Academic Movers Q&A: Regina Gong, Advocating for Student Success and Library Integration

Regina Gong was named a 2023 LJ Mover & Shaker for her work developing a student-centered Open Educational Resources (OER) program at Michigan State University (MSU) Libraries to help make education more accessible and equitable, especially for underserved populations. Since being named a Mover, she’s moved on to a position that’s providing her a wider range of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) opportunities. 

Regina Gong head shotRegina Gong was named a 2023 Library Journal Mover & Shaker for her work developing a student-centered Open Educational Resources (OER) program at Michigan State University (MSU) Libraries to help make education more accessible and equitable, especially for underserved populations. Since being named a Mover, she’s moved on to a position that’s providing her a wider range of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) opportunities. LJ recently reached out to her to learn more about her new role.

LJ: What prompted you to take a position at the University of San Diego (USD)?

Regina Gong: It really melds all of my passions and interests. The position is new—my official title is associate dean for student success and diversity. It’s a move up from my previous position because it’s an associate dean position. But what I’m really excited about is [USD] is a small institution compared to MSU. MSU is a public university and USD is a private Catholic liberal arts university with a strong social justice focus, which is really where I want to be. I want to be in an institution that’s minority-serving.

But while the position is new, I’m not new in the field. I’ve been doing OER work for a decade now, and I’m well known in the field of open education. Being in this position at this institution really allows me to make more impact.

Is your role still within the library system?

Yes. This is the first time that I’ve worked in an academic library where the library is considered a college. Our dean is part of the council of deans. Librarians are actually tenure-track, not the pseudo-tenure where we have a different tenure and promotion track called continuing appointment. We’re not different from other faculty. I’m on the fast track for tenure and promotion. Normally it’s six or seven years, but I’m expedited, which means three years.

How do your role and the library itself figure into the college system at USD?

I’m trying to make the library a very integrated part of the university overall. It’s a separate arm over here. I’m also the main point of contact for all our ethnic identity–based student groups. I work closely with our vice provost for diversity and inclusion. I work with the programs within USD that cater to our underserved, low-income, first-generation students. I want to know what their information-seeking behaviors are. We know that the library catalog is not their first destination when they’re looking for materials. So how do we introduce the concept of the library beyond a storage space of books?

Our students use the library as a place for quiet study, use our group and individual study rooms—it’s a haven for them. I asked them, and I asked the directors working closely with them, what they need. Now I have six modules I present to help them, including topics on critical thinking and digital literacy. They may not even know what they need in some cases to get the information they need. Last night I had a workshop with our Filipino student organization students, and one of them didn’t know about ILL [interlibrary loan]. So I could open up a huge avenue of resources and research that way.

You’ve only been in this position since February 2023. What has it been like so far?

This position is more expansive and plays to my strengths of having that close connection with students, faculty, and other folks on campus. I know there are a lot of student success librarians out there in other institutions, but what is different is the intentionality with which I approach this work. For example, I design student success workshops geared toward our students who are here on scholarships. I partner with our student support services programs that serve our low-income, underrepresented students. I ask them how we can leverage the things that we offer in the library and help them succeed. One of the student success workshops I’ve done is on note taking, listening, reading. I’m not approaching our students with a deficit-based lens. My philosophy is that I want the students to be aware that we’re here in the library for them. I also want them to see my role of associate dean as a Filipina, a woman of color. They see me, and they see possibilities. Historically, librarianship is predominantly white women, and for me in my position to have that interaction with them, it’s another level. And one of the things that really drew me to this position is that for the first time in my academic library career, I report to a dean who is a woman of color. The university is really intentional in having that community. For academic year 2023–24 there are 16 of us new faculty, and out of that 16, 10 are people of color.

I’m also partnering with other units on campus because student success is everyone’s job. But the plethora of services a university or college offers is so overwhelming for students. That’s a proactive thing we do in the library, bringing them closer to what they need.

Are you still involved in OER work?

I am, but it’s not my full-time focus as opposed to when I was at MSU. My goal for the OER program here is to have more adoptions of existing OER. Since I arrived, I’ve been successful in having four USD colleges become part of [open source cloud computing platform] OpenStack. Our goal is to increase the use of open textbooks, mostly for those courses that are high-enrollment and introductory college courses.

What else does the future hold?

I’m about to defend my PhD dissertation in higher education administration. It’s been a five-year journey, and this December, I’m going to march. One thing that I’m looking forward to, more than the opportunities that having it would afford a woman of color like me, is it really is a journey to discovering myself, growing intellectually as a scholar. It complements my background in librarianship. We’re situated in a bigger institution, which is higher education. It’s imperative for us librarians to understand the context we’re in. I’m going to be a leader in higher education, which I don’t see a lot of myself out there right now [as a non-white leader]. And the old saying of lifting each other up—we lift each other up by barging into the rooms where folks have already claimed their chairs.

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