Question #3: Please tell me about an Open Education project, textbook, or group that you have been a part of.
Well, I guess it’s gonna have to be the big one then: the Houston Area OER Consortium. When I got involved with OpenStax, as I said, it was through a pilot. I was just piloting the Intro To Sociology book. But then every year, I kept doing something more and more. In June 2018, I basically formed an organization called Houston Area OER Consortium. Literally how this came about is because our college, San Jacinto College, received the Achieving the Dream OER grant and the director of the grant left the college. I was the Assistant Director and I became the Director. I was very lost. I had no guide, no one in the city of Houston was involved with it. When I said I had no guide, I had no guide here in Houston, but Richard Sebastian and everybody at Achieving the Dream (ATD) was amazing – Oh my God, I love them so much. But it’s always nice to have somebody who you can walk out your back door and you have something in common with. Even though we had OpenStax right at our back door, Rice University is walking distance from my home, it was still not enough. It was still not enough because again, I was trying to pilot a program for a college. I thought that no one else should go through what I went through in order to start it up.
What I did is that I literally got on the phone. First of all, I tried to list all the colleges in the city of Houston. I got on the phone and I called around to all of the colleges in the city of Houston and the surrounding area. I started with the librarians first, they are my hidden gems, I love them. I asked, “Can you tell me what faculty members are using OER?” or “Do you have an OER program at your school?” Basically, I only found faculty members using OER. There was no one with a full OER program but Houston Community College and the University of Houston. That’s when I met Ariana Santiago (University of Houston), she had just received the job as an OER Specialist Librarian and she had no idea what the heck she was getting into and now she’s such a gem. Then from there I met Nathan Smith (HCC). He is my other sidekick, I love him so much. I call us Batman and Robin. He’s amazing.
From that point, I told them what I wanted to do. I ended up continuing to call. I think that one of my gifts is that I can bring people together. I have the ability to bring people together no matter what their background is, no matter what their race or socioeconomic status, I have that ability to collaborate and bring people together. This took me like a year. I continued to call people and to assemble. We had our first meeting at Houston Community College and it was well attended. At least 12 colleges were there; San Jacinto College, Rice University, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College, the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, the University of Houston Main Campus, the University of St. Thomas, Prairie View A&M University, Lee College, and if I’m forgetting somebody I’m so sorry. But we literally had 12 colleges with representation that consisted of faculty, staff, and administrators. It was amazing!
From that first meeting, we decided to continue on because everybody was longing for this knowledge. We literally set a platform that we would meet every month. We had a guest speaker and then we would have someone from one of the institutions to introduce something new in reference to OER. But we wanted to be a learning platform and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Right now, we meet quarterly and we have a new president named John Lane, from the University of Houston-Downtown. Our goal is to basically make sure that all of our institutional goals are met. That’s the first thing. What can we do to make sure that your OER goals from your institution are being met? What can we do as a group? We’re going to look at, for example, San Jacinto College. What can we do to help you, San Jacinto College? What can we do for you, University of Houston?
After we do that, after we meet our goals at each institution, we need to connect to the city. We need to continue to market this effort in reference to Open Educational Resources. That means that we need to get with the City of Houston’s Education Department, which we’ve already been in connection with. We need to get in contact with the educational departments in our surrounding counties. We need to not only be concerned about higher education institutions, if we can connect to our K-12 institutions, our students would want it more because that’s what they’re accustomed to. We need to continue to focus on growing outside of our institutions, focus on the city, and I hope, next we need to see what we can do for our state. HAOER was one of the hosts and helped plan the Open Texas 2021 conference. We need to continue and to grow. HAOER is one of the biggest things that I have been a part of and that I hope to continue to contribute to that mission. I do not have a leadership role anymore in that, and I’m okay with that, because there’s so many other things that I need to do and focus on. But I still have a voice.