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LaGuardia Students Pay Wikipedia Tribute to Science Fiction Icon


Long Island City, NY—July 9, 2014—A LaGuardia Community College class is getting rave reviews for updating the Wikipedia page of a famed science fiction writer’s best known book. 

The semester long project was the brainchild of LaGuardia English Professor Ximena Gallardo and Instructional Technology Librarian/Assistant Professor Ann Matsuuchi, both Wikipedia contributors. 

They directed the 28 LaGuardia students in Gallardo’s English 103 class in revising the Wikipedia entry for the late science fiction writer Octavia Butler’s most famous book, “Kindred.”

Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia written and edited mostly by unpaid volunteers. The English language Wikipedia covers more than half a million topics.

Butler, whose best known books include ”Kindred” and “The Parable of the Talents,” was an African-American woman and the first science fiction writer to be awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. She died in 2006.

Butler “is one of the most important science fiction writers out there,” Matsuuchi said.

Though both Matsuuchi and Gallardo admit to being science fiction enthusiasts, Gallardo said she chose Butler and “Kindred” for the class because “she’s beautiful. I don’t have any other word for her. She is one of the beautiful people.”

“Also, Wikipedia has a male and an ethnic bias,” Gallardo said. “So if you are a female author your entry will be smaller unless someone takes care of it. I decided I loved her and she deserved better by Wikipedia.” 

The LaGuardia class was divided into teams of four, with each team assigned to research a specific aspect of the novel. “Kindred” has many themes, including time travel, American slavery, and interracial relations.

The students debated the research and decided how each entry would read. Each student also had to write an individual traditional research paper on the novel.

The class was conducted as part of Wikipedia’s Education Program. Gallardo said Harvard and other colleges have conducted similar Wikipedia projects.

The LaGuardia class grew the “Kindred” entry from five to fifteen pages, and included more than 39 references.

Students Julia Pazmino, a second year Liberal Arts, math and sciences major from Elmhurst, Queens, and Christopher Lynch, a second year Criminal Justice major from Pelham Bay, in the Bronx, enjoyed the assignment.

“At first it was scary, because I had never really gone to Wikipedia or knew that I could take part in it and make changes,” Pazmino said. “But afterward I was comfortable with it.”

Though neither student had read Butler before, both said they thought she was “awesome.”

“I felt I was inside the novel every time I read it,” Pazmino said. “I felt I was going through the struggles with her.”

Lynch recalled his group members arguing about different parts of their assignment, one of which was determining what literary genre best suited the novel. 

Both students were proud of how the work turned out.

“Now everybody is reading something I wrote,” Pazmino said. “Maybe I’m influencing someone who was influencing me. I was that person looking for information and now I am actually helping someone else looking for information.”

“I just hope nobody comes behind us and changes our article,” Lynch said.

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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success education underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.


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