I was surprised to receive an email from a student mid-summer, a full two months before the fall semester began.

When I read the subject line, I smiled and felt the tension melt from my shoulders.

“Fall 2019 Semester Text Book Question” it said.

I smiled because — even before I read the rest of her message — I knew I could give this student an answer that would shake the tension from her shoulders, too.

“I am trying to save for textbooks for the fall course, but I have other expenses as well,” she wrote. “The book list for the fall 2019 semester is not up yet but I really need to know how much I am going to need this August.”

Thanks to the tireless work of the Open Education Resources team at NMC, and the foresight of my sociology colleagues, our Sociology101 textbook is free, openly licensed, and available for download in just a few clicks.

I replied to the student with a link to our free sociology textbook so she could access it that very day.

“I appreciate it greatly,” she wrote back to me. “Looking forward to this fall.”

In my other work at NMC, I raise money for the college. One of our priorities is The Fund for NMC, which is unrestricted funding to address the greatest needs of our students. Innovation Grant funding comes from The Fund for NMC.

A few years ago, we awarded an Innovation Grant to the OER team to pilot free, openly licensed textbooks — something our faculty and staff considered one of the greatest needs of our students.

They were right about the need, of course, and with the seed funding did a fabulous job building the OER team and resources for instructors.

Now, as an instructor, I’ve seen first-hand how important philanthropic dollars and innovative projects are to our students.

I’m always thrilled to share the story of my student’s textbook question with donors to show the real-life impact of their giving (almost, but not quite, as thrilled as I was to reply to this student’s mid-summer email).