Common Reading Program offers first-year students more than a great read
It's like a huge book club, an academic training program and a social connector all in one.
Hundreds, potentially thousands, of students preparing to start their first year of study at McMaster in September are expected to take part in the Common Reading Program this summer.
They will all read, study and discuss the Canadian non-fiction hit, A Year of Living Generously.
In the book, Kingston, Ontario journalist and author Lawrence Scanlan takes readers along as he spends one month volunteering at 12 different non-profit agencies involved in work as diverse as emergency shelter, terminal illness, disaster relief and prisoner visits.
A chapter of the book (November: English Class on the Rez) has gone to all first-year students by email to allow students to prepare for the Summer Orientation Program, and registered participants will receive a free physical copy of the book - a customized McMaster edition - at the Summer Orientation Program that starts Tuesday, July 3 and runs over seven sessions.
A session on note-taking at the orientation program will integrate material from the book. As they read the book, students will have the chance to interact with one another online and, in September, meet the author.
Online discussions will be driven by student interest and overseen by volunteer orientation leaders. A blog will be arranged by chapter and include information on how students can get involved in volunteer work near McMaster.
The publisher, Douglas & McIntyre, has printed a special edition of the book, with a McMaster medallion on the cover and introductory letters from president Patrick Deane and dean of students Phil Wood.
"I hope that you will find it an exciting and interesting program and a helpful introduction to your studies and to the McMaster community," Deane says in his letter.
The wider program is in its second year, but students in the Arts & Science program have been taking part in a common reading program for several years.
Director Jean Wilson said students have benefited from sharing a common starting point and from interacting with authors of the books they have read, an experience she describes as "extraordinary". All incoming Arts & Science students will participate in the broader program, which will figure into their course work.
"The intent is that the readings, workshops and discussions around the common reading selection will raise issues and questions that will resonate throughout the student's years of study at McMaster, and indeed this has been put into practice," says Wilson, who was a member of the committee that selected A Year of Living Generously from a list of 11 candidates.
Last year when the program was first offered to the entire first-year class of about 5,000 students, about 450 took part. Program director Michelle Corbeil of the Student Success Centre is hoping at least three times as many will participate this year, with about 500 already pre-registered.
"The Common Reading Program is an opportunity for first-year students to become part of the McMaster community through a shared experience with their future classmates and peers," she says.