Picking Cotton is the University of Kentucky’s 2015 Common Reading Experience Book

The University of Kentucky has selected Picking Cotton, the memoir co-authored by Jennifer Tompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, for the 2015-2016 Common Reading Experience!

All matriculating first-year students will receive a copy of the book from the university when they attend their two-day “see blue.” U Orientation over the summer. Before returning to campus in the fall, they’ll read it and complete a brief assignment in preparation for K-Week 2015, the new student transition and welcome week held just before classes begin. During K-Week, they’ll meet with other new students and upperclassmen serving as Peer Leaders to discuss Picking Cotton.

An initiative of UK’s New Student and Family Programs, Student Affairs, and Undergraduate Education offices, the CRE is meant to introduce new students to scholarly discourse and composition; to provide new classmates with a shared intellectual experience; and to engage the entire UK community around timely and relevant topics through yearlong programming on campus.

Throughout the 2015-2016 academic year, the university will hold events related to the book and its themes and topics: racial dynamics, sexual assault, criminal justice in the U.S., guilt and innocence, memory, and forgiveness.

The University of Kentucky realizes the immediate relevance of these topics for students embarking on their college experience just now in the United States; the university also recognizes that issues like sexual assault and racial dynamics must be approached with great sensitivity. The university has taken care to notify readers that the book may be an emotional trigger for some, especially for survivors of sexual assault. Wherever appropriate, students participating in the CRE are entitled to academic accommodations or alternatives.

Though the book’s complex topics and themes present some challenges for a diverse campus community, this year’s CRE also represents an opportunity for the university to emphasize its policies regarding sexual misconduct, mandatory reporting by UK affiliates, and racial discrimination, harassment, or bias, as well as valuable campus resources like the Counseling Center, the Office for Institutional Diversity, the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity, and the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center

University President Eli Capilouto writes about this, shares information about related resources available on campus, around Central Kentucky, and nationwide, and expresses the importance of the Common Reading Experience to the UK community, in his compelling welcome letter to the newest class of Kentucky Wildcats. Click on the thumbnail at right to read the letter.

The University of Kentucky is one of fourteen schools that have adopted Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption for a common reading program. For more information about the book and about authors, speakers, and activists Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, click here and visit The Innocence Project.

Picking Cotton • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages

Picking Cotton is the 2012 Summer Reading Book at Wheelock College

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton’s Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption is the 2012 Summer Reading Program pick at Wheelock College!

Each incoming first-year student will receive a copy of the book from the college this summer. During orientation in the fall, new students will discuss the book in small groups, led by volunteer faculty and staff members.

Each year, the Summer Reading book is selected by a committee of Wheelock faculty and staff members. The committee evaluates potential titles according to three principles: “alignment with Wheelock’s mission, balance between intellectual merit and accessibility, and connection to the transformative first-year college experience. Picking Cotton stands out in all three categories.”

For more information about Picking Cotton and authors, speakers, and activists Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, click here and visit The Innocence Project.

Picking Cotton • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages

Roberts Wesleyan College Reads This I Believe

This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women is Robert Wesleyan College’s choice for the 2011 campus-wide reading program, Roberts Reads. The book will be assigned reading in all sections of the First-Year Seminar and the Senior Seminar; these two required courses serve as bookends to each student’s academic experience.

Though the program is geared toward first-year and senior students, the whole college is encouraged to participate. Faculty will assign This I Believe in Communication, Education, English, and Liberal Arts courses as well. The Roberts Reads program aims to “challenge students to learn about diverse disciplines . . . to develop essential skills, such as writing, critical thinking; and communication; and to discover countless connections among varied academic disciplines, learning experiences, and faith perspectives.”

The 2010 Roberts Reads title was Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption; Jennifer Thompson-Cannino spoke about advocacy for judicial reform on campus last November. Dan Gediman, public radio veteran and co-editor of two collections of “This I Believe” essays, will visit Roberts Wesleyan to speak this fall.

To see a list of other schools that have adopted This I Believe or the second volume of essays, This I Believe II, as well as other Popular Picks from Macmillan, click here.

This I Believe • Holt Paperbacks • 320 pages

East Carolina University’s 2011-2012 Pirate Read is Picking Cotton

East Carolina University has selected Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton’s Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption for the 2011-2012 Pirate Read common book program!

Incoming first-year students will read Picking Cotton this summer so that they’ll all have the book’s content and context in common with one another, in the classroom and around campus, as soon as they arrive at ECU.  That shared reading experience helps “orient students to the academic community by encouraging intellectual dialogue and critical thinking.”

The book will be assigned reading in courses throughout the ECU curriculum, including first-year composition courses and the Freshman Seminar.  The Pirate Read committee has identified five themes to encourage and help guide discussion, writing, and other coursework that focuses on Picking Cottonevidence, sexual assault and gender power issues, racism within the criminal justice system, memory, and forgiveness and recovery.

A series of co-curricular campus and community activities and events related to the book is in the works as well.  The authors will visit ECU to speak on campus in October.  The Pirate Read will tie in to ECU’s own annual Take Back the Night program, a week-long initiative held on college campuses and in communities nationwide—and around the world—to raise awareness about and take a stand against sexual assault and domestic violence. Learn more about Take Back the Night

Since the first Pirate Read in 2008, a committee of faculty has brainstormed a list of books and made the final selection.  This year, the committee expanded their process, accepting book nominations from ECU faculty, staff and students.  And, for the first time, current students served on the selection committee; their input made the case that Picking Cotton would be the best summer reading material for their incoming peers.

All five of the nominated books were interesting . . . [Picking Cotton] was the favorite . . . We had students who came back and said, ‘I don’t like to read but I couldn’t put this book down.’

Mary Beth Corbin, East Carolina University Office of Student Transitions and First Year Programs, Co-chair of the Pirate Read Committee

To be considered, nominated titles must meet the Pirate Read committee’s criteria. This year, the committee sought a 300-page book that an 18-year-old could read and understand without guidance, that would promote discussions among readers, that is relevant to current issues, and whose author would be available to come and speak on campus.

For more information about Picking Cotton and authors, speakers, and activists Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, click here and visit The Innocence Project.

Picking Cotton • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages

Macmillan’s Common Reading March Madness Picks!

Colleges and universities of all sizes in all regions are gearing up for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament and Macmillan wants in on the bracketology!

Click for a closer look:

Macmillan is not affiliated with the NCAA, ESPN, or HP. Bracket Source: ESPN

Since I’m all about selecting winning books for common reading, I based my bracket picks on the schools that have adopted Macmillan titles for their programs. When neither school had—at least, not this season!—I went with the lower seed (those picks are noted in black). When Macmillan adopters went head to head, I used seed positions to make my predictions, as well.

I proposed the common reading bracket with tongue in cheek, but my little experiment has been fun and informative. Here we have a whole new perspective on the trends and the diversity in common reading selections at schools across the country.

As you can see, the competitors are very well read!

In the East, Ohio State is the favorite with Elie Wiesel’s Night, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, and Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man. First Four victor Clemson has previously adopted Ron Rash’s novel One Foot in Eden, and they’ll be reading his Saints at the River this fall. Common reader MVP No Impact Man is the Fall 2011 book at the University of Kentucky. Nickel and Dimed has been the common reading title at both UNC, Chapel Hill and Syracuse University. The UNC Tarheels have also read Picking Cotton and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, while Syracuse has adopted A Long Way Gone. The University of Washington represents with Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe.

Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone dominates in the West, where the universities of Texas and Tennessee have both selected the book. Hampton University first-year students have been reading Daniel Black’s They Tell Me of a Home just this year and Temple’s have read Elie Wiesel’s Night. Number two seed San Diego State University has adopted Ray C. Anderson’s Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist.

Next, we go to the Southwest, where Boston University has favorites Nickel and Dimed and A Long Way Gone on its roster. The University of Illinois has also adopted Nickel and Dimed and the University of Akron has chosen A Long Way Gone. Class Matters has been read campus-wide at the University of Richmond, while Saint Peter’s has adopted Night. Florida State students submitted their own “This I Believe” essays when the university picked This I Believe—how many of the Seminoles wrote about basketball?

Finally, in the Southeast, University of Pittsburgh students have read Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Utah State has adopted Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone and Wofford College freshmen have read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and Ron Rash’s One Foot in Eden. Students in the University of Wisconsin system, from Parkside to Marathon County, have read everything from This I Believe II to Deep Economy; I hope they’re all united behind the Badgers from Madison! But can sixth-seed Saint John’s take Katharine Weber’s Triangle all the way to the championship?

The Big Dance begins tomorrow—what book are you rooting for?

P.S. For more unconventional bracketology for academics, check out The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Tweed Madness!

Picking Cotton is the First Annual ‘Eagle Read’ at North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University’s 2010-2011 Eagle Reading Experience selection is Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton’s book, Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption.

This is the inaugural year for the Eagle Reading Experience, which is an initiative of NCCU’s Office of Orientation and First-Year Experience.  The program is geared primarily toward first-year students living in residence halls, though transfer students, off-campus residents, and other members of the university community are invited to participate.

Related campus events have included a series of small group discussions, an oratorical contest, and an essay contest. The authors will speak on campus in January 2011.

Sit in on one of the small group discussions about Picking Cotton: NCCU Eagle Reading Experience Discussion on YouTube

The goals of the Eagle Reading Experience are:

  • To provide a common experience for first-year learners who live in the residence halls and to ease the transition into the academic community of NCCU
  • To build an intellectual community among first-year learners, returning students, faculty and staff
  • To help students make connections between classroom and out-of-classroom experiences
  • To engage students in discussions surrounding current societal issues

The common reading program is just one aspect of the extensive and enthusiastic efforts by the Office of Orientation and First-Year Experience to welcome new students and facilitate their transition to the university.  Some of their initiatives include:

  • The NCCU First-Year Blog, co-written by freshman and transfer students who share their own first-year experiences at NCCU
  • The Reel Eagles First-Year Film Showcase, featuring short films made by first-year students about being first-year students
  • The Outstanding First-Year Advocate Award, which recognizes how important, and appreciated, it is to contribute to the collective first-year experience by honoring annually “a faculty or staff member or administrator who has gone above and beyond to ensure student success for undergraduate first-year students and transfers”
  • An active presence on Facebook and Twitter, where they can connect with students in real time and in the students’ own element

Brian Merritt, Associate Director of The Office of Orientation and First-Year Experience, talks about how the group uses social media to achieve its mission to “reach out to prospective and admitted students and ease their transition to the university” in this video: Reaching Prospective Students with Social Media

For more information about Picking Cotton and authors, speakers, and activists Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, click here and visit The Innocence Project.

Picking Cotton • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Selects Picking Cotton for the 2010 Carolina Summer Reading Program

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has selected Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption as the common book for the 2010 Carolina Summer Reading Program!

The book was the unanimous choice of a nine-member selection committee of students, faculty and staff who reviewed books based on the following criteria:

—Intellectually stimulating—stretch students’ minds, cause students to think about things they might not have before
—Enjoyable, engaging, relatively short, easy to read, up-to-date
—Reading that will provoke interesting discussion
—Appropriate for developmental level of incoming students
—Addresses a theme/topic that is applicable to students themselves (i.e., societal issues)

Incoming students will read the book before their freshman orientation.  In the fall, discussion groups will meet in the new students’ dorms as part of the Residential Life orientation program.  Professors will also assign the book  in relevant first-year seminars.

The Carolina Summer Reading Program is designed to provide a common experience for incoming students, to enhance participation in the intellectual life of the campus through stimulating discussion and critical thinking around a current topic, and to encourage a sense of community between students, faculty and staff.

—Office of New Student & Carolina Parent Programs

Topical campus-wide events (film screenings, panel presentations, etc.) to be held during the fall semester are in the works.  One event the University plans to host is a presentation by authors and activists Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, who are both natives of North Carolina.

View the Picking Cotton book trailer:

Click here and visit The Innocence Project to learn more about eyewitness misidentification, which plays a role in more than 75% of the wrongful convictions that are eventually overturned through DNA testing.

In previous summers, UNC at Chapel Hill has adopted Nickel and Dimed and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, both Popular Picks for first-year reading programs.  Visit the Programs page to see lists of other schools that have used those books, and others from Macmillan!

Picking Cotton • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages