Students and faculty contribute to Wikipedia

By Marco Vargas, Reporter

Many people love to write stories. Some people like to write about people that were important to a community. And some of those stories are shared online for the public. This was the case Feb. 27 during a biography-writing event about two people who were important to the Spokane community.

EWU held a small event at the JFK library that involved students and faculty building two Wikipedia pages about James Everett Chase, the 35th mayor of Spokane and Washington’s first African-American mayor, and his wife Eleanor Barrow Chase, a former Spokane civic leader and the first African-American woman on EWU’s board of trustees.

James Rosenzweig, an education librarian who helped set up the event, said that the purpose of the event is to share stories about the Cheney and Spokane areas and for students to be a part of the research process.

“This is our fourth year doing this event,” Rosenzweig said. “We think that writing Wikipedia articles about people who are connected to Eastern is a good way of helping people learn just about the history and the importance of Eastern. This is a chance to share some records that we have in our archives and in library shelves with students who get a chance to look at them and see how easy it is to use those records and artifacts to tell a story.”

In each of its four years, the Wikipedia event has been beneficial and received positive feedback from students who participated in the activity, according to Rosenzweig.

“We’ve had a real successful series of partnerships with different student groups,” Rosenzweig said.

He also said that the honor society group has been the most consistent group that enjoys helping and taking the opportunities to make the event happen.

“It seems like students have responded really positively,” Rosenzweig said. “The really nice thing is these articles are student writing. They’re work that students have done together to help tell a story and then anybody around the world can read it. We see that as a nice benefit.”

Kellie Knerr, an EWU graduate of 2018, said she loves working in the Wikipedia event.

“It allows history about our local area to be representative in a manner in which people can understand it, especially today’s generation,” Knerr said. “I love the process of it.”

Rosenzweig said that the event has had an impact by bringing students together to work on stories that mattered. This event also allowed students from the history department and students from the Women’s and Gender Studies program. The event also gets a mix of students all over campus through a sign-in sheet, which the students write their majors on.

“We think anybody should do this (event),” Rosenzweig said. “We’ve had freshmen, graduate students and staff and community members come and help us work on this. We’re always glad to work with anybody who has an interest. We’d love to see as many people get involved as they can.”

Rosenzweig also said that the event is an opportunity for students to try working or editing on Wikipedia, especially for those who have never experienced that before.

Other communities beyond the Spokane and Cheney areas also get a share of what EWU has done with this event.

“We often reach out to organizations, especially when they have materials that are a part of the story that were needed to tell,” Rosenzweig said.

He mentioned that at the event a couple years ago, students worked on articles about fires that happened on campus and contacted local police for the records.

“We also work with Wikipedia,” Rosenzweig said. “Wikipedia has a process for featuring new articles on just the main page of the site. Each year for a portion of one day, one of the articles that we wrote has been featured on the Wikipedia main page. That’s a situation where we really do try to spread the word as widely as we can.”

Knerr said that the event provides all the primary source materials and guides the students in the progress.

“(Students) can write the stories and the sections of the page,” Knerr said. She hopes that students enjoy the progress. “It creates a legacy for not only themselves, but for Eastern.”

Rosenzweig said that he would love to have more opportunities to involve students and work with the students who were involved before.

“It would be wonderful to be in a situation where we had attracted so much student support,” Rosenzweig said. “I think the challenge for us is just to continue to find partnership with student groups and to be creative in trying to find new stories to tell about Eastern’s history.”

You can visit the Wikipedia pages of James and Eleanor Chase right now.