Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Journeying to Faraway Places before Freshman Year

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Journeying to Faraway Places before Freshman Year

Article excerpt

Award-winning books prepare incoming students for college-level work and a diverse learning environment.

This summer, first-year college students from all over the country will journey to faraway places and exotic locales like the battlefields of Rwanda or the deserts of Arizona without ever leaving the comforts of home. Award-winning authors will guide students through a literary voyage via their required summer reading.

Every year hundreds of colleges and universities assign first-year students a common book to read over the summer months hoping to foster a sense of community among the newcomers and engage them academically.

According to a survey conducted last year by a student researcher at Gustavus Adolphus College, most of these summer reading programs are less than five years old.

The range of books colleges choose from is expansive, covering both fiction and non-fiction. Many emerge from a best seller list and address various issues of diversity. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah are popular choices.

Students at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, for example, will find themselves immersed in a violent and bloody civil war between two of Rwanda's native tribes, the Tutsi and Hutu. Immaculée Ilibagiza, through the pages of her book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, engulfs students in a miraculous story of endurance and survival.

For the past six years, SHU has tried to stimulate the minds of incoming freshmen during the summer with provocative stories of young people who have overcome adversity. The selection committee at SHU seeks to select a book that stimulates and inspires.

An American Story by Debra Dickerson, Sounds of the River: A Young Man's University Days in Beijing by Da Chen and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime by Mark Haddon are listed among the books read in years past.

"Given the choice, most students would choose to just vegetate over the summer. The goal of the summer reading program is to remind students that college is an intellectual activity," says Dr. Tracy Gottlieb, dean of freshman studies at SHU.

"Each year, the Department of Freshman Studies chooses a book that explores a new diversity issue. SHU is very proud of its diverse undergraduate population. It is something that we try to nurture. Generally, the books are well received," Gottlieb says.

According to the survey, more than 60 percent of respondents reported that their reading programs were successful and generally seen in a positive light.

SHU students receive their summer reading assignment during freshman orientation that takes place in midJuly. …

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