Rice’s OpenStax announces National Student Internship Program inaugural class

OpenStax, the Rice-based publisher of online textbooks, announced today its inaugural class of interns for its National Student Internship Program. The program is designed to inspire student-serving organizations, such as colleges and universities and educational technology and publishing companies, to understand and prioritize diverse student needs.

Photo courtesy of OpenStax. Video by Jemel Agulto/OpenStax

Ten students were selected from nearly 100 applicants by a review board made up of experts and advocates from across the education industry. The interns are Lobna Alsrraj, a senior at the University of Northern Colorado; Drew Carter, a sophomore at Rice; Carlos Espinoza, a junior at Whittier College; Henry Fan, a junior at San Jose State University; Barbara Gooch, a sophomore at Volunteer State Community College; Gabby Kennedy, a sophomore at Baylor University; Mohammed Khalid, a sophomore at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Firdavs Khaydarov, a master’s student at Minnesota State University, Mankato; Felicia Santiago, a sophomore studying at Delgado Community College; and Rene Sing, a freshman studying at LaGuardia Community College.

The interns were chosen for their skills as communicators and storytellers, and for their unique perspectives: The group includes first-generation students, international students, non-traditional students, parents and more.

“To pursue our mission to improve educational access and learning for students, it’s vital that we listen to students when they’re sharing their needs and then make those needs a priority, ” said Daniel Williamson, managing director at OpenStax. “These students will influence our own work and enrich conversations in the higher education community. Our presence at over half of the colleges and universities in the U.S. and our partnerships with over 60 ed-tech companies gives us a unique opportunity to promote student voices.”

The OpenStax National Student Internship Program’s first class of students will join the higher education discourse and have the opportunity to impact a wide range of issues such as support for first-generation students, open pedagogy, open educational resource policy and more. As they work with the OpenStax team and interact with the open education community, the interns will be able to have a particularly significant impact on conversations about affordability of textbooks and other resources.

Working together and with OpenStax team members, the interns will create a series of blog posts for OpenStax.org throughout the fall and winter and develop campus advocacy projects to impact policies and practices around affordability, course materials and pedagogy on their respective campuses. They will also attend the Open Ed conference in Phoenix and the Creator Fest conference in Houston, where they will make presentations on the issues they have encountered in higher education and the changes they want to see. The students are expected to reach thousands of education professionals during their internships.

Additionally, interns will be invited to join a student advisory board that will work closely with OpenStax product teams to provide in-depth feedback on issues related to textbook content, student data privacy and research participation that will inform the organization’s research practices and decision-making.

“I am ready to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn more about open educational resources and to advocate at my campus,” Gooch said. “I believe it’s very important to recognize that if we want more students to be able to attend college successfully, we need to help them save money and improve their educational experience.”

“I am excited to work with such an amazing team to make our own dent in the educational inequality often faced by marginalized students,” Carter said. “Through the OpenStax National Student Internship Program I can help amplify voices like my own that are far too often left at the margins in conversations about educational matters that affect us so much.”

Meet the students and learn more about the program in this video. Then, read their first blog posts here.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.