Introductory Letter from Apereo Foundation's Interim General Manager Patrick Masson

Hello Apereo Community,

I wanted to reach out to introduce myself and share a bit about Apereo’s transition to a new permanent Executive Director.

First, let me thank Ian Dolphin, not only for his tremendous help with getting me up to speed, but more impressively, for his years of dedication and hard work in building the Apereo Foundation: supporting our software communities, cultivating a community of practice in academia and industry, and growing open source software awareness and adoption around the globe. Thank you, Ian, for your vision, leadership, and devotion. The Apereo Foundation is in excellent shape today and poised for continued success moving forward.

I would also like to thank all of you and recognize the community’s contributions, impact, and success. Today, Apereo includes member institutions and commercial partners serving higher education on five continents, all committed to open source software and open innovation in the service of teaching, learning, and research. Apereo’s software communities develop solutions that support every aspect of a campus’ infrastructure and advances students’ academic lives. The Open Apereo conference serves as a focal point for campus staff, administrators, and faculty to discover and co-create the next generation of educational technologies and, even more significantly, techniques. Apereo’s incubation program fosters best practices in the authentic creation of both open source software and the communities that enable it. You have done this, and as a long-time member of both the open source software movement and higher education, I thank you.

Open source software, openness in education, and thus Apereo are more important than ever in ensuring access to and equity in education. For years, open source was rightly touted as a better way to build software, yielding “higher quality, better reliability, greater flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.” Today, in addition to these development benefits, open source software is critical for institutions seeking to innovate, not just in and with technology but across the programs and institutions that rely on technology. Fundamental to both the academic mission and Apereo’s vision, open source enables education by expanding access to students and campuses. Too often students can not afford prohibitively priced proprietary software and thus are limited in pursuing their educational goals. Schools can actually extend academic opportunities and programs by leveraging open source software and engaging with the communities of practice behind it. Apereo is more than a collection of open source projects; it is a network of peers, yes building and sharing code, but fundamentally more, building and sharing education. Congratulations to all of you who have made Apereo the organization it is today, the home of open source software in education.

With such an impressive history and list of accomplishments, I suppose my first goal is not to break anything. I enter this role after serving as the General Manager of the Open Source Initiative for eight years. The OSI, like Apereo, is a non-profit organization with global scope. As the founding organization of the open source software movement, and steward of the open source definition, the OSI works to raise awareness and adoption of open source software. As OSI GM, I had the opportunity to work with Apereo, an OSI Affiliate Member. In addition, through previous roles, I worked with both Jasig and Sakai and thus some of Apereo’s longest-serving contributors. While at the OSI, I also had the privilege of participating in several Apereo programs and conferences.

Prior to the OSI, I worked in higher education, beginning my career as a Medical and Scientific Illustrator at UCLA. At the time, illustration techniques were being replaced by visualization technologies. My work focused on developing educational simulations and models to teach medical and dental students, increasingly online; another area of intense interest and investment at the time. It is while at UCLA that I first became aware of the uPortal project and Sakai. I got involved with both and eventually joined the Jasig board during its merger with Sakai, forming—as you know--what is today Apereo Foundation. After UCLA, I joined the SUNY Learning Network, which provides online educational resources (a learning management system, instructional design, help desk support, etc.) to the State University of New York’s sixty-four campuses. I left SUNY’s system offices to accept a position as CIO on one of those campuses, SUNY Delhi. From there, I worked as CTO at UMassOnline. Like the SUNY Learning Network, UMassOnline supported the University of Massachusetts and other Massachusetts colleges and universities with access to online educational technologies and resources.

The Apereo Board has asked me to take this time of transition to reflect on and assess Apereo’s current operational activities and capacity—business practices and processes—to prepare the organization for hiring a permanent executive. My resulting work should be a resource for both the Board to help them identify where to invest and the new E.D. to help them understand capabilities and define direction. I think this approach is exactly right and have committed to providing the Apereo Board and community a comprehensive review of Apereo’s current activities and initiatives, related resourcing, and internal policies and procedures.

To deliver this mandate, I hope to meet with folks in the community doing the real work. While I have been an admirer and advocate for Apereo (even a past contributor), honestly, I do not have the depth of knowledge or experience needed to deliver what the Board has asked without the community's help. I have already had the opportunity to speak with several members of the Apereo community, but I am still scheduling more introductions. If I have not connected with you yet, please feel free to contact me (patrick.masson[at]apereo[dot]org). I would value the opportunity to learn about you, your project(s), your interests, and your experiences with Apereo. I hope you will be patient with me as I begin my work to understand and capture the culture and community of Apereo—I have a lot to learn and need much help.

Finally, I would like to thank the Apereo Board for their confidence and support. I am so excited to work with Apereo, a community representing my two greatest professional passions, open source software and education. I also thank all of you who have welcomed me so far for all your well wishes, encouragement, and incredible knowledge. I am overwhelmed by the spirit of generosity and collaboration across Apereo. It is an honor and a privilege to work with you all.

Thanks so much (and talk soon),