Common Reading

Common Reading 2011: The price of immortality

Book cover of 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors. She died of cervical cancer in 1951, at age 31. Yet her cells – taken without her knowledge, from the tumor that killed her – are still alive today.

Bought and sold by the billions, HeLa cells have played a crucial role in developing the polio vaccine, uncovering the secrets of cancer, and revealing the effects of the atomic bomb, among other medical milestones. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown and for decades was buried in an unmarked grave. And even though her immortal cells launched a multimillion-dollar industry, her family never saw any of the profits.

SMU has named The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot as the class of 2015’s Common Reading Experience – the book all incoming first-year students will read and discuss together.

Skloot, a science journalist writing her first book, “tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society’s most vulnerable people,” according to a starred review from Publishers Weekly. National Public Radio called the book “one of the best conversation starters of 2010.”

The Common Reading Selection and Implementation Committee hails Skloot’s work for raising “thought-provoking questions in areas as disparate as medical ethics and the tension between a writer’s compassion for her subject matter and her insistence on telling the truth,” said Associate Provost Harold Stanley in a Feb. 7 e-mail announcing the selection.

In anticipation of the student discussions next fall, SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence and moderator Ron Wetherington will host a series of reading circles during Spring 2011.

The reading circle discussions are scheduled as follows:

  • Monday, March 21 (section 1)
  • Monday, March 28 (section 2)
  • Monday, April 4 (section 3)

All CTE discussions will be held noon-1 p.m. in the Texana Room, DeGolyer Library. Register online at the CTE homepage to participate.

All faculty and staff members who agree to host a Common Reading student discussion in August will receive a free copy of the book. To volunteer, contact Diana Grumbles, senior lecturer in English and director of first-year writing.

> Watch for more information at the Central University Libraries’ Common Reading page

Tune In: Students get ready for Common Reading 2010

Common Reading 2010 videoAt 2:30 p.m. Aug. 22, SMU faculty, staff members and incoming first-year students will take part in the 2010 Common Reading discussion. Eva Parks of SMU News visited with the University’s student AARO leaders and captured their thoughts on Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Click through to YouTube to watch the resulting video. video

By | 2010-08-17T13:05:43+00:00 August 17, 2010|Categories: Tune In|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Calendar Highlights: Back-to-School 2010

Lining up the flags for Opening Convocation 2009New students arrive on the Hilltop for Mustang Corral Aug. 18, and the entire campus is gearing up for the Fall 2010 semester. Keep track of some important dates and times with this handy back-to-school calendar:

> Visit the SMU calendar to find more upcoming events
> Learn how to submit calendar events

Common Reading 2010: New Orleans, after the flood

zeitoun-bookcover-200.jpgAbdulrahman Zeitoun was in New Orleans when the levees broke. The Syrian-born painting contractor had decided to stay behind and protect his property while his family fled Hurricane Katrina. After the flood, he spent days rescuing victims in a small canoe until he was arrested, on suspicion of being an Al Qaeda member.

The true story of Zeitoun focuses on one man’s experience of bureaucracy and good intentions gone wrong in the aftermath of an epochal catastrophe. Author Dave Eggers “has found in the Katrina mud … the full-fleshed story of a single family, and in telling that story he hits larger targets with more punch than those who have already attacked the thematic and historic giants of this disaster,” wrote Timothy Egan in a 2009 New York Times review.

SMU has chosen Zeitoun as the class of 2014’s first-year Common Reading Experience – the book every member of the Fall 2010 incoming class will read and discuss. The selection committee cites the book for its “explorations of culture and crisis” in the context of an event that has impacted an entire generation of students.

Committee members are now seeking leaders for the discussion event that has become one of the first shared experiences for new students during their first week on the Hilltop.

“It doesn’t matter what school you’re from or whether you normally work only with graduate or professional students. It doesn’t matter whether you are active or emeritus,” wrote Associate Provost Tom Tunks in an e-mail to faculty and staff. “We really want the new students to interact with faculty and staff in a substantive way from the very beginning of their stay with us.”

To volunteer as a discussion leader for Fall 2010, contact Diana Grumbles, senior lecturer in English and director of first-year writing.

> Watch for more at Central University Libraries’ Common Reading homepage

Robert J. Norrell joins SMU experts for Common Reading discussion

Cover of 'Dreams From My Father' by Barack ObamaAuthor and historian Robert J. Norrell, professor of history and Bernadotte Schmitt Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee, will join SMU experts in a panel discussion of the University’s 2009 Common Reading at 4 p.m. Sept. 15 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

Three SMU professors, all from Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, will participate in the discussion of Barack Obama’s 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance:

  • Angela Ards, assistant professor of English
  • Kenneth Hamilton, associate professor of history
  • Harold Stanley, Geurin-Pettus Professor of American Politics and Political Economy

Norrell writes about race relations and southern history and is the author of The House I Live In: Race in the American Century (2005, Oxford University Press). His book Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1986.

The event is sponsored by the Gartner Honors Lecture Series, the University Honors Program and the Office of the Provost. For more information, visit SMU Central University Libraries’ Common Reading homepage.

Calendar Highlights: Aug. 25, 2009

'Dreams From My Father' book coverCommunity reading: Faculty, staff members and incoming first-year students will take part in the 2009 Common Reading discussion beginning at 2 p.m. Aug. 25 after the mandatory residence hall meetings. Learn more about the 2009 Common Reading, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama.

Welcome, class of 2013: Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship Jeffrey W. Talley, founding director of the Lyle School of Engineering‘s Institute for Engineering and Global Development, will give the address in SMU’s 95th annual Opening Convocation at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 in McFarlin Auditorium.

Fall General Faculty Meeting: The first day of class brings the first general faculty meeting of the 2009-10 academic year, at 4 p.m. Aug. 26 in the Hughes-Trigg Theater. The meeting is preceded by a reception at 3 p.m. in the Theater foyer.

Everyday magic: Czech housewife and self-taught artist Anna Zemánková developed a lyrical and highly original style when she took up drawing in 1960, at age 52. A new SMU exhibition pays tribute to her talent – By Magical Means: Drawings by Anna Zemánková will be on display Aug. 31-Oct. 10 in the Pollock Gallery, Hughes-Trigg Student Center. Admission is free.

Calendar Highlights: Back-to-School 2009

Professors and Peruna handlers at ConvocationNew and returning students are arriving on the Hilltop, and the entire campus is gearing up for the Fall 2009 semester. Keep track of some important dates and times with this handy back-to-school calendar:

  • Mustang Corral: Aug. 21-23
  • Common Reading discussion: Aug. 25, 2:15-3:15 p.m. in residence halls (learn more about the 2009 Common Reading, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama)
  • Opening Convocation and Rotunda Passage: Aug. 25, 5:30 p.m. (address by Jeffrey W. Talley, Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship and founding director of the Institute for Engineering and Global Development, Lyle School of Engineering)
  • First day of class: Aug. 26
  • General Faculty Meeting: Aug. 26 in the Hughes-Trigg Theater (reception at 3 p.m., meeting at 4 p.m.)
  • First Faculty Senate meeting of 2009-10: Sept. 2, 3:10 p.m, Hughes-Trigg Student Center
  • Labor Day: Sept. 7 (University offices closed)
  • Fall Break: Oct. 12-13
  • Homecoming Weekend: Nov. 6-7 (SMU vs. Rice)
  • Family Weekend: Nov. 13-14 (SMU vs. UTEP)
  • Thanksgiving: Nov. 26-27 (University offices closed, no classes Nov. 25)
  • Last day of class: Dec. 9
  • Finals Week: Dec. 11-17
  • December Graduation: Dec. 19
  • Christmas/Winter Break: Dec. 21-25 (University offices closed)
  • New Year’s Day holiday: Jan. 1 (University offices closed)

Visit the SMU calendar to keep an eye on upcoming events and learn how to submit events.

Common Reading 2009: A future president’s personal journey

'Dreams From My Father' book coverIn 1982, Barack Obama Jr. – then an undergraduate at Columbia University – received word that the father he had barely known had died in a car accident in Nairobi. For the younger Obama, this sudden tragedy motivated a journey that took him from Kansas to Kenya and points beyond to learn the truth of his father’s life and reconcile the disparate elements of his own family experience.

The story that sprang from that journey prompted SMU’s Common Reading Selection Committee to choose Obama’s 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, as the book every member of the University’s Fall 2009 incoming class will read and discuss.

The themes and topics in Obama’s book – written years before he entered public life – have “great relevance for college students,” says Tom Tunks, SMU’s associate provost for educational programs. He calls the book “a powerfully written coming-of-age story, humorous and wise,” in which the future president reveals “both the instability and the deep love of what was, even at best, a ‘nontraditional’ family.”

Tunks also cites the “remarkable candor” with which Obama describes the allure of partying, and with which he tells how his undergraduate years “brought him to a discipline and a sense of purpose in public service.”

“The Committee members were aware in making this choice that it might seem a controversial pick,” Tunks adds. “However, the book is not political in nature and is not meant to appear as such. Rather, the hope is that Dreams will encourage students, those new to the University and those continuing, to reflect upon their own choices and goals – those already made and those for the future.”

Watch for more information at Central University Libraries’ Common Reading homepage.

By | 2009-03-03T13:36:22+00:00 March 3, 2009|Categories: News|Tags: , , , |

Nominate a book for 2009-10 Common Reading

Nominations are now open for SMU’s 6th annual Common Reading. The Common Reading Committee plans to announce the 2009-10 selection by the end of the fall semester. An expanded committee will begin work in spring 2009 on recommendations for implementation, says Associate Provost Tom Tunks.

The committee will consider works of fiction and nonfiction as well as plays and monographs. Recommendations may be sent to any committee member:

Diana Grumbles, English/First-Year Writing (committee chair)
Missy Bryant, New Student Programs
Cori Cusker, Residence Life and Student Housing
Evelyn Day, Central University Libraries
David Doyle, University Honors Program
Charley Helfert, Theater
Joe Kobylka, Political Science
Pam Lange, English/First-Year Writing
Jessica Parr, student member
John Wise, Biological Sciences

Learn more about The Devil’s Highway, SMU’s 2008-09 Common Reading

By | 2008-10-30T11:22:52+00:00 October 30, 2008|Categories: News, Save the Date|Tags: , |

Author Luís Urrea talks about life and death on the border

Luís Alberto Urrea told a standing-room crowd of SMU community members, “Americans have to remember that we are a family first, and we if talk to each other instead of yell at each other, we come to solutions.”

The author of The Devil’s Highway, the University’s 2008 Common Reading, discussed immigration policy and his own writing inspirations at the Gartner Honors Lecture Sept. 8. His latest book, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, is soon to be a major motion picture starring Antonio Banderas.


By | 2012-01-24T14:59:39+00:00 September 19, 2008|Categories: News|Tags: , , , |
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