Wiki Education Foundation/Monthly Reports/2020-04

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  • Amid the challenges facing higher education institutions in April, the Wikipedia Student Program reached an important milestone. For the first time, Wiki Education supported more than 400 courses. This number is a testament to our ongoing commitment to our instructors and our students as well as our commitment to Wikipedia and knowledge equity.
  • We wrapped up two Scholars & Scientists courses this month: #Envision2030, the Wiki Scholars course run in partnership with Keene State College and the WITH Foundation-sponsored Wiki Scientists course focused on disability content on Wikipedia. Participants from both courses made significant contributions to many articles like Black Queen Hypothesis, Mitrofanoff procedure, and muteness (an article that receives almost 500 views every day where the participant's edits account for 87.1% of its content!). Wiki Scientists also improved the article about diagnostic overshadowing and the sexual abuse and intellectual disability article. We published a guest blog post written by one of the WITH Wiki Scientists showing what a difference an image can make.
  • We announced a partnership with 500 Women Scientists, an organization working to transform the leadership, diversity, and public engagement in science. We began recruiting scientists to participate in a Wiki Scientists course which will train participants how to add and expand biographies of women scientists to Wikipedia.


Wikipedia Student Program[edit]

Status of the Wikipedia Student Program for Spring 2020 in numbers, as of April 30:

  • 406 Wiki Education-supported courses were in progress (266, or 65%, were led by returning instructors).
  • 7,449 student editors were enrolled.
  • 54% of students were up-to-date with their assigned training modules.
  • Students edited 5,480 articles, created 440 new entries, and added 4.05 million words and 43,100 references.

Amid the challenges facing higher education institutions in April, the Wikipedia Student Program reached an important milestone. For the first time, Wiki Education supported more than 400 courses. This number is a testament to our ongoing commitment to our instructors and our students as well as our commitment to Wikipedia and knowledge equity. We know that this spring was a time of upheaval for our instructors and students, and we're grateful to their continued dedication.

Wikipedia Student Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal along with Wikipedia Experts Ian Ramjohn, Shalor Toncray, and Elysia Webb, spent a great deal of time assisting instructors and students with their Wikipedia assignments as courses moved online. This meant advising instructors on how to keep on top of their Wikipedia assignments while students worked remotely and how to adjust expectations based on these new learning conditions. In the coming months, we'll be thinking about how to ensure that the Wikipedia assignment meets the changing needs of our instructors and students. We'll be paying close attention to what the Fall 2020 term will look like and look forward to supporting a new cohort of instructors and students.

Student work highlights:[edit]

Crystal Bird Fauset, a civil rights activist, social worker, race relations specialist, and the first female African-American state legislator elected in the United States, meets with the President of Liberia, Edwin Barclay, in May 1943. Picture uploaded by a Johns Hopkins University student in Martha S. Jones's Votes for Women class.
A typical mask worn at the Venice Carnival, which portrays the satirical and exaggerated appearances often used. Uploaded by a George Washington University student in Matthew R. Wilson's Physical Performance Skills class. (Image by Cristina Valencia, CC BY 2.0)

There have been a number of laws that have challenged women's access to safe abortions. Many of these have resulted in legal cases that have made their way to the United States' Court of Appeals and some all the way to the Supreme Court. In Planned Parenthood v. Rounds the case addressed the constitutionality of a South Dakota law which forced doctors to make certain disclosures to patients seeking abortions. These disclosures included a statement that abortions caused an "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide", that "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living being", and that "the pregnant woman has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution and under the laws of South Dakota". Unless patients were provided with all of these disclosures, doctors were prohibited from performing the procedure. Planned Parenthood challenged this law, stating that it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of both the staff and pregnant woman, as the law forced them to listen to and understand the state's anti-abortion beliefs. After several appeals and remands, the Eighth Circuit, sitting en banc, upheld the South Dakota law, holding that the mandated suicide advisement was not "unconstitutionally misleading or irrelevant," and did "not impose an unconstitutional burden on women seeking abortions or their physicians." This supplemented the Eighth Circuit's earlier rulings in this case, where the court determined that the state was allowed to impose a restrictive emergency exception on abortion procedures and to force physicians to convey disclosures regarding the woman's relationship to the fetus and the humanity of the fetus. It's thanks to a student in Taryn Mark's Advance Legal Research class at Stanford Law School that Wikipedia now has an article on this case, as well as expanded coverage on other legal matters.

It was dangerous to be a black woman during and after the American Civil War. Racists thought little of the rights and safety of African-Americans. Some felt that they deserved none at all, particularly if they were a woman and especially if the woman was an outspoken advocate for freed slaves. Edmonia Highgate was born free in Syracuse, New York, and grew up around abolitionists and transcendentalists. This, along with her family's involvement with Plymouth Congregational Church, would prove to be great influences on her life. After receiving a teaching certificate from the Syracuse Board of Education, Highgate taught freed slaves at an American Missionary Association school in Norfolk Virginia. Although she had to leave due less than a year later due to mental health reasons, she would describe her time at the school as "the most earnest months of my existence." She returned to New York, where she gave an address at the National Convention of Colored men that was highly praised by Frederick Douglass and also wrote several letters that were published by the African Methodist Episcopal Church's Christian Recorder. She also published "Congojoco," a serialized work of three installments including both fiction and nonfiction. The last installment, titled "A Spring Day Up the James," was partially inspired by the death of her brother Charlie in battle. She was a staunch supporter of equal rights and education for all, as she wanted her students to stop suffering from racial hatred and to get the best possible education they could. It's thanks to a student in Theodora Danylevich's Intro to Women's and Gender Studies at Georgetown University that we now have expanded coverage on Highgate.

Slavery will always be one of the worst evils another person can inflict on another, as it dehumanizes the enslaved person and makes them more vulnerable to violence and further exploitation. Sometimes the enslaved individual will strike back, but societies that allow and endorse slavery are often stacked against the victim. Such is the sad case of Celia, an enslaved woman who was charged with the first-degree murder of her owner Robert Newsom. Newsom purchased Celia when she was only 14 and assaulted her for the first time before they even reached Newsom's home. Once at Newsom's farm, Celia was separated from the five men that Newsom had purchased as slaves. His sexual assaults continued for years and Celia bore two children. One is undeniably Newsom's, however the parentage of the other is uncertain as Celia had entered into a consensual relationship with another slave, George. When Celia discovered that she was pregnant a third time, she tried to put an end to Newsom's assaults at George's request. He refused and Celia ended up killing Newsom in self-defense. She was brought to trial, where she was not allowed to testify due to laws in Missouri that forbid slaves from testifying when their words disputed a white person's. Her defense argued that the murder was justifiable self-defense and that it fell under the Missouri statute of 1845, which declared "any woman" could be the victim of sexual assault; the defense argued "any woman" included enslaved women like Celia. The judge denied the defense's jury instruction to acquit based on the sexual assault and denied the jury any ability to acquit on grounds for self-defense or to find Celia justified to ward off her master's sexual advances with force or at all. On October 10, 1885, the jury, which was made up entirely of white male farmers, four of whom were slave owners, found Celia guilty and three days later, she was sentenced to be executed by hanging. The defense appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, but the judge did not grant a stay of execution. Celia tried fleeing the jail in order to prevent her death, in the hopes that she could remain free until the Supreme Court could rule on her case, but she was caught after only a couple of weeks and was executed on December 21, 1885. Prior to her death she gave a full confession where she maintained that it was self-defense. This confession was reported in the Fulton Telegraph and published no mention of the sexual abuse by Newsom or Celia's children by him. In the years since her story has been remembered and used to raise awareness about racism, sexism, domestic violence, and the historical intersection of slavery and sexual violence in America. While Wikipedia did have an article about Celia's legal case, it lacked an article about the woman herself. The article was created by a student in Martha S. Jones's Votes for Women class at Johns Hopkins University, who wanted to ensure that Celia had an article that covered what is known of her outside of the murder trial.

Sex reversal occurs when, during the developmental process, the sex determination pathway is flipped and the individual ends up being the opposite sex of what you would otherwise expect, based solely on its genetics. This phenomenon, which is known to occur in fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals, was only covered in a short, two-paragraph article on Wikipedia until a student in Karen Warkentin's Sex, sexes, and sexual phenotypes class got to work expanding it into a substantial, well-referenced, informative article. Another student in the class rewrote almost all of the sexual differentiation articles, while another expanded the short article about the fourspot butterflyfish.

To the average reader, Wikipedia's article on tritrophic interactions in plant defense would have looked fairly complete even before a student in Michelle Franklin's Pest Management class started editing it. The article was long, well written, and fairly well referenced. Despite looking complete, the article lacked a lot of important information about the topic. The student editor was able to add thousands of words as they added sections on the application of the principles to biological control. Other students in the class expanded the article about an important agricultural pest, Rhagoletis mendax (the blueberry maggot) and apple scab, an important fungal pathogen that attacks apple crops.

Dr. Jessica McCoy's Molecular Biology course at the College of Charleston wrapped up this month, with students adding an impressive 26,000 words and 200 references across 37 different articles. Articles improved by the students included the protein-like molecule galanin, which may be involved in a diverse array of biological processes, including sleep, detecting pain, and even parenting behaviors. Students also added over 1,500 words each to Aminoacyl-tRNA, a molecule that helps build proteins, and CD28 family receptors, which help enhance the immune system's response to threats. The Wikipedia assignment empowers students to become experts about a given topic, gaining deep understanding of a topic so that they can convey it to Wikipedia's readers. By becoming Wikipedia editors, these students were able to help over 150,000 readers grasp valuable information about molecular biology.

Scholars & Scientists Program[edit]


We are very pleased with the two Wikidata courses we have running currently. All participants have made edits to Wikidata, which is very exciting! In our beginners course we have participants working on a diverse set of items. These items range from theatrical productions to Kurdistan to some hip hop fashion luminaries. This particular course has raised some challenging questions about structured data with regard to colonialist properties (founded by - P112) and with Kurdistan - territories that are not recognized as countries. Official languages can only be official if there is a country, yet Kurdistan exists and there is an official language. Courses like these with participants whose knowledge can recognize these issues and problems are especially important for raising discussions on Wikidata. If Wikidata is to represent the world as structured data, the community will have to work on improving modeling with regard to these topics. Follow this courses' work here.

We are also very excited about our other Wikidata course, whose immense amount of edits you can follow here. In this course we have participants from the LINCS project which aims to connect humanities research through linked data in Canada. This group has been busy, learning how Wikidata can inform their work and perhaps be the platform for humanities data in Canada. This course also has participants from the Met in New York and Harvard's Art History library in Florence. These participants have been exceptionally busy uploading items from their respective collections onto Wikidata. Having more collection data on Wikidata allows other institutions to fill in gaps in their data and makes it easier for these works to appear on Wikipedia and the internet in general.

We have also been busy working behind the scenes the last few weeks on drafting modules for a self-directed Wikidata course. These modules will incorporate videos, slides, and quizzes for a self-paced learning experience.


This was a busy month for our Wikipedia courses. In total, we had five courses running in April, with three coming to a close, one ongoing, and one getting started.

In last month's report, we covered some of the great articles Wiki Scholars were working on in the #Envision2030 course, run in partnership with Keene State College. It ended just as this month began, but not before one of the participants made a significant contribution to the Black Queen Hypothesis article, a theory of reductive evolution which argues that natural selection accounts for some gene loss. At the time of writing, after the contributions, more than 70% of the article is the work of the Wiki Scholar.

Our WITH Foundation-sponsored Wiki Scientists course focused on disability content on Wikipedia also finished this month. In addition to continuing to develop some of the articles we highlighted last month, like the Mitrofanoff procedure, we saw some additional improvements to high-impact articles. For example, a Wiki Scientist overhauled the muteness article, to the point that their edits account for 87.1% of the article's content! The article receives almost 500 views every day. Other noteworthy contributions include significant additions to the diagnostic overshadowing article and the sexual abuse and intellectual disability article. And if you haven't read it yet, be sure to read the guest blog post written by one of the WITH Wiki Scientists.

In the course run in partnership with the American Physical Society, Wiki Scientists have been creating and improving biographies of scientists on Wikipedia. Here are some great examples written in April:

  • Héctor D. Abruña is a physical chemist focused on electrochemistry. He is the Emile M. Chamot professor of chemistry at Cornell University and director of the Energy Materials Center, and a few weeks ago he was not on Wikipedia.
  • Katherine Weimer (1919–2000) was a research physicist at the Princeton Physics Laboratory at Princeton University. She was the first female researcher at the lab and continued her work there for 29 years.
  • Mark E. Lewis (engineer) is another subject of a new biography on Wikipedia. He is an industrial engineer and professor at Cornell.

In addition to these new articles, one of the articles from last month's report, a biography about Silke Bühler-Paschen, was featured on the main page of Wikipedia this month. Readers visiting the main page on April 23 would see the following in the Did You Know section:

"[Did you know]… that Silke Bühler-Paschen was the first woman to become a full professor of physics at TU Wien in 2005?"

Participants in the third course we are running with the Society of Family Planning began making contributions this month. For example, the article on medical abortion now includes a section on telehealth thanks to one of the Wiki Scholars. The scientists in the course also improved the crisis pregnancy center, intrauterine device, anomaly scan, and cervicitis articles. These essential topics for family planning and women's health can be very difficult to edit if you do not have the subject-matter expertise, and exemplify the importance of this continuing partnership.

We also kicked off a new course this month: Women in Red Wiki Scholars. Participants will learn to contribute to Wikipedia in order to improve the representation of women from various fields. The name, Women in Red, is inspired by WikiProject Women in Red, based on the idea that on Wikipedia, links that don't yet exist are displayed in red, and that red-linked biographies of women should turn blue (indicating the article does exist). We look forward to next month when these Wiki Scholars have started editing!

Visiting Scholars Program[edit]

The photograph of Buzz Aldrin's visor the design is based on

2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the first crewed moon-landing by Apollo 11. To celebrate the occasion, The United States Mint issued a set of commemorative coins: a $5 gold half eagle, two silver dollars, and a copper-nickel half dollar. The design was the same for all of them: on one side, Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the moon; on the other, the famous image of Neil Armstrong as reflected in Aldrin's visor [pictured]. The article on the coins was taken up to Featured Article status by George Mason University Visiting Scholar Gary Greenbaum this month, the latest in a long list of numismatics articles.

Anne Mackenzie

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, Visiting Scholar at Northeastern University, improved two articles about 19th century women writers this month. The first was Mary E. Van Lennep (1821-1844), an American missionary, school founder, and memoirist. The second was Anne Mackenzie (1818-1877), a British writer who grew up in Scotland and spent a large part of her life as a missionary in Africa. Regular readers of our monthly reports will be used to seeing Rosie's name along with the latest biographies of women writers that she has written about. The Anne Mackenzie article is a milestone, however: it is Rosie's 500th biography either created or significantly expanded in her Visiting Scholar role! Congratulations to Rosie for this incredible achievement, and thanks for all of your amazing work!



April was a challenging month for fundraising, as well as the entire organization, as the full impacts of the shelter-in-place orders took hold. Efforts focused on continued desk research on prospects, with a particular emphasis on science and education funders. Additional outreach to individuals occurred to gain introductions to staff and/or leadership at foundations.

Several conversations were held with staff at foundations and other non-profit organizations to discuss and learn about various reactions and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of philanthropy, operations, etc. Early indications are that the philanthropic sector is A) focusing their response on urgent needs and highly-impacted communities with funding for health care needs, food security, and similar support efforts and B) the broader reaction from donors is a wait and see approach given the dramatic impacts on the economy and thus their own financial capacity.

A semi-annual grant report to the 20MM Foundation was submitted by Sage Ross on April 1, 2020, as required by the grant agreement. That grant, to support improvements to the Wiki Education Dashboard, concludes on July 31, 2020.


This month, we announced a partnership with 500 Women Scientists, an organization working to transform the leadership, diversity, and public engagement in science. We began recruiting scientists to participate in a Wiki Scientists course, beginning in May, which will train participants how to add and expand biographies of women scientists to Wikipedia. We opened applications for two weeks, looking for 20 scientists eager to participate in the course and help change the face of science through Wikipedia. In the end, we received a staggering 174 high-quality applications from scientists all over the United States and from a few other countries. We know there's a demand for a learning experience that helps experts advance women in STEM through Wikipedia. We are actively looking to secure additional funding to support more of these incredible applicants, many of whom identify as women themselves.


As many of the courses we support in the Student Program moved to remote teaching this month, we published blogs with tips for teaching the Wikipedia assignment virtually and finding student work more easily on the Dashboard. A few instructors in our community who have already taught the assignment online graciously helped us put these recommendations together.

We also featured some powerful testimonials on our blog this month. Rivka Genesen took our Wikidata course for beginners to be able to better explain linked data to her students. Kathleen Downes, a licensed social worker and a Wiki Scientist from our WITH Foundation-sponsored course, wrote of the power of having people with disabilities write about disability in resources like Wikipedia. And Dr. Maryam Zaringhalam called upon the 500 Women Scientists community to join our latest Wikipedia biography writing course. She explains why women in STEM getting involved in Wikipedia makes such a difference.

Two studies were published this month about the Wikipedia writing assignment. Teaching Evidence-Based Medicine to Medical Students Using Wikipedia as a Platform was published in the journal of Academic Medicine and concludes that the Wikipedia writing assignment is effective for ensuring evidence-based medical curricula is interactive and clinically based. The assignment aligns with major trends in education and health care. And the assignment structure is effective for for assessing critical thinking.

Broadening representations of rhetoric in Wikipedia: disciplinary praxis as graduate pedagogy and research, published in Studies in Higher Education, finds that the assignment offers key skills to graduate students, including skills they cited as valuable for their future careers instructing undergraduates: academic writing, source evaluation, digital literacy, and integrating sources and documentation into writing. Learning how to edit Wikipedia also caused the students to re-examine their role in academia, highlighting their roles as stakeholders in the production of knowledge.

Blog posts:

External media:


In April, the Technology team focused on a series of iterative improvements to the Dashboard's Students tab. We deployed a set of changes based on an early round of user testing and interviews with instructors, making the new Students tab interface useful for a wider variety of grading workflows and common assignment patterns. We consolidated most of the key information about each student's editing into a single view, which provides quick access to sandboxes, assigned articles, unassigned articles edited by the student, and their full contribution history. Based on user tests in the last weeks of April, we've reached a design that is much more useful and usable for grading. In the future, we will explore better ways of ensuring that student editors follow the recommended workflows more consistently.

This month we also added alerts for Wiki Education staff to keep a better track of classes that plan to work on hard-to-edit topics. Upcoming Google Summer of Code intern Shashwat Kathuria extended the Dashboard's ticketing system to monitor when students get assigned any article subject to Discretionary Sanctions on Wikipedia, or a Good or Featured article. Shashwat also improved how the Dashboard sets up sandbox pages, so that we can help student editors avoid the Draft namespace and the Articles for Creation process more consistently.

April marked the last month of Software Developer Wes Reid's tenure at Wiki Education, and we spent time at the end of the month updating documentation and identifying priorities for making our technical systems accessible to other developers in the future.

Finance & Administration[edit]

Wiki Education expenses April 2020

The total expenditures for the month of April were $177K, $20K under the budget of $197K. The Board was over budget by $1K due to an increase in payroll. Fundraising was over budget by $4K due to a personnel change creating a need for consulting work for $2K, $4K increase in employment costs, $1K decrease in Travel, and $1K decrease in Indirect Costs. General & Administrative costs were over budget by $11K due to $22K allocation change in Indirect overhead, $2K increase in Professional Fees, $2K increase in Payroll Costs, while $15K decrease in Location Expenses. Programs were under budget by $36K as a result of $5K increase in Payroll, while $11K decrease in Travel, $6K decrease in Professional Fees, $2K decrease in Communications and $22K decrease in Indirect costs.

Wiki Education expenses YTD April 2020

The Year-to-date expenses were $1.878K, $25K under the budget of $1.903K. The Board was over budget by $2K due to $4K increase in Payroll Costs and $2K decrease in Board Meeting Expenses. Fundraising was over by $10K due to $8K cost in interim consulting work, $3K increase in Payroll and $1K increase in Travel, while $2K decrease in Indirect Costs. General & Administrative were over by $111K as a result of $125K increase in Indirect Cost allocations, $6K increase in payroll, $7K increase in Travel, $2K increase in Furniture, and $2K increase in Communications while $6K decrease in Professional Fees, $21K decrease in Occupancy Costs, and $4K decrease in Office Expenses. Programs were under budget by $149K, of which $123K were in Indirect Costs, $52K in Travel, $18K in Communications, $3K in Office Supplies, $1K in Professional Fees while showing $48K increase in payroll.

Office of the ED[edit]

Current priorities:

  • Working on the annual plan & budget for fiscal year 2020–21
  • Dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our organization

In April, Executive Director Frank Schulenburg was mostly busy working on the details of the annual plan and budget for next fiscal year 2020–21. As assumptions about the future are the foundation of any plan, this year’s planning has been more difficult than ever. With the COVID-19 pandemic having a strong grip on the United States, the outlook for the rest of this calendar year is tainted with a high level of uncertainty. What’s the effect of the pandemic on higher education in general and on teaching courses in particular? What effect is the economic crisis going to have on philanthropy in the United States? In which ways is work life going to change if shelter-in-place orders continue for an extended period of time? How can Wiki Education continue to support our community with their new needs, given we’ve been building online teaching and learning expertise in our Scholars & Scientists training program over the past year and a half? How can we meet the needs of instructors and students in our Student Program as we are all affected by this national crisis? – Never has it been this hard to come up with an annual plan. Staff had to deal with a high level of complexity, and an enormous amount of – sometimes contradicting – information. What helped tremendously was the fact that our staff is used to successfully solving complex problems, and that everyone is tremendously mission-aligned and eager to produce results.

Also in early April, the board’s Finance and Audit Committees conducted a review of our organization’s financial results for Q3 of fiscal year 2019–20. At that point in time, the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had not set in yet, and the YTD results were only slightly under target (YTD revenue $1,735K against a target of $1,868K). Given that we had verbal commitments from institutional grantmakers and signed contracts with cultural organizations for Q4 revenue, it looked like we were on an upward financial trajectory and on a much better path than in the two prior years.

Visitors and guests[edit]

We didn't have any visitors as our office has been closed due to the statewide shelter-in-place order in California.