Team

Ellen Wartella, Ph.D.

Al-Thani Professor of Communication,
Professor of Psychology, and Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
Director, Center on Media and Human Development
Curriculum Vitae Click to view bio

Ellen Wartella is the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-thani Professor of Communication and professor of psychology, human development and social policy, and medical social sciences at Northwestern University. She is Director of the Center on Media and Human Development and chair of the Department of Communication Studies.  She is a leading scholar of  the role of media in children’s development and serves on a variety of national and international boards and committees on children’s issues.    She is co-principal investigator on two National Science Foundation grants: a three year multi-site grant entitled  “Media Characters: the Unhidden Persuaders in Food Marketing to Children (2013-2016)” and  a five year multi-site grant entitled “Collaborative Research: Using Educational DVDs to Enhance Young  Children’s STEM Education (2013-2018).”

Dr. Wartella currently serves on the Board of the World Summit Foundation and  the Public Good Projects.  She is a Trustee of Sesame Workshop and serves on the PBS Kids Advisory Board.  She is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.  She is a past member of the Board on Children, Youth and Families at the National Academy of Sciences and served on the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine’s Study on Food Marketing and the Diets of Children and Youth (2006); she chaired the Committee on Examination of Front of Pack Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols (2010-2011) at the Institute of Medicine; she was a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Accelerating Progress on Obesity Research (2010-2012) and the Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity (2012-2013).  She is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development and is past president of the International Communication Association.

Dr. Wartella earned her PhD in Mass Communication from the University of Minnesota in 1977 and completed research in developmental psychology at the University of Kansas in 1981.  Before joining the faculty at Northwestern, she was Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of California-Riverside (2004-2009) and dean of the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin (1993-2004).

 

Alexis R. Lauricella, Ph.D., M.P.P.

Associate Director, Center on Media and Human Development
Lecturer, Communication Studies
Curriculum Vitae Click to view bio

Alexis R. Lauricella is Associate Director of the Center on Media and Human Development working with Dr. Ellen Wartella at Northwestern University and a lecturer in the Communication Studies Department.  Dr. Lauricella earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and her Master’s degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University.  Her research focuses on children’s learning from media,  parents’ and teachers’ attitudes toward and use of media with young children, and the effects of food marketing on obesity and health. Recent publications include empirical research articles in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Journal of Children and Media, Computers & Education, Media Psychology, Merrill Palmer Quarterly and reports for the Fred Rogers Center and the Center on Media and Human Development.

 

 

LeanneLeanne Beaudoin Ryan, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Center on Media and Human Development
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Leanne Beaudoin-Ryan is a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Dr. Ellen Wartella at the Center for Media and Human Development at Northwestern University. Dr. Beaudoin-Ryan earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, as well as a Master’s degree in Social Science, from the University of Chicago. Broadly speaking, her research focuses on how communication can be used to optimize children’s learning. She has pursued this interest using multiple levels of analysis. Her dissertation examined how children’s spontaneously produced gestures can be used as a cognitive tool for developing the perspective-taking skills that undergird moral reasoning. Currently, she is working on the impact of mass media and interactive technology on preschoolers’ understanding of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (“STEM”) concepts.

 

 

 

DrewDrew Cingel, M.A.

Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
Center on Media and Human Development
Curriculum Vitae Click to view bio

Drew Cingel is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Media, Technology, and Society program. Prior to coming to Northwestern, Drew received an MA in Communication from Wake Forest University, and a BA in Psychology and a BA in Media Studies/Media Effects from Penn State University. His areas of research include adolescent-peer relationships, and peer influence, on social networking sites, children’s learning from tablet computers, and the impact of television on children’s moral reasoning. His work has been published in journals such as New Media & Society and Media Psychology.

 

 

Sabrina Connell, M.A.

Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
Center on Media and Human Development
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An artist-turned-academic, Sabrina is a fifth year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program. Her research interests broadly center on children, technology, and transmedia play. She is specifically interested in joint media engagement between children and their parents during digital gameplay. Additionally, she explores issues related to the maker movement, children’s creative media production, and their participation in affinity spaces and DIY-centered social networks. Prior to coming to Northwestern, she received a Master of Arts in Child Development from Tufts University and a Master of Arts in Puppetry and Technical Design from the University of Connecticut. In addition to academic pursuits, her professional experience includes working with the Connecticut Repertory Theatre and two Emmy-award winning preschool television shows, Between the Lions and Arthur.

 

 

Lisa Hurwitz, M.A.

Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
Center on Media and Human Development
Curriculum Vitae Click to view bio

Lisa Hurwitz is a fourth year doctoral candidate in the Media, Technology and Society program. At Northwestern, she has analyzed child-targeted food marketing and engaged in formative and summative evaluations of educational media for children and parents. Lisa worked in the children’s media industry in various marketing and market research capacities prior to coming to Northwestern. Her on-screen credits include Mickey Mouse ClubhouseJake and the Never Land Pirates,WordWorld, and Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days. She received an M.A. in Media, Technology and Society from Northwestern and a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish Language/Literature with a joint minor in Computer Science/Mathematics from New York University.

 

 

Heather M. Montague, M.A.

Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
Center on Media and Human Development
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Heather is a third year doctoral student in the Media, Technology & Society program at Northwestern University. She holds a M.A. in Health Communication from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and a B.A. in Organizational Communication from North Central College. Her areas of research include the effects of media and technology on childhood and adolescent health and the impacts of food marketing on childhood obesity. In addition to her academic pursuits, Heather has also worked with the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children at Lurie Children’s Hospital to develop educational campaigns and promote health policy change in Chicago.

 

 

ShinaFashina Aladé, M.A.

Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
Center on Media and Human Development
Curriculum Vitae Click to view bio

Fashina Aladé is a third year PhD student in the Media, Technology, & Society program at Northwestern University. She holds an MA from the Ohio State University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, both in Communication. Her research centers on children’s learning from educational media with a focus on comprehension and development. She has also completed research on the impact of television on young children’s theory of mind and executive function. In addition to her academic pursuits, she has worked with MediaKidz Research and Consulting, Inc. on a variety of projects evaluating children’s television programs and online games.

 

 

Silvia Lovato, M.A.

Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
Center on Media and Human Development
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Silvia Lovato is a doctoral student at Northwestern’s Media, Technology and Society program. She’s interested in how technology can enable kids to do things they wouldn’t be able to do without it, especially the use of voice input systems like Siri by pre-readers. Previously, she oversaw PBS KIDS Digital Products on pbskids.org, including the successful PBS KIDS online and mobile video players. She spent 14 years at PBS working with content producers to develop engaging, fun and educational digital content for kids 2-8, from games to apps to original online video. Silvia worked with nearly every PBS KIDS series – from Wild Kratts to Arthur to Sesame Street – to help shape their program websites. She has a master’s degree in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University. Prior to joining PBS in 2000, she was at washingtonpost.com.

 

 

Sarah Pila, M.A.

Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
Center on Media and Human Development
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Sarah is a first year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program working in the Center on Media and Human Development with Ellen Wartella. Before starting at Northwestern, Sarah spent two years (and two very snowy winters) in Somerville, MA earning a Master of Arts in Child Study and Human Development from the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. Before that, she completed her BA in Psychology with minors in Family, Youth, & Community Sciences and Mass Communication at the University of Florida. Her research interests focus on the benefits of prosocial and educational media for young children.

 

 

Megan Olsen, B.A.

Research Coordinator
Center on Media and Human Development
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Megan Olsen is the Research Coordinator of the Center on Media and Human Development working with Dr. Ellen Wartella at Northwestern University. She received a B.A. in Communication Studies with a minor in Psychology from Northwestern University. Her research interests revolve around educational media’s capacity to encourage prosocial behaviors and emotional resiliency in young children. She has contributed to projects concerning food marketing to children, STEM learning via apps, and the influence of television shows on children’s’ moral reasoning.

 

 

Eric Morales

Research Assistant
Center on Media and Human Development
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Eric Morales is a Research Assistant at the Center on Media and Human Development working with Dr. Ellen Wartella at Northwestern University. He is studying Social Policy and International Studies in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. He has contributed to projects concerning food marketing to children on mobile devices and in video games.

 

 

Francesca Pietrantonio

Research Assistant
Center on Media and Human Development
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Francesca Pietrantonio is an undergraduate research assistant at the Center on Media and Human Development working with Dr. Ellen Wartella and the CMHD team. She is in her junior year at Northwestern University, and is pursuing a double major in Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology as well as a certificate in Integrated Marketing and Communications. She contributes to multiple research projects including those concerning teen health and media, children’s food marketing, and children’s media and STEM learning.

 

 

Meredith Ford

Research Assistant
Center on Media and Human Development
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Meredith Ford is an undergraduate research assistant at the Center on Media and Human Development working with Dr. Ellen Wartella and the rest of the team in the CMHD. As a junior in the School of Communication at Northwestern University, she is studying Communication Studies, Sociology, and Integrated Marketing Communications. She has contributed to projects concerning food marketing to children on websites, mobile devices, and television shows. 

 

 

Alumni:

Aubry Alvarez, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, 2013-2014
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As a content designer at PBS, Aubry Alvarez develops curriculum frameworks and supplemental educational materials for early learners, as well as students and teachers in grades K-12. In this role, Dr. Alvarez leads teams of subject matter experts, professional writers, and production teams to examine existing products and to create exciting new products. She also conducts research to provide insights for future projects. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her family, and loves staying up to date on all things related to developmental psychology and children’s media!

Courtney K. Blackwell, Ph.D. Graduate Student, Media, Technology & Society
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Courtney Blackwell is a Research and Evaluation Associate at Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago. She is currently working on the STEM School Study, a four-year NSF-funded project investigating inclusive STEM high schools across the United States. This study seeks to provide insight into the essential components of STEM schools, what factors affect the implementation of these components, and how these components are associated with student achievement. Additionally, she is working on the Code.org Evaluation Study to evaluate how K-12 teachers implement Code.org computer science curricular materials and how this implementation is associated with teacher and student outcomes.

Bri Hightower, B.A. Research Assistant, 2013 – 2014

Colette Ghunim, B.A. Research Assistant, 2014

Ariel Maschke, B.S. Research Assistant,  2012-2013