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Three Triumphant Years with Naomi Klein

It was a critical time in the American social, political, and media landscape when Naomi Klein began her tenure as the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. A public intellectual, global activist, and acclaimed journalist, Klein was an extraordinary choice to bring to life the first-ever academic chair designed to celebrate the vision and legacy of Gloria Steinem.

Over her three-year tenure, Klein hosted twenty-three public events, bringing leading activists and scholars to campus to explore climate change, big tech, workers' rights, disaster capitalism, Indigenous knowledge, and the care economy.

Klein taught five undergraduate seminars through the School of Communication and Information and the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In her classrooms, students examined the ideas and implications of humans as brands and studied the ways contemporary social movements are shaped by the twin forces of digital technology and marketing logics. Klein inspired the Rutgers community to take action and work together for a better world.

We are grateful for the lasting impact Naomi Klein has made as the Gloria Steinem Chair and send our best wishes for continued success in her new position as the inaugural Faculty of Arts Chair in Climate Justice at the University of British Columbia.

The search is on for the next Gloria Steinem Chair. Active review of applications will begin on November 15, 2021, and the position will remain open until filled.

Naomi Klein, Inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies

Naomi Klein, a public intellectual whose best-selling explorations of social, economic and ecological injustice have made her a global thought-leader, was selected as the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Klein’s appointment came at a critical time in the American political and media landscape as progressive leaders link human rights and economic justice with climate change and other global challenges.

“I am honored to have been chosen for this prestigious position and eager to join Rutgers students in connecting the dots between some of the most critical issues of our time,” Klein said.

Gloria Steinem celebrated Klein’s appointment with a public discussion on September 21, 2018. The conversation, moderated by journalist Farai Chideya, focused on the ways that information technology and new media are reshaping culture and power relationships as well as the challenges ahead for progressive movements.

Klein taught, organized public events, conducted research, and immersed students in debate and scholarship on a range of issues. Topics included the role of activist journalists in revolutionary movements from abolition to feminism as well as the complex relationships among new media technologies, market forces, democracy, and movements for racial, gender, and economic justice.

Dafna Lemish, who chaired the selection committee, said Klein was chosen from an accomplished and diverse pool of candidates, all highly enthusiastic about what the chair might bring to Rutgers. “She broadens the discussion of feminism to encompass the big questions of our time, such as climate change, participatory democracy and poverty,” said Lemish, associate dean for programs and a professor of Journalism and Media Studies.

Klein is the author of How to Change Everything: A Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other (2021), On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal (2019), The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (2018), No is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need (2017), This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007), and No Logo (2000). Her work has been translated into more than 30 languages.

"Our late IWL director Alison Bernstein had the magnificent idea to create an endowed chair named for Gloria Steinem,” said Lisa Hetfield, IWL Associate Director and Director of Development. “Her leadership, along with a team of determined volunteer fundraisers and hundreds of generous donors, made this endowed chair possible. As we welcome Naomi Klein as the inaugural Gloria Steinem Chair occupant, we are also honoring and celebrating the power of women's leadership. "

The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair In Media, Culture And Feminist Studies

Rutgers University has established the first ever Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies. Through this groundbreaking chair, Rutgers will educate future generations of students from underrepresented groups, to harness the power of media and transform society.

The chair – a collaboration among Rutgers Institute for Women’s Leadership, School of Communication and Information and the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the School of Arts and Sciences – focuses on the complex ways information technology and new media are reshaping culture now, and could increase accuracy and representative stories in the future.

Origins of the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair

Following a three-year, $3 million campaign, Rutgers University achieved a historic goal in 2017 to establish the first-ever academic chair named in honor of prominent feminist Gloria Steinem.

The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies, funded by more than 425 donors, including a dozen foundations and a matching pledge made possible by Rutgers President Robert Barchi, will immerse students in debate and scholarship about new media, social change and power structures.

“We know that new media are transforming our governance,” Gloria Steinem said, “and also that they may be short on facts and context. We also know that heritage media haven’t always told an inclusive story. I’m very proud that the late Alison Bernstein, a visionary scholar who directed Institute for Women’s Leadership, committed this chair to inclusiveness and accuracy. I’m also proud that Rutgers is not only one of the oldest and most respected public universities, but has a student population that looks like the nation. I’ve come to believe it’s as good as Harvard – with democracy added. It also happens to be next to one of the media capitals of the world.”

The idea for the chair originated in 2014 with Bernstein, a visionary scholar who became director of Institute for Women’s Leadership in 2011. Bernstein saw the chair as a way to simultaneously honor an American feminist icon and establish a multidisciplinary teaching role leveraging Rutgers’ strong platforms in media, social change, and women’s and gender studies.

Despite Bernstein’s untimely death from cancer in 2016, her quest to create the first academic position named for a preeminent living feminist grew into a shared mission. A steering committee of dedicated volunteers continued to raise funds.

Committee co-chairs Geraldine Laybourne and Subha Barry expressed gratitude to all who contributed to the fundraising effort and to Steinem, who embraced the initiative and assisted at every phase. “Everything that Gloria does is inclusive and every question she makes us think about is important,” they said in a joint statement. “The fundraising for the chair was a tremendously fun learning experience. Imagine what this will mean for students – and for media.”


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