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

Clark Atlanta University’s Class of 2015 Reads Daniel Black’s Perfect Peace

For the second year in a row, Daniel Black’s Perfect Peace is the common reading assignment for incoming first-year students at Clark Atlanta University!

Members of Class of 2015 are reading the novel before they arrive on campus for CAU Experience, the new student orientation program, which begins on August 17.  The author will facilitate several discussion sessions about this year’s book on campus during CAU Experience.

Throughout the school year, students will continue to discuss and write about Perfect Peace in the two-semester First Year Seminar, which is a required course for all new students.  The First Year Seminar at CAU “assist[s] students with the transition to the University . . . It also focuses on academic, personal and social issues relevant to college life.”

In previous years, the university has assigned other works by Daniel Black, including They Tell Me of a Home and The Sacred Place for the First-Year Seminar required reading. Dr. Black is an Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and Africana Women’s Studies at CAU, where he studied English as an undergraduate himself.

Perfect Peace • St. Martin’s Press • 352 pages

Justice is the 2011 Common Reading Book at Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University has chosen Michael J. Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? for the 2011 Common Reading Program.  Members of the incoming Class of 2015 will all receive a copy of the book when they visit campus for three-day New Student Orientation in July and August.

Students will read the book this summer, and they’ll have the opportunity to enter the annual Common Reading Program Essay Contest by responding to this prompt:

In your own words, describe the purpose(s) of American universities. Then, using some of the philosophical perspectives examined in Michel J. Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? decide if these purposes are just.

The winners, who’ll be announced in the fall, will receive a $300 University Bookstore gift certificate!

In August, first-years will return to campus for Welcome Days, a time for new students, and returning upperclassmen, as well, to connect and reconnect with the Case community through academic and social programming.

In addition to Meet the Faculty seminars, practical campus info sessions, a community service day called Case Connects!, and social activities like a Welcome Back Dance and an all-campus concert, new students will gather in small groups to discuss Justice during their first Share the Vision event.

Share the Vision is an ongoing initiative to “promote a just and humane campus for all.”  For 21 years, Case has been striving, as a campus community, to:

  • support the worth and dignity of each individual
  • respect new ideas and encourage examination and discussion of differing opinions
  • appreciate and enjoy our rich cultural, ethnic and racial diversity
  • reach for excellence and integrity in teaching, scholarship, research and service
  • promote justice and compassion on our campus and in our world
Through annual events like MLK Week, the Faculty/Staff vs. Student Basketball Game, and the Student Leadership Awards, and weekly events like non-traditional SatCo (short for Saturday College) experiential courses and workshops, and Community Hour forums, Case supports and celebrates the same principles that Michael Sandel writes about in Justice.

The author will visit Case and give the keynote address at University Convocation.  Here, Professor Sandel puts justice in terms of flutes, golf, and same-sex marriage at the TED2010 Conference in February 2010.

(For a quick snapshot of the twenty-minute lecture, watch at 7:30-8:45 when the audience joins Sandel in a debate about the 2001 Supreme Court case PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin.)

Last year, the Class of 2014 read Elizabeth Royte’s Bottlemania for the CWRU Common Reading Program.  The book tied in with the campus-wide Year of Water effort, during which the university implemented new and enduring water conservation measures and was recognized regionally and nationally for its accomplishments.

Justice • Farrar, Straus & Giroux Paperbacks • 320 pages

No Impact Man: The 2011 Common Experience at Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green State University has selected Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man for the 2011 Common Reading Experience!  No Impact Man meets this year’s selection criteria, which called for a readable, engaging, and relevant contemporary book about the human condition or human experience, that appeals to both men and women, and is rich in content and themes that challenge students to think critically.

The objectives of the Common Reading Experience are to:

—encourage students to read beyond textbooks.
—raise awareness and tolerance of intergenerational and cultural likenesses and differences.
—promote academic discourse and critical thinking.
—provide an introduction to the expectations of higher education.
—create a sense of community among students, faculty and staff.
—integrate an academic and social experience into the campus community.

The book will be one point of focus of BGSU’s first-year transition course, UNIV1000: The University Success Seminar. UNIV1000 “exposes [first-year students] to the resources of BGSU, diverse cultures and ideas, and promotes the development of intellectual, personal, and social skills that will assist in future semesters at BGSU and beyond.”

No Impact Man will also be incorporated into BGeXperience, a unique values-based orientation program that links the academic and residential aspects of campus life with students’ personal development, recognizing all three as important elements of a fulfilling BGSU experience.  The program is “designed to help students examine their own and others’ values, understand the role values play in decision-making, and learn to make thoughtful decisions about value judgments they make.”  Watch What is BGeX? on Facebook

BGeX also fosters relationships among peers and instructors, including each student’s appointed academic advisor.  Peer Facilitators and Resident Advisors will lead small group discussions about No Impact Man during BGeXperience Introduction, held before classes begin, and many will continue to use the book in BGeX seminars and campus activities throughout the semester.

No Impact Man is an apt choice for BGSU, where green initiatives have been part of campus life for many years.  In fact, the university introduces new students to its campus-wide environmental values through the First Year Orientation program.  In the freshmen’s Survival Guide, Going Green is as important as major dates on the BGSU academic calendar and Campus Lingo!

A Student’s Guide to Green Living at BGSU outlines some of the green programs and policies set in place by Dining Services, Residential Life, Campus Operations, and the Center for Environmental Programs, as well as student organizations like the Environmental Action Group, the Environmental Service Club, and the Environmental Health Group. And students who have new ideas for sustainability initiatives can apply for funding through the Student Green Initiative Fund, established in 2009 to support green projects are proposed and implemented by BGSU students.

BGSU Student Sustainability Involvement

For two consecutive years in 2009 and 2010, Bowling Green State University selected another Popular Pick for the Common Reading Experience: This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. The BGSU Honors Program participated by inviting students, faculty, and administrators to write an essay of their own sharing the personal philosophies and core values that guide their daily lives. The Honors program published a selection of those essays in a book called Voices and Values in 2010.  Listen to two students’ This I Believe statements

More schools that have adopted No Impact Man and This I Believe for common reading programs are listed here.

No Impact Man • Picador • 288 pages

Texas State Picks The U.S. Constitution for the 2011-12 Common Experience

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, written by Jonathan Hennessey with art by Aaron McConnell, is the summer reading book for the 2011-2012 Common Experience program at Texas State University, San Marcos.

For the Class of 2015, The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, will be a central text in the University Seminar, a course that emphasizes practical academic skills, civic responsibility, and respect for diversity in individuals and ideas.  It “encourages reflection upon the value and nature of a university education, as well as helping students to develop strategies for life-long learning.”

The university will give copies of the book to the incoming students to read this summer. In the fall, the Common Experience will commence with Fall Convocation.  There, new students will be officially welcomed as members of the TSU community, and will hear a keynote address about the 2011-2012 Common Experience theme: Freedoms: The First Amendment.

[This is] an interdisciplinary theme that affects all departments, offices, and organizations at Texas State—thus allowing for a cross-disciplinary, cross-campus, and multi-organizational conversation. The First Amendment protects the basic freedoms of religion, expression (speech), press, and assembly. Discussion and examination of the First Amendment will allow students, faculty, and staff to understand the Founding Fathers’ intentions regarding basic freedoms.

Common Experience 2011-2012

A series of film screenings, artistic and historical exhibits, lectures, mini-conferences, and community service events will proceed throughout the academic year. A complete calendar of events related to the Common Experience and the summer reading book will be posted here: 2011-2012 Common Experience Calendar

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation book trailer:

Last year, Common Experience theme at Texas State University was Sustainability: Science, Policy, and Opportunity, and the summer reading book was No Impact Man. Click here to read about the 2010-2011 Common Experience program.

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation • Hill & Wang • 160 pages

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

No Impact Man is Ohio State’s 2010 Buckeye Book

No Impact Man is the 2010 pick for the Buckeye Book Community at Ohio State University!  Every first-year student received a copy at summer orientation.  They read the book over the summer and returned to campus in the fall prepared to discuss it—and embark on their own No Impact experience.

For a decade, the Buckeye Book Community program selected a book about a relevant social issue and assigned the reading to the incoming first-year class.  The shared reading experience:

—Promotes reflection and dialogue among first-year students and faculty/staff around a common academic activity
—Introduces students to expectations of higher education
—Cultivates the life of the mind in and outside the classroom
—Helps foster community among first-year students
—Connects first-year students to faculty and staff through co-curricular programming
—Provides students with the opportunity to hear from the author, engage with the author through Q&A, and gain a greater understanding of the author’s motivation and writing process

Colin Beavan, author and the founder of No Impact Project, spent two days on campus this month.  In the evenings, he spoke to large audiences about why his family embarked on a year-long No Impact Experiment and how the experience changed his perception of human impact on the environment, strengthened his resolve to make longterm lifestyle changes on behalf of the planet, and shifted his personal values and goals.

Colin also joined students in smaller discussion groups to talk about writing and reading No Impact Man and share ideas about conservation and sustainability practices on campus.

Watch and Listen: “No Impact Week” at The Ohio State University

Those ideas were put into action during OSU’s No Impact Week, October 10-17.  To kick it off, Students for a Sustainable Campus sponsored the fourth annual Scarlett, Gray, and Green Fair, featuring more than forty booths (and free food, free t-shirts, and the chance to win a free bike!)  University administrative departments like the Office of Business and the Office of Energy Services, as well as environmental organizations and companies from across the state, showcased their environmentally friendly goals and achievements and encouraged students to get involved, as well.

Some students and faculty contributors to the Ohio State No Impact Blog shared their thoughts about No Impact Man and No Impact Week with the whole campus community:

“After reading No Impact Man, I realized more than ever that being environmentally friendly not only helps the environment (clearly), but could actually significantly improve my life.

For example, this book, along with my summer internship with Consider Biking, is the reason I have taken my bike on errands instead of my car. As a result, I am in better shape and have saved a lot of money on gas. Another change No Impact Man has led me to make is watching less TV. It is amazing how much more I get done now. And while I thought TV was helping me unwind, I am actually more relaxed if I read, play guitar, go running, etc.

Therefore, I am interested to see how participating in no Impact Week will further change my habits for the better. I realize that a lot of the changes are very easy and I should have already been doing them, but I think this is the push I need.”

Stacy Weisfeld, OSU Class of 2011, Vice President of Students for Recycling, Assistant to Director of Sustainability and Energy Management

Themed days throughout the week zeroed in on reducing impact in different areas.  For instance, Consumption and Trash Day included a tour of the local Rumpke Recycling facility, distribution of free recycling bins for dorm rooms, and installation of recycling stations in some common areas that were missing them.  On Food Issues Day, participants learned about sustainable food practices like eating locally and packing lunch in reusable bags.  Dining Services invited students behind the scenes to see how their food waste is handled.  For Transportation Day, OSU held an Alternate Transit Resources Fair representing greener ways to get around campus and the Columbus area and the Department of Recreational Sports hosted a Biking 101 course.

The Buckeye Book Program and OSU’s No Impact Week made local headlines: Book Inspires OSU Students To Limit Impact

Colin’s No Impact Project organization can customize a program for any campus.  Interested?  Learn more

In previous years, Ohio State has adopted Elie Wiesel’s Night and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America for the Buckeye Book Community.

No Impact Man • Picador • 288 pages

This I Believe II is the 2010 Ranger Read at UW, Parkside

This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women is the Ranger Read at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside this fall.  First-year students, the newest class of UW, Parkside Rangers, received copies of the book when they visited campus for pre-orientation sessions in April, May, June, July, and August, leading up to the Ranger Welcome orientation just before classes started this month.

On the first day of Ranger Welcome, the new freshman class formed small groups and faculty and instructional academic staff facilitated discussions about the book’s content and its context, the students’ beliefs, their expectations and perspectives about success at UW, Parkside, and the university’s central values: academic excellence, community engagement, diversity, and inclusiveness.

Each student was asked to consider these topics in advance as he or she read the book over the summer, and then prepare a written or artistic response on a single letter-sized sheet of paper.  These responses provided a starting point for group discussion; in addition, students were invited to contribute their pages to a Class of 2014 exhibit called “This We Believe.”

“This I believe: I believe we, the faculty, academic staff, classified staff, students, administration, alumni, Foundation and Advisory board members, community leaders, and friends will begin this academic year focused on the spirit of success, the spirit of inspiring students to exceed beyond their potential, the spirit to engage in transformative and lifelong learning; I believe we will fully embrace ‘Learning’ in all that you do . . . I believe we will rise to the challenges and embrace opportunities for all to be successful at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.  This I believe!”

Debbie Ford, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin, Parkside, 2010 Convocation Address

The Ranger Read program was introduced in 2006 to jump-start the transition to the demands of the college-level learning environment, where successful students question, understand, and develop their own opinions about a text and where the shared reading experience helps develop relationships among faculty and peers.

Both volumes of “This I Believe” essays compiled by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, host and curator and executive producer of the NPR program of the same name, are Popular Picks for common reading programs.  Click here to see other colleges and universities that have adopted This I Believe, This I Believe II, and other titles from Macmillan.

This I Believe II • Holt Paperbacks • 288 pages

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

A Long Way Gone is the 2010 Common Text at Wright State University

Wright State University’s 2010 Common Text is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.  The university is giving a copy of the book to each member of the class of 2014 at Orientation sessions throughout the summer. The Common Text program was established:

—To expose students to WSU’s academic atmosphere from the time they arrive on campus for Orientation
—To provide a common academic experience for all first-year students by giving them the opportunity to engage with peers in intellectual discussions both inside and outside the classroom.
—To communicate the expectation that students will begin to read actively and critically, make judgments about the validity of what they read and be able to discuss challenging, sometimes conflicting, ideas.

Author Ishmael Beah will speak at Freshman Convocation, held when students arrive on campus in September. Beah’s address will kick off this year’s Presidential Lecture Series, which aims “to advance human justice and promote the university’s commitment to creating a diverse university community and learning environment.”

This year, the university has established a Common Text Essay Contest and invited first-year students to select and write on a theme and passage from the book.  The winner will be announced during the Freshman Convocation ceremony.

Later in the fall, Wright State University will host a Campus Big Read event—read-a-thon style!  Beginning at 8:30am on Wednesday, November 3, students, campus officials, and local celebrities will read passages from A Long Way Gone for 10-15 minutes before handing the book off to the next reader.  It’s an opportunity to unite the campus community while raising awareness for the plight of child soldiers.

A Long Way Gone will be central to many First-Year Seminars this year, as well as courses in WSU’s Learning Community program, which links General Education courses with specific seminars or fields of study.  Students who share similar interests or majors take at least two classes together, which affords a network of new friends and study partners while they make the transition to college life.

Previous Common Text selections at Wright State University include An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in AmericaClick here to see a list of other colleges and universities that have adopted Macmillan’s Popular Picks for common reading programs!

A Long Way Gone • Sarah Crichton Books • 240 pages


Ishmael Beah and his editor, Sarah Crichton, spoke recently about where he’s been and what he’s been doing since his memoir was published in 2007.

Crichton: I find it tremendously moving how the book keeps finding a larger and larger audience. So many high-school and college students read it.

Beah: Yes, more and more schools keep assigning it, and I keep meeting teachers who say, “This is the first time this kid has ever finished reading a book.” It is beyond my own comprehension. The book has a life of its own.

Read the complete interview at Work in Progress.