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The Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professorship for Graduate Education

The Graduate School is now seeking applications for the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professorship for Graduate Education. This three-year term professorship recognizes the contributions of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Royster to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and to The Graduate School as the founders and benefactors of the Royster Society of Fellows.

The Royster Society of Fellows is the flagship interdisciplinary fellowship program of The Graduate School. The program supports over 90 students annually including new doctoral students who are offered membership each year with five-year fellowships or senior graduate students with one-year dissertation fellowships. Royster fellows join a long tradition of high-achieving graduate students who attain careers of their choice across a range of sectors.

The fifth Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education, Associate Professor of Journalism and Media in the Hussman School, Tori Ekstrand, Ph.D. will end her tenure on June 30, 2024.  She succeeded Professor of Geography and Global Studies Banu Gökarıksel, who served from July 2018 to June 2021, English and Comparative Literature Professor Marsha Collins, who served from January 2016 to June 2018; Distinguished Biology Professor David Pfennig, who served from July 2012 to June 2015; and Professor of Communications Studies Julia Wood, who served from July 2009 to June 2012. Each individual holding this distinguished position has made significant contributions to the development of the Royster Society of Fellows.

We are seeking nominations for individuals who will continue the outstanding leadership already established and move the Royster Society of Fellows forward for the next three years. The individual selected as the next Royster Distinguished Professor will direct the Royster Society of Fellows concurrent with their appointment for a term of three years beginning July 1, 2024. Selection is open to any tenured professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Individuals who hold other permanent, named professorships at the University are eligible for consideration for this fixed-term professorship.

The Graduate School seeks an individual who possesses:

  • A strong record as a scholar and as a graduate student mentor, as well as a broad interest in graduate education
  • Engagement with a broad range of disciplines, either through their own scholarly interests, or departmental and professional affiliations
  • With the support of Graduate School experienced staff, a willingness to devote a portion of their time to directing the Royster Society of Fellows
  • Strong interest in global research and impact is desired. Thus, continued support of organizing the annual Royster Global conference is a key component of the position.

The primary academic program that houses the faculty appointment of the selected individual will agree to release this individual from a portion of their departmental teaching or other academic obligations so they may serve as the Royster Distinguished Professor. It is preferred that nominees not hold other major administrative responsibilities concurrently with this leadership role.

The Royster Distinguished Professor will be responsible for continuing to increase the visibility and excellence of the Royster Society of Fellows across the campus, nationally, and internationally. The faculty member selected will also mentor the Fellows and lead activities that provide effective interdisciplinary enrichment and professional development for the Fellows. These activities include development of new opportunities for the Fellows as well as oversight of the following continuing programmatic elements of the Royster Society of Fellows:

  • Interdisciplinary seminars in which Fellows present and discuss their research with one another, or interact with guest faculty about their research and scholarly interests
  • Professional development including communications/presentation training to develop the Fellows’ skill in presenting their research to non-academic audiences, such as policymakers and future employers
  • Interdisciplinary first-year seminars in which Royster Fellows are mentored in their joint development and teaching of interdisciplinary courses for Carolina first-year undergraduates
  • The Royster Global Initiative in which Royster Fellows engage graduate education in an international academic community and prepare for an increasingly global professional marketplace
  • Mentoring of Fellows in their dissertation year to complete their research and writing on time and to prepare for the job market
  • Mentoring of first-year Fellows to begin their graduate study successfully and with strong support
  • Coordinating symposium events and other activities that enrich the graduate experience

The Royster Distinguished Professor will work closely with the Dean of The Graduate School, the Associate Dean for Professional Development, the Director of Fellowships, and the Fellowship Programs Coordinator.

Benefits of the term professorship:

  • The stipend for this term professorship will be $15,000 per academic year.
  • A minimum of 1 course buy-out per academic year. Additional course buy-out may be possible depending on availability of funds and negotiations between the faculty member’s school/college and The Graduate School.
  • Programmatic funding to support the activities of the Fellows is also available.

Application materials 1-3 should be uploaded to the 2023 Royster Application Site:

  1. a cover letter indicating your interest and qualifications for this professorship, your perspective on the role of interdisciplinary education at the graduate level, and vision and commitment for your involvement in the program including interest in and experience with global issues
  2. curriculum vita
  3. contact information for three references
  4. a letter of support from your Chair which can be emailed directly to Associate Dean, Brian Rybarczyk, Ph.D.

For full consideration, nominations are due by October 1, 2023. The Graduate School plans to select the new Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education before January 2024. Once selected and approved, the Royster Professor will engage in onboarding and orientation with the current Royster Professor and Graduate School team. For questions, please contact Associate Dean, Brian Rybarczyk, Ph.D.

The appointment will begin on July 1, 2024, contingent upon UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees approval.

The Graduate School’s Mission

The Graduate School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supports excellence in graduate education and fosters civic engagement and economic growth in North Carolina and beyond. We advocate, collaborate, and convene to serve the nation’s first public university, and to promote inclusive educational and professional development experiences for a diverse community of graduate students.

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