A little more than a year after launching a campaign to create an endowed chair in honor of modern American feminist Gloria Steinem, Rutgers University officials announced they have surpassed the $2 million mark in donations.

The funds, totaling $2.1 million from more than 250 individuals and 12 foundations, put the university two thirds closer toward the $3 million required to finance the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies.

The chair,  a unique collaboration among Rutgers’ Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL), School of Communication and Information (SCI)  and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, will focus on the creative and complex ways information technology and new media are reshaping culture and power relationships.

“Gloria’s [82nd] birthday is at the end of March 2016, and that is a real milestone.  Our goal is to raise the remaining $900,000 so that we can announce that the chair is fully endowed on or before that special day,” said Alison R. Bernstein, director of the IWL, who proposed the idea of a Gloria Steinem chair at Rutgers.

Typically, endowed chairs are named after a single donor, but it is particularly important, Bernstein said, that hundreds will finance this chair, the first of its kind.

“Never before has a chair been named for a feminist icon who is still alive,” Bernstein said. “That more than 250 people have contributed shows they buy into and engage with the values and legacy of Steinem.”

That the $200,000 donation to push funds past $2 million came from another female media pioneer, Fran Zone/John Mack Carter Fund, is equally important, said Bernstein. Zone, an award-winning leadership communication strategist, is the founder and CEO of Zone Communication.

“Fran Zone is a communications and media professional who understood Gloria’s key role in changing the discourse of media to understand and include women and their perspectives at the table,” said Bernstein.

Organizers hope to have the chair filled by the 2016-17 academic year, which coincides with the university’s 250th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of the institute.

The Steinem chair will immerse students in debate and scholarship on such issues as how the changing media landscape can bring about social change and how new media technology is influencing the power structure. The person who occupies the chair will teach, conduct research and lead seminars and colloquia focusing on ways to diversify voices in the media, Bernstein said.

According to the Women’s Media Center 2015 report on the “Status of Women in the U.S. Media,” women continue to lack representation in American media. The report found, for example, that 90 percent of Twitter’s tech employees were male and its leadership ranks were 79 percent male.

That imbalance of power inspired the IWL and SCI to create the new Gloria Steinem Media Mentoring Program in conjunction with the endowed chair after receiving a $35,000 grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation. Launched in September, the pilot program has linked 20 recent Rutgers alumnae with 20 accomplished women in diverse media arenas.

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