Thursday, November 30, 2017 News

15 Months Later: Reflections from my time at SPARC

Open Education

Today marks my final day as Assistant Director of Open Education at SPARC. It’s truly remarkable how fast 15 months have gone by. In my short time at SPARC I’ve experienced a great deal, including two Open Ed Conferences, dozens of calls with librarians, and hundreds of hours spent on SPARC’s conference lines, which inevitably has resulted in multiple Rick Rolls (which anyone who has called in early knows is SPARC’s hold music). My experience has taught me a lot and I would like to share a few insights in this post.

I started at SPARC in September 2016 as a recent Canadian university graduate eager to take on a new challenge. Having previously served as a student leader who worked to increase the awareness and adoption of OER at Simon Fraser University, I came to the organization already familiar with the type of work they did. SPARC’s commitment to setting the default to open for research and education was one of the biggest reasons I was drawn to this position.

Early on in my student advocacy I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural OpenCon in 2014, an event which effectively propelled my open advocacy to the next level. While the event itself introduced me to a number of new project ideas I could take back to my own campus, it was the individual community members that took the time to support me in my work that made all the difference. The promise of my new position allowing me to give back and support those facing similar situations I was once in excited me greatly.

Into the deep end

Between familiarizing myself with the many faces and voices within the community, moderating community calls, joining the OpenCon planning process, and getting through my “orientation” reading list, my first few months at SPARC were a bit of a whirlwind. What stood out from the very beginning was the degree to which my experiences as a former student leader and recent graduate were valued by the community I worked in. Whether it was my experiences working with the library, faculty, administrators or the bookstore, I shared my stories in hopes that those I engaged with would learn from them and be inspired to reach out to new campus stakeholders. Some of my most memorable days on the job involved engaging with SPARC librarians and student government leaders strategizing on how best to move open efforts forward. Seeing ideas discussed on a LibOER call turned into action and shared either on Twitter or during a report back were incredibly rewarding moments, a testament to the real impact that this community is having on the ground level.

Recognizing that OER accomplishments like these were happening across higher education all the time, but often would only be communicated to limited audiences, one of the largest projects I took on was aimed at consolidating this progress into a single platform: Connect OER. Since then, Connect OER has grown into a platform to share and discover information about OER activities at campuses across North America. But getting the project to where it is today was by no means a cakewalk, the process involved expertise in open-source software development, the creation of a robust set of input forms, continual consultation with librarians, and a handful of road bumps along the way. Hard work paid off and at the beginning of September we were able to release our first annual report detailing six key insights from our SPARC member pilot. With the platform set to be opened up to all libraries in the new year pending some exciting new additions, I look forward to overseeing its growth.

Beyond project work, another aspect of my job worth mentioning were the incredible opportunities I was afforded. As a very early career professional, I was incredibly fortunate to attend some of the most significant convenings in the community including the 2nd World OER Congress, the 2017 Creative Commons Global Summit, and of course OpenCon. Along the way I was given amazing speaking opportunities in which I was honoured to represent my organization, a true testament to SPARC’s commitment to supporting and elevating our junior staff. I was also asked to co-author an opening book chapter for academic librarians interested in OER, and attended meetings at both the White House and my own nation’s capital city of Ottawa—opportunities that allowed me to share my experiences and advocate for OER.

My position at SPARC was much more than just your typical first job post-graduation and I have been extremely privileged to have met amazing people along the way, many of which I am so lucky to call friends. Whether these memories were made on a conference line, at a baseball diamond, on the bingo floor, in a conference lobby, over food and drink, in a library, or at a karaoke party, thank you to all those who played a role in making these past fifteen months so remarkable.

So what’s next?

I will be leaving my full-time role at SPARC to pursue an internship in the British Columbia Legislature beginning in January 2018. Over the course of this internship I will have the opportunity to work within one of our government’s Ministries, conduct caucus research, and participate in a number of education oriented opportunities, including visits to both the Washington State Capitol and Canadian Parliament. While I look forward to gaining a better understanding of how policy issues are researched, deliberated, and executed, I will also be looking for opportunities to share my knowledge of all things open. In addition, I will be continuing to work with SPARC in January in a part-time capacity managing Connect OER.

To the incredible team at SPARC who have supported me since the start of my open journey, thank you for inspiring me, challenging me, and above all making sure I felt part of the team. Thank you for walking the talk and always striving to be better. And finally thank you to Nicole Allen for not only bringing me on, but for giving me both the space and support necessary to grow as an early career professional. You have always been in my corner and this opportunity has meant the world to me. Goodbye for now!

— Brady Yano

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