Dean and professor Jennifer Widom

Jennifer Widom's Instructional Odyssey


Begun in 2016, she continues to teach free data science courses


School of Engineering Dean and Professor Jennifer Widom created one of Stanford’s three inaugural courses known as a ‘MOOC’ – massive open online course – in 2011. In 2016, Jennifer planned to travel to a slate of under resourced locations around the world – from Bhutan to Namibia – to deliver free, intensive short courses on the wonders of data science (her specialty), along with workshops on design thinking and collaborative problem-solving, and roundtables discussing the growing place for women in technology.

Her instructional odyssey got off to a strong start. In the first six months, she visited 15 countries. More locations were booked. Lessons were planned. But then fate interceded.

"Around the 6-month mark, I was asked to be dean, so I had to cut it all short," she remembers. "But I’ve continued to teach in three or four countries a year ever since, including a few virtual sessions during the pandemic."

In the summer of 2022, with the pandemic behind her and settled into the dean’s role, Jennifer began to pick up where she had left off, completing two sessions in countries originally planned for 2020, Ecuador and Colombia, and one that had been scheduled for 2021, Mexico. In 2023, she began to add new locations – most recently a five-day session in Mongolia in June.

That Jennifer's odyssey will continue for the foreseeable future is good news for eager coders in Rwanda and South Africa, at the very least. She will bring her instructional odyssey to those two locations in September 2023.

Jennifer says, "Wherever I go, I never stop being amazed to find that there are great and enthusiastic students all over the world."


Excerpted from Stanford Engineering, "Lessons learned: Jennifer Widom’s ‘instructional odyssey’ rolls on." August 23, 2023, By Andrew Myers. Read full article at Stanford Engineering.

Published : Aug 24th, 2023 at 05:58 pm
Updated : Sep 25th, 2023 at 10:29 am