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Faculty, Staff Invited To Preview ‘Read To Succeed’ Book

April 16, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksFaculty, staff, and administrators interested in incorporating the new 2012-2013 common reader, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, into their curriculum are invited to attend an exclusive preview luncheon on Friday (April 27).

The luncheon, which includes presentations by five professors, will be from noon to 2 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks shares the story of the poor, black tobacco farmer whose cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951, became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and more.

Known by scientists as HeLa, Lacks’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, and yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family cannot afford health insurance.

The New York Times best seller is considered a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine.

The interdisciplinary presentations, all of which address themes found in the book, will examine such topics as “Bio-Ethics: Informed Consent,” by philosophy visiting lecturer Diana Buccafurni; “How do we know what we know? Using HeLa to Explain Research in the Social Sciences,” by political science department chair Rhonda Callaway; and “Welcome Jim Crow: The Triumph of White Supremacy, Blackness in Reverse, and the Long Road to Citizenship,” by associate professor of history Bernadette Pruitt.

Biological sciences department chair Todd Primm will share “So What Are HeLa Cells?” explaining what the cells look like, what they are and define an “immortal cell” so that teachers in the classroom will be comfortable with the science side of the book; while Donovan Haines, assistant professor of chemistry, will present “Connecting with Students Through Cancer: An Educational Application.”

Haines, who said he had a brother die of cancer, said he has found that roughly two-thirds of his students each semester knew someone afflicted by the disease. In having his students write about the experiences with cancer, he has found them to be very responsive.

“Students take it beyond what I ask,” he said about assigning cancer-related projects. “They tend to be really engaged in it.”

Henrietta and David Lacks, in 1945 —Photo from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“The faculty preview is designed to inspire interest among faculty, to suggest infusion of classroom projects related to the book topics, to inform our university community of additional supportive programming, and thus to begin the cross-disciplinary academic and intellectual discussion that will ultimately benefit our students,” said Kay Angrove, director of the First-Year Experience. “This program enhances the core university value to build community between our faculty, staff, and students and it generates dialogue about important issues.”

The Bearkats Read to Succeed was begun in 2008 to provide common intellectual content early in SHSU students’ college experiences.

“The book provides the content and together with the university community, the program provides a shared foundation for both new and current students,” Angrove said.

“Freshmen attending summer orientation will receive a copy of the book to read as a summer reading assignment. It becomes one of their first college academic assignments,” she said. “In the fall students will have the opportunity to participate in discussions, in assignments, in a book forum, and in meaningful service learning projects related to the themes in the book.”

In addition to a complimentary lunch, faculty attendees who adopt the book for their classes will receive a free copy, as well as a packet of learning activities associated with themes of the book.

Space is limited at the faculty preview, and those who wish to attend are encouraged to reserve a place as soon as possible.

The event is sponsored by the Professional and Academic Center for Excellence and Student Success Initiatives.

For more information, or to make a reservation, contact PACE at pace@shsu.edu or 936.294.2688, and for more information on the Bearkats Read to Succeed program, contact Angrove at 936.294.3422 or fye@shsu.edu.



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