University of Virginia Librarian Selected as SPARC Open Education Leadership Fellow

Judith Thomas from the University of Virginia Library has been selected as a fellow in the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program, an intensive professional development program to empower library professionals with the knowledge, skills, and community connections to lead successful open education initiatives that benefit students. The two-semester program blends online, peer-to-peer, and project-based learning to build a comprehensive understanding of the open education space coupled with practical know-how to take action on campus and beyond. Ms. Thomas is one of 27 fellows selected from a competitive application pool for the program’s 2019-2020 cohort.


Judith Thomas, Director of Faculty Programs at the UVA Library

“Recently, the University’s Registrar asked faculty teaching this Fall semester if they’d like the Library’s help in finding or developing open educational resources for their classes, and dozens of faculty said ‘Yes!’” noted Dean of Libraries John M. Unsworth. “The Library welcomes this and we look forward to working with faculty to make education at UVA more affordable and to give pedagogical expression to the expertise of our faculty. I’m particularly pleased that Judy Thomas is getting this recognition from SPARC, because she has been working in and around the library and educational technology since I first met her in the 1990s, and she has deep knowledge of the University, its faculty, and its students. She also represents us in VIVA, the Virginia academic library consortium, as we work with them on developing open educational resources. She’ll make the most of this opportunity.”

The SPARC Open Education Leadership Program spans two semesters, beginning with an intensive online course in the fall to build open education subject matter expertise. In the spring, Ms. Thomas will work with a mentor to implement a capstone project that will help advance open education at UVA and contribute back to the broader open education community as a whole. Ms. Thomas  will join the rest of the cohort in attending the 16th annual Open Education Conference in Phoenix, AZ in late October.

According to Ms. Thomas, “The knowledge and expertise that I’ll gain through participation in the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program will help me to design library programs that address issues of affordability and inclusiveness.  I look forward to becoming a more effective advocate for open education.”

The University of Virginia Library will begin working this fall with faculty to promote awareness of a rapidly growing body of open educational resources (OER), developed by colleges and universities in this country and abroad, and to help them use this material in their courses. Future plans for the implementation of an OER program at UVA include the support of faculty creation of new content, with the possibility of publication through Aperio, the Library’s new publishing service. The UVA Library is a new member of the Open Textbook Network, and has also been working closely for the past year with fellow Virginia institutions on OER initiatives through VIVA, the Virginia Academic Library Consortium.  Participation in SPARC, VIVA, and the Open Textbook Network signals the Library’s commitment to open education as a way to promote innovations in teaching and learning while also addressing growing concerns about coursework affordability.

“Academic libraries sit at the intersection of faculty, students, and high-quality resources, and therefore are essential partners in advancing open education on campus,” said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC. “A large part of what makes our program successful is the unique and valuable perspective each participant brings to it, and a vibrant community of practice develops amongst the cohort. We are proud to have Judith Thomas among our 2019-2020 class.”

The University of Virginia Library is a member of SPARC, which is a global coalition dedicated to making Open the default in research and education. For more information about the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program, visit

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