Announcing Our New Cooney Center Research Fellow, Sarah Vaala

We are proud to announce our Cooney Fellow for 2011! Sarah Vaala will be joining the Joan Ganz Cooney Center in October of this year from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Sarah will be completing her Ph.D. in Communication this summer, with various research work surrounding the issue of how to uncover ways to maximize television’s potential to teach and motivate young children.


Amid clinicians’ and psychologists’ arguments for keeping children under the age of two away from all screens, Sarah’s work asks the question, “What do parents really think?” She has been working with mothers to find out what drives media use and what their perceived outcomes and attitudes of parents really are regarding children and media. While at Penn, Sarah has also worked extensively in the field of Health Communication through involvement on an HIV/AIDS prevention mobile technology project with the Center for Health Behavior and Communication, publications such as a paper on the influence of cartoon characters on children’s choices in cereal brands, and work on a study which examined the television show “Postcards from Buster” being used in a classroom as a supplement to teaching. In the future she would like to look more into the potential of mobile media for learning and innovations to bridge learning across different environments including home, school, and after-school settings.

We’re very excited to welcome Sarah to our team and look forward to working with her as she applies her expertise to the Cooney Center’s research initiatives for 2011-12. We had a fantastic group of applicants this year with very impressive backgrounds, and are thrilled to have gotten the chance to speak with many of them. Thank you to all those who applied and congratulations to Sarah!

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