A “history-making” experience on Wikipedia

From feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, and nervous, to knocking her Wikipedia assignment out of the park – North Carolina Central University Master of Information Science student Felecia Casey-Hicks went above and beyond her task of creating one new article for Wikipedia by publishing three brand new biographies featuring diverse notable figures in STEM.

Felecia Casey-Hicks with laptop showing the Madison Maxey Wikipedia article
Felecia Casey-Hicks with the Madison Maxey Wikipedia article. Image courtesy Felecia Casey-Hicks.

“As a Black woman in a male-dominated career, I know how disheartening it can be to be overlooked, or even disrespected, because of race, gender, social status, or other characteristics that are not considered mainstream,” said Casey-Hicks, a media professional with over 35 years of experience. “I think it’s important to recognize innovation and for people to see someone to whom they can relate, doing something they didn’t know was possible.”

The Wikipedia assignment brought Casey-Hicks together with classmates Janae Moore and Tanya Davis during her first semester of graduate school to create the Wikipedia article for Madison Maxey, an African American engineer, entrepreneur, and designer known for her work with electronic textiles and other advanced materials. 

“Contributing a biography of a diverse person in STEM, like Madison Maxey, to Wikipedia is a significant step towards addressing the underrepresentation of women and people of color on the platform,” said Moore, who also began graduate studies this spring. “As a STEM major and a black woman, I find it empowering to see individuals like Maxey recognized for their contributions, as it validates the importance of diversity in these fields and provides role models for future generations, including myself. This representation not only celebrates the achievements of underrepresented groups but also inspires others to pursue their passions in STEM, knowing that they, too, can make a significant impact.”

The trio divided the development of the article into sections, worked together to find reliable sources, and met often to ensure their collective progress toward finalizing and publishing the article on Wikipedia. 

Janae Moore
Janae Moore. Image courtesy Janae Moore.

The assignment enabled the students to develop and refine a wide range of skills, including research, critical thinking, and practical communications, explained Moore. Casey-Hicks echoed Moore’s reflection, also emphasizing the necessity of maintaining a neutral tone while writing for Wikipedia – a skill easily transferred to her career in visual media. 

For the entire group, the experience of filling in representation gaps on Wikipedia left a “profound impact” on the classmates, noted Moore.

“Contributing to the site and advocating for more diversity and inclusion was a deeply fulfilling experience for me, one that I am proud to have been a part of,” said Moore. “As a widely accessible platform, [Wikipedia] provides accurate and comprehensive information about individuals, helping to raise awareness of their achievements and influence. By offering a collaborative space for continuous updates, Wikipedia ensures that its coverage remains relevant and reflects the evolving narratives of these figures over time.”

Casey-Hicks, amazed by the process and initially concerned about potential scrutiny from Wikipedia editors, didn’t just stop with her group’s effort to create the new article for Madison Maxey. As an individual editor, she went on to develop new articles for Cordell Reed, an African American mechanical engineer and energy executive, and Arnold Stancell, an African American chemical engineer and scholar.

“The work [on the assignment] and experience were history-making and valuable,” explained Casey-Hicks. “It’s important to educate people about those who are doing extraordinary things to benefit society.” 

Led by course instructor Siobahn Grady, PhD, Casey-Hicks’ and Moore’s work on Wikipedia is part of a larger Wiki Education initiative sponsored by the Broadcom Foundation, which encourages the creation of new biographies of diverse people in STEM on Wikipedia.

Interested in incorporating a Wikipedia assignment into your course? Visit teach.wikiedu.org to learn more about the free assignment templates and resources that Wiki Education offers to instructors in the United States and Canada.


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