April 7, 2017
Dr. Ellen A. Wartella, an internationally-recognized children’s media expert who is the inaugural PNC Grow Up Great Senior Fellow of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, will be recognized with the conferral of an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and be the principal speaker at the 171st annual commencement of Saint Vincent College, it was announced by Saint Vincent College president Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B. More than 350 undergraduate and graduate degrees will be awarded at the Saturday, May 13, ceremony which begins at 11 a.m. in the Robert S. Carey Student Center.
Wartella, chair of the Department of Communication Studies in the School of Communication at Northwestern University, is the Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Communication, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Professor of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern. She also serves as director of the Center on Media and Human Development.
She earned a bachelor of arts degree with honors from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master of arts degree and Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Minnesota. She completed her postdoctoral research in developmental psychology at the University of Kansas.
Wartella is a member of numerous national advisory boards including the Health and Wellness International Advisory Board, National Educational Advisory Board, World Summit on Media for Children Foundation, Center for Media Studies, PBS Kids Next Generation Media Advisory Board, Sesame Workshop Board of Trustees, Center on Media and Child Health, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the Public Good Projects.
A member of the American Psychological Association, Society for Research in Child Development and the Cognitive Development Society, she is the author or co-author of books, book chapters, journal articles, panel presentations, reports and testimonies on children’s media and has spoken to professional associations throughout the world. She is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Children and Media and Media and Communication.
Wartella’s extensive research has studied such questions as the effects of early use of baby videos on children’s development, the reality of interactive television for children and the childhood obesity crisis and what food marketers, television and cable networks are doing to combat the problem.
Appointed the inaugural Senior Fellow at the Rogers Center in 2006 sponsored by PNC Grow Up Great, a 10-year initiative to prepare children, from birth to age 5, for success in school and life, she reported on her research regarding how media can be used to further young children’s healthy development.
She is especially interested in studying public policy issues regarding media and children. For the past several years she has been studying the impact of food marketing on childhood obesity. Obesity rates among children have surged in the past 30 years – doubling for 2- to 5-year-olds and adolescents and tripling for 6- to 11-year-olds. Nearly a third of American children are obese or substantially overweight, and this has led to diabetes and many other negative health outcomes.
Recently, she found that the industry has made moderate progress in changing the foods marketed to children. This progress includes the establishment of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which now includes 17 food and beverage companies that have pledged to establish nutritional standards for any foods marketed to children through any venue (TV advertising, cell phones, Internet, in store) so as to increase healthier foods and decrease the incidence of unhealthy food marketing to children. Another indication is the evidence of food reformulations and new, healthier products, such as 100-calorie snack packs.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, she was presented with the B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award by the International Communication Association and the Wayne Danielson Award for Distinguished Contributions to Communication Research by the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin.
Photo: Dr. Ellen A. Wartella
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