned a doctorate of education in 2010 through Fresno State’s joint doctoral program with the University of California, Davis.

Husain is a lecturer in the College of Arts and Humanities and serves as director of CineCulture, a free film series at Fresno State and an academic course offered through the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism. She has worked at Fresno State since 2002. Before joining the University Husain worked as an administrator for an elementary school in Karachi, Pakistan. She now lives in Clovis and is married with two sons, who both earned their bachelor’s degrees at Fresno State.

As a professor of media, communications and journalism, Husain strives to expose students to a wide range of socio-cultural and political topics and to emphasize critical thinking. She said she sees herself as a facilitator and cultural broker by helping students find their own voice and form their own perspective from diverse sources.

When not working, Husain loves traveling, cooking, watching movies and reading mystery novels.

Campus News asked Husain a few questions about her involvement with CineCulture.

How did you get involved with CineCulture?
I had attended a few screenings before it became an academic course. I was offered the opportunity by former Dean Vida Samiian to develop and create the new CineCulture course.

How does CineCulture decide which movies it screens?
Each movie has its own story, i.e. how it’s selected. I preview many films in consideration. No film is selected without first viewing. Also, I try and select films from a range of countries and cultures which address a wide variety of issues/topics.

  1. Distributors contact me and ask me to consider films.
  2. Individuals both on campus and in the broader community approach me with film ideas. U.S. and international directors and producers contact me. I have developed working relationships with many directors, producers, distributors, etc.
  3. I look at lots of film festivals.
  4. I read lots of film reviews.
  5. I try and collaborate with as many on- and off-campus individuals and groups as possible.

What makes CineCulture important to the campus community? How is it different from going to the regular movie theater?
The range of topics and cultures featured. There is always a discussion facilitated by someone with relevant expertise. This includes directors, producers and scholars.

What has been your favorite CineCulture screening of the last year and why?
I am passionate about all the films selected for different reasons (not in a ranked order). However, if I had to pick from last fall:

  1. Jirga : we brought a producer/actor from Jalalabad Afghanistan and lead actor from Melbourne, Australia. This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about Afghanistan and the decades-long conflict. I collaborated with Fresno’s Afghan community. They went above and beyond to welcome our guests, hosting dinners, hospitality, etc. As a result of this screening I met wonderful Afghan community members. Amir Shah Talash also spoke to my intercultural students and this was truly a unique learning opportunity for all.
  2. The River and the Wall: provided a unique perspective on the proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
  3. Emma Peeters: Director Nicole Palo joined us from Belgium. The film was engaging, and so was the director.

This spring so far:

  1. The Cave: Oscar-nominated film about Syria. The discussion facilitated by Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, past President of Syrian American Medical Society/SAMS. The hospital featured in the film was one of SAMS’s hospitals.
  2. Etruscan Smile: a beautiful heartfelt film about life. Dr. Ed EmanuEl was the discussant and presented the film beautifully.

How does the post screening discussion contribute to the CineCulture experience?
The overarching goal of CineCulture is to create cultural understandings through film and public dialogue. At CineCulture, we have a unique opportunity to create bridges of cultural understanding and respect for diversity around issues that affect our local, national and international communities.

How would you convince someone who has never been to a CineCulture film to attend?
Every week is a new adventure, and the same film is never screened twice, with one exception. For students it’s a cheap date. You can invite your friends, partner, parents etc. and not feel weird since the public is invited.

There is no admission fee, and parking is relaxed after four on Fridays. You have a unique opportunity to meet amazing guest speakers at every screening including filmmakers, producers, actors and internationally-renowned scholars with relevant expertise from the U.S. and around the world.

(Editor’s note: Campus News accepts nominations for faculty and staff profiles. These stories allow the campus community to learn about the many colleagues who contribute to the success of Fresno State. If you know someone with an interesting story — a passion for helping the community or a cause, a remarkable life journey, or there is just something fascinating about them to share — please email

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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