A Look At: University of Minnesota First Year Experience Program

Kris Cory from the University of Minnesota discussed how her relationship with Books In Common started and how the students come together for one common book:

Your choices for common reads span a number of diverse topics and authors. How much does diversity factor into the decision to read a certain book?


Diversity is a crucial consideration for us when we select common books. We serve a diverse student body and are committed to preparing students to function effectively in their lives and professions in a multicultural world. The undergraduate learning and development outcomes that we focus on in our First Year Experience program are the ability to communicate effectively and the ability to appreciate differences. Both of these outcomes can be supported with a variety of tools and experiences. We want our common book and the experience of reading, discussing, meeting the author and engaging with the questions and issues that these experiences raise to be part of the development of intercultural competence.

The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) Reads’ motto is “Can one person make a difference?” How have you seen one person make a difference in your years of hosting common-reads programs?

Our CEHD Reads common question provides a framework for thinking about the individual choices and actions that are represented in the books we select and read; and also brings a spotlight to the ways that people who do the work of telling stories and writing can make a difference. We encourage our students, who are in a Writing Intensive course while they read the common book, to see themselves and the work they do in the course — as writers, as collaborators with their peers and community members in and outside the classroom, and as volunteers and service learners — as individuals who are making a difference.  

What advice can you share with First Year Experience coordinators who are considering a common-reads program launch?

We’ve found that the success of our common-book program is supported by the fact that our common book is required reading in a required fall semester course. We’ve worked hard at providing resources and support for faculty who teach the First Year Inquiry course, and inviting the entire college community to participate in a variety of ways to embed the book or events connected to the book into their own work or courses. What seems critical is not having the book just be an “add-on.” Without considerable thought about how faculty, students and the community can integrate the book in meaningful and rewarding ways, a common read can be a lot of work without much payoff.


This entry was posted in common-reads program, FYE, University of Minnesota and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Garth Stein: A SUDDEN LIGHT