Next Book-in-Common focus to be personal beliefs, action
If you walked across a University of Louisville campus and asked the first 10 people you saw, “What do you believe?” you undoubtedly would receive 10 very different answers.
Maybe they’d mention religion. Education. Community. Parenthood. Happiness.
And how would their answers get you to look at your own life?
Would you agree with them? Would you disagree? Would you be inspired to challenge yourself to stand up for what you believe?
The Book-in-Common program will ask the UofL community and beyond to consider that very question next year.
The Office of First Year Initiatives has selected “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” as the 2013-2014 Book-in-Common.
“This I Believe” is a collection of short essays written by both well-known and everyday people and edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. It is part of an international project that allows people to write, share and discuss their beliefs and what led them there.
UofL’s Book-in-Common program encourages first-year students to read a common text the summer before they start classes and invites faculty, staff and upper-class students to do the same. Throughout the academic year, faculty and students discuss the book and its themes in classes. It is the focus of other student programs, too, including workshops, a keynote lecture and community service activities.
A selection committee of faculty, staff and students read four options in choosing “This I Believe,” narrowed down from hundreds of suggestions, said Christy Metzger, FYI director.
“We got a great deal of positive response to this book,” Metzger said. “It will be really helpful in generating the type of dialogue that we want students to engage in with faculty, staff and community members.”
“This I Believe” began in the 1950s as a radio series by famed journalist Edward R. Murrow. In 2005, the radio segments were relaunched and featured on NPR. The first “This I Believe” book was released in 2007.
The book’s essays are from well-known names like Colin Powell, Glora Steinem and Bill Gates, as well as everyday people who were inspired by the thought of sharing their beliefs.
To date, people have submitted more than 100,000 essays and several spinoff books that focus on one topic have been published, including, “This I Believe: Life Lessons” and “This I Believe: On Love.”
People can write about any topic they want. Essays in the book UofL will read include titles like “How is it Possible to Believe in God?” “There is No More Important Job than Parenting,” and “Have I Learned Anything Important Since I Was Sixteen?”
Jenny Akervik, a first-year student who served on the selection committee, said she was nervous, at first, about reading the book, which consists of 80 essays. She said she didn’t know if a book without a traditional narrative flow would work for her. Soon though, she said she realized the book’s strength: No matter who reads the text, whatever stage they are in life, they can relate to one of the essays or be interested in one of the topics.
Because of that, “there’s a lot of opportunity that goes with this book,” Akervik said.
As part of the Book-in-Common, during the next school year, FYI will encourage students, faculty, staff, alumni and others to draft their own essays. The essays will be featured on a UofL page on the “This I Believe” website, and some may be featured on UofL Today.
“One of the reasons we’re really excited about this book is because students can contribute to this international dialogue by crafting their own statements,” Metzger said. “It’s also a great fit with the developmental theory that grounds our work as we ask students to draw on their experiences and engage in reflection, integration and application around complex issues relevant to their everyday lives. We can talk about where they’re headed and how their passions, experiences and core beliefs will help them be contributing members of the community.”
Once students craft their essays, they’ll be asked and encouraged to put their beliefs in action. That concept, she said, will tie the next book back to last year’s selection, “The Other Wes Moore,” which chronicled two men’s life decisions and consequences.
“One of the threads that carries over from ‘The Other Wes Moore’ is the idea is that you have what you believe and then can look at how your beliefs shape your day-to-day decisions and actions,” Metzger said.
Metzger said her office and campus partner groups are in the process of planning workshops and other activities related to the text, as well as encouraging faculty and staff to use this text in their work with students. Watch UofL Today and the BinC site for dates and other information related to next year’s program.
Also, UofL employees or students who have crafted a “This I Believe” statement or are interested in so doing as part of the program, should email Christy Metzger.