‘Niagara Reads’ Escape from Slavery this Fall

For the second time, Niagara University has selected Francis Bok’s Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America for the freshman reading program, Niagara Reads 2010. The university will give copies of the book to new students during their Freshman Welcome events this summer.

The book will be central to the curriculum in “First Year Niagara,” a semester-long freshmen symposium that covers the university’s mission, academic honesty, time management, career exploration, and self evaluation. However, all faculty members are encouraged to adopt the Niagara Reads title in various courses at all levels.  Instructors at NU have incorporated previous common reading books and Niagara Reads programming into courses in composition, business communication, religion, and others!

The program includes a service learning element, an essay contest, and other campus activities.  Through Niagara Reads, the university strives to:

  • provide freshmen with a common experience that is intellectually stimulating
  • set the tone for serious college work
  • convey the message that Niagara University is a place where reading and the exchange of ideas are important
  • encourage students to develop the habit of regular reading for pleasure
  • transmit the values of Niagara University

Escape from Slavery was very well received when it was adopted for the first time in 2006, and was chosen again for this year’s program by a committee of faculty members, staff and students. Francis Bok, who has spoken on campus a couple of times in the past, will address a whole new group of students and faculty in September 2010.

Previously, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein have both been Niagara Reads books.

Escape from Slavery • St. Martin’s Griffin • 304 pages

The Blue Sweater is the 2010 Common Reading Experience Book at UNC, Charlotte

The University of North Carolina, Charlotte has selected Jacqueline Novogratz’s book The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World for the 2010 Common Reading Experience!

First-year students will read, write, and talk about The Blue Sweater in their introductory seminar courses this fall.  Campus-wide, faculty are encouraged to incorporate the book and its ideas about global community action and enacting social change in coursework this year.  The Common Reading Experience at UNC, Charlotte was introduced in 2007 to collectively engage new students and encourage them to explore personal, racial, religious, and cultural issues. The growing program includes freshman seminar classes and several liberal studies, composition and discipline-based courses that participate by assigning the common book.

The author, who is the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, will address the campus community this fall.  Acumen Fund is a nonprofit venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs bringing affordable and sustainable healthcare, water, energy and housing to low-income communities in the developing world.

In The Blue Sweater, Ms. Novogratz traces a path that lead her from a career in international banking to an impoverished village in Rwanda, where a chance encounter with a blue sweater she owned as a child inspired a whole new career and passion.  The book calls on readers to rethink their engagement with the world and to invest in “patient capital,” a business model that extends the life—and the heart—of philanthropy.

A reading guide for students is available.

The Blue Sweater • Rodale Books • 320 pages

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist is San Diego State University’s 2010 Common Experience Book

San Diego State University has selected Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth for the shared reading component of its 2010 Common Experience program!

The Common Experience at SDSU is a year-long, campus-wide program that revolves around a theme; the theme this year, and for the next three years, is Social Justice and Environmental Integrity: A Call to Service.  Ray C. Anderson’s book about sustainable, responsible business will be central to programming based on that theme. Click here for more information about the book.

New students will be asked to read Confessions of a Radical Industrialist this summer, and will hear a brief presentation about it at convocation in the fall. Through the 2010-2011 academic year, those first-year students and continuing upperclassmen will discuss the book in first-year experience classes, selected writing classes, in residence hall discussions and in upper-level courses.

The conversations that begin in those courses will continue through thematically relevant activities and events for the whole campus community—”student journals, films, theater, creative writing, original music and dance performances, art exhibitions, panel discussions, renowned guest speakers, service learning experiences and more, all enrich the process and expand inclusiveness.”

Presented by an assorted group of campus offices, the Common Experience is a collaborative effort to:

—Cultivate a common intellectual conversation across the campus – with special attention to engaging all entering students
—Enhance student participation in the intellectual life of the campus by encouraging discussion of and critical thinking about a core text and common topic
—Foster a sense of community among San Diego State University students, faculty and staff, and the wider community

Previous Common Experience books at SDSU include Nickel and Dimed and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  Both are Popular Picks for common reading from Macmillan!

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist • St. Martin’s Press • 320 pages

No Impact Man Selected for the Common Reading Experience at UNC, Wilmington

Colin Beavan’s book, No Impact Man is the common reading book at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington this fall!

The primary goal of UNCW’s Common Reading Experience (known as the Synergy program) is to introduce first-year students to academic expectations and intellectual engagement and encourage self-reflection and critical thinking through a meaningful common reading experience with peers and faculty.

Check out UNC, Wilmington’s student readers guide, including the book’s themes, reflection questions, and Colin’s six guidelines for a low impact life.

As part of the new student orientation program, the university will send all incoming first-years their own copy of No Impact Man, customized with a letter from Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo. Students will use the book in their Freshman Seminar course in the fall.

For one year, New Yorker Colin Beavan aka “No Impact Man” and his wife and 2-year-old daughter tried to live without making any net impact on the environment. No Impact Man is his account of the experience and all he found out about the planet—and his place on it—in the course of that year with no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets . . .

The entire campus community is invited to participate in the Common Reading Experience.  Lectures, discussion groups, and films related to the book and its themes—sustainability, quality of life, and personal responsibility—will take place on campus throughout the semester.  Perhaps there will be a screening of No Impact Man, the Oscilloscope documentary filmed during the author’s year-long No Impact Experiment?  (Click here for info about screening the film on Earth Day!)

The University of North Carolina, Wilmington adopted A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah for the common reading program in 2009.

Both books are Popular Picks for first-year reading!  Click here to see other colleges and universities that have used them for similar programs.

No Impact Man • Farrar, Straus and Giroux • 288 pages

Update: No Impact Week at UNC, Wilmington!

The University of North Carolina, Wilmington held a campus-wide No Impact Week in September 2010.  Each day was devoted a different area where students could reduce or alter their impact on the planet: Consumption, Trash, Transportation, Food, Energy, Water, and Giving Back.

To kick off the week, Colin Beavan gave the Synergy Common Reading  Keynote Address,  part of the UNCW Leadership Lecture series.  The first common reading author to visit campus, Colin was greeted by a standing room only crowd.

On the Food-themed day UNCW’s Campus Dining and the Housing and Residence Life offices co-sponsored a special event called No Impact Lunch.  Local vendors brought chocolate, hot sauce, and more so students could get a taste for North Carolina’s homegrown products, and Campus Dining served a special menu featuring farm-raised tilapia, smoked turkey quesadillas, and eggplant ratatouille, all prepared with goods purchased locally to minimize impact.

“The No Impact Lunch completely tied in with the book that the students read as well as UNCW’s strategic goal of sustainability . . . Students got to make the connection between the book in a tangible and creative way.”

Rita Gordon, Director of Auxiliary Services, UNC, Wilmington

For its contribution to the No Impact Week initiative, UNC, Wilmington’s Campus Dining services was recognized by the National Association of College and University Food Services!

Colin Beavan invites students and classes to take part in a “No Impact Experiment,” a week-long carbon cleanse that gives readers a chance to see what no-impact living is like. Visit the No Impact Project to find out how it works, watch videos made by previous participants, and receive a How-To Manual.