Why Not Read Now? Southern Connecticut State University Reads This I Believe

“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.

About Why Not Read Now? Southern Reads

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.

scsu student this i believe tee copy

Students created custom “I believe…” statement t-shirts! (via SCSU FYE on Facebook)

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!

Click here to read about some of the other schools that have adopted This I Believe or This I Believe II for common reading programs!

This I Believe • Picador • 320 pages


Mountain View College Selects Nickel and Dimed for the 2012 Common Book Project

This year, students, faculty, and staff at Mountain View College will learn about and consider the challenges faced by Americans working for minimum wage as they read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. The bestselling book has been selected for the 2012 Common Book Project.

Each year, a committee seeks a text “that has application across an array of academic disciplines.”

The common book should encourage students to think critically, ask questions, and discuss themes and issues with their peers. A truly interdisciplinary initiative, Mountain View faculty has “integrated the Common Book into course sections in History, Spanish, Humanities, Biology, Art, English, Chemistry, Physics, Drama, Speech, Government, Cultural Studies and Developmental Writing.”

Mountain View College 2012 Common Book Project Kick-off : Conversation with Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

Beyond the classroom, programming to complement the Common Book Project includes “author lectures, performing arts events, visual arts exhibits and Café Conversations.” Most notably, Barbara Ehrenreich kicked off the fall programming calendar when she visited campus in September.

This month, the Common Book Writing Contest, open to any student enrolled at MVC, calls for 5,000-word essays written in response to a brief prompt. First, Second, and Third place prizes will be awarded, and all entries are considered for publication in the MVC Writer’s Garret, the college’s literary magazine.

The Mountain View College Theatre Department is also participating; at the end of October, they’ll stage playwright Joan Holden’s dramatic adaptation of Nickel and Dimed.

Since its first publication in 2001, nearly 100 colleges and universities have adopted Nickel and Dimed for their common reading programs. Check out the list of those schools, and browse our other most Popular Picks for common reading.

Nickel and Dimed • Picador • 256 pages

Framingham State University Picks The Good Soldiers for the 2012 Common Reading Program

Framingham State University’s class of 2016 is reading Pulitzer Prize-winner David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers for the Common Reading program this year! As the office of First-Year Programs helped incoming students prepare for their first semester at Framingham State, they asked first-years to pick up a copy of the book and read it before attending Black & Gold Beginnings, the university’s pre-semester orientation program.

During orientation, faculty and administrators from different disciplines lead small group discussions, connecting The Good Soldiers to his or her area of expertise. This interdisciplinary approach allowed each student to choose a session that reflected their own academic interests, and to get a sense of the courses they might take in a particular field of study. For example, Dr. Daisy Ball, Assistant Professor of Sociology, lead a discussion on depictions of war in popular culture. She asked attendees to:

Come to this discussion prepared to talk about your impressions of war before reading The Good Soldiers; where these impressions came from; how, if at all, Finkel’s story challenged these impressions; and generally speaking, how the topic of war is dealt with in popular culture. In your opinion, does this depiction line up with the reality presented by Finkel?

In his session, Economics and Business Professor Dr. Michael J. Harrison asked participants to:

Explore commonalities of war and business such as strategy, tactics, motivation, marketing, sales, goals, and metrics to name a few. We explore the ‘selling’ of the war by our elected officials and the “strategy” for winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. We explore the ‘tactics’ used by Kauz to carry out the strategy dictated by his military and political bosses. We explore how Kauz seeks to motivate his troops in the face of extreme hardship and adversity. We compare the similarities and differences of Kauz’s mission and situation to that of business managers to understand why the 2-16 faced a “lost Kauz.”

Discussions about the geographical, historical, psychological, and narrative aspects of The Good Soldiers were held as well. Campus conversations about the book continued in fall semester courses where it was assigned reading.

David Finkel will speak on campus on October, a part of Framingham State’s Peace & Conflict lecture series.

Click here to see other common reading adoptions of The Good Soldiers and more Popular Picks from Macmillan, including another book with a military theme, Rye Barcott’s It Happened On the Way to War.

The Good Soldiers • Picador • 336 pages

Choosing Civility is the First-Year Reading Book at Clayton State University

P.M. Forni’s Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct is the First-Year Reading book at Clayton State University! All incoming first-year students are have been reading the book this summer. Choosing Civility will be incorporated into first-year curriculum and programming through the fall semester.

The university’s aim is not only to get students reading before classes begin, or to give them all one book in common with one another once they’re on campus. Clayton State selected Choosing Civility and has developed significant programming, the CSU Civility Project, to ensure students understand, practice, and value Dr. Forni’s rules of considerate conduct, which also reflect the university’s Student Code of Conduct.

The book began to make an impact as students read and talked about their reading on Twitter over the summer:

In addition to practicing civility and respect in the classroom and around campus, Clayton students will discuss the university’s expectations for student conduct, communication skills, personal responsibility, self respect, civility in media, and more in regular discussion workshops and on an open-thread blog: Civility@CSU.

First-Year students are also encouraged to unite with their peers and connect with their community by participating in a service learning project. The First Year Advising & Retention Center facilitates several projects throughout the academic year; students who volunteer have the opportunity “to develop a sense of self, social responsibility and civility” while serving their community.

Choosing Civility is one of Macmillan’s Popular Picks for common reading! Click here to see the other schools that have adopted the book.

Choosing Civility • St. Martin’s Griffin • 208 pages

Update: ‘Three Words of Civility’ Video Contest!

This fall, the First-Year Advising & Retention Center and the Clayton State University Civility Project sponsored a ‘Three Words of Civility’ video contest, open to all enrolled students.


More than a dozen groups of Clayton students got together to promote civility on campus on film. Check out some of the entries on the Clayton State University Freshman Facebook page.

Each video focuses on one of the 25 rules outlined in Choosing Civility, including Rule #2: Acknowledge Others; Rule #13: Keep It Down (and Rediscover Silence); Rule #25: Don’t Shift Responsibility and Blame; and others.

The winner, “What is Kindness” by CSU students Hussain, Mylinh, and Sally, is about kindness on campus and how to “pass it on!” Watch “What is Kindness” here (video and audio will play automatically).

The Barbarian Nurseries is the 2012 First-Year Summer Reading Book at Pomona College

This summer, the Pomona College class of 2016 is reading Héctor Tobar’s contemporary novel, The Barbarian NurseriesIncoming students will receive a copy of from the college and read it over the summer.

The book, winner of the California Book Award for Fiction, is about a Mexican maid working for a Mexican-American family in a Los Angeles villa who witnesses tensions between her married employers rise to the breaking point, and then finds herself left alone in the house with their two sons. The author weaves issues like immigration, racial and class divides, and social and familial conflict into a character-driven story that’s set just miles from Pomona’s campus, but is relevant across the U.S.

Héctor Tobar will visit campus to speak and to meet students during orientation in the fall. Faculty will also lead small group discussions among the newest members of the Pomona community, and “there will be many opportunities to share [their] thoughts, reflections, and ideas about the book” with other faculty, staff, and students leaders in Sponsor and Peer Mentor roles, who will have read it, too.

The Barbarian Nurseries will also be assigned reading in select Fall 2012 courses, especially Critical Inquiry First-Year Seminars. The Critical Inquiry curriculum offers writing intensive courses on a range of interdisciplinary topics. The goal is to “prepare students to participate fully and successfully in the intellectual community that is Pomona College.”

Each year, the First-Year Book is selected by an Orientation Committee served by college faculty and three Pomona students under the direction of the Dean of Student and the Coordinator of the Critical Inquiry Seminar Program. In 2010, the committee chose Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read for the summer reading program. The Barbarian Nurseries is the second novel that the school has selected, following last year’s adoption of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (Vintage, 2006). To read about other fictional works from Macmillan that have been adopted for common reading programs, click here.

The Barbarian Nurseries • Farrar, Straus & Giroux • 432 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

This I Believe is the Summer Reading Book at Seton Hall University

Seton Hall University has selected This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women for the 2012 Summer Reading Program! First-year students will pick up copies of the book at the campus bookstore when they attend summer orientation sessions in June.

When they return to campus in the fall, new freshmen will use the book in two introductory courses: Engl 1201: Core English I and Core 1001: University Life. Core English I is First Year Writing course that emphasizes “the writing and reading processes of expository and persuasive rhetoric/argument,” including research, pre-writing, revising, and grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary. As part of the course requirements, Core English students take advantage of academic resources on campus, including one-on-one sessions with peer tutors and the university’s Writing Center.

University Life is a Freshman Studies seminar that “aims to provide students with academic and personal success; integrate computer technology into academic instruction; familiarize students with University resources and opportunities; improve reading, writing, and analytical skills and support the University mission of “forming students to be servant leaders in a global society.” Components of the course include classroom discussions and activities, creating an online writing portfolio, attendance at multi-cultural and interdisciplinary events on campus, community service, and participation in a university club or organization.

Click here to read about some of the other schools that have adopted This I Believe or This I Believe II for common reading programs!

This I Believe • Holt Paperbacks • 320 pages

For the Second Year, Virginia Tech Selects This I Believe II for the Common Book Project

For the second year in a row, Virginia Tech’s Common Book Project selection is This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. Every first-year student will receive a free copy of the book featuring the university’s signature VT on the cover and a letter Vice President and Dean of Undergraduate Education inside.

The collection of essays “resonated strongly with members of the student body as well as faculty.” Among the seventy-five essayists are musicians Yo-Yo Ma and Béla Fleck, Nobel Prize Winner Elie Wiesel, the founder of the online community Craigslist.org, an anthropology student at the University of Chicago, a diner waitress, and an Iraq War veteran.

Editors Dan Gediman and Jay Allison collaborated to revive Edward R. Murrow’s 1950s radio program, This I Believe, and then brought selected essays from the airwaves to press in This I Believe II and its preceding volume, This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. The collections both include pieces from the original 1950s series as well as contemporary submissions. The books also contain questions for discussion and a guide to writing one’s own This I Believe statement.

VTech's HokieBird Reads THIS I BELIEVE II

VTech’s HokieBird Reads This I Believe II

Many Virginia Tech Hokies did write personal belief essays; some students opted to express their beliefs in audio or video presentations. Students believe in diversity, puppies, dancing, trust and respect in relationships, helping others, literacy, and much, much more. This I Believe projects of all kinds were published through Blogs@VT, the university’s own network of blogs by members of the VT community.

The goal is for all students—from engineering to English majors—to discuss and learn from the same book, creating a common thread in the undergraduate experience.

Office of First Year Experiences, Virginia Tech

Read more about VTech’s annual Common Book Project here.

This I Believe II and its preceding volume, This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, have been adopted for common reading programs at more than 50 schools! Click here to see other colleges and universities that have adopted these Popular Picks from Macmillan.

This I Believe II • Picador • 288 pages

Sandel’s Justice is the Common Reader at Kennesaw State University

Michael J. Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? is the 2012 Common Reader at Kennesaw State University. In the fall, first-year students will enroll in one of four of Kennesaw’s First-Year Seminars: KSU 1101: The traditional seminar, KSU 1111: The globally-focused seminar, KSU 1121: The community service seminar, or KSU 1200: The leadership development seminar. Click here for details about the four different courses

Every first-year must take a seminar, either as an independent three-credit course or as part of a themed combination of courses called a Learning Community, but the choices offer freedom and flexibility.This curriculum is designed to appeal to a student body with diverse interests and goals, but all the seminars aim to develop students’ “life skills, strategies for academic success, campus and community connections, and foundations for global learning,” and Justice will be assigned reading in every class.

By reading the same book and discussing it in class, as well as attending related events on campus throughout the academic year, students will have a variety of opportunities to achieve KSU’s objectives for the program. They will:

  • gain reinforcement of the first-year seminar learning outcomes by participating in this program
  • engage in reading
  • join their peers in a common academic experience
  • be able to demonstrate a knowledge of academic, political, social, and world issues
  • explore the development of their individual identities
  • develop multicultural awareness

The Common Reader is an initiative of the KSU Department of First-Year Programs, a team of educators and administrators that also coordinates the First-Year Seminar and Learning Community programs and provides year-round support for the first-year class. One of their unique offerings is IT 2101: Computers and Your World, a digital literacy course for students who want to practice using and explore computing technologies.

Previous Common Readers at KSU include Paul Loeb’s Soul of a Citizen and Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone. Click here to see the other schools that have adopted these Popular Picks for common reading from Macmillan!

Justice • Farrar, Straus & Giroux Paperbacks • 320 pages

Our Boys is the 2012 iRead Book at Washburn University

Joe Drape’s Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen is the 2012 iRead book at Washburn University.

The Washburn campus in Topeka is about 200 miles from Smith Center, Kansas, where New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape moved with his family to get a community perspective on the small town football team with the nation’s longest high-school winning streak. The author is slated to speak at Washburn in September 2012.

The iRead common reading program is one component of Washburn’s First Year Experience curriculum. First-year students will read the book in IS 110: The Washburn Experience, a student success course that focuses on focuses upon information literacy, effective communication, academic integrity, and the transition into the college experience.

The broader goals of the iRead program are to:

  • Enhance the campus community
  • Uphold the university mission of “learning for a lifetime”
  • Advocate the goals of the Washburn Transformational Experience
  • Create a common experience for students
  • Foster involvement and inclusivity as early as possible
  • Enrich and expand the minds of students

Previous iRead books at Washburn include A Long Way GoneNickel and Dimed, and This I BelieveClick here to see the other schools that have adopted these books and other Popular Picks from Macmillan!

Our Boys • St. Martin’s Griffin • 320 pages