In light of campus's somewhat inconsistent utilization of the common read in the past, a group of faculty members is working to change that.
The common reading program is intended to be a shared reading experience for incoming freshmen and transfer students. For the third year in a row, new students are provided with a book selected each year by a several members of the Purdue community, including students. With the summer assignment to read the book, the program aims to give the diverse incoming students at least one thing in common.
Of course, the initiative depends entirely on whether or not incoming students are willing to read the book.
According to Dan Carpenter, co-chair of the common read, research showed that 88 percent of students reported to have read "The Kite Runner," last year's common read.
Susan Huffman, the faculty fellows committee chair, thinks many faculty and staff have tried to integrate the common read into student life, but expressed doubt about their overall effectiveness.
"The whole University wants to see it as a valuable program for students," Huffman said. "It's like, why are we doing the common read if we're not using the resources to bring students together to talk about different themes and to help them build community by getting to know each other better?"
Huffman's answer was to provide a copy of this year's book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," to the approximate 160 faculty fellows who serve as mentors for students in all but two residence halls. She, along with senior faculty fellow member Michael Witt, is challenging the fellows at every residence hall to hold one program or event related to the book within the first six weeks of school.
While these programs are still in the planning process, there is talk of hosting a panel of area experts, contests or reading circles.
Barbara Dixon, who has been a faculty fellow for 15 years, thinks this book was a particularly good choice for incoming students as it touches on many controversial themes such as ethics, class distinctions and even cloning.
Besides working to plan the programming, Dixon looks forward to using the book as a conversational tool in order to connect with students on a more intellectual level. She thinks shared reading is an effective way to deepen conversation.
"I really enjoy talking to the students when I go over there for activities or dinner," she said. "I don't have trouble connecting with them, but it gives us another way to do it, a different way."
Krista Vogt, sophomore in the College of Education, is at least one transfer student who walked out of orientation with the intent to read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."
"I want to be able to chime in the conversation," Vogt said. "(Speakers at orientation) said it was going to be the talk of campus. It just looks really interesting."