AUSTIN, Texas—Freshman students with a love of books will gather in small discussion groups on Aug. 26 in the culmination of a new summer reading program at The University of Texas at Austin called Freshman Reading Round-Up, in which they chose a book to read from among 40 titles selected by the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
The students will engage in a discussion with the professor who recommended the book they selected.
Dr. Jim Vick, vice president for student affairs, initiated the plan for a freshman summer reading program, a concept he had heard about on other campuses that was enthusiastically accepted by his colleagues in the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
“It’s important for freshmen to experience from the beginning that the university is essentially a place of ideas, where inquiry and discovery occur every day among students and professors,” said Vick, who also is a professor of mathematics.
Elizabeth Cullingford, professor of English, who has volunteered to lead a Round-Up session on Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” said she is excited about the program.
“The idea appeals to me because it involves reading a book for no credit at all, either for students or faculty. It tells students at the beginning of their university careers that learning begins in pleasure and curiosity,” said Cullingford. “I’m hoping to get the attention of people who saw ‘The Hours’ and wondered why ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ had such an impact on so many different women.”
The professors’ book selections are remarkably varied in subject matter and genre—ranging from cutting-edge science to classical drama to controversial social issues—which reflects another goal of the Reading Round-Up: to make available to the university community and the public the list of diverse books chosen by some of the university’s most highly respected teachers.
All eligible freshmen were sent an e-mail message inviting them to participate in the Round-Up. Registration for the Reading Round-Up is online, at the Freshman Reading Round-Up Web site.
If the program is a success, Vick said he envisions a larger group of participating faculty in years to come, with more of the incoming freshman class signed up to get an early introduction to the intellectual territory known as the Forty Acres.
“This is a wonderful way for students to enter into the active intellectual life of a university: meeting with faculty and other interested students to talk about thought-provoking books,” said Bob Duke, professor of music and human learning. “It sets a tone for what a quality undergraduate experience should be.”
James Garrison, a professor of English, said he always has believed that successful education combines the intellectual with the social.
“The Freshman Reading Round-Up will give new students a great start on meeting classmates and sharing ideas with them,” Garrison said. “Whatever else they do in their years at UT, whatever majors they choose, these students will have at least one book in common, and they will all know at least one faculty member whose door will always be open to them.”
For more information about Freshman Reading Round-Up, contact Vick at 512-471-1133, or Lara Harlan, project assistant, at 512-232-3996.
For more information contact: Dr. James Vick, vice president for student affairs, 512-471-1133, or Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.