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Thoreau's 'Walden' Is Reading For Incoming Ithaca College Students

ITHACA, NY — Incoming Ithaca College students will get together the day before the start of classes to discuss their summer reading assignment: Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” The classic manual on the importance of self-reliance and the nature of progress and development is the 2010–11 First-Year Reading Initiative selection.

Published in 1854, “Walden” chronicles Thoreau’s thoughts and experiences over the course of two years in a cabin he built at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. Ithaca College President Tom Rochon says the very act of reading this book will represent a departure of habit for many students, since it is a volume of thoughts and reflections that is neither character-driven nor plot-driven.

“What is important is not what happens, but instead, what thoughts the book stimulates in the reader,” said Rochon. “At a time when reading risks becoming synonymous with skimming through paragraphs and getting to the bottom of things as quickly as possible, ‘Walden’ asks the reader to slow down, be patient and open the mind to counterintuitive thinking. One can benefit by opening to any page, reading a few paragraphs and then closing the book and thinking about them.”

The First-Year Reading Initiative was created in 2003 as a way to offer the incoming class a shared academic experience and bring together new students with faculty and staff to consider an important issue outside the constraints of the classroom. Volunteer faculty and staff facilitators will meet with students in small discussion groups on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

For the first time this year, facilitators also took advantage of the opportunities created by IC Peers — the college’s social networking site for incoming students — to suggest questions and engage with students about the book during the course of the summer. President Rochon also wrote about “Walden” in the college magazine, “ICView,” and has invited alumni and other members of the college community to discuss the book online and at Alumni and Homecoming Weekend in the fall.

The Ithaca College Library has developed a comprehensive guide to “Walden” at http://www.ithacalibrary.com/sp/subjects/walden.