A bit about me …
Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA (USA), I grew up the oldest of 6 children – living in crowded home that was short on space but filled with love and laughter. To this day, my siblings remain my best friends. In truth, I don’t think a day goes by without speaking to my sisters! I am, and always will be, a Philly girl. There’s nothing like a tense Philadelphia Eagles football game to make me feel quickly at home. I love the foodie culture in Philadelphia, the art, the different personalities of each neighborhood, and its urban beauty.
I was fortunate enough to complete my Bachelor, Master, and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication – which meant that not only was I able to learn from and study with some of the leading scholars in the field, but I was able to do so while remaining in my hometown. My passion for youth and media scholarship began during my early days at Penn. I was following a course entitled ‘Children and Media’ during the 2nd year of my bachelor program. There was just something about this course that called to me. Always captivated by the amazing and brilliant Dr. Amy Jordan. I would arrive at class early, stay after – never wanting to disconnect from the content. And thankfully, Amy Jordan nurtured that spark – helping me find internships in the children’s media industry, additional coursework that would fuel my interest, and ultimately guiding me – alongside Dr. Deborah (Linebarger) Nichols through my PhD in Communication with a focus on youth and media.
With such deep roots in Philadelphia, I never expected to move across the ‘pond’. In fact, I really never expected to move at all. Philly is a special place that way – once you are there, you never want to leave. But I did leave. After much deliberation, my husband and I decided to take a giant leap of faith and move to Amsterdam where I accepted a position at the University of Amsterdam. The opportunity to work with the Center for research on Children, Adolescents, and the Media (CcaM) – to collaborate with so many scholars passionate about issues related to children and media … but ultimately, it was the best decision I could have made.
Several years later, I am now an Associate Professor in the Department o Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam where I am directing CcaM, serving as the program group leader for Youth & Media Entertainment, and serving as the program director for our Master’s degree program in Entertainment Communication. It’s an awesome responsibility, and one I am very proud of. I enjoy working and learning from brilliant colleagues who remain committed to what comes next for the field of children and media scholarship, and who are consistently at the forefront when it comes to new research ideas and new questions.
Without question, the energy, collaborative spirit, and drive for knowledge that is so prevalent in my department has pushed me to be a better scholar and teacher. Indeed, my first book (Plugged In: How Media Attract and Affect Youth) which I co-authored with Patti Valkenburg is testament to this collaborative spirit. And my students … well, my students time and time again challenge me to think in ways I haven’t before, they keep me young at heart, keep me laughing, and remind me over and over again how lucky I am to do what I love. Whether it’s mentoring a PhD, an MA thesis, or teaching my specialization seminar or elective – I find myself so thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.
Several years later, I still manage to visit my hometown several times per year. I still watch as many Eagles games as I can (and, as a season ticket holder, always make sure to catch a few games at the LINC). But, my husband and I are also happily enjoying our life in Amsterdam – always hunting for the newest space for vegan eats! We have also picked up a love of running and travel … which means you’ll either find me traveling the globe during my holidays or lacing my running shoes up every Saturday morning as I train for my next race. Just as Philly is my home, Amsterdam is now my home, too – they are really the perfect pair!
And when I’m not working, race training, hunting down the best brunch in Amsterdam, or traveling – I’m fighting for a cause that is near and dear to my heart – fighting to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. You see, my husband (John) was diagnosed with MS shortly after we moved to the Netherlands. While there is presently no cure for MS, there are many ongoing research initiatives that are evaluating ways to not only defeat this disease – but improve quality of life as well. And more than anything, as a scientist, I believe in the power of research. So, I founded the team ‘Find a Muckin’ Cure’ – nearly 50 members strong (and growing!), we are a team of John’s family and friends dedicated to raising awareness about MS and doing what it takes to raise money to fund new research initiatives. Each year, as part of our work, we run in an annual mud-run obstacle course called Muckfest! It’s a run designed for laughs, and it’s a fun (and muddy!) way to raise awareness and money for this cause. Last year, we were among the highest earning non-sponsored teams in Philadelphia – and we will back at every June – getting muddy and fighting for a cause that is so very dear to my heart.
So, that’s a little bit about me. I love my Philly hometown, I love my beautiful Amsterdam hometown. Research and teaching keep me challenged and inspired. Running keeps me grounded. My passion for fighting MS reminds me that every person can make a difference. My love of dark chocolate, coffee, late brunches, and yoga sessions reminds me that balance is key to happiness. And my family and friends remind me of what is truly important in this world.