Here at Wiki Education, we’ve had the great honor and privilege of working with thousands of instructors since 2010, and we’ve had the great fortune to form deep and lasting relationships with many of our program participants. In July, we lost one of our most committed instructors, Professor James Council of North Dakota State University. Our sadness is immense, but we are also incredibly grateful that many of us had the opportunity to work with Jim and experience his kindness, integrity, and enthusiasm.
Jim began working with us in 2014, and never stopped, except when illness forced him to take leave. And once he was well enough to resume teaching, he came back to the Wikipedia assignment. (A fact met with joy and relief from all of us). In that time, he ran nine Wikipedia assignments, guided over 350 students in how to contribute to Wikipedia, and produced over 150,000 words of new content. While these numbers are a testament to Jim’s commitment to improving psychological content on Wikipedia, they tell just a small part of the story. Jim urged his students to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of women psychologists to ensure that women in the field of psychology had equal coverage to their male counterparts. Jim’s dedication to his students showed in the level of involvement in their assignments. He worked closely with them on Wikipedia, giving them multiple rounds of feedback that helped them build solid contributions.
To say that Jim was a pleasure to work with is a gross understatement. As Wikipedia Expert, Ian Ramjohn, noted, “Jim’s kindness in asking for help and gratitude in receiving it meant that even if he asked me to review 15 group assignments at the busiest time of the semester, it didn’t feel like a burden. Working with Jim felt like a productive collaboration with a friend.”
In March 2015, Jim Council and Ann Burnett hosted Wiki Education’s Jami Mathewson at North Dakota State University, in hopes that he could invite other colleagues into this special community of ours. Here are some words from Jami about her visit:
“To convey Jim’s actions would be to tell you my experience in beautiful Fargo. He picked me up from the airport after a late late delay, insisted on staying up with me to take me to his favorite bar for a local beer, and thoroughly walked me through my agenda for the next few days. He gave me a ton of work to do (in a good way!), put people in chairs for me to present at 6 different workshops/luncheons/panels (in two days!), and told me jovial stories of every person we met along the way. Jim introduced me to the Provost and various deans and genuinely believed I was worthy of their attention. He treated me to a lovely dinner in town, welcomed my local friend to the table, and cajoled his charming wife into sharing funny stories with me. He grabbed his car from the parking lot to pick me up because I hadn’t gotten a memo about the blustery spring winds and was wearing a breezy skirt. He gave me an entire hour to speak to nearly 200 people who clearly all admired him enough to respond to his email inviting them to a random talk on a Wednesday. He insisted on taking a bunch of pictures of me speaking, as a family member might do with pride. I simply can’t convey enough how one man could leave such a touching impression on me in 48 hours.”
Jim was truly beloved by the Wiki Education team. We will all miss Jim for what he brought to this program and to our lives.