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Our Faculty are Amazing

Our faculty were handpicked because they are leaders in their fields of study and because they are dynamic educators committed to making the online education format even better than the traditional classroom experience. They have won awards for both their professional achievements and their teaching expertise. Let us introduce …

Andy Bechtel »faculty bio

Associate Professor
M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A., University of South Carolina

Andy Bechtel teaches editing and writing for print and digital media. He joined the faculty in 2005. Bechtel has nearly 12 years of editing experience in newspapers, primarily at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His other experience includes work as a copy editor and page designer at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. While teaching at UNC, he worked for a summer at the website of the Los Angeles Times.

Bechtel is a member of the American Copy Editors Society, and he has served as a member of the Executive Committee of ACES. He has also written several articles for the ACES newsletter and website. Bechtel is the author of two online courses for Poynter Institute’s NewsU: one on the fundamentals of editing and another on alternative story forms. He also has written reviews and articles for publications such as Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Society for News Design Update and the North Carolina Media Law Handbook.

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Mark Briggs »faculty bio

Adjunct instructor
M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A., Gonzaga University

Mark Briggs brings years of experience and an online teaching background to the MATC program. He is the author of "Entrepreneurial Journalism," a book about the rise of journalism startups and how to start your own journalism business, published in 2011. He previously wrote "Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age," which was published by J-Lab and the Knight Citizen News Network in 2007 and downloaded as a PDF more than 200,000 times in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and "Journalism Next."

Briggs is director of digital media for KING 5 television in Seattle and served as a Ford Fellow in Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Poynter Institute from 2010 to 2012. Previously, he co-founded Serra Media, a Seattle-based technology company, and spent nine years running newspaper websites in Everett and Tacoma, Wash. He  is also co-founder of Fork, an iPhone app for food photography. Briggs has served as a speaker, trainer and consultant about journalism in the digital age for various projects around the United States, Europe and the Middle East. He is a 2000 graduate of the MJ-school's residential master's program.

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Tori Ekstrand »faculty bio

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
M.A., New York University
B.A., Syracuse University

Victoria "Tori" Smith Ekstrand teaches media law courses in the school. Her research explores conflicts between copyright law and the First Amendment, particularly as they arise in journalism and social media. She has begun investigating online accessibility for the disabled as a First Amendment issue. She has also written about legal protections for anonymous speech online.

Ekstrand is an expert on the hot news doctrine, a part of unfair competition law that protects the facts of news for a short period. Her revised book on the subject, “Hot News in the Age of Big Data: A Legal History of the Hot News Doctrine and Implications for the Digital Age” (LFB Scholarly), looks at the history of the doctrine and its impact on protections for discrete bits of information in the age of Big Data. It will be published this fall.

Before coming to Carolina, Ekstrand was an associate professor at Bowling Green State University and worked for the Associated Press. 

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Rhonda Gibson »faculty bio

Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Alabama
B.S., University of Tennessee

Rhonda Gibson joined the School of Media and Journalism faculty in 2001, and she served as the MATC academic director from 2011-2014. Her teaching areas include journalism writing and reporting, media ethics, sexual minorities and the media, and mass communication pedagogy. Rhonda has also taught online for six years.

Before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, Gibson was on the faculty at Texas Tech University, where she received the inaugural Wendell Mayes Research Scholar Award and the L.U. Kaiser Innovative Teaching Award. She has also taught at the University of Houston and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Her research focuses on the effects of exemplification in journalism on issue perception and the effects of images of sexual minorities in the media. Her research has been published in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Communication Research, Newspaper Research Journal, and Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, among other publications. She is working on a book examining the changing communication strategies and public opinion regarding same-sex marriage.

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Heidi Hennink-Kaminski »faculty bio

Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Georgia
M.A., Western Michigan University
B.A., University of Michigan

Heidi Hennink-Kaminski is senior associate dean for graduate studies, overseeing the School of Media and Journalism’s master’s and Ph.D. programs. She has more than 15 years of professional experience in senior marketing communications roles in both corporate and agency positions. Her research focuses on social marketing, health communication and ethical issues associated with physician marketing. She teaches marketing, advertising and social marketing courses. Hennink-Kaminski received the 2010 Edward Vick Prize for Innovation in Teaching for her guidance of a semester-long project for her students to develop a marketing plan for, UNC’s News21 project funded by the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.

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Joe Bob Hester »faculty bio

Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Alabama
M.A., Texas Tech University
B.A., Texas Tech University

Joe Bob Hester teaches courses in advertising copywriting, media planning, and campaign planning, and  he advises students competing in the AAF National Student Advertising Competition. He joined the faculty in 2001.

His primary research interest is research methodology, particularly the use of computational social science approaches. Other research interests include advertising, social media and media agenda setting. He is author of a chapter in "Advertising and Society: An Introduction" and co-author of a chapter in the textbook "Advertising & The Business of Brands." He has published research articles in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Newspaper Research Journal, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator and other journals.

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Anne Johnston »faculty bio

Ph.D., University of Oklahoma
M.A., University of Oklahoma
B.A., University of Central Florida

Anne Johnston has taught research methods for eight years, three of which she has taught online. Her research interests include political communication, political advertising, women and politics, and diversity issues in the media. She is the co-author of the 2001 book, Videostyle in Presidential Campaigns: Style and Content of Televised Political Advertising. During the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, Johnston served as a member of a national consortium of scholars, researchers and students studying the communication and media used during the election. She is co-director of The Irina Project (TIP), which provides resources for the responsible and accurate reporting of sex trafficking. Johnston was selected as the 2004-2006 Julian W. Scheer Term Professor in the School for overall excellence.

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Lisa Villamil »faculty bio

Assistant Professor
M.A.E., Virginia Commonwealth University
B.A. and B.F.A., University of Missouri

Lisa Villamil is an information designer with almost 20 years experience as a  creative director, interaction designer, information architect and communications director. She is passionate about the possibilities of integrated media to tell compelling stories. Lisa works on commercial and editorial projects designing and leading multimedia teams to produce interactive design, data visualizations, animations, motion and print products. Project experience includes start-ups and product development in the U.S. and Middle East, information architecture and brand strategy for digital agencies in the U.S. and Europe, museum interactive exhibits and games, and digital and print publication design. Lisa also serves as a research editor at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France where she researches design and creative industry trends.