URI incoming freshmen, community to read ‘common’ book

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Subject of book to speak this fall at URI

KINGSTON, R.I.—July 15, 2010—More than 2,900 first-year students who attended orientation at the University of Rhode Island last month came away with tons of campus information and one book.

The students, members of the URI’s incoming freshmen class are required to read A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League by Ron Suskind this summer, take part in an online blog discussion and prepare to discuss the book in various first-year courses.

“I’m pleased to support the URI Common Reading Initiative,” said Donald DeHayes, URI provost and vice president of academic affairs, in a campus announcement. “We will be introducing the initiative to the broader URI community throughout the summer. The overall goals are to introduce students to a campus culture focused on academic engagement and learning and build a sense of community and common bond among our students, faculty, staff, and administrators.”

An 11-member committee of faculty and staff selected A Hope in the Unseen, with input from approximately 40 URI students.

“The topics of race, adult development, access to higher education, and more, as discussed in this book, complement our fall 2010 Honors Colloquium entitled RACE,” said the provost, noting that Cedric Jennings, the subject of the biography, will visit the University in the fall. He is scheduled to speak at two sessions on Sept. 22 at 4 and 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium, 64 Upper College Road, Kingston. His talks are open to the URI and larger communities.

The book follows Jennings and his challenging journey through his last two years of high school as an A student in a challenging urban neighborhood in Washington, D.C. through his adjustment and transition to his freshmen year at Brown University. At Brown, Jennings sometimes feels profoundly alienated from his peers as he looks to adjust to college and discover his path in life. The book is a testament to Jennings’ persistence and determination, drawn from courage, faith, and intelligence. Jennings is now director of the Office of Youth Programs, under the Council of the District of Columbia.

Faculty members in various departments, including English, sociology, psychology, writing and communication are planning to integrate the book into several of their courses. Deans in each college have been asked to promote the book, and all sections of URI 101, the University’s freshmen seminar, will also use A Hope in the Unseen. The goal is to have as many in the University community as possible have this common reading experience. A URI blog http://www.uricommonreading.blogspot.com has been established so that students and the greater community can exchange reactions and reflections to the book.

URI began its Common Reading Initiative last year with the book, Interpreter of Maladies by Pulitzer prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri.