Breaking Barriers: Black Women at Newhouse

As Black History Month unfolds, it is crucial to acknowledge the remarkable achievements of Black women in academia. At Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, Kalaya Sibley, a graduate student majoring in public diplomacy and global communications, and Bilhissa Fadiga, a senior majoring in public relations, stand as examples of resilience and leadership, shedding light on the challenges and triumphs experienced by Black women in their pursuit of excellence. 

Kalaya Sibley (left) and Bilhissa Fadiga

Sibley, a promising graduate student, adeptly navigates the complexities of public diplomacy and global communications. Rooted in her heritage, Sibley’s journey is driven by a commitment to amplify underrepresented voices.

“Being a Black woman in public diplomacy means representing diverse perspectives authentically, fostering understanding and challenging preconceptions on a global scale,” she said. 

Sibley’s academic focus on public diplomacy highlights her dedication to bridging cultural divides and addressing global issues through effective communication. Her journey exemplifies the transformative potential of diverse perspectives in shaping diplomatic relations and narratives on an international scale. 

Fadiga, a senior in public relations, provides a fresh perspective in the dynamic field of communications. Approaching the end of her undergraduate journey, Fadiga sees public relations as a powerful tool for reshaping narratives and challenging traditional perceptions.

“Being a Black woman means actively contributing to the discourse and challenging traditional narratives. It’s about consistently showing up, even when it feels uncomfortable, and rewriting the narrative to be more inclusive and reflective of our diverse society,” she said. 

Both Sibley and Fadiga are integral members of the Syracuse chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), positioning themselves at the forefront of positive change. Actively shaping the narrative surrounding Black women in the ever-evolving field of public relations, their forward-thinking approach and steadfast commitment to inclusivity make them trailblazers within the Newhouse School community. This involvement in NABJ further emphasizes their dedication to fostering diversity and inclusion in the realm of media and communication. 

Integral to the support system for both Sibley and Fadiga is Wes Whiteside, associate director of the Newhouse School’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) office, which has provided a safe space for these women within the Newhouse School. Whiteside’s welcoming approach and the IDEA office’s commitment to fostering an inclusive environment have played a crucial role in making them feel supported and valued in their academic pursuits. 

Jalyss Agosto

Both women openly acknowledge the hurdles they encounter within their respective fields.

“It’s crucial to stay true to yourself and your identity. In the face of challenges, remember that your unique perspective is an asset, not a hindrance,” Sibley said.

Fadiga echoes this sentiment, encouraging fellow Black women to challenge norms and actively contribute to shaping evolving narratives in the field of public relations. 

In honoring Black History Month, the stories of Sibley and Fadiga showcase the remarkable contributions made by Black women at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. Their academic journeys exemplify the power of representation and the transformative impact that diverse voices bring to the fields of public diplomacy and public relations. Through their passion and commitment and supported by the welcoming atmosphere of the IDEA office, they pave the way for future generations, inspiring a more inclusive and equitable future in academia.

Jalyss Agosto is a graduate student in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.