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Common Reading Program

Common Reading at Rowan

[ Letter to students | Letter to the University Community ]

Dear Students,

An ideal University community is one in which all members can engage in shared exploration of ideas that matter. The R U Reading Together common reading program, in which all members of the Rowan community are encouraged to read a selected book and then to explore the themes in that book via multiple avenues, is one of your first opportunities to engage in our lively academic community.

The book selected for 2014-2015 is This I Believe II, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. The book is comprised of 75 essays by a very diverse and eclectic set of essayists. Many are "regular people" exploring themes important to their lives; some are by famous people (such as Yo-Yo Ma and Tony Hawk) who show side of themselves you'd never anticipate. Some essays will have you laughing uproariously; some may bring you to tears; and all will expose you to the depth and uniqueness of each individual's human experience. By reading these essays together as a community, we set the foundation for a year of exploration and conversation about the lived human experience and why we believe what we believe.

Just some of the ways in which you will likely encounter the book this year will be: discussions in Rowan Seminars and writing courses; featured lectures by Rowan faculty and invited scholars; "book club" type discussions in the residence halls; and much more. You may even get to attend Dan Gediman's presentation during his campus visit. Through all of these experiences, you will experience what it's like to join a scholarly community of curious people.

We very much hope that you will enjoy reading the book this summer. While you are reading This I Believe II, you won't be able to help wondering, "What do I believe? What would I write about?" We are very much looking forward to exploring the answers to those questions with you in the coming academic year.

Happy reading,

Rory McElwee, PhD
Assistant Vice President for Student Retention

Drew Tinnin
Director, Orientation & Student Leadership Programs

Richard Jones
Vice President for Student Life & Dean of Students

Dear Rowan Community,

I am delighted to announce the book selected for Rowan's 3rd annual RU Reading-Together common reading program is This I Believe II, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. This collection of personal essays reveals the diversity of content and origin of people's belief systems and values. Stemming from a feature on National Public Radio first founded in the 1950's and revived in 2005, this recent collection contains illuminating and often surprising representations of how both ordinary and not-so-ordinary people view the world. In 500 words or less, the essays demonstrate how people view their own and the larger world, in observations both small and paradigm-shifting. The richness of individuals' experiences are revealed in both entertaining and thought-provoking ways.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with a Common Reading Program, it involves a committee or faculty, staff and students select a work of real significance and depth but broad appeal, encouraging as many members of a community as possible to read the book. We will also host a variety of programs and discussion groups where issues are explored and even debated. This is an ideal way of reinforcing the value of the scholarly community that we enjoy at Rowan. At the same time, we can model for our students engagement with ideas and issues through civil discourse.

This I Believe II provides an ideal platform to explore meaning in that readers encounter wide-ranging issues including both formal religious and idiosyncratic personal philosophies, and the impact of both systemic and culturally-based life experiences as well as apparently random events. We are extremely fortunate that Dan Gediman has agreed to visit Rowan on October 6 for a public lecture. Join us at 11 am in the Enyon Ballroom in the Chamberlain Student Center. This is an event you won’t want to miss!

I encourage the University community to purchase your copy of This I Believe II and be prepared to join in discussing the book in the fall. To learn more about the book and access learning resources, please visit Let the reading, and the conversations, begin.

Dr. Houshmand
President Ali Houshmand, PhD