Kevin Clark had planned to take only a year-long sabbatical when he signed on as director of original animation for preschool programming at Netflix.
But the professor in the Learning Technologies Division in George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development said he soon realized the position was his dream job, and he has decided to retire from the university.
“It’s a dream job because I get to create content,” Clark said. “I get to be involved in what young people and their families see, especially at the preschool level. This is some of the first media they are exposed to besides books and stories that their parents and caregivers communicate to them, so we have to get it right.”
Clark, 54, who worked at Mason for 20 years and created the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity, has been one of the university’s most visible faculty members.
With expertise in interactive and digital media in education, broadening participation in STEM career and disciplines, and issues of diversity in children’s media, Clark has consulted for entertainment, technology and toy companies such as PBS, Cartoon Network, Disney, Hasbro, Mattel, Facebook, YouTube Kids, Amazon Studios and Nickelodeon.
In 2014 he was named a Champion of Change by the Obama White House for his efforts to increase diversity and access in STEM fields.
“We need some superheroes, and you’re one of them,” Mason President Gregory Washington told Clark in the latest Access to Excellence podcast.
Clark has his hands in several Netflix projects, including “Bookmarks” and the forthcoming “Antiracist Baby,” among others.
“We include issues of diversity and inclusion within the content we’re creating,” Clark said. “We are deliberate about making sure we cover themes that have global appeal, that we involve creators and writers and animators that are representative of our audience and global population. It’s our goal to integrate it into our everyday practices.”
Netflix’s global reach is the bonus, Clark said.
“We make a show, we put it on our platform and it’s instantly available in 190 countries and territories and translated into more than 30 languages,” he said. “That we create content that has a global impact and reach is another reason I’m excited about being at Netflix.”
That said, Clark is taking at least a piece of Mason with him.
“The thing about Mason is because it was so entrepreneurial and encouraged you as a faculty member to take risks and follow your goals … that led to the work I’m doing now,” he said. “I have to think beyond what we see today. I have to be entrepreneurial. I have to be innovative. So, for me, being at Mason prepared me and equipped me for the work I’m doing now.”