When Gloria Steinem came to New York in 1956, a job-hunting senior from Smith College armed with hope and a Phi Beta Kappa key, the doors were mostly closed. The giant J. Walter Thompson advertising agency? “They said that women could not deal with clients,” Steinem says. The mighty Time Inc. empire? “Women could do research but not write.”

So she started opening doors for herself, first by living in India for two years and freelancing for newspapers there, then by coming home to become a freelance journalist and an activist in the movements of the 1960s—including feminism. Having learned that political assignments went mostly to male writers, and that other women writers and editors also longed for a different kind of magazine, she became a cofounder of Ms., and a familiar and influential voice in the feminist movement. She helped open so many doors for so many other women that, if she were arriving in New York as a young college graduate now, “I suppose I might have actually had a job in my life as opposed to always being a freelancer,” she says.

Steinem, still writing, traveling, and speaking, has collected numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Now, another comes her way at Rutgers, which raised $3 million, funded by 433 donors, to establish the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies, a collaboration among Rutgers’ Institute for Women’s Leadership, School of Communication and Information, and Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the School of Arts and Sciences. The idea for the chair came from the late Alison Bernstein, the director of the Institute for  Women’s Leadership who died in 2016.

“She was always a great force of ideas and energy,” says Steinem, who worked with Bernstein in the 1980s when the latter was a Ford Foundation executive. “It was really Alison who said to me that a chair was one of the most creative ways and available ways to introduce change into an academic setting.”

The chair, expected to be occupied by the fall of 2018, is “a bringing together of worlds,” Steinem says, “because the source of black studies, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies—what I think of as remedial studies—were the social movements that built up in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s and that were diverse and creative about revealing concealed history. When combined with media studies, they will help us report, see, and read a more accurate and complete account of the present. This chair is a sign of progress.”

And the thinking inspired by the chair will leave students with a firmer understanding of the shape and reach of a fast-changing media landscape. “I hope and believe that they will be able to write more about the world as they actually see and experience it and less according to a who-what-where-why-when formula, or the idea that there are only two sides to every issue, when in fact there are many sides,” Steinem says.

View a video of Steinem speaking at Rutgers about the new chair and its impact.