Education/News/April 2019/Wikipedia Student Scholar

Wikipedia Student Scholar

Author: Laurie Bridges and Sydney Caleen

Social Media channels or hashtags: #libraries #bibliotecas Twitter: @oregonstate

Summary: Oregon State University Libraries and Press hired a Wikipedia Student Scholar, with funding provided by the university's Office of Undergraduate Education.

Introduction and Context

In the United States the average annual cost of attending an in-state, public university (tuition and associated fees) is $9,716. However, if a student attends a public university outside of their home state, the cost climbs to $21,629.[1] In order to afford attending university, most students in the US take out student loans; the average student graduates with $37,172 in student loan debt and about one in four Americans is currently paying off student loans debts.[2] One way to lighten student loan debt is to work while attending university; approximately 70% of university students work part or full-time in the US. [3]


Paying editors is controversial within the Wikimedia movement. However, as Martin Dittus and Mark Graham pointed out in their September 11, 2018 UK Wired article, reducing inequality in Wikipedia might require paying some editors.[4] Not everyone has the luxury of time to edit Wikipedia, and most university students in the US are working-for-pay while attending school. After reading Dittus and Graham’s article, Laurie Bridges, a librarian at Oregon State University, worked in consultation with several Wikipedians to draft a position description for a Wikipedia Student Scholar. The project outcomes are to (1) Improve Wikipedia’s coverage and accuracy with the intention of creating a more informed citizenry; (2) Increase information and knowledge equity by filling information gaps in Wikipedia; and (3) Develop (student) research, writing, and information literacy skills.

The position was approved and funded by the university’s Office of Undergraduate Education through the URSA Engage program. The open position was posted and a first-year student at the university was hired to fill the 4-month internship.

The Internship Begins

Sydney Caleen is the first Wikipedia Student Scholar intern. With a major in English and Education and a Spanish minor, Sydney elected to translate Spanish Wikipedia articles about Latin American women artists into English. She works five hours a week, and has been in the internship for eight weeks. Each week she works through the modules on, a platform for North American students, and she also spends time reading articles and conversations surrounding Wikipedia topics. Thus far she has translated 10 articles. Sydney says, “What I’ve found most important to this process is having a specific purpose when you start. The world and this database are so vast and daunting, it’s impossible to completely comprehend them. My goal to bring non-Western ideas to English Wikipedia focused my work so I could pay more attention to the culture of Wikipedia and discover its goals for myself.” In mid-May Sydney is required to give a poster presentation at the university, along with other URSA students, about her internship.


Although Sydney is the first Wikipedia Student Scholar at Oregon State University, we hope the internship can be repeated here and replicated elsewhere. If you’re interested in establishing a similar internship, please reach out to Laurie Bridges with any questions, or take a look at the Wikipedia Student Scholar position description.