> Westerneye talks to Wikipedia Campus Ambassador Alex Stinson

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m an undergraduate of James Madison University, Virginia, currently studying in the UK at Hertford College, Oxford. I’m a history and literature major back in the States, and have been a Wiki editor for two and a half years.

How did you first get involved with Wikipedia?

I had the intention of starting some kind of site on novels or literature or something, a place to take notes for my degree. So I thought, I want to take notes, and I know I use notes on my computer, so why not write Wiki articles that have really good citations. So I just started writing articles, I didn’t even look at the Wikipedia policies. I think I made some pretty big mistakes in my first couple of years.

When the Public Policy Initiative launched the Ambassador programme I immediately went to the head and said I’d like to start a student organisation. I thought that Wikipedia should really be engaging students, and there’s a prolific amount of subject areas like history, literature, sociology, that are really poorly covered. Now, you have this venue where students who are passionate in a full active research kind of way can share information.
Luckily I was working very close to the Wiki base and they offered to train me!

How does the Campus Ambassador programme work?

Campus Ambassadors (CAs) are Wikimedia volunteers that work on university campuses, developing teaching for new Wiki contributors, finding new people to get involved and helping the professors design assignments based around Wikipedia. It works in conjunction with the Wikiversity programme, which is a project devoted to creating learning resources, learning projects and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education. It is open to teachers, students, and researchers to join us in creating open educational resources. It’s great for your CV!

How long has the program been going in the US?

It’s only 7 or 8 months old from the conception that was publicly announced. What we’re really trying to do now is to reach out to the community and find out how we can improve the public opinions perspective. When people hear about it they think, yes this is a cool, exciting thing and we need to try it, we need to start writing papers.
When I knew I was coming to the UK, I thought I would try and bring it with me! They’ve given me the thumbs up to try and start recruiting CAs at universities here, start up Wikipedia society at Oxford, and now other areas are getting in contact and hopefully the whole process will snowball.
We want to make the program truly international, but we know we will have to reconfigure our strategy for different countries, and the UK is a good place to try that.

What does the weekly working life of a CA entail?

We expect our CAs to do 3 to 5 hours a week. There are two types really: those that are attached to professors, who would spend there time working with the professor and their class to better facilitate the creating and editing of good, neutral articles, and those that are more outreach workers, who try and push for student Wikipedia organisations at their university.

How can we get involved?

Email me! stinsoad@dukes.jmu.edu, or visit http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Campus_Ambassadors to get involved in something truly exciting!