Chancellor presents 2023 Faculty Awards for Global Excellence

UNC Hussman Associate Professor Tori Smith Ekstrand recently received a 2023 Faculty Awards for Global Excellence. Read more about her win at the UNC Global Affairs website or below.

By Emily Dennin, UNC Global Affairs

Three UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members received the 2023 Faculty Awards for Global Excellence in a ceremony at the FedEx Global Education Center on May 2. The annual awards, administered by the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs (OVPGA), recognize faculty contributions to advancing the University’s global vision articulated in Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good.

Gina Chowa, Robert Jenkins and Tori Smith Ekstrand were selected from nearly 40 nominees.

Pictured: Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Vice Provost for Global Affairs Barbara Stephenson honor Gina Agnes Nyirenda Chowa, Robert Jenkins and Tori Smith Ekstrand with Faculty Awards For Global Excellence. (Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

“The three faculty we honor today embody relationship-building, a commitment to a global mindset and a dedication to teaching the next generation of global leaders,” said Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, who delivered remarks and distributed the awards. “It is my privilege to recognize our Carolina faculty for their outstanding work to advance our mission.”

As part of the event, Provost Chris Clemens, faculty members and leaders from across campus gathered to honor the recipients along with their friends and family. The music department’s Indonesian ensemble, Gamelan Nyai Saraswati, delivered a performance led by director John Caldwell, teaching associate professor in the Asian and Middle Eastern studies department.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the nominees, nominators and, ultimately, our awardees is a testament to the way our campus community has enthusiastically embraced our global mission,” said Barbara Stephenson, Carolina’s vice provost for global affairs, in her opening remarks. “The work of these faculty members is critical to this University’s ability to deepen and sustain global relationships and to see these relationships through to real outcomes.”

Each awardee received a $5,000 award funded through the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund.


Gina Chowa is the associate dean for global engagement and the Johnson-Howard-Adair Distinguished Professor at the School of Social Work.

Chowa is also the founding director of the School of Social Work’s Global Social Development Innovations (GSDI), a research center focused on tackling the global challenge of youth economic security, workforce development and financial inclusion in the Global South. Under her leadership, GSDI has collaborated with research partners in Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia and Kenya to support social and economic development of thousands of underserved and vulnerable youth.

In addition to her global research, Chowa advances global education on campus at Carolina. Through  SOWO 881: Development Theory and Practice in Global Settings, a course Chowa developed and teaches, she brings a global lens to the practice of social work and introduces students to world leaders, such as the director of the World Bank of Zambia.

Chowa’s global research and teaching has had a statewide impact through her work with World View, a UNC-Chapel Hill outreach program that engages with North Carolina’s K-12 and community college educators to support integration of global perspectives in classrooms. She has lectured at the program’s educator-professional learning events, most recently in August 2022 when she delivered a presentation for World View’s Global Fellows and in October 2022 at the World View Global Education Symposium. Through her involvement in World View, she has supported high school faculty in their efforts to incorporate the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals into the K-12 curriculum.

“Gina is a deeply committed teacher and mentor described by one of her many, many recommenders as ‘an exemplary global educator’ as well as a profoundly engaged community leader and a world-class researcher,” said Stephenson.

Robert Jenkins is a teaching professor in the political science department.

Since 2001, Jenkins makes a global education available to Tar Heels through his on-campus teaching and study abroad.

Jenkins regularly leads UNC-Chapel Hill summer study abroad programs in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Vienna focused on regional conflict and cooperation in Europe. Starting last year, Jenkins also directs a semester-long study abroad program on Transatlantic Security in Brussels and London, offering students access to organizations including the European Union, NATO and the German Parliament. For 11 years, Jenkins chaired the Study Abroad Advisory Board, which provides oversight of the study abroad curriculum for programs administered by the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Without his advocacy, I wouldn’t have had access to this life-changing travel experience, and I can only imagine how many students he has helped receive similar opportunities over the year,” said a former student who studied abroad with Jenkins last spring. “I am a better student and professional after this global experience.”

On campus, Jenkins teaches courses in the department of political science and in the Trans-Atlantic Masters program. He plays an integral role in UNC-Chapel Hills’s Diplomacy Initiative, a program of the OVPGA that equips Carolina students with the practical skills needed for solving global problems. He is an active participant in the Initiative’s faculty roundtable, guiding the program’s design and implementation. Jenkins offers his expertise in global experiential education as a resource for the Diplomacy Initiative as well. For example, he advised the winning team in the inaugural Diplomacy Week Policy Brief Competition last year and this year led a workshop for students in any of the participating courses to learn the skills required for a strong policy brief. This annual event builds on a policy brief assignment he has offered for years in his own classroom.

From 2001 to 2015, Jenkins was director of the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies. From 1999 to 2015, he served as the director of the master’s in Russian and East European studies.

Tori Smith Ekstrand is an associate professor in the Hussman School of Media and Journalism and the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education.

Since 2017, Ekstrand has been an engine behind growing collaborations at the intersection of data science and democracy with UNC-Chapel Hill’s longtime strategic partner Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany.

In summer 2022, Ekstrand organized the first in-person Royster Global conference held in two years at Tübingen, facilitating the immersion of seven Royster Fellows in cross-disciplinary conversations about data science and democracy.

Through a joint seed fund between UNC-Chapel Hill and Tübingen, Ekstrand is organizing a conference in Tübingen this summer with two other UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members and a faculty member from Tübingen’s Institute for Media Studies to examine the weaponization of intellectual thought.

In addition, Ekstrand facilitated UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) representation at an upcoming symposium titled “Social Justice and Technological Futures” hosted at Tübingen in early May.

“As each of her recommenders point out, Dr. Ekstrand has shown a deep dedication to every single dimension of our strategic pillar: demonstrating an exemplary commitment to global partnerships, global education, and global research,” said Stephenson. “From her research to her student mentorship to her dedication to developing global partnerships, Tori has made a huge contribution to global excellence at UNC.”

The OVPGA will accept nominations for the 2024 Faculty Awards for Global Excellence beginning December 2023.