Meet Lilian Shi
Lilian Shi is a third year student at the University of Guelph, on her second co-op term since Summer of second year. During her first co-op work term, Lilian worked with Professor Gillis from the School of Computer Science to overhaul the slide decks for core computing courses by creating unique artwork to increase diversity and inclusion in the course materials. Lilian’s initiative, creativity, and great work during her co-op work term will be continued on as they are now working on a license to release the artwork to Open Learning so that it can be used by others.
Tell us about your role during your work term. What did an average day look like, and what were your main responsibilities?
“The high level purpose of this job was to help the teaching process at U of G and the School of Computer Science (SoCS) ease into an online format in response to the COVID-19 crisis. In practice, this entailed a diverse range of tasks, from compiling online learning resources to programming. Over the course of my work term, I've written programming self-studies, compiled learning resources and drawn art for SoCS - my duty was to take on the miscellaneous tasks that showed up in our ticketing system.”
Explain your slide deck overhaul project - why was this project started, and what was your contribution to it?
“The slide deck project was an endeavor to create new clipart for SoCS and Dr. Dan Gillis' personal lecture slides. He mentioned that the figures he used in his lecture slides were exclusively of the same race and gender; he wanted access to art that featured people of different ethnicities and genders in his slides, as well as art that was just more tailored to Computer Science. I contributed to this project by drawing all the clipart for him with Photoshop.”
How did conversations about the artwork start?
“The slide deck project was largely Dr. Gillis' idea. I took on a task to create Moodle logos and they were well received; he expressed that he really liked them too and asked me if I was interested in creating more art for him and SoCS, to which I agreed.”
What will the impact of this project be on U of G students and staff?
“This project will make a greater variety of Computer Science-related clipart widely available to educators and the likes, which means that it'll give U of G (as well as non-U of G) staff access to more Computer Science-tailored and racially inclusive art to use in their learning resources. I think one of the more meaningful goals of this project is to encourage diversity and inclusion and to fight underrepresentation of any groups. Using clipart like this is one of the ways the U of G can express to its students that it values diversity; hopefully it can contribute to creating an environment that promotes diversity, inclusion, acceptance, welcoming and a safe space for all students.”
Since this was your first work term, what things did you learn about co-op that you were maybe unsure of before starting?
“The biggest thing I learned about co-op from this placement was that supervisors are more ‘human’ and wanting to help than I expected - I was always kind of concerned about underperforming and producing work that didn't meet their expectations, but they were willing to give clarification and assistance whenever I needed it. When I handed in my first logos I didn't expect such an enthusiastic response from them, that they'd support my art by flooding me with more drawing opportunities (which I was happy about, since I enjoyed making the art). My biggest take-away from this term was to have more initiative and try new things when I can since the general attitude towards co-op students seems to be supportive of our learning and growth rather than critical of how we're performing.”