The University of Houston’s First Common Reading Book is Step Out on Nothing

The inaugural book selected for the University of Houston’s Provost Summer Read Program is Byron Pitts’ Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges. The journalist’s memoir represents the first academic assignment for students in the class of 2018.

Each first year student will receive a copy at New Student Orientation sessions this summer, courtesy of the university. They’ll be asked to read the book and return to campus in August prepared to explore its themes with their peers in faculty-led seminar discussions.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their own experiences and how they relate to Step Out on Nothing. The Office of the Provost invites first years to pen essays about their own challenges and achievements, their own mentors, and their own leaps of faith or “steps out on nothing.” Fifteen writers who enter the essay contest will win a seat at lunch with Byron Pitts in September when he visits campus to give a keynote address.

“[The Provost Summer Read Program] provides a common experience for all first-year students in each of the 10 academic colleges with undergraduate majors . . . [The program] also sets the tone for the kind of critical thinking and intellectual rigor that will be expected from their college work at UH.”

Paula Myrick Short, Ph.D., Senior Vice Chancellor/Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

As they kick off their new student success initiative, the University of Houston has these goals in mind:

—To engender a sense of community among first year students through participation in a shared activity
—To provide first year students with an opportunity to engage with other first year students and faculty at an early stage in their academic career.
—To introduce first year students to the intellectual climate of the university
—To learn to appreciate the role that dialogue and reasoned exchange of ideas plays in student success
—To promote reading and writing as a way of developing analytical skills and the ability to think critically

An interdisciplinary committee of faculty selected Step Out on Nothing for the first Provost Summer Read. Going forward, the selection committee also will consider books recommended by members of the university community.

Step Out on Nothing • St. Martin’s Press • 304 pages

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Step Out on Nothing is the First Year Experience Book at Washington Adventist University

Washington Adventist University selected Byron Pitts’ Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges for the First Year Experience Summer Reading Assignment this year.  Incoming WAU students read the book over the summer; their first college course assignment, four short essay responses to questions about the book, was due on their first day of class.

The Summer Reading Assignment at WAU emphasizes reading and writing skills and the important connection between the two.

Step Out on Nothing was selected, in part, to encourage students to emulate the author’s discipline and determination in the face of life’s challenges.  As they embark on their college journeys, students “will be faced with all kinds of challenges,” writes FYE Director, Sophia Ward.  “Learning how to conquer these situations will be a key component of your success.”

As they read the book, students were asked to consider how they could apply Mr. Pitts’ approach to success to their own lives.

As you begin to identify hurdles you, your family members, maybe even your friends have encountered, ask yourself: How did I deal with these difficulties? What lessons have I learned from those experiences that can help me rise above any challenges I may face while at WAU? What tools will I need to be successful in college? What is my plan? Keep asking these questions, and as you begin to form answers, recognize that even this process is part of your college journey.

Why this particular book?: Washington Adventist University FYE Summer Reading Assignment

For the first writing assignment, WAU provided nine short essay questions and asked students to answer four of them.  Click here to view the questions.  The assignment was not simply to answer the questions; it called specifically for first-years to give thought to the ideas and do their best work in order to make a positive first impression as WAU students.

Step Out on Nothing • St. Martin’s Press • 304 pages