Timi Komonibo sits in an orange chair at the Newhouse School.

Meet Timi Komonibo, director of recruitment and diversity at Newhouse

By Emily Kulkus

May 31, 2016

The 2015 graduate of the public diplomacy program was born in Nigeria, has lived in London, Houston

After graduating from college, Timi Komonibo taught middle school in her hometown of Houston, Texas for Teach for America. It was her chance to “pay it forward to the next generation” and show students that they, too, could attend college and be a working professional.   

“If their educator looks like them, students can imagine their success,” Komonibo says. “To see that a black woman went to a university and graduated and this woman looks like you or your mother or your sister, you can kind of put yourself in that place.”

Komonibo, who earned a master’s degree from Newhouse in 2015, is about to set the same example here as director of recruitment and diversity for the Newhouse School. She is the face of the Newhouse Visitor’s Center, which handles admissions, and she will manage the Newhouse Ambassadors program. A graduate of the public diplomacy program, Komonibo says she was drawn to the job for the ability to work with students and share the opportunities Newhouse has to offer.

Komonibo describes herself as an “interdisciplinarian,” and says she is keenly interested in how one’s life experiences shape their path and their person.

“I come from a lot of different places but at my core I’ve always been about students,” she says.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Komonibo moved with her family to London when she was 6 years old. Her classroom there was filled with children from around the world. When her family moved to Houston two years later, her classmates there was much more homogenous but she remained fascinated by culture and its influence. When she attended the University of Texas at Austin her biggest challenge was, “How do I explore everything and still graduate on time?”

Timi Komonibo G'15 is the new director of recruitment and diversity at the Newhouse School. Photo by Alec Erlebacher

After Teach for America, Komonibo says the public diplomacy program was an ideal way to combine her communications strengths with an interest in international relations. While a student, Komonibo founded Style Lottery, a clothes-swapping startup for which she won a Syracuse University Orange Circle Award for altruism and community service. TNH, the student-run advertising agency at Newhouse, helped her with Style Lottery and the positive experience opened her eyes to the high-caliber work of Newhouse students.

“I got to see how competent students are, and what kind of projects they’re doing, even at the undergraduate level,” she says.

That experience will directly influence how she works with students in her new position, she says.

“Knowing what they are capable of I have higher expectations for them but I also know the heavy load that they have so I’m very compassionate,” she says. “I know I need to support them just as much as I push them.”

Komonibo will be recruiting students who are “deeply curious about the world,” she says. “And people who want to impact the world in some way. I think Newhouse does a really good job of equipping students with the tools that they need to be the movers and shakers of the world.”

Rosanna Grassi, associate dean for student affairs, says Komonibo’s enthusiasm for the job, passion for diversity and experience in the field will help Newhouse attract and retain competitive students.

“She will be reaching out to new populations of students to help them get to know us; she will be visiting schools and fairs, and running our busy visitor’s center, which interacts with prospective students and their parents on a daily basis,” Grassi says. “She cares deeply about this position and helping students. I know parents will appreciate her guidance.”

Komonibo repeatedly says Newhouse needs to be the right “fit” for students, both in and out of the classroom. One resource she will use to ensure that fit is the Newhouse Ambassadors program, which allows prospective students to interact with current Newhouse students. Prospective students can ask current Newhouse students important questions they might not ask someone from the admissions office. It’s a great way for students to understand if Newhouse is where they should be, she says. 

“We admit students that we think can handle the workload and we admit students who we think will really flourish here,” she says. “They are very driven—almost stubborn about what they want and what they like.”

She is also eager to recruit high-quality students who might not have thought of Newhouse. Being from Houston, Komonibo says she knows that students from the south, in particular, hear more from bigger, closer schools such as the University of Texas and Rice. She wants to use her Southern and Teach for America connections to recruit students to consider Syracuse University.

“I’m responsible for bringing in under-represented students who fit the profile of a competitive Newhouse student,” she says. She will use Newhouse’s vast alumni network to set up meetings with prospective students who might not be able to travel to Syracuse to visit campus.

And once they are here, Komonibo wants her office to be a supportive outlet.  

“When you walk into a space where you know you are the minority, it’s a little intimidating. So my job is to take out some of that intimidation factor by really highlighting the things that we have to help them succeed,” she says. “My office is here to be the before-you-get-here assurance and then when you get here we’re able to be your support in the school if you need it.”

Emily Kulkus '02 is the web content manager at the Newhouse School. Reach her at eakulkus@syr.edu

Photos by Alec Erlebacher, a master's photography student at the Newhouse School.