7 Documenting and Formalizing: Practicing Open Education in the Language of the Academy

Stacy Katz

Case study writer: Stacy Katz, Associate Professor, Open Resources Librarian–STEM Liaison

Institute: CUNY Lehman College, Master’s Colleges & Universities: Larger Programs

Type of intervention: By formalizing roles and structures and aligning open education with the institutional goals, I developed a mission-driven approach to seeking early promotion.


Lehman College is a senior college of the City University of New York in the Bronx, New York. It is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, and almost half of the student body consists of first-generation college students. Stacy Katz is the open resources librarian–STEM liaison, which is a faculty line within the library.

Within the CUNY system, librarians are required to have a second master’s degree (in addition to their master’s in library science) for appointment at the assistant professor level. In the tenure and promotion process, library faculty are evaluated on their scholarship, service, and their primary job function (which is considered equivalent to teaching for discipline faculty). The expectation at Lehman College is that library faculty publish four to five peer-reviewed articles during their seven-year tenure clock, as well as present at national and international conferences.

Lehman College offers a variety of open education professional development opportunities for faculty. Offerings include workshops for faculty on OER, individual support for faculty looking to replace commercial textbooks and teach with OER, an Open for Anti-racism workshop, and support for faculty to create their own textbooks. As the open resources librarian, I contributed to the development and support of all the professional development offerings in open education at the college. I also serve on the CUNY OER Campus Representatives group. I created and continue to maintain the CUNY OER publications list, which is a bibliography of research written by anyone affiliated with CUNY about open education to build awareness of scholarship in this area.


When I first started at Lehman College, the job I was hired for was substitute science librarian at the instructor level. I had never held a faculty position before and had previously worked as a librarian staff member at colleges and an independent high school. I was appointed as an instructor because I was in the middle of completing my second master’s degree. For appointment on the tenure track at CUNY, librarians must have a master’s in library and information science and a subject master’s degree. This is considered a terminal degree, as a doctorate is not required for library faculty. My initial appointment was as a substitute because the science librarian was taking a leave of absence. The position was potentially a temporary appointment and by no means what I would have considered as a career move for myself.

Just one month after I started as a substitute at Lehman College in the fall of 2016, the provost, Dr. Harriet Fayne, offered strategic initiative funds to departments at the college to advance the college’s goals, which were Excellence in Teaching, Research and Learning, Enhanced Student Success, Greater Institutional and Financial Effectiveness, and Commitment to Engagement and Community Service. OER presented an opportunity to align with these goals and was submitted as one of the library’s proposals for the strategic initiative funds. Some CUNY community colleges had started OER initiatives through the Achieving the Dream Grant, which provided evidence of the effectiveness of OER in reducing textbook costs for students. As a brand-new substitute librarian, I did not expect to lead the OER initiative. However, the chief librarian formalized this work by convening an OER committee to review the proposals submitted by faculty interested in teaching with OER and designating me the chair of the committee. Through this leadership opportunity, my name was recognized on campus as I met with faculty interested in OER and presented to chairs and deans about the nascent initiative. Through these presentations, the OER initiative was grounded in the mission of the college.

In a case of fortuitous timing, Governor Cuomo announced funding for CUNY and SUNY to incentivize teaching with OER in the spring of 2017. This funding greatly expanded the ability to support teaching with OER by allocating far more than the seed money afforded by the strategic initiative funds. The expansion of OER at CUNY also convinced the library’s Personnel and Budget Committee to shift the role from a science librarian to an open resources librarian–STEM liaison to recognize the importance of open education within the library. In 2018, the position was formally posted, and after interviewing, I was hired as the open resources librarian–STEM liaison at the assistant professor rank. By creating a role and committees, my OER work was formalized into the structures of academia and Lehman College. This formalization enabled me to include the role and committee chair on my CV and begin building my portfolio for tenure and promotion.

However, as a new faculty member without research training, the expectation of scholarly publications was incredibly daunting. Master’s programs in library science do not typically prepare individuals to conduct research. We are taught about the structure of information in disciplines and how to search the scholarly literature, but there is not a course on conducting original scholarly research. In my master’s of education in curriculum and instructional technology program, I started to align my assignments with my OER work. These projects provided a base to develop into the first manuscripts that I turned into publications. For example, I learned about Mezirow’s transformative theory in a class about adult learning theory and wrote a paper about how it applied to open education for an assignment. I was able to then present on it at OE Global18 and publish a journal article entitled “Applying Transformative Learning Theory to Open Education” in the Journal of Transformative Learning. In the beginning, I was lucky enough to be able to ask for help from colleagues I had met through OER, such as political science professor Dr. Shawna M. Brandle.

At Lehman, the Library and School of Education developed a Research and Writers group to support junior scholars where faculty could bring draft manuscripts for supportive review. Bringing my publications to this group served two purposes, as I received feedback on my research-based manuscripts, and it also helped education faculty learn more about OER. This was a strategic move to get the assistance that I needed but also to educate and generate interest in OER. Education faculty expressed interest in learning more about OER after reading my scholarship. I also learned more about their research and classes and was able to see where OER might fit into their courses.

Through Research and Writers, I initiated a fruitful collaboration with education professor Dr. Jennifer Van Allen. We created projects around her classes where she taught with OER and developed open education projects. For each project, we submitted presentations, publications, and grants to maximize the impact of everything we did. As faculty on the tenure track, we both needed to build our portfolio for tenure and promotion. Our research focused on open educational practices within teacher education and the benefits of renewable assignments for teachers and students. Our publication urging for OER in teacher education during the pandemic led to further conversations about how important open education is for all levels of students, not just within higher education. Education professor Dr. Sherry Deckman and editor of the Journal for Multicultural Education invited Jennifer and me to coedit a special issue of the Journal for Multicultural Education. Sherry’s interest in OER also led to cofacilitating a professional development workshop for Lehman faculty called Open for Anti-racism. We have generated greater interest in OER from faculty curious about the ways that open can provide recognitive justice where Lehman students see themselves in the curriculum.

The funding from New York State for OER has continued and enabled numerous opportunities. I was able to travel to national and international conferences to present. The networks that I was able to build through these conferences helped me develop confidence as a practitioner and researcher. As an OER Research Fellow through the Open Education Group, I developed ideas for OER research and connected with other researchers from multiple disciplines. These connections were particularly useful later in developing my list of external reviewers for promotion, as those colleagues could speak to my portfolio and contributions in the field. I also developed relationships through my service commitments, which centered around committee memberships for OER at the college and university levels. I aimed for meaningful national and international services commitments by participating in the program committees for open education conferences, such as OpenEd in the United States and OER in the United Kingdom.

I learned more about research methods through the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship and was able to deepen the complexity of my research. Through this research boot camp for librarians, my development as a scholar was supported and nurtured. My research focus has not wavered from OER and has explored a variety of aspects of open education, such as student perceptions of zero textbook cost courses or why faculty teach with OER.

My CV illustrated my activities—through primary function, scholarship, and service—at the college, university, national, and international levels. In my third-year evaluation, the chief librarian and the executive-in-charge of the School of Education agreed that the activities in my portfolio exceeded expectations and warranted consideration for early promotion. My personal statement centered on how open education is intrinsically linked to the mission of Lehman College and the City University of New York. The Personnel and Budget Committees of the library and the college, as well as the provost and president, agreed, and I was promoted to associate professor in 2023.

My role in expanding recognition in OER in tenure and promotion was not solely linked to my own work. As the open resources librarian, I provide formal documentation for faculty participating in the OER initiative. We notify department chairs when faculty participate in shifting a course to OER to ensure that their chair is aware that the faculty member is planning to teach with OER. This hopefully helps make teaching with OER an activity that brings value to their department and the college. I write letters of support for tenure and promotion portfolios for faculty teaching with OER. Using the formal processes of the college furthers the counting of OER as a scholarly activity for tenure and promotion. As an open education researcher, I maintain a bibliography of CUNY publications on OER. The articles in the bibliography have also been included as examples of scholarship of teaching and learning, which is another area of research that is gaining recognition within tenure and promotion processes.


Early promotion is not common within the library and is also rare across the college. The support from administrators demonstrates a growing appreciation for OER work across the college. The question moving forward is, How are OER activities recognized for discipline faculty? Including OER in departmental tenure statements and criteria is key for sustaining and advancing OER.


  • Align open education work with the mission of the college.
  • Formalize roles, committees, and processes to demonstrate the work of OER in ways that are understandable within academia.
  • Find mentors and connections who can be supportive and provide advice.
  • Share scholarship on OER for feedback for submission and also to help colleagues learn more about OER.


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Valuing OER in the Tenure, Promotion, and Reappointment Process Copyright © 2024 by Stacy Katz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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