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January 6, 2017

Meet Samantha Seid, Production Coordinator, Children’s & Educational Media

Samantha SeidAs the Production Coordinator for the Children’s & Educational Media (CEM) department, Samantha Seid works on and supports the production and development of a variety of PBS KIDS and educational media projects. “The properties I work on include Cyberchase, Oh Noah!, Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder, Mission US, and Films BYKIDS,” Samantha says. “Since starting my position earlier in April, I have held a wide range of responsibilities, such as reviewing and uploading lesson plans for PBS Parents and PBS LearningMedia, coordinating the production of promos, strategizing social media content for outreach, onboarding and managing freelancers, and even editing my first video (ever)!” Read on to learn about the way public media has informed and inspired Samantha’s career path, her favorite places in Jackson Heights, and more.

What is your background, and how did you land at WNET?

I was always interested in education, but never saw how a career in children’s media was possible. I went to a specialized high school in TriBeCa, where most of my peers wanted to pursue fields in STEM or business. It wasn’t until I was a high school intern for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan that I met some of the producers of Yo Gabba Gabba!, and learned how people are paid to create fun and stimulating content for kids. I then started NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study to initially study children’s media production. My interests — and great luck sitting next to a classmate who knew my CEM colleague Ana Voci, who at the time worked at Sesame Workshop — then led me to an internship at Sesame’s now-defunct digital school outreach initiative. I was there for about a year as a freshman/sophomore before getting internships at CEM and Nickelodeon.

I really developed a drive for this path when I began to take courses in ethnic studies. I learned to identify my discomforts with the lack of diverse representation in the media and developed a vocabulary to point out societal injustices. I then graduated in 2015 with an interdisciplinary concentration in Social Justice Through Transgressive Educational Practices, where I analyzed these issues through the American education system and looked at how alternative forms of teaching (like public media) can address these problems.

And this led to a position at Sesame Workshop?

Before graduating, I began working full-time as a Production Assistant at Sesame Workshop for the department where I had interned. I primarily worked on a multimedia English language learning project for markets in Asia, along with various animated shorts that live on Sesame Studios. Despite the great experiences I had in my first job, I knew I wanted to expand my reach and intersect my interests in children’s media and social justice. So when a Production Coordinator opening here at WNET came up in CEM earlier this year, I knew I had to apply — and the rest is history!

Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder recently aired some exciting holiday-themed episodes. Can you talk about your work on these programs?

Most certainly! Last month, all of the engines from Thomas & Friends enjoyed a weeklong series of winter adventures, from racing to deliver letters to Santa to plowing through a snowstorm. The team on Bob the Builder celebrated the holidays with large projects like building a life-size gingerbread house and hanging Christmas lights for a local celebration.

While we don’t directly produce these shows, we have developed promotional and outreach materials for the holiday/winter themed episode premieres. Recently, while one of our producers was on vacation, I stepped up to manage and deliver a series of promos showcasing the week of Thomas holiday episodes to PBS KIDS. The challenge came from balancing notes from multiple parties while ensuring that they were delivered to stations in time for programming. In my previous job, I coordinated similar projects, so it felt rewarding to complete an assignment like this for the first time at WNET!

Are there any other current or upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about?

Cyberchase will be going into its 15th year this January and I am excited to start working with the team to produce the 11th season focusing on math and the environment. I have also worked on Mission US, a series of role-playing games aimed to immerse middle school students in American history. We recently launched Up from the Dust, a story of twins living through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, which is being released on the App Store this month. We are also developing new missions on Japanese internment and the Civil Rights Movement.

Outside of CEM, I have also been involved in the Inclusion and Diversity Council (IDC) at WNET. In college, I produced the New York City Asian American Student Conference and led various groups to discuss issues on race relations in our communities. Finding a likeminded institution like IDC has made WNET feel more like a home than ever in the past few months, and I am extremely glad that I am able to continue to participate in groups that shape me both personally and politically.

For our Media with Impact campaign, we’ve been asking viewers to share stories describing how THIRTEEN has influenced their life. How has THIRTEEN (or the PBS station of your childhood) inspired you?

As a native New Yorker, I always turned to “Channel 13” to watch shows like Sesame Street, Cyberchase, The Magic School Bus, and Arthur. THIRTEEN was a part of my daily routine, and I always found a comfort in these shows that I never had with other channels. Without realizing it, my affinity to PBS drove me to where I am now. After learning more about the educational and social impacts these programs have —particularly on low-income communities of color — I knew I wanted to become involved in their creation. I want to make a difference, and if the shows I watched on THIRTEEN could have such an influence on a second-generation Chinese American like me, then I want to share that same impact with others.

Where do you live, and what are some of your favorite places in your neighborhood?

I grew up and currently live in Jackson Heights, Queens, which is known to be one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the U.S., consisting of large Latino and South Asian immigrant communities. Fortunately, this serves me well in terms of places to eat. I really like getting Indian food at Jackson Diner, phở at Thái Son, arepas from Arepa Lady, and momos at Himalayan Yak (to name a few). I also like browsing through the fresh produce at the Greenmarket that stops by Travers Park every Sunday.

What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea. This past year, I made it a point to read narratives written by people of color and women. Some of my favorites have been On Beauty by Zadie Smith, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

Do you have a special interest or hobby outside of work? If so, tell us about it!

I try to travel as much as possible. Growing up, I never had the financial means to travel much, so I am trying to compensate for that now in my adulthood. My first flight (ever) was to Puerto Rico to study the history of U.S. imperialism while I was in college, and I continued to travel throughout Ireland and China for various fellowships. I was also in Seoul and Montreal for a few weeks earlier this year. Despite having gone international many times in the span of the past 2-3 years, I only recently flew on my very first domestic flight to Chicago this summer!

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