Squalicum grad working to bring women's contributions to Wikipedia articles

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 13, 2014 

Taylor Ulrich

Taylor Ulrich of Bellingham, now a senior at Scripps College, was among the five winners of MIT's Open Learning Innovation Contest, a competition devoted to promoting online education. She and teammate Susie Ferrell, a junior from Palo Alto, Calif., received a $2,000 honorarium, which they used to help create a "distributed open collaborative course," online instruction involving "feminist dialogues on technology" now used by 18 colleges.

TAYLOR ULRICH — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

When Bellingham's Taylor Ulrich and her Scripps College teammate walked into a conference with the other four winning teams of a contest conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they were stunned to find the others were all professors.

"At first they thought we were young professors," said Ulrich, a Squalicum High School graduate. "We were a bit nervous at first, but they couldn't have been more welcoming."

Ulrich, a senior, and Susie Ferrell, a junior from Palo Alto, Calif., were among the five winners of MIT's Open Learning Innovation Contest, a competition devoted to promoting online education.

They received a $2,000 honorarium, which they used to help create a "distributed open collaborative course," online instruction involving "feminist dialogues on technology" now used by 18 colleges.

The course emerged through FemTechNet, an organization Ulrich and Ferrell joined at its beginning less than two years ago.

Scripps is a women's college and one of five Claremont Colleges that share a campus near Los Angeles. The personable Ulrich, who goes by her middle name, Jade, at Scripps, is on schedule to graduate in May with a double major in media studies and feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Question: Taylor, how does a DOOC work?

Answer: It's a direct contrast from MOOCs (massive open online courses) in that we want DOOCs to target specific people with interests such as our first project involving feminism and technology.

This brings personal experience and personal perceptions to learning. My interest in "Wikistorming," a word our team created, came out of this.

Q: What does Wikistorming involve?

A: Only 10 percent of Wikipedia's editors are women. Wikistorming is an online project in which women commit for certain periods of time to edit Wikipedia articles that have excluded or ignored the contributions of women.

Q: Such as?

A: Early computer programmers were women, but this is generally not known and has been ignored on the Wikipedia page about the history of computer programming. It's extremely important that women contribute to Wikipedia, although men are also part of Wikistorming.

Q: Any negative feedback?

A: Oh, sure, we have to stay involved and guard our contributions, since Wikipedia is openly edited. Fox News even blasted us for what they called "injecting liberal bias." We are determined not to let that kind of thing bother us.

Q: You say you already have a job?

A: I'll be working full time as a financial advisor based in Pasadena with Morgan Stanley. Eventually, I'm hoping I'll be working to advise wealthy philanthropic families who want to give back and do good in the world.

Q: And you didn't major in business?

A: No, but I feel capable of learning what I'll need to do.

Q: Sounds like you're quite busy.

A: I'm student representative on the Scripps Board of Trustees and next year I'll be the recent graduate rep. I also played basketball my junior year after studying in Greece. I missed basketball (she was a four-year starter at Squalicum).

Q: Why have you gone by Jade in college?

A: I've just always loved my middle name. I've grown so much at Scripps. I've learned to speak up a lot more and to recognize the importance of having your voice heard. Now, I have no fear of public speaking.

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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