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Life After a Cooney Center Research Fellowship

by Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges
February 8, 2012

We’ve all been there many times: “go around the table and introduce yourselves.”  There are certain times in our lives when this happens at an extremely frequent rate: the first weeks of college and when we start a new job being two of the most popular.

For a new job as a research scientist, this introduction is expected to include three things: where you went to college/your major, where you went to graduate school/your degree program, and where you worked just before your current research position (if different from graduate school).  I am one of the lucky ones for whom this formality leads to a memorable opening: “Prior to coming to ETS, I was a Research Fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.”I estimate that since my arrival here in September, I’ve said this sentence over twenty times and each time received at least one (usually more) “cool,” “neat” or other such favorable responses. Everyone immediately wants to know what I did (see my blog entry ) and whether I’ve met any Muppets (I have). 

Since the topic of this blog is about life after my fellowship, I am proud to say that once you are part of the Cooney Center team, you can never stray too far; and while I may not arrive at 1900 Broadway every day, I do consider myself to be a lifelong Cooney fellow.  I continue to always stay on top of the latest innovations in digital media and try to look at the potential impact on education.  Because of this, I’ve met many people in various departments, such as Business Innovation and Growth (BIG) and the new Center for Advanced Technologies and Neuroscience (the former actually leading me to a trip back to the JGCC in two weeks), at ETS that I would never have otherwise met.  My work with the National STEM Video Game Challenge led me to become the lead scientist for a new research project that will be announced next month and the report that I co-authored while a Fellow, Take a Giant Step, evolved into an invitation for me to serve on the planning committee for a new conference on Kindergarten readiness.

The walls of ETS may not be painted as colorfully as what I was used to at Sesame Workshop, but the interest in new media and learning through media is just as strong. While my primary role here is as an expert in mathematics education, my stamp as a lifelong Cooney Fellow shows everyone that I might just be a little bit more.  It also gives me a killer opening line.

Ed’s note – if you are interested in joining the Cooney Center as a Research Fellow, applications are being accepted through: click here.

Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges is an Associate Research Scientist in the Cognitive and Learning Sciences Group at Educational Testing Service (ETS).  Her daughter’s favorite Muppet is Count von Count.


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