Pedro & Me is UCLA’s 2013-2014 Common Book

Judd Winick’s Pedro & Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned is the 2013-2014 Common Book at the University of California, Los Angeles. Each year, a committee of faculty, students, and staff, and the university’s Faculty in Residence, coordinate the Common Book selection. This year, Pedro & Me was chosen “because it provides a platform to discuss relationships, sexual orientation, health education, loss and love, and other topics relevant to the experience of first year students.”

Judd, a cartoonist, and Pedro Zamora, an AIDS educator living with HIV, met as castmates on the third season of MTV’s reality show, The Real World. They roomed together and became very close friends.

Pedro had been speaking about HIV/AIDS and safe sex  at schools, churches, conferences, and all kinds of outreach and activist events in communities all over the country since he was diagnosed with HIV. He’d auditioned for The Real World with the hope that he could share his story with a nation of young adult viewers. His condition worsened during the four-month season, and his health declined rapidly once filming ended. Judd was among the friends and family who were at Pedro’s side when he died in November 1994.

Judd took over a lecture tour that his friend had scheduled but hadn’t been able to complete, and he continued to lecture about HIV/AIDS education on Pedro’s behalf for three years. Pedro & Me, Judd’s tribute to his friend, was first published in 2000.

UCLA Common Book Logo

At summer orientation sessions, all new Bruins, including first-year and transfer students, received a copy of the special UCLA-edition of the book. Everyone read Pedro & Me before returning to campus for True Bruin Welcome Week, a transition week of “fun, informative, and supportive activities and programs” meant to help every student “find your place, make friends, and share in the True Bruin experience!” Small group book discussions, facilitated by Residential Advisers and attended by faculty, staff, and alumni, were held in the days leading up to the first Fall 2013 classes.

Through the academic year, the campus community has developed programs and events that connect to the themes of the Common Book. The Center for the Art of Performance collaborated with the Office of Residential Life and First Year Experience to bring author and cartoonist Judd Winick to speak on campus in October. Students were invited to create and submit ‘zines, “do-it-yourself, cut-and-paste, copied-on-the-cheap, hand-folded, self-distributed booklets that tackle any topic, idea or theme,” to exhibit during his visit. There’s more visual art at the library, where the History and Special Collections has archived AIDS awareness posters from 44 countries around the world (check out the enormous Digital Collection!)

There have been many more opportunities to connect Pedro & Me and its message with existing offices and initiatives on campus, like the Art & Global Health Center, the Student Health & Wellness Center, the Student Wellness Commission, the UCLA AIDS Institute, and Diversity @ UCLA.

Public service is one of the five pillars of the UCLA community’s True Bruin ethical standards, so it always features prominently in Common Book programming. Through the UCLA Volunteer Center, a contingent of UCLA Bruins took part in the AIDS Walk Los Angeles on October 13, 2013; Team Pedro surpassed their fundraising goal and contributed $1,325 to AIDS Project Los Angeles! And this month, students are sharing Pedro & Me with the greater Los Angeles community, promoting literacy as well as AIDS awareness, by donating the copies they received at the beginning of the year to the Recycle Your Common Book Drive. Twenty years after Pedro Zamora’s death, his legacy lives on and his life’s work continues, with the help of his friend’s special book.

Pedro & Me • Square Fish • 192 pages

Salvage the Bones is Rocky Mountain College’s First Common Read

Rocky Mountain College has selected Jesmyn Ward’s National Book Award-winning novel, Salvage the Bones to inaugurate their new common reading initiative.

The RMC Common Read is “based principally on a shared reading experience.” Salvage the Bones was chosen by a committee of faculty, staff, and students from a list of thirty-five titles that had been nominated by the campus community.

The book is assigned reading in all First-Year Writing and Critical Reading and Evaluative Writing courses, both of which are part of the required Core Curriculum. In the selection process, the committee sought “a text relevant to multiple disciplines” to encourage discussion throughout the academic community.

Beyond the classroom, students heard a lecture by Jesmyn Ward when she visited campus in October. They also screened and discussed Beasts of the Southern Wild, the 2012 Academy Award-nominated film which, like Salvage the Bones, takes place in the southern Louisiana bayou as a hurricane approaches; the film and the novel touch on some of the same themes: isolation, poverty, family, survival.

Susan Olp of The Billings Gazette sat in on Associate Professor Jacqueline Dundas’ First-Year Writing course, where students were discussing the author’s emotive descriptions and the novel’s themes.

Ms. Olp spoke to a number of RMC students and professors about the Common Read program and about Salvage the Bones. Read more here: Award-winning novel focus of Rocky’s first Common Read

Salvage the Bones • Bloomsbury • 288 pages

No Impact Man is the 2013-2014 Common Read at UMass Amherst

The Common Read program at UMass Amherst is making an impact that’s bigger than ever—on the Class of 2017, not on the planet. The 2013-2014 selection is No Impact Man, Colin Beavan’s humorous memoir about his family’s attempt to live a year without producing waste (like garbage, toxins, and carbon emissions) or consuming excessively (resources like water, electricity) to achieve a zero-impact lifestyle in New York City.

And this year, “UMass Amherst has extended Common Read events through the first nine weeks of the fall semester and has widened its compass to include members of the local community.” The author kicked things off with an appearance at New Student Convocation on September 1; he returned to campus this month to follow up with students and answer their questions in “A Conversation with Colin Beavan,” moderated by Steve Goodwin, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences.

 The Common Read offers a shared intellectual experience for all first-year and transfer students. Faculty and administrators created the Read to foster critical thinking and discussion among students, faculty, and staff . . . Discussions will [cover] the values of participatory democracy, the importance of individual action as well as collective action, and the demands and rewards of living with conviction and integrity to one’s own principles. The Common Read hopes to jumpstart the global, adaptive outlook of the Class of 2017 and their sense of living in a shared world.

No Impact Man: Common Reading for the Class of 2017

UMass Amherst No Impact Man Custom FYI Logo

UMass Amherst’s Custom Edition of No Impact Man – Click to Zoom

At Summer New Student Orientation, all first-year students received a copy of No Impact Man, customized with the logo for the university’s college transition and success program, FYI: First-Year Intelligence. The program aims to broaden students’ intellectual horizons; help them build relationships with other students, faculty, and staff; and provides academic and personal support throughout their college transition.

Though the Common Read is intended primarily for new students, the themes in this year’s book are relevant to the university as a whole and have applications across campus. Members of the community spent the first two months of the semester raising awareness about conservation and consumption, making changes to campus operations, and running a university-wide No Impact Experiment, October 6-12.

UMass Amherst No Impact Week 2013

UMass Amherst Sustainability Initiative’s No Impact Week Schedule – Click to Zoom

Faculty-lead book discussions were  held over dinner in every first-year residential cluster, and the documentary film about Colin’s experience was screened in every first-year residence hall. The Office of Residential Life also promoted resources for Living Sustainably at UMass, like the Student Government Association’s campus bike share and a model sustainable dorm room.

Many of these programs will remain fixtures on campus, representing the university’s commitment to the environment. For instance, the UMass Sustainability Initiative monitors energy consumption on campus with the Energy Dashboard and UMass Dining serves “local, sustainably-grown, humanely-raised, and fair trade foods,” including some produce and herbs grown in permaculture gardens right on campus. The innovative Permaculture Initiative was recognized by the White House in 2012!

Nearly thirty colleges and universities have adopted No Impact Man for common reading programs, and many have conducted their own No Impact Experiments, as well—read about them here!

No Impact Man • Picador • 288 pages

Kennesaw State Selects Sandel’s Justice for the Second Year

Each year, the Department of First-Year Programs at Kennesaw State University selects a book that will be the common reader assigned in all First-Year Seminars. When they chose Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? for the 2012-2013 program, there were no plans to extend the selection over two years.

But the book was such a success that it’s been named the 2013-2014 common reader, as well.

Jim Davis, Assistant Professor of Theatre & Performance Studies and Chair of the Common Reader Selection Committee for the Department of First-Year Programs, writes, “the book worked so well with the class we decided to do it again . . . It’s served us really well.”

In the fall, first-year students will enroll in one of Kennesaw’s four First-Year Seminars: KSU 1101: Traditional Seminar, KSU 1111: Globally Focused Seminar, KSU 1121: Community Engagement Seminar, or KSU 1200: Leadership Development Seminar. Justice will be assigned reading in all of these classes.

Every new student takes a first-year seminar, either as an independent three-credit course or as part of a Learning Community, which is a group of “20-25 first-semester students who co-enroll in two or more courses that are linked together with a common theme.” These choices offer freedom and flexibility to a student body with diverse interests and goals, and all the seminars aim to develop students’ “life skills, strategies for academic success, campus and community connections, and foundations for global learning.”

For instance, Professor Davis’ seminar is part of a Learning Community for Theatre & Performance Studies majors. Last fall, he “used [Justice] as a starting point for a series of performances based on how the students were handling the election year.” Practicing “techniques of ethnography, theater-for-social-change and improvisational theater,” students produced performances pieces that reflected some of the specific issues and questions presented in the book as well as the reality of facing those issues and questions as young adults and new college students.

Re-Generation Initiative at Kennesaw State University from Kennesaw State on Vimeo.

In the past, KSU has also adopted Paul Loeb’s Soul of a Citizen and Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone for the common reading program. 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

Beautiful Souls is Penn State’s Inaugural Common Reading Book

This year, for the first time, new students at Penn State University will read a common text before beginning classes: Eyal Press’ Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times. The inaugural book was chosen “for its broad approach to ethics and ethical decision-making.”

Penn State Reads Logo

The new program, Penn State Reads, “is designed to provide a shared experience among new students, encourage intellectual engagement within and beyond the classroom, stimulate critical thinking, and foster a deeper connection to Penn State’s mission and core values.”

More than 7,000 incoming students will receive a copy of Beautiful Souls when they visit campus this summer for a two-day New Student Orientation session. They’ll read the book before returning to Penn State for the fall semester.

Faculty are encouraged to incorporate the text and its themes into coursework for first-year students as well as upperclassmen. The university has compiled a study and teaching resource guide to Beautiful Souls. It includes discussion questions and links to biographies of the philosophers and major figures, details about the geographic locations, and background on the major topics and historical references mentioned in the book.

Outside the classroom, related events like art exhibits, performances, films, speakers and workshops, and a trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are planned. One key speaker, Eyal Press, will visit campus to meet students and give a “lecture connecting the themes of Beautiful Souls to the experiences and challenges facing college students today.”

Several other schools throughout the Penn State University system, including the Berks and Abington campuses, are also incorporating Beautiful Souls into curricular and co-curricular programming this fall. It’s a great example of neighboring schools exchanging ideas, pooling resources, and extending the shared intellectual experience even further.

Read more about Eyal Press’ book in our online catalog, or request an examination copy of Beautiful Souls or another one of Macmillan’s best books for first-year reading!

Beautiful Souls • Picador • 320 pages

Update: A Conversation with Eyal Press

Eyal Press spoke with WPSU/Penn State Public Media on October 24, part of their Conversations from Penn State interview series.

First Year Students at Washington University in St. Louis Read Notes from No Man’s Land

Washington University in St. Louis has selected Eula Biss’ National Book Critics Circle Award winner Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays for the 2013 First Year Reading Program. Throughout the fall semester, the book will be a feature in new students’ college transition.

Incoming members of the class of 2017 will receive a copy of Notes from No Man’s Land from a university this summer. They’re asked to read the book and consider its themes; the university has created a Reader’s Guide to help them get started. Students will discuss their thoughts during Bear Beginnings, WUSTL’s fall orientation program. Lead by a faculty member or another leader from the campus community, students will discuss the book with other freshmen from their residence hall.

What do you think? What are your opinions? What would you like to ask your new classmates or professors? . . . We urge you to approach the First Year Reading Program discussions in a spirit of openness and the delight of discovery . . . There are no right or wrong answers, no grades, and diverse viewpoints and perspectives will be encouraged and respected. The more involved you choose to be, the more you will take away from this experience.

First Year Reading Program, Bear Beginnings: Fall Orientation

Each year, the university sponsors a contest, challenging first year students to express their perspective on the common reading book through a creative medium. This year, students who respond to Notes from No Man’s Land through writing, video, photography, art, or music will be eligible to win one of five spots at a lunch with author Eula Biss in September. One grand prize winner will also receive a $250 gift certificate to the campus bookstore.

Previously, WUSTL has adopted Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe for the First Year Reading Program.  Visit our online catalog and browse more Macmillan books for first year reading!

Notes from No Man’s Land • Graywolf Press • 208 pages

Barry University’s 2013-2014 Common Reader is Don’t Shoot

Barry University has named David M. Kennedy’s Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America as the Common Reader for the upcoming academic year. This summer, all incoming students will read the book as they prepare for their first semester at the university. Don’t Shoot will be assigned reading in many first-year courses this fall.

The Common Reader program gives new students one shared intellectual experience so they begin to connect with one another early on, no matter what their academic interests. Each year, the Common Reader is selected by the General Education Curriculum Committee—14 of faculty members who teach the core courses (writing, theology, philosophy, literature, fine arts, history, sociology, political science, math, and science).

The committee seeks out a compelling book that has broad appeal and is relevant or applicable to students or to their college experience. As many Americans try to understand the widespread violence in our country and its cultural, ethical, political, and economic causes and effects, Kennedy’s book will help Barry students “understand the personal and social commitments necessary to address social problems and to accept responsibility for developing communities based on an ethic of care and concern for others.”

In October, Don’t Shoot will be at the center of a one-day mini-conference, “Reclaiming Community from a Culture of Violence.” Author David M. Kennedy will give the keynote address. The day will also include panel presentations and discussions, guest speakers from local community-based agencies, film screenings, service opportunities.

In past years, Barry University has adopted This I Believe and This I Believe II, essay collections both edited by Jay Alison and Dan Gediman, and Paul Loeb’s Soul of a Citizen. Click here to see all the schools that have adopted these and other Popular Picks for first-year reading from Macmillan.

Don’t Shoot • Bloomsbury • 336 pages