Maria is heading back to NBC News as a special anchor.

After an absence of over eight years, Maria Shriver is returning to NBC News.

The former first lady of California first rose to prominence as an anchor and correspondent for NBC News from 1986 through 2004, when she stepped down to focus on her political life with her (now estranged) husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as governor of California. (Shriver and Schwarzenegger are currently separated).

The announcement of Shriver's return was made Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. But it wasn't completely unexpected; Shriver appeared on "Today" last month to contribute to the network's coverage of the selection of the new pope in Rome.

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Shriver's new role at NBC will be "special anchor" and will involve her reporting on the shifting roles and emerging power of women in modern life. Her special reports and prime-time specials are expected to appear across all of NBC News' outlets, including the NBC Nightly News, CNBC, MSNBC and NBC Sports.

But Shriver's new role isn't just an on-camera one. She's also expected to become an editor at large for women's issues on NBC Digital's websites, expanding online coverage and editorial content on topics relating to women and society. In total, Shriver's new role is being described by NBC as the network's largest commitment ever to covering women's issues.

NBC will also be airing Shriver's series of investigative stories, known as "Shriver Reports." The first, expected to air in early 2014, will look at the growing financial insecurity among women and families in America.

Shriver's coverage of women's issues can be seen as an outgrowth of her work as first lady, which saw her create the Minerva Awards, honoring notable California women, and the annual Women's Conference, which grew into one of the largest single-day conferences for women in the country.

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