Passion mashup: Juleyka Lantigua-Williams ’96
“I was a government major who loved her genetics class and was on the construction team for the theater company,” recalls Juleyka Lantigua-Williams ’96. She went into print journalism, but now she’s an entrepreneur who helps disseminate wide perspectives in podcasts.
Having moved from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. with her family when she was 10, Lantigua-Williams grew up in the Bronx during the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s (“I witnessed my neighbors being devastated by it”) and earned Opportunity Program funding to attend Skidmore when she was just 16.
Here, she says, “I practiced doing things that were way out of my wheelhouse, and I received support while taking great risks.” That same “why not me?” approach has shaped her career ever after.
A government and Spanish double major, she had law school in mind. But a law-firm job working 16-hour days in a windowless office and researching “obscure environmental laws that corporate clients could use to eschew their due diligence” spurred a big life reassessment.
With poets and journalists among her forebears, she had always wanted to write, and during a Fulbright fellowship in Spain after her senior year, she helped launch a newspaper and a journal focused on immigrants there. So then she decides to earn a master’s in journalism and become a reporter and editor at Urban Latino, the Atlantic, NPR and other media outlets.
Lantigua-Williams found her Skidmore education was “the perfect foundation for a journalist, who has to assimilate all types of information in many formats and who has to translate and present complex ideas in a limited space.”
Most important and useful across the board, she says,
At Skidmore I learned to think and discern, to dismiss platitudes and to question authority.”
Armed with those skills, “I’m not afraid to make mistakes,” she declares, “so I take risks all the time.”
Last year her savvy and pluck paid off once again when she left traditional journalism to start her own company. As the lantiguawilliams.co website describes it, “We create audio and video experiences that stay with you long after the credits, using digital tools and original storytelling techniques.”
One goal is to open media to more people of color, “whose perspectives and skills are vital” to American society, she says.
For her, “Storytelling is the only true universal language. As we become more fragmented economically, socially and culturally, it is storytelling that will help close the gaps between subcultures and subgroups.”
Just weeks after the launch, Lantigua-Williams took yet another flyer, applying for a grant from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation. Sure enough, she won funding to pursue what she calls her most ambitious work ever.
Titled “70 Million,” it’s a series of 30-minute podcasts exploring incarceration and criminal justice in the U.S.; as executive producer, she’s working with independent radio journalists, editors and others.
Despite her prior career acrobatics, Lantigua-Williams confides that becoming a “solopreneur” felt like a huge leap. “But a year later,” she says, “I could not be happier or feel more fulfilled by my work.”