Katie Foran-Mulcahy, the Library Director, recently hosted a panel where various faculty members discussed how they will use the Common Read in their classes. The three panelists were Greg Sojka, Phoebe Reeves, and Jill Gomez.
Dr. Greg Sojka, an English professor and past Dean of UCC, explained that the Common Read is a book chosen by a specific committee (which Dr. Sojka is a part of) that is given to first-year students. The chosen book has many purposes, but its main role is to unify incoming freshmen by giving them all a common reading activity. The book is read by students of all majors and has a common theme and inspiration. Because the Common Read needs to be able to unify students, the themes and subjects of the books need to be relatable.
Last year’s common read, A Deadly Wandering, was about a man who is texting and driving and kills two scientists in a car accident. The books addresses the effects of rapidly evolving communication and technology. This novel was good to use for the Common Read because not only did it involve English majors, but also IT majors; it alternates between the plot of the book and technology-related facts that are central to the conflict. This year, the Common Read is Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, a memoir about the hardships and life of a man who discovers he has Asperger’s, a syndrome on the Autism Spectrum. Dr. Sojka believed that this was an excellent selection for the Common Read because the main character “goes through obstacles he didn’t know existed.”
Dr. Jill Gomez, another Common Read panelist, is an Area Coordinator and professor for Human Social Services, Social Work, and Addiction Studies. She hosted a workshop in the fall of 2017 with “A Deadly Wandering,” and explained how these books could be used in the field of social work. One of the many significant activities she organized in this workshop had students create a map of the main character’s decision to text and drive, and how everyone is affected. This had a powerful effect on the students involved because this single decision (to text and drive) affected more people than one would imagine. Dr. Gomez also explained that the Common Read can bring a dynamic, multi-dimensional family to life for her Families in America course.
Dr. Phoebe Reeves, another panelist and English professor, explained how the Common Read can help struggling writers improve their skills. Dr. Reeves believes that “struggling with writing goes hand-in-hand with reading,” so in her Developmental Composition course, she uses the Common Read instead of textbooks. She further explains that textbooks are expensive and money is already a “barrier to their success.” The Common Read allows them to not only save money but be engaged in the course. Prof. Reeves believes this activity is helping them with retaining information and focusing on conquering boredom (and what it really means to be bored).
Dr. Reeves pointed out that the Common Read gives the students “a pride in finishing something,” since many students who lack interest in reading haven’t finished or even picked up a book in years. She also says that the Common Read is a good bridge to help show students how to read and apply journal articles to their writing.
After the panel, the presenters and audience engaged in a brainstorming session. One idea they came up with was developing a book club on Clermont’s campus that would involve the Common Read and how best to apply it to their courses. Another interesting topic that resulted from this brainstorming session had to do with the difference between reading digitally versus reading with a paper book. This debate surfaced this year because the Common Read board experimented and gave out “Look Me in the Eye” digitally, rather than as a book, during orientations.