Digital Youth Network: More About Us

DYN is a research lab at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. Our focus is on designing more equitable systems for youth. We are a team of researchers, product designers, technologists and practitioners that have worked at every level of the out-of-school time space since 2005.

Our Mission

We design learning systems that ensure all youth develop critical skills, increase their sense of agency, and have a shot at realizing their life potential.

Our Vision

We envision a world where all youth have a chance to be connected to the people, interests, opportunities and technologies that help them learn in different ways, explore different paths, become creative and empowered, and that enable them to realize their potential and success.

Our Approach

We design solutions through an original mix of research, social practice, design, data and technology. Our work is in developing equity focused learning systems and the growth of STEAM skills and identities of the young people we serve. 


Dr. Nichole Pinkard
Pinkard received a 2010 Common Sense Media Award for Outstanding Commitment to Creativity and Youth, the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies, an NSF Early CAREER Fellowship. She earned her bachelor’s in computer science from Stanford University, a master’s in computer science from Northwestern, and her doctorate in learning sciences from Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

In 2005, Dr. Pinkard created the Digital Youth Network with co-founder Akili Lee.

Dr. Nichole Pinkard


Akili Lee

Co-Founder & Director

Dr. Wade Berger

Postdoctoral Fellow

Arikpo Dada

Program Administrator

Mark Ellul

Lead Software Engineer

Peri Green

Graduate Student

Deanna Howlett

Data Analyst

Mighel Jackson

Technical Operations Manager

Dr. Maxine Jeremiah

Associate Director

Viviana Lanuza

Partner Success Lead

Sean Liu

Post-baccalaureate Fellow

Dr. Yolanda Majors

Research & Evaluation Lead

Amber Neal

Senior Program Coordinator

Albert Olea

Product Manager

Reggie Rice

Content Teaching Assistant

Sydney Simmons

Graduate Student

Gulnura Sultanova

Research Project Coordinator

Justice Tibbs

Research Assistant

DYN Milestones


DYN Is Born

DYN launched its first digital literacy after school programs while at the University of Chicago.

Social Leaning Network

Created one of the first social learning networks focused on the out-of-school time space, iRemix.



Reimagine Libraries

Partnering with Chicago Public Libraries, DYN co-created YOUmedia.

Girls In STEM

Launched Digital Divas program, supporting girls development of STEM identities and skills.



OST Ecosystms

Launched Chicago City of Learning with Mayor’s Office & Chicago Public Schools.

Book Published

The Digital Youth Network: Cultivating Digital Media Citizenship in Urban Communities on MIT Press.



OST Infrastructure

Cities Learn platform launched to support other locales strengthen their OST ecosystems.

Community Mentorship

Launched STEAMbassadors, building the next generation of OST mentors.