Common read to inspire students

Kali Lingen

Kali Lingen

Beginning in the fall of 2009, students in six different 100 level courses will read the same book.

Students will read Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder as part of the pilot freshmen common read program.

“Our committee hopes to provide freshman students with a common, engaging intellectual experience that includes reflection and discussion around themes of diversity and empowerment,” said Tim Nichols, National Student Engagement Survey Committee member.

Nichols said the book is about a man who used his talents to make a positive difference in the world. Much of the book discusses Farmer’s work with Partners in Health, a non-profit health care organization, and the social and health issues in Haiti. The book examines health care, the environment, politics, ethics and socioeconomic diversity.

The National Student Engagement Survey Committee hopes to partner with the service groups and churches to inspire students to get involved in service projects. Service groups and churches in the Brookings area have traveled to Haiti with a solar oven project, Nichols said.

The courses which are expected to be involved in the pilot program are Honors-100: Honors Orientation, GS-100: Academic and Career Exploration, FCS-101: Professional Foundations, PS-101: Opportunities in Plant Science, AS-100: Opportunities in Animal and Range Sciences, HSC: First Year Seminar for Health Professional in the Learning Community and PHA-101: Introduction to Pharmacy. The classes were chosen based on whether the instructor wanted to incorporate the book into the curriculum of the course. In each of the classes, the book will be integrated throughout the semester.

Nichols, who is also dean of the Honors College, said he thinks freshmen involved in the pilot program are going to love the book. He said the survey committee is exploring the option of having extra-curricular activities related to the book, as well. The committee is hoping to have Paul Farmer or a representative from Partners in Health come to campus and speak.

Freshman pre-pharmacy major Rachel Hansen from Sibley, Iowa, said the program sounds interesting, but would not like the common read program if the book did not directly apply to the course she is taking.

Hansen said she would attend speakers and extra-curricular activities relating to the book if she thought the book was really interesting. Hansen is currently in PHA: 101, Introduction to Pharmacy.

If a student is enrolled in more than one of the classes participating in the pilot program, the student will not have to read the book twice, but the student will still have to do activities relating to the book in each course. Nichols said the committee targeted unique courses to minimize classes which overlap.

The National Student Engagement Survey Committee hopes the pilot is successful in the fall semester. If it is, more classes could be incorporated into the common read program.

“I think the common read program will go over well and will be enjoyed by the students in classes involved,” said Eric Hanson, Students’ Association vice president.