Every time Sherri Hope Culver records her podcast, “Kids Talk Media,” she feels enlightened and reinvigorated by conversations with her sources about how media impacts their lives. Sources who have gappy teeth and can’t sit still, because they’re no more than 13 years old.
Culver, a media studies and production professor researching children’s media and media literacy became a 2022-23 Fulbright Global Scholar – a distinction only awarded to 16 professors – which will allow her to expand her research overseas. Culver will spend a month each in Australia, Brazil and the United Kingdom speaking to children’s media industry professionals and developing a certificate in children’s media for undergraduate students at the Klein College of Media and Communication.
“Having the opportunity to bring it back into a classroom sort of brings it full circle, instead of me just going and doing something for me,” Culver said. “I really love the idea that I’m going to come back and share this with folks.”
Culver submitted her 40-page application for the Fulbright Global Scholar program in September 2021 because she felt that although children’s media is a huge market, communication schools don’t teach enough about how children’s interests influence decisions in the media industry and drive revenue, she said.
“This really seemed like this is the exact right proposal,” Culver said. “I really felt strongly that it would be great for Temple, it would be great for students, it would be great for me, it would be great for Fulbright, it would really just be a wonderful project.”
Culver will conduct her research in Fall 2022 and Summer 2023 and hopes to publish journal articles while abroad on topics related to being a leader in children’s media development, including best practices for creating media tailored to children.
Teaching children and parents to critically assess the media their children consume is important for identifying content that is age-appropriate and serving children’s best interests, said Jessica Castonguay, an advertising and public relations professor.
Research like Culver’s helps illuminate how industry professionals are creating children’s media, especially as kids begin to use new platforms and technology, Castonguay said.
“With [Culver], it’s really nice to be able to work with her, because she has that insight into the industry,” Castonguay said.
When Culver originally began working in media, she wasn’t focused on children’s media because she wasn’t aware that any careers in the field were available. But during her time as a general manager for WYBE-TV in Philadelphia, she began to see more opportunities to create content for kids and families.
Culver attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned her master’s in public culture around children’s media in 2006. Soon after, she was offered a teaching job at Temple and became a consultant on developing children’s programming for Universal Kids, a Public Broadcasting Service program.
“A lot of these pieces started to coalesce into something where I started to be asked to do more consulting, I had an opportunity to talk about it, and much more in many more of my classes,” Culver said. “Slowly but surely, the industry was changing.”
Adina Munin, a senior media studies and production major, was impressed but not surprised to hear that Culver had earned the Fulbright, she said. Munin took Culver’s Media & Children class in the Spring 2022 semester and attended a study-away program in Los Angeles with Culver during the summer.
“She really just always kind of struck me as the kind of person that would never stop trying to continue to research and just continue to work in the field and to learn more,” Munin said. “It didn’t surprise me that she was working very hard for this. She received it and she’s gonna go on to do great things.”
Kimberly Williams, chair of the Department of Anthropology and director of the Center for the Humanities, earned a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award in 2015 and is now a Fulbright scholar alumni ambassador at Temple. Culver’s Global Fulbright Scholar award is especially important as it will allow her to build strong relationships in the countries she visits and to refine her research goals, Williams said.
“You have multiple trips and there’s a lot of responsibility for coordinating cohesiveness across what you’re doing for each of the trips and it’s more difficult to explain potentially what your research will be – it’s more complicated,” Williams said. “It’s an opportunity for an even richer research experience”
Culver is excited to share her findings from her research locations and relay the information to her colleagues back in the United States.
“I want to share whatever it is that I learned, I’m eager to share with my colleagues at Temple and beyond that,” Culver said.