In celebration of Open Education Week 2022, the Senate of College Councils and UT Libraries partnered to solicit nominations from students across campus to recognize instructors who increased access and equity by selecting free or low cost course materials for their classes. We’ll be recognizing a few of those nominees this week as Affordable Education Champions!
Affordable Education Champions are instructors who assign free or low cost resources — like textbooks, websites, films, and more — for their courses. Sometimes they author their own materials, and sometimes they’re able to reuse free or low cost work created by others. We share gratitude and appreciation for their commitment to fostering access to high quality education at the lowest possible cost barrier for their students.
Today, we congratulate and thank Dr. Fatima Fakhreddine, who was nominated by her students in CH 301 (Principles of Chemistry I) and CH 302 (Principles of Chemistry II) in the Department of Chemistry.
Dr. Fakhreddine is a Professor of Instruction in the Department of Chemistry. She has been teaching at the University of Texas at Austin since 1999. This recognition is far from Dr. Fakhreddine’s first in her teaching career; she has previously been the recipient of a number of awards, including The Alcalde‘s Texas 10, the Dads’ Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship, the Texas Exes Teaching Award, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, the Henze Teaching Excellence Award, and the Welch Teaching Award.
While she was nominated by students enrolled in Principles of Chemistry I and II, Dr. Fakhreddine’s inspiration to assign affordable course materials goes back many years, starting with her experience teaching General Chemistry in sections for TIP Scholars. Dr Fakhreddine remembers, “Many of my students had jobs outside of the university not only to support themselves but sometimes to help their families as well. Having to buy books was definitely an added burden as books were getting outrageously expensive.”
All of her student nominators emphasized that sentiment. One noted that “Dr. Fakhreddine said that she believes that education should be free and accessible to everyone which I admire and agree with” (Freshman, Biology major). They also expressed relief from the typical worry about purchasing expensive materials, especially in STEM disciplines that often come with hefty books and even heftier price tags.
But the benefits don’t stop at mitigating costs for students. Dr. Fakhreddine develops her own course materials for students, including PowerPoint slides and interactive handouts that encourage students to engage deeply with the content. Students are able to focus on class and taking their own notes, and they can be confident that everything they’re reading and writing is relevant to the learning outcomes for the course and future assessments. Dr. Fakhreddine tells us, “Many students have expressed their appreciation for the fact that they did not have to spend any money on a chemistry textbook and for the fact that the handouts contain everything they need to know for the course. In my experience, free course materials both improve equitable access to education and allow me to develop customized resources to help my students better engage with the course material.” Student nominators agreed and echoed this: “[Dr. Fakhreddine] gives us all the materials we need to succeed in the course without an extra charge.”
In addition to her extensive self-produced materials, Dr. Fakhreddine also points students to open or otherwise affordable textbooks that they can use as references. These include OpenStax Chemistry and the fantastic gchem website developed by colleagues in the Department of Chemistry here at UT. We join Dr. Fakhreddine’s many student nominators in appreciation for her dedication to affordable and equitable access to course materials!