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Cailyn Nagle has joined the Michelson 20MM Foundation as the Open Education Resources (OER) Program Manager. In their new role, Cailyn will be building on the foundation’s decade-long work to remove the high cost of course materials as a barrier students face in accessing higher education. 

While receiving their bachelors degree in anthropology and archaeology from the University of Georgia, she first got involved in social change through the Occupy movement in Atlanta and then through local issues in Athens. After graduating, she worked on field campaigns ranging from nuclear disarmament to electoral races, but sought to find their way to deeper organizing. That led her to working as a campus organizer with the Student PIRGs in Southern California.

“Open education means not only removing one of the barriers to access higher education, but removing the walls to knowledge, both in its creation and distribution,” Cailyn said. “I got involved in social change as a student and have seen firsthand the impact they can have. Students can change the world for the better, and we should support them in doing so.”  

Cailyn worked alongside students to recruit hundreds of volunteers, develop students’ leadership skills, and run campaigns. In her time organizing students in the University of California system, she helped make progress on issues like youth voter registration, renewable energy, and, of course, textbook affordability. The vision of open education, that anyone anywhere could access high quality educational materials free of cost became a major motivator for her. 

From campus organizing, Cailyn moved on to direct the Affordable Textbooks Campaign with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. In this role, she authored two large national student surveys on textbook affordability. The first surveyed nearly 4,000 students across 83 institutions and found that despite the claimed improvements to affordability in the textbook marketplace over the half decade, students continued to skip buying textbooks at the same rate as six years ago. Even more shocking, the survey found nearly one in five skipped buying courseware due to cost, meaning students were being priced out of accessing essential assignments. The second survey was larger in scale, surveying more than 5,000 students, and showed the students most impacted by the pandemic were even more deeply impacted by the high cost of course materials than their peers. 

In addition to research, Cailyn played key roles in designing and advising on textbook affordability campaigns like expanding open textbooks use in California and pushing back on involuntary automatic textbook billing in Florida. They have run trainings for student leaders, librarians, educators, and campus administrators on building support for local textbook affordability initiatives across the country.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.