Victoria “Tori” Ekstrand, Associate Professor in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Named the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education
The Graduate School has named UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s Victoria “Tori” Ekstrand (’03 Ph.D.), as the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education.
At UNC Hussman, Ekstrand is an associate professor and teaches courses in media law to graduate and undergraduate students. Her research explores critical and interdisciplinary inquiries into the principles underlying and informing First Amendment law and free expression, including but not limited to student expression, intellectual property, and online political advertising. She is the former co-director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy and is an affiliate with the UNC Center for Information, Technology and Public Life. Prior to joining UNC Hussman, Ekstrand was an associate professor at Bowling Green State University. She previously worked for The Associated Press as its director of corporate communications.
Ekstrand said she views the Royster professorship as the heart of interdisciplinary work on campus.
“I’m thrilled and excited to be a part of that,” Ekstrand said. “I’ve always cared about interdisciplinary work. I’m interested in the intersections among disciplines on campus and how they can serve the North Carolina public.”
During her three-year term, Ekstrand hopes to raise visibility of the Royster Society of Fellows, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021. The fellowship is a premier doctoral fellowship at the University, which comes with financial support, mentorship and facilitates interdisciplinary opportunities for doctoral students.
Ekstrand said she particularly values the diversity of voices and the conversations that the Royster programs spark among graduate students.
“It’s conversations across those disciplines that are going to solve the big problems of the day, like COVID-19 and climate change,” Ekstrand said. “Students drive interdisciplinary conversations. They’re not satisfied with studying one stream. They want multiple methods; they want to look at issues from multiple perspectives. As faculty, and as The Graduate School, we have to meet them there. They demand it as much as society needs it.”
Ekstrand described Carolina’s graduate students as being curious, courageous and willing to raise questions in new ways that others may have missed. Those questions can lead to innovative discoveries, especially for areas or study or research that might have already been thoroughly examined.
“The big secret of teaching graduate students is they always teach us more than we necessarily teach them. They are the ones to raise new questions in ways that those of us who have been in the academy for a while may have missed,” Ekstrand said.
As the fifth Royster Distinguished Professor, Ekstrand will serve on the Royster Society of Fellows Board and raise visibility and excellence of the fellows on campus and beyond. She will facilitate interdisciplinary seminars, mentor Royster fellows and oversee the Royster Global initiative, among other duties.
Ekstrand will assume duties from Banu Gökariksel, a professor who is appointed in the Department of Geography.
The Royster Society of Fellows was created through the vision and generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Royster in 1996. Suzanne Barbour, Ph.D., is dean at The Graduate School, which was founded in 1903.