“Why not read now?” asks Southern Connecticut State University, which most recently selected This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, for its common book program, Southern Reads.
Last summer, when new SCSU students attended Orientation, they each received a copy of the book from the university’s Hilton C. Buley library. The library provided the books for all first-year students, as it has every summer since the program’s inception in 2010.
Students began reading right away with a short overnight assignment while they stayed on campus for New Student Orientation. On the second day of NSO, they got a preview of the college seminar experience in “mock classroom” session, where they completed reading comprehension self-assessments and discussed the book with peers and faculty.
Why Not Read Now? is designed to inspire Southern freshmen, faculty, staff, and students to open their minds by opening a common book over the summer and getting prepared to come back in the fall ready to think about it, write about it, talk about it, and listen to what others have to say about it.
After NSO, students took This I Believe home to finish reading and continue to “reflect on the fundamental values that guide their lives,” before returning to campus to begin classes in September.
For most first-year students, those classes included Inquiry, part of SCSU’s Liberal Education curriculum. Part learning community, part college transition workshop, part composition course, Inquiry brings students together in groups of about 20—an instant network of peers. Faculty from a variety of academic departments teach two complementary seminars: Critical Thinking and INQ 101: Introduction to Intellectual and Creative Inquiry.
Critical Thinking “helps prepare students to identify problems and to think effectively about their solutions . . . These skills are necessary for active learning and independent thinking; they are also essential for academic success and good decision-making in students’ personal, professional and public lives.”
In INQ 101, students focus “on essentials like reading, writing, thinking, research and inquiry skills, and frameworks for building an academic habit of mind—in other words, thinking like a college student.” Here, they’ll have opportunities to think, speak, and write about This I Believe and about their own beliefs and values.
Beyond the classroom, SCSU recognized and celebrated beliefs and values with a campus visit and book discussions by This I Believe co-editor Dan Gediman, a lecture series featuring campus leaders from the student body and the SCSU faculty, and an art exhibition in honor of the university’s new President.
Several university offices sponsored a This I Believe essay contest and accepted entries in four categories: first-year students, returning students graduate students, and faculty and staff. Meanwhile, the university held open Creative Writing Workshops for anyone working on an essay for the contest. In December, the winners read their essays for a standing room only audience on campus!
This I Believe • Picador • 320 pages