By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele
McMaster’s Common Reading Program kicked-off last week with the announcement of their 2017 book, The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall.
As Sean Van Koughnett, associate vice-president (students and learning) and dean of students shared, “We are very pleased to have this novel as our selection this year. The Common Reading program has expanded and grown over its seven years; this is a testament to the value of the program. It brings people together around a shared topic.”
Furthering its goal to encourage learning that goes beyond the classroom, The Common Reading Program incorporated a new element into the 2017 book selection process: student voting. Previous student participants in the program were asked to select their preference from a shortlist provided by the University selection committee.
“Aside from supporting the program financially, Common Reading Program partners helped to create the long list of books for consideration and developing programs that fit the needs of a particular cohort of students,” offered Michele Corbeil, program coordinator of orientation and transition. “Final say was given to first year students registered in the Common Reading Program this past year, where they were offered the chance to participate in the selection of this year’s book.”
The students’ choice was presented at The Common Reading Program Book Reveal and SSC Open House, where members of the McMaster community enjoyed coffee and conversation in the Student Success Centre as well as a reading from previous Common Reading Program author and long-time supporter, Dr. Daniel Coleman. Sean Van Koughnett also shared some words about this year’s selection:
“The topic of sexual assault addressed in this book is important for society as a whole to address, but also at McMaster at a time where we have around 6,000 first year students coming here during Welcome Week. It is one area of focus when we talk about the topic of consent and sexual assault – so again, a perfect book at a perfect time.”
By engaging with The Best Kind of People and Common Reading Program activities taking place throughout the fall semester, readers will have opportunities to discuss their experience transitioning to university, to explore mindsets that contribute to academic success in university, and to connect with services that will help individuals get the most out of their time at McMaster. To encourage these conversations among students, the program will offer a large number of incoming students a free copy of the book with personalized welcome letters from Patrick Deane, president and vice-chancellor, and Sean Van Koughnett.
For the first time, The Common Reading Program will also partner with the Hamilton Public Library and SACHA, Hamilton’s sexual assault centre, for community-based events. The goal of these partnerships is to help students build connections with the City of Hamilton and to develop an awareness of supports that are available in the community.
As Dr. Coleman suggested at the program launch, “Reading, at the same time as it is private and intimate, is also incredibly social and community-making. The program thinks about those communities and the impact of individual reading in larger communities. And you can see how that community has grown since the beginning.”
This year, Guelph University has adopted their own version of The Common Reading Program.
“Last year’s choice for the book was Lawrence Hill, who works at the University of Guelph. He enjoyed being here at McMaster so much that he was thinking ‘Hey, we should have something like this at Guelph’, so it spread over,” said Dr. Daniel Coleman. “So, this very intimate act of reading by yourself builds community.”
In addition to partnered events, the program will also host a Human Library event September 2017 and In Conversation with Zoe Whittall event October 2017, as well as regular discussions linking themes from the book both to students’ first-year experience and to campus services that support academic and personal success.
Proud Common Reading Program partners include, but are not limited to: Office of Alumni Advancement, Arts & Science Program, School of Graduate Studies, McMaster University Library, Office of the President, Faculty of Humanities, Equity and Inclusion Office and Residence Life Office (Housing and Conference Services) and the Student Success Centre.