What has been the most important part of your time at Trinity?  For me, it is the faculty who care deeply for their students, whose passion is helping students find their own. The right mentor can cultivate enthusiasm for an idea or field of study into a calling.

So many aspects of Trinity are designed to facilitate this connection — faculty at the top of their field who bridge research and teaching, class sizes small enough to allow you to get to know your professors, a residential campus that creates a community of learning. During my time at Trinity, I found this transformative connection in the library through Diane Graves, Trinity’s university librarian.

Diane’s passion ignited my own. While studying abroad after my first year, I learned of MIT’s OpenCourseWare platform which makes their faculty’s course materials available online free of charge to anyone in the world. In 2006, this idea of utilizing the Internet to advance research and education by making them accessible to all was just beginning to take off, but Diane was already at the forefront. Through her, I learned both the basics of these issues and how to take action to advance them.

With Diane’s leadership, Trinity itself has become a leader in this area. In 2009, Trinity was the first liberal arts college in the country to pass an institutional open access policy, making the faculty’s scholarship accessible to anyone online. This policy put Trinity among a handful of institutions at the forefront of the movement to open up research, joining others like MIT, Harvard and the University of Kansas.
These policies matter. Subscriptions to the academic journals that publish this research often cost thousands of dollars per year. Trinity alone spends more than a million dollars each year on subscriptions. These high prices keep the cutting edge of human knowledge locked away to all except those at the wealthiest institutions. Don’t forget, your library card expires at graduation.

However, thanks in part to policies like Trinity’s, the default is moving toward open. Four years after Trinity’s passed, the White House established a policy requiring all federally funded research be made publicly accessible. As of Jan. 1, any research funded by the Gates Foundation must be made immediately accessible in an open access journal that anyone can read.

I found my calling in working with Diane to help pass that policy. After graduation, I went to work for SPARC, an international advocacy organization that works to open up research and education, where I founded the Right to Research Coalition. The coalition is now comprised of student organizations from around the world — collectively representing millions of students in over 100 countries — that advocate for open research practices. Diane’s enthusiasm kindled my own, and her positive, persistent approach to creating change is a model I still use today.

After 16 years at Trinity, Diane is retiring this week. While she will no longer be on campus every day, Diane’s impact on the institution and the students she served will continue for a long time to come. For this former student, that impact will last a lifetime.