Freshmen Summer Reading Initiative

04/23/2003

Contributed by Peter W. Bardaglio

The launching of the new freshmen summer reading initiative provides Ithaca College with an important opportunity to create a shared academic experience for incoming students, as called for in the institutional plan.

The goal of this program is to establish at the outset the expectations that accompany membership in an academic community of our caliber. It sends a powerful message that an Ithaca College education entails the liberal arts values of intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, not just a high degree of professional training.

The choice of this summerís book, The Color of Water, underscores the Collegeís commitment to another priority of the Institutional Plan -- to "create a campus environment that accepts, reflects, and celebrates diversity." James McBride is a highly accomplished writer whose work illuminates the dynamic and complex character of human identity. The story of his multicultural upbringing in a family headed by an African American father and Jewish mother is a moving testament to the ethnic complexity of American society, and should provide a valuable jumping off point for discussions about cultural differences and the nature of race in the United States.

We are asking students to engage in a thoughtful critique of this book and not simply to digest it. Every book has a perspective, and we want students to learn how to identify the author's point of view, understand it, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and to formulate alternative points of view.

We are excited about the freshmen summer reading initiative because it promises to help build a community of learners who grasp the importance of a liberal education, one in which both the unity and diversity of the human experience are understood and appreciated. We look forward to the summer reading program becoming another fine tradition at Ithaca College, part of an ongoing process in which we seek to foster "intellect, creativity and character."

Contributed by Peter W. Bardaglio

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