PWSC professors receive the UAA Affordable Materials Award

by Vicki Heisser and Jessica Young  |   

Keeping the cost of education affordable to UAA students is a core value of the university. Each year, the UAA Consortium Library, in partnership with the Library Advisory Committee and UAA Textbook Affordability group, presents the UAA Affordable Course Materials Award to faculty members who have made a significant impact on textbook affordability for their courses. This year, two of the recipients were Prince William Sound College faculty members. 

Both Associate Professor of English, Dr. Dennis Humphrey and Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Dr. Rusen Meylani, were recognized for their efforts in supplying and/or creating sustainable, free, or low-cost course materials to their students. In addition to recognition, each faculty member received a $1000 award for their work in course material affordability. 

In his efforts to make his courses more affordable, Dr. Humphrey had this to say. “I started looking for less expensive ways to deliver content to my students at least eight years ago. The kicker for me was finding that my literature students were shelling out $90 for a book that was composed entirely of works available for free in the public domain. I decided right then--not on my watch. After years of searching, I have found ample high-quality and affordable content, most of it free.”

Dr. Humphrey has found many ways to attain these texts for students. He shares, “Internet sites like Project Gutenberg, OpenStax, and a host of others are easily accessible with a simple Google search. We have partners in the brick-and-mortar world as well. Molly Good at the Valdez Consortium Library has helped me locate library resources students can access free in a variety of media.” 

Like Dr. Humphrey, Dr. Meylani has made a concerted effort to keep costs down for students. In his classes, it’s not only the texts that he tries to make affordable, but also the other tools needed for college level mathematics courses. He shares, I “Use open source, copyright free quality text-books…online scientific, graphing, linear algebra, statistics calculators and utilities.” 

In his courses, students can also access videos and other course materials free of charge in the “access learning management system” Blackboard. In Blackboard, students can access, as he explains, “course videos, open source texts, other audio-visual and written course aids, quizzes, midterm and final exams, discussions, projects and other assignments.” 

For Dr. Meylani, it is about making materials cost effective, easy to access and meaningful. “We try to merge technology and mathematics education meaningfully in such a way that it will be beneficial for everyone, first and foremost our students."

Meylani and Humphrey plan to continue using open source and more affordable materials in the future to help ease the burden for students. While it may take a little more time for them to find materials, Humphrey knows it is worth it.

“Making my students pay more to lighten my workload goes counter to my core values. I’ve done this all these years because it’s the right thing to do. I hope more faculty will join the effort.”