A former journalist, Deb Aikat (pronounced EYE-cut) has been a faculty member since 1995 at the school. An award-winning scholar, Aikat theorizes the role of digital media in the global sphere. His research ranges across the media.
Aikat’s peers elected him as the 2023 President of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), one of the premier scholarly organizations in our field. He serves as AEJMC President for the 2022-23 academic year culminating in the 2023 AEJMC conference in Washington, D.C.
Aikat co-authored the 2019 book, Agendamelding: News, social media, audiences, and civic community, with Don Shaw, Milad Minooie and Chris Vargo. Agendamelding theorizes how audiences meld media messages in our 21st century digital age. Authored by pioneers of agenda setting theory and digital media researchers, the book was recognized as a winning title in the 2016 AEJMC-Peter Lang Scholarsourcing competition. The Agendamelding book marks the 50th anniversary of the seminal 1968 agenda-setting study conducted at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Aikat’s research has also been published in book chapters and refereed journals such as First Amendment Studies, Health Communication, International Journal of Interactive Communication Systems and Technologies, Global Media and Communication, Popular Music and Society, Convergence: The Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, and publications of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Microsoft Corporation. His research has been funded by government agencies (e.g., the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory, the US Department of State, US Department of Education’s Title VI grants), corporate foundations (e.g., the Freedom Forum, the Scripps Howard Foundation) and industry (e.g., IBM, Knight Ridder). He served as an elected member of the AEJMC Publications Committee and the AEJMC Professional Freedom and Responsibility Committee.
The Scripps Howard Foundation recognized Aikat as the inaugural winner of the “National Journalism Teacher of the Year award” (2003) for his “distinguished service to journalism education.” The International Radio and Television Society named him the Coltrin Communications Professor of the Year (1997).
Aikat served from 2007 through 2013 as an elected member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), which evaluates journalism and media programs in universities.
With funding from the US Department of Education grant to Indiana University, Aikat visited Russia in May 2015 to research press freedom in the former Soviet Union. He founded in 2015 the South Asia Communication Association (SACA), which has brought together 2,534 scholars and professionals in examining media and communication in South Asia and its diaspora worldwide.
Aikat’s research and teaching excellence awards (see curriculum vitae for a full list) include the Edward Vick Prize for Innovation in Teaching (2022), Emerald Literati Award (2020), UNC Chapel Hill’s Diversity Award for Faculty (2019) “for exemplary scholarship in promoting diversity, equity, social justice, community engagement, and/or cultural awareness,” AEJMC Senior Scholar Grant Award (2017-18), the AEJMC-Scripps Howard Researcher of the Year (2014-15), several AEJMC top research paper awards, UNC’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction (2003), UNC-Chapel Hill’s highest honor for excellence in teaching graduate students, the David Brinkley Teaching Excellence Award (2000), the AEJMC’s Baskett Mosse Award (1999), the Tanner Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1999), UNC’s topmost honor for teaching undergraduate students, the UNC-Chapel Hill Students’ Undergraduate Teaching Award (1998), and an IBM Research Fund Award (1995). Several UNC-Chapel Hill senior classes honored him with the Edward Kidder Graham Favorite Faculty Awards for nine years (1997 through 2005).
In addition to teaching small (45 students) and large (310 students) classes on campus, Aikat has taught online courses for more than 24 years. In 1997, he conceptualized UNC’s first online course in journalism. He developed in 2003 a graduate-level online certificate program in “Technology and Communication.” He has won fellowships from renowned research institutions such as the United States Information Agency (1990), the Institute for the Arts and Humanities (2000 & 2003), the Journalism Leadership Institute in Diversity (2004-05) and the Institute of African American Research fellowships for Student Learning to Advance Truth and Equity (2022 & 2021).
Aikat currently serves as an elected member of UNC Chapel Hill’s Faculty Executive Committee, which advises UNC administrators on key issues, and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Honorary Degrees and Special Awards Committee. He served (2015 to 2021) on UNC’s Faculty Hearings Committee, which conducts hearings on faculty dismissals. He has served since 2014 on the UNC Honor Court’s Faculty Hearings Board, which adjudicates violations of academic honesty, personal integrity, and responsible citizenship.
Aikat earned a Ph.D. in Media and Journalism in 1995 from the Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism. He completed a Certificate in American Political Culture from New York University in 1990. He graduated with academic distinction at the top of his class in M.A. Journalism in 1990 from the University of Calcutta, India, where he also earned a B.A. with honors in English literature in 1984.
As a journalist in India for the Ananda Bazar Patrika’s The Telegraph newspaper from 1984 through 1992, he analyzed the impact of politics, education, and culture. He also reported for the BBC World Service. Born in India, Aikat became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2003.
- Ph.D, Ohio University
- CAPC, New York University
- M.A., University of Calcutta, India
- B.A., University of Calcutta, India