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PALNI recognizes affordable learning champions with Open Educator Award

Open Educator Award recipient Laura Merrifield Wilson is pictured next to 2023 PALSave Open Educator award logo with diamond-shaped graphic elements

Pictured: Laura Merrifield Wilson
Photo courtesy of the University of Indianapolis

The Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) has named nine faculty and staff members from its supported institutions as recipients of the PALSave Open Educator Award for the 2022-23 academic year. The award recognizes innovation and excellence in support of higher education, textbook affordability and student success.

As part of the PALSave: PALNI Affordable Learning Program, these individuals have been key players in the creation and adoption of Open Educational Resources, or OER—a move that reduces costs for students, improves access to required texts, and increases student success and retention. 

“We are pleased to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of this year's Open Educator Award recipients,” says Amanda Hurford, PALNI’s Scholarly Communications Director and PALSave project lead. “High textbook costs continue to be a barrier to education, yet these individuals work tirelessly to make course materials more equitable and accessible to all students. With every single one of PALNI’s 24 supported institutions participating in PALSave, faculty and staff are reshaping the educational landscape, ensuring that every student, regardless of circumstance, has the opportunity to learn, thrive, and succeed. They have built a community of champions for affordable learning, and we’re excited to see their efforts benefit students now and well into the future.”

This year’s Open Educator Award honorees include:

Andrea Bearman, Trine University

Melissa Brown, Trine University

Lauren Decker, Trine University

Elizabeth Kiggins, University of Indianapolis

Lexie Kuzmishin Nagy, Earlham College

Laura Merrifield Wilson, University of Indianapolis

Alisha Miller, Anderson University

Sarah Rowley, DePauw University

Elizabeth Ziff, University of Indianapolis

Honoree Statements

Bearman 2x3Andrea Bearman

Director of Instructional Design and Development
Trine University 

“I use OER to make learning experiences more diverse and more equitable for students in higher education. I enjoy working with the people of PALSave because they are extremely helpful and provide wonderful resources.”


Pictured is Melissa BrownMelissa Brown

Academic Director, College of Graduate and Professional Studies
Trine University 

“I use OER because it not only supports diverse learning styles, it challenges learners in a more effective way. PALSave is a great initiative that promotes the use of OER; I participate in PALSave to support these efforts.”


Pictured is Elizabeth KigginsElizabeth Kiggins

Instructional Technologist and Assistant Professor
University of Indianapolis

“Access to OER is critical to our students, providing not only a relevant but also an affordable alternative to what can be purchased through normal channels. Students, with ever increasing financial stressors, deserve an affordable option. With OER, they have an option that provides access to a wealth of educational resources and also enhances their learning experiences. I have always viewed one of my primary roles at UIndy as an advocate for our faculty in the integration of instructional technologies into their teaching. PALSave has allowed me to promote these vital resources to our faculty while giving them the ability to provide additional resources for their students and perhaps to become an author for the first time.”

Pictured is Lexie Kuzmishin NagyLexie Kuzmishin Nagy

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
Earlham College

“OER supports my pedagogy and reduces the equity gap in my classes. Rather than using an expensive biochemistry textbook for a single upper-level class, I use various OER textbooks to provide students with a foundation before diving into scientific journals to explore a topic. OER reduces the financial burden of education for my students, while also giving me flexibility in how to approach topics in biochemistry.”

Pictured is Laura Merrifield WilsonLaura Merrifield Wilson

Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Indianapolis

“It is very humbling and an honor to be recognized with this award. Embracing OER is a tremendous opportunity for us as educators and a great asset to our students, so it is a true win-win in higher education.”


Pictured is Alisha MillerAlisha Miller

Assistant Professor of Exercise Science
Anderson University 

“OER to me is a move toward the future and how we can provide increased access to textbooks for our students. It allows for the continuation of learning while significantly decreasing students’ financial burden.”


Pictured is Sarah RowleySarah Rowley

Associate Professor of History
DePauw University 

“I am dedicated to creating thought-provoking, discussion-fostering classroom communities that insist on academic rigor but not at the cost of exclusion. Open educational resources not only reduce the financial burden for students, they also serve the purpose of higher education—to illuminate the world for the common good. Through assigning no-additional-cost class readings and guiding students in a crowd-sourced digital history project, I am trying to make the process of doing historical research accessible to as many students as possible.”

Pictured is Elizabeth ZiffElizabeth Ziff

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
University of Indianapolis

“I am committed to making my classes as equitable as possible and one way I can achieve this is by using OER to ensure all students can access the materials they need. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to participate in the PALSave program, which provided a solid understanding of the wide range of OER available and taught me how to properly and effectively integrate these sources into my classes.”

About PALSave

Funded through grant support from Lilly Endowment, Inc., PALSave combats the rising costs of textbooks by supporting faculty adoption and creation of open and affordable course materials. 

Some of PALSave’s initiatives include:

  • Offering workshops and stipends that give educators the resources they need to transform courses using materials that are entirely free to students
  • Providing textbook creation grants
  • Offering publishing support, and more. 

Data consistently shows that textbook costs affect the academic decisions students make. According to the College Board, the average full-time, on-campus undergraduate at a four-year school was asked to budget $1,100 for books and supplies during the 2022-23 academic year. When students are unable to meet that financial obligation, they are forced to seek out insufficient alternatives or skip buying course material altogether. PALSave works to provide a proactive solution to these barriers by helping faculty adopt openly licensed and fully customizable OER into their courses.

After its fourth year, PALSave is on track to far exceed its initial goals. Highlights of its successes include:

  • $2.2 million total savings now projected from participation levels, which will exceed PALNI’s $1 million goal, and $1,474,782 cumulative savings to date 
  • 24,279 students impacted, saving on average $60.74 each
  • 99% of students reporting a positive or neutral impact on studies and grades with OER
  • 806 faculty reached with educational workshops 
  • 260 courses transformed to include OER  
  • 43% of redesigned courses indicating grade improvement 
  • 621% return on investment with course redesign funds 
  • 100% of PALNI institutions participating in PALSave

For more information, visit the PALSave: PALNI Affordable Learning Program website.


About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. More information can be found at

About the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana

PALNI is a non-profit organization supporting collaboration for library and information services to the libraries of its twenty-four supported institutions. Over time, the library deans and directors who sit on the PALNI board have adjusted the organization’s strategic direction as the internet and information services landscape have changed. PALNI has expanded beyond providing a resource management system to sharing expertise in many areas including strategic planning, reference, information fluency, outreach, data management and configuration, and has identified greater collaboration in acquisitions as a key goal. Visit the PALNI website for more information.

PALNI Supported Institutions 

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary | Anderson University | Bethel University | Butler University | Concordia Theological Seminary | Christian Theological Seminary | DePauw University | Earlham College | Franklin College | Goshen College | Grace College | Hanover College | Huntington University | Manchester University | Marian University | Oakland City University | University of Saint Francis | Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College | Saint Mary’s College | Saint Meinrad’s Seminary and School of Theology | Taylor University | Trine University | University of Indianapolis | Wabash College