Why Should You Apply for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center Research Fellowship?

Jason YipEditor’s Note: Want to join the Joan Ganz Cooney Center team? Apply to be the 2016-2017 Cooney Center Fellow! We are accepting fellowship applications now through April 4, 2016.

Former Cooney Center Research Fellow Jason Yip opens up and shares his experiences and offers advice for those who are interested in applying. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should think about applying to one of the premiere fellowships in children and digital media.

screenshot fellows announcement

The mission of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center is to help answer the question, “How can digital media help children learn?” This is a pressing question for our time, not just for researchers, but for parents, teachers, pediatricians, policy makers, media and technology designers, and many others. As a Cooney Center fellow, you will be on the forefront of knowledge and research in attempting to pursue the answer to this complex and intricate question.

But isn’t the Cooney Center just about Sesame Workshop and Elmo?


We love Elmo! But really, we’re about so much more.

The Cooney Center is an independent research and innovation lab that focuses on how children learn and how to best educate them as technology and media rapidly evolves. We are housed within Sesame Workshop, but we conduct innovative and original research on emerging educational technologies and the interactive social landscape. The Cooney Center aims to promote conversation and dialogue between academic researchers, non-profits, and industry partners. So yes, while our research does inform the work of Sesame Workshop and other producers, we are also able to impact the work of policy makers, designers, and educators. It’s also pretty great to see Elmo and the Sesame Street cast in our offices too, but more about that later.

So what is the Cooney Center looking for in a research fellow?

fellows interview

The application process is not as shrouded in mystery as you might think.

We are looking for all kinds of applicants from education, psychology, human-computer interaction (child-computer interaction), learning sciences, instructional designers, media and communications, and any other research field in which children and digital media are forefront. If you have graduated from a masters or doctoral program, this is the right place to apply.

The Cooney Center Research Fellowship will provide you amazing research opportunities you will find nowhere else.

fellows meeting

The research team’s meetings are worth recording.

I chose the Cooney Center for my postdoctoral research fellowship for several reasons. Having a research fellowship in the heart of New York City and Sesame Workshop provided me with a chance to work with partners I could never have imagined. For example, in my research work with the Families and Media Project, I am exploring mobility interaction patterns in Hispanic-Latino heritage families. I’ve had the chance to network with researchers from Stanford University, Northwestern University, Arizona State University, and Rutgers University to find out how important it is to understand family interactions around new digital media and the importance this has for learning. These networking opportunities with scholars across the country have opened up my perspective on digital media and learning that will impact my research for years to come.

You will attend meetings and conversations with scholars, policy makers, non-profit organizations, and industry partners.

FAM photos

See more photos from the Learning at Home event that took place in January 2014.

If you want to answer the question on the impact on learning of digital media with children, you can’t just stay within a single academic silo. At the Cooney Center, you will find a myriad of stakeholders who are just as passionate in trying to understand learning and digital media as any academic scholar. It is clear to me that one of the most attractive qualities about the Cooney Center is the way we serve as a central hub where people who care about this question of digital media and children come and work together. For example, at the Cooney Center’s Learning at Home report release event, we had over 150 academic scholars, non-profit directors, media producers, policy makers, and industry partners come together to have a dialogue about the current state of digital media and learning for children.

You will think very long and hard about questions on children’s media and learning you’ve never thought about before.

Being here at the Cooney Center, you are immersed with people asking really important questions and trying to understand how these issues impact design, implementation, and influence. For instance, one major question I am still grappling with in my own research is what do we mean when we say “educational media”? Who defines educational media? If a child learns about pro-social relationships from Spongebob Squarepants, is Spongebob considered to be educational? Questions like these are thoughtfully raised at the Cooney Center and have further challenged me to think about the current state of digital media and learning for children.

The most amazing, hardworking, and productive people work here at the Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop.

Briana, Sadaf, Anna, and Lili

Who could ask for better colleagues? From left to right: Briana Pressey, Sadaf Sajwani, Anna Ly, and Lili Toutounas

At the Cooney Center, we have often been told that for such a small group of people (11 of us), we make a huge impact onto industry, research, and non-profits. This is absolutely true. Working together with Drs. Michael Levine and Lori Takeuchi, you will learn everything from new research methodologies to the latest in children’s policies and digital technologies. They are both a delight to work with and I am proud to call them and everyone at the Cooney Center my friends and supporters. I also met Fawn Qiu, creator of the now famous Flappy Box. The talent and dedication of the people at the Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop is infectious!

You will travel.


In the five months that I’ve been here, I have gone to meetings in Washington, DC at the New America Foundation and the University of Toronto in Canada. As a Cooney Center fellow, you will represent the center in many important meetings and meet many people to network.

You will be surrounded by your favorite Sesame Street characters.

Jason in Oscar's can

A previous fellow once confessed, “I came for the Muppets.” Yes, I will absolutely admit the same thing. Coming from the University of Maryland – College Park, Jim Henson’s legacy exists as a great reminder of the importance of imagination, creativity, play, and fun in learning. Once I learned that I had gotten the research fellowship here, I took as many photos as possible. When you arrive at Sesame Workshop, you are immediately greeted by a giant video wall of the characters. And walking around the offices, you just can’t help but smile when you pass by the beautiful chalk art adorning the walls and seeing Elmo, Grover, and Cookie Monster (my personal favorite). There’s no denying this is one of the greatest reasons why the Cooney Center fellowship is the best experience you can get.

These reasons are fantastic for applying to the Cooney Center, but where’s the online quiz on the kind of Cooney Center Research Fellowship applicant I am?


There are only two kinds of Cooney Center applicants; the ones who apply and the ones who do not. You don’t need an online quiz to figure out which one you are.

Apply now.

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