Wales to deliver keynote address for Global Leadership conference

Coalition of eight student groups organized conference that begins March 25

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, will deliver the keynote address for the Global Leadership Conference at 6 p.m., Friday, March 25, in Graham Chapel. This Assembly Series talk, “Democracy and the Internet,” is free and open to the public.


In 1999, Wales set out to transform the concept of the encyclopedia and adapt it for the Internet age. Instead of creating entries the traditional way — giving the tasks to subject experts — he opened it up to anyone willing to contribute.

Despite predictions that chaos would ensue, it didn’t, thanks to a software program called a wiki. Wales added a feature that allowed anyone to track and edit existing entries, ushering in a radical populist approach.

Today, a mere decade later, Wikipedia has about 16 million entries made by 91,000 contributors, available in 270 languages, making it the largest reference site on the web, and making Wales one of the founding fathers of social media.

Global Leadership Conference

What makes a great leader on a global scale? A coalition of eight student groups has been working for nearly a year to organize a conference to answer that question.

The Global Leadership Conference is set for Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26 in Siegle Hall. It is free and open to the public.

In addition to the keynote address by Wales, the conference will have additional talks from the heads of noted for-profit and nonprofit organizations that operate globally but have ties to WUSTL.

“Our mission is to provide an environment where the Washington University community can further the development of their global leadership ability,” says Chris Cassidy, a sophomore in architecture and vice president of the conference.

Other speakers include Theresa Wilson, first nonprofit winner of the Olin Cup competition and founder of the Blessing Basket Project in St. Louis, and Soo K. Chan, alumnus, founder and principal architect of internationally award-winning SCDA Architects in Singapore.

“We wanted to bring in diversity not only from different regions of the world, but also from various career paths and industries,” Cassidy says.

To foster cultural understanding of different regions, the conference also will host various performances on Saturday. They include the Sensasian a capella group, WUSauce, WU Cypher, and the juggling troupe from the Lunar New Year Festival.

Simply organizating the conference has been an education, says Jason Tarre, a senior in liberal arts and president of the conference. “It has been a great learning experience,” he says.

About Jimmy Wales

Wales earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance from Auburn University and the University of Alabama, respectively. He worked as research director for Chicago Options Associates Inc., a futures and options trading firm, before co-founding the web portal Bomis, a male-oriented search engine. Although not very profitable, Bomis provided Wales with the funding to pursue development of the more mainstream online encyclopedia, Nupedia, which preceded Wikipedia.

In 2006, Time magazine named Wales one of its “100 Most Influential People” in the Scientists and Thinkers category.

He is a Fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and is chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization formed to establish policy for Wikipedia and its sister projects. It also controls all intellectual property rights and domain names associated with Wikipedia.

The lecture was originally scheduled for March 22. For more information on the Assembly Series, visit or call (314) 935-4620.

For information on the Global Leadership Conference, visit