Leslie Westbrook’s Gift Elevates Overby Center Graduate Assistants


OXFORD, MS – Thanks to a substantial financial gift from Leslie M. Westbrook, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics has five graduate assistants to support the Center for the 2023-24 academic year.

“Leslie’s generosity helps graduate students invest in their future,” said Dr. Marquita Smith, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Research. “A unique experience, graduate assistantships provide an excellent learning environment, exposing students to real-world scenarios.”
The Westbrook investment allows graduate students to provide critical support to the Center in a variety of ways, including the planning, promotion, and coverage of on-campus events and managing the Center’s website and social media accounts.
Graduate students also actively engage with the Center’s ongoing research activities. The Democracy Dashboard launched last spring provides voters with insight into how legislators are voting on key Mississippi issues. Around the South is a weekly digest of the most important news coverage across the region, curated and delivered to subscribers’ inboxes each Saturday morning.
Neither of these projects would be possible without Westbrook’s financial support.
“Leslie is a long-time supporter of the Overby Center, and I am delighted that she is providing an opportunity for graduate students to go beyond classroom learning, preparing students for more depth and understanding of communications and connections, making them more competitive in the job market,” Center Chairman Charles Overby said.
A Jackson, Miss., native, Westbrook earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi and would go on to work as a Consumer Market Research Specialist/Marketing Strategist for many prestigious Fortune 500 companies, including Procter & Gamble. She has served on the board of the Overby Center since 2017.

“Charles and I have known each other since 1960 and have worked on various meaningful projects together over the years. Being able to support and contribute to the vision and mission of the Overby Center is an enormous and fulfilling endeavor for me,” Westbrook said.

The Overby Center’s mission is to promote the highest standards in journalism and news media, support First Amendment principles, and further the understanding of the essential relationship between democracy and a free press. The Center was funded by a $5 million grant from the Freedom Forum and operates in state-of-the-art facilities adjacent to the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.