March 9th marked my first month anniversary as Executive Director of SUNY OER Services. Looked at in retrospect, these first weeks have been a blur of activity, introductions, travel, and exploration. Add to that the expected chaos of moving a professional life from one coast to another, and the challenge of leaving my partner behind for a few months, and that gives some glimpse of why I haven’t been great with keeping up on personal correspondence lately.
I won’t even try to capture the specific moments. I’m slowly starting to peel back some of the outer layers of what the SUNY structure is. I know this will be a long process; I’ve met people with decades of experience who tell me they have yet to reach the chewy center of SUNY themselves.
What I can say is that I’ve been given a lot of encouragement and support, personally and professionally. Having an office in a library (Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo) is every bit as magical as I always knew working in a library would be, complete with wickedly funny colleagues and yummy food treats almost daily. I also am loving the buzz of student activity right outside our office door. The tables and sofas on the main floor are always full of bodies and energy. I didn’t just lose out on student proximity during my last two years at Lumen, but also when teaching before that, because faculty offices were always far away from where students actually spent their time. It’s nice to have that physical reminder of just why I’m called to do what I’m doing, sitting right outside my door. (And, yes, it’s also nice to have that door, which can be closed occasionally when the enthusiasm gets especially thunderous.)
The state systems office is fully embracing OER as a necessary mission of the SUNY system. Many of the details remain to be worked out, and will no doubt change iteratively through coming months and years. That will be the fun of my job – said in seriousness, because I really do enjoy operationalizing great ideas. One of my favorite aspects of teaching online was to figure out how to lower barriers between what my students wanted to be able to do, and allowing them to actually do it. This will be the same concept, at a different scale: figuring out what barriers exist between OER ambition and practice, then removing those barriers one by one.
There are 64 institutions (!) in my new system, most with multiple campuses. Safe to say that I won’t be seeing them all first-hand this year. I am amazed at how many I’ve already had some form of direct contact with, just in these few weeks, though. The appetite for OER is high, and most schools already have some form of it running. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help it expand.
I’ll be updating this blog frequently with my OER adventures and field studies. I also hope you follow along with SUNY OER Services via Facebook and Twitter, and keep in touch with all of us to share successes, challenges, suggestions, and triumphs.