Promoting success: Music professor involved in Open Educational Resources

BROWNSVILLE — University of Texas Rio Grande Valley music professor Art Brownlow has worked on the UTRGV Brownsville campus since 1984 but for four different institutions: Texas Southmost College, The University of Texas at Brownsville, UTB and TSC, and since the merger, UTRGV.

Brownlow, a trumpet player, was the director of trumpet studies at UTB for many years and still teaches music history at UTRGV. Three years ago he added the title of faculty fellow for academic innovation, which he said takes up more of his workload than music.

As faculty fellow he is involved in projects promoting student success. One was bringing Apple Authorized Campus Stores to UTRGV campuses in Brownsville and Edinburg. The stores are significant because students, faculty, staff and alumni at both campuses and their legacy institutions qualify for an 8% educational discount on Apple products.

Brownlow said that during the process of securing the designation and in traveling to other campuses over the years, equity for students came to mind.

“It’s been a concern to me, a sense of equity, sense of fairness,” he said. “You know, I go to these other institutions around the state and I see beautiful performing arts centers and I see Apple stores on their campuses and I think why can’t we have that? … We deserve it here just as much as they do in Austin. We have talented students that can take advantage of these things.”

Brownlow also is involved in the Open Educational Resources, “which is basically open-source textbooks and classroom materials for students that result in zero cost, because we all know about the rising cost of higher education and along with that goes a huge rising cost of textbooks over the last 20 years,” he said.

“There’s a pretty strong movement across the country to provide zero-cost textbooks, so we have an OER program here that’s run jointly by academic affairs and the library, and I cover the academic affairs side,” he said. “We recruit faculty and try to interest faculty in adopting open-source textbooks that result in no textbook costs for our students.”

When Brownlow came to TSC in 1984 there were only five music instructors and the program was just starting to take off. At the time he had only to complete his thesis for a master’s degree in musicology from the University of North Carolina.

Instead he came to TSC, later taking a year off to complete his doctorate in trumpet at the University of Texas at Austin.