SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug 1, 2017) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is launching a Common Read program to get students starting college “on the same page,” literally.
Increasingly embraced at campuses nationally, Common Read programs provide a shared reading experience for freshmen as a way to spark conversations and bridge background differences. The chosen book, or themes drawn from it, often turn up as topics of discussion in subsequent general education courses.
“It’s something that’s been discussed in the past and this year we decided to do it,” said Dr. Phil Wagner, core curriculum coordinator and chairman of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “It’s something that brings people together.”
USFSM has chosen “A Long Way Home,” the 200-page autobiographical story of Saroo Brierley, for its first Common Read book.
“A Long Way Home” follows Brierley, who, after being lost at a train station in India as a boy, is adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, using Google Earth, he locates his village and reconnects with his family. The book was adapted into the 2016 film “Lion.”
“So often students come in as a cohort, but don’t have anything that binds them together as they progress and move through their classes,” said Diane Fulkerson, director of the Information Commons. “This ties them together and gives them something in common to relate to.”
Fulkerson worked with Dr. Wagner and Kim Mones, director of student engagement, as well as USFSM library specialist Jessica Szempruch and others to introduce the Common Read program.
After generating support from faculty and Interim Regional Chancellor Dr. Terry Osborn, the group developed a 14-member committee to suggest books for reading. About a dozen publications were put forth initially, from classics to modern, non-fictional accounts.
“A Long Way Home” was selected because of its multiple themes of race, immigration, poverty and food deprivation, plus it is “a simple read,” said Wagner.
“Students won’t be lost in the content, but will quickly find applications to many of the issues they are tackling already in their courses,” he said, adding that he expects many of the book’s themes to emerge as topics of discussion in the English composition, student success and other general education courses.
Later, on Sept. 21, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., a screening of “Lion” will be presented at the Selby Auditorium.
And in case students think they can simply watch the movie without reading the book, Wagner stressed that elements of the story not shown in the movie appear in the book.
“They’re definitely not the same,” he said. “So watching and reading will give two different perspectives.”
For more information about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit usfsm.edu/.