Aishah Abdullah joined SPARC as Open Education Coordinator on March 8. She will assist SPARC’s Open Education team on policy, advocacy, community organizing, and professional development initiatives. Her full-time role also includes coordinating parts of SPARC’s ongoing community programming and contributing to impactful work across the Open Education portfolio.
Aishah is a May 2020 graduate from the University of Maryland where she studied public policy. In her education policy focused classes, Aishah says she learned about structural inequities and open education. On the College Park campus, she participated in the Maryland PIRG #TextbookBroke Campaign for affordable textbooks.
Prior to going to UMD, Aishah attended Montgomery College and was president of the Student Government Association. She was involved in various community advocacy issues and took classes with OER materials, known as zero-cost textbook or Z-courses. “When I discovered the Z-courses, I took as many as I could – instead of paying $200 for a textbook. I wondered why all classes couldn’t be like that,” Aishah says.
After her junior year in college, Aishah was an intern at America’s Promise Alliance where she worked with a team on youth employment and outreach strategies to improve high school graduation rates. She says she enjoyed being able to look at advocacy beyond her experience as student with a different, more powerful lens to push for change.
Coming to SPARC, Aishah says she was drawn to the small, but committed team working together to advance open education goals. “I like how SPARC is very big on involving the community, which sometimes doesn’t happen with a lot of organizations,” she says. “They really make an active effort to involve the OER community — those who are affected, those who are advocates on the ground — to share their ideas and provide input.”
High textbook costs affect all students, but they can especially be barriers to certain subgroups, says Aishah, and it’s important to keep that in mind in programming. “I appreciate how SPARC has made a commitment to setting diversity, equity and inclusion as the standard — a universal thing everyone should be doing. I like that mission.”
Aishah says she’s looking forward to learning more from experts in the field and grow within SPARC.
“I’m excited to bring a perspective that hasn’t been seen before, coming fresh out of school and dealing with the issues recently as a student,” Aishah says.