Class Matters at Bryn Mawr: The College’s Inaugural Common Reading Program

For its first-ever common reading program, Bryn Mawr College has chosen Class Matters, from the highly-acclaimed New York Times series of the same title. In July, the school sent a copy to every member of the Class of 2015, so they’ll be getting a jump-start on their first college reading assignments!

Class Matters was selected by Bryn Mawr’s Diversity Leadership Group, writes Michele A. Rasmussen, Dean of the Undergraduate College. The Diversity Leadership Group is “a committee of senior administrators and faculty [who] devise campus-wide diversity programming. Members of the committee were familiar with the book and thought it would be a particularly good choice for our students.”

The college purchased copies of Class Matters for the first-year class with a gift from Bryn Mawr’s Alumnae Association, which is also spreading the word about the book and encouraging its members to participate.

In fact, Bryn Mawr aims to involve as much of the college community as possible in this inaugural shared reading experience by “ask[ing] members of the campus community to suggest activities focused on the reading.” The college’s goal is to sustain an interdisciplinary conversation about socioeconomic class and its influences on individuals and society on campus throughout the 2011-2012 academic year.

That ongoing conversation and other related programming will evolve alongside the Diversity Leadership Group and Diversity Council’s year-long Class Dismissed? initiative. With a film series, collaborative community projects, on-campus speakers, and the common reading of Class Matters,  Class Dismissed? will serve as a platform for community engagement, awareness, and action related to the topic of socioeconomic class.

Class Matters • Times Books • 288 pages

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University of Arkansas’ One Book, One Community Title is No Impact Man

Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man is the 2011 selection for the One Book, One Community all-campus common reading program at the University of Arkansas!

First-year students will read, discuss, and write about the book in Freshman Composition; adoptions are also anticipated in other courses, especially those emphasizing rhetoric and composition, environmental studies, and sustainability (the university approved an interdisciplinary undergraduate Minor in Sustainability in April).

“[No Impact Man] has a rich personal narrative that is driven by conflict, both internal—within the author’s mind—and external—with his immediate and extended families and with consumer-driven society at large—making it a compelling read.”

Raina Smith Lyons, Interim Director of the Program in Rhetoric and Composition and One Book, One Community Committee Member

Colin Beavan will visit in October to speak with students and faculty and deliver a public lecture on campus, and also meet with local book club members at the Fayetteville Public Library, which will be collaborating with the university on the OBOC program for the third year.

“The One Book committee wanted [a book] that could tap into students’ concern about the environment [and] the university’s and community’s sustainability efforts . . . We received a number of really excellent suggestions from the campus and the community, and I think we’ve found a book that will educate, entertain and stimulate some lively discussion.”

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Jones Chair in Community, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and Co-chair, One Book, One Community Committee

Already a leader in campus sustainability practices and principles, the University of Arkansas has established a mission to reduce its environmental impact:

—through education of students and citizens about environmental stewardship and sustainability
—through research to develop knowledge and technologies that facilitate sustainability and improved environmental stewardship
—by committing to become a carbon neutral institution as soon as it is practical
—by committing to become a zero-waste institution as soon as it is practical
—by serving as an exemplar of environmental stewardship for our community, Arkansas, and the world

With support from university departments and services like the Quality Writing Center, the Sustainability Council, the Applied Sustainability Center, and Facilities Management, the OBOC committee is planning a variety of interdisciplinary and interactive events that relate to No Impact Man and the 2011 OBOC theme: Creating and Living in a Sustainable World.  Plans include a September screening of the “No Impact Man” documentary, faculty panels, visual art and design exhibitions (like Master of Fine Arts candidate Szilvia Kadas’s showcase, Small Footprint) and student action projects that promote sustainable practices on campus and in the local communities.

Read about other schools that have selected No Impact Man for common reading initiatives and their No Impact Weeks and sustainability efforts here!

No Impact Man • Picador • 288 pages