Episode 171

Chris Baker & Stephen Jacobs on Open@RIT


April 28th, 2023

40 mins 56 secs

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Special Guests

About this Episode


Chris Baker | Stephen Jacobs


Richard Littauer | Justin Dorfman | Abby Cabunoc Mayes

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. Today, we are excited to have as our guests, Chris Baker and Stephen Jacobs, who work at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). Chris is the Assistant Director for the Open@RIT Program Office, and Stephen is a Professor at RIT and the Founder of Open@RIT.

Our conversations today focus on how academia is trying to integrate open source into traditional academic practices, and how OSPO’s are creating standards and best practices. Stephen and Chris also discuss how to help students deal with diverse incentives in open source and academia, the importance of role diversity in software development, and Stephen advocates for policy change to recognize the value of open work and to give credit to those who do it. Download this episode to hear more!

[00:01:39] Chris fills us in on Open RIT where they’re working to build open community and foster collaboration in the open space.

[00:03:19] Stephen tells us about RIT having an open source department that teaches open source classes, offers an academic minor, and has an experiential education program.

[00:07:50] Abby wonders if OSPO’s are creating more career pathways, and Stephen explains they hope to create more opportunities in open source work in the future.

[00:10:19] We hear about The Boyer’s model of scholarship, and a classification system of four types of scholarship, and Stephen mentions the classic “Einstein Eureka” model being one of many, and he brings up Open Work Definition that RIT and a couple of other collaborators put out.

[00:15:06] Stephen talks about The Sloan Foundation and why they’re so interested in the research space of open source.

[00:17:37] Open@RIT was founded by Stephen, Chris is the Assistant Director, and Mike Nolan is the Associate Director, and we’ll hear about their responsibilities.

[00:19:03] Chris explains how he’s helping students deal with diverse incentives in open source and academia, and Stephen adds there’s a need for educating on open science practices.

[00:23:45] Stephen believes that policy need to change to recognize the value of open work and to give credit to those who do it. He also discusses the importance of role diversity in software development and how it can lead to more DEIA friendly projects.

[00:27:10] What successful alumni came out of the Open@RIT? How about Justin Flory Jenn Kotler, and our very own Django Skorupa.

[00:29:29] Chris and Stephen talk about other avenues they’re pursuing to help teach open work outside of the university, and the FOSSY conference is mentioned.

[00:33:59] Find out where you can learn more about Open work at RIT and where you can follow Chris and Stephen on the web.


[00:04:25] “We became the second university with an OSPO.”

[00:19:42] “We’re taking students given their backgrounds, whether it be full-stack developers, or graphic design, and using that to produce the structure for open work inside of research.”


  • [00:36:49] Justin’s spotlight is the 988 Crisis Lifeline.
  • [00:37:23 Abby’s spotlight is GitHub + Slack Integration open source project.
  • [00:37:45] Richard’s spotlight is getyourshittogether.org and Brain Donor Project.
  • [00:38:28] Stephen’s spotlight is Software Freedom Conservancy FOSSY Conf.
  • [00:38:55] Chris’s spotlight is the young ladies in rural high schools who are standing up to passive and aggressive sexism.



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