Program Encourages New Bearkats To 'Read To Succeed'

SHSU's First Year Experience office will begin giving incoming freshmen their first college academic experience before they even set foot in a classroom with its new "Bearkats Read to Succeed" program.

Through the program, students will be given a copy of a book to read over the summer, which will be integrated into some of the classes they take through lectures, film series, participation in discussion groups and course assignments, according to FYE director Keri Rogers.

"The common reader program is designed to introduce freshmen to the power and joys of reading, not simply as a means of imparting knowledge, but also a way to strengthen emotional connectedness, to lessen isolation, to explore alternate realities and to challenge the established order," Rogers said.

Kicking off this summer, incoming freshmen will receive a free copy of "Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic," by John De Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor, during their orientation session.

Based on two highly-acclaimed PBS documentaries, "Affluenza" uses the whimsical metaphor of a disease to discuss the damage done-to our health, our families, our communities, and our environment-by the obsessive quest for material gain that, since World War II, has been the core principle of the American Dream, according to a review at

"The book lays bare many of the aspects of one of the most serious and pervasive issues of modern society and that is preoccupation with affluence and material possessions," said provost and vice president for Academic Affairs David Payne, who has read the book. "It helps to bring perspective to that materialistic orientation and talks about some possible ways of dealing with it.

"I think that's a very useful topic for our students to think through as they prepare for life: what kind of role that should play or shouldn't play in their plans for the future," he said.

Rogers said the program serves as the first academic experience for incoming freshmen because it allows students to "gain a greater understanding of academic expectations of college," as well as utilize their critical thinking skills.

It also serves as an opportunity for freshmen to share a common academic experience and provides a sense of community as they discuss the book with each other and with their professors, something that is important as students try to acclimate to a new environment, Rogers said.

"People find that the students will talk about it when they're eating at one of the cafeterias or when they're sitting in their rooms," she said. "This gives them something in common in the academic arena with the entire university community. New students will feel more connected to faculty and staff and will experience active involvement in the intellectual life of the campus."

The FYE ran the program last year as a pilot with the freshmen seminar SAM 136 class, during which they learned what kinds of books to pick, a student-preferred discussion format and how to integrate it into the classroom, Rogers said.

This year, the committee is working to integrate the programs into more of the core classes that freshmen are likely to take. For core classes with mixed-classifications, in which the book is being discussed, Rogers said copies will be on reserve at the library for students to read the required chapters.

Two informational sessions for professors who teach core curriculum classes will be held during the summer sessions to discuss the classroom integration over coffee. The meetings will be held on June 10 and July 16 from 9-11 a.m. in the Lowman Student Center Art Gallery.

"We hope faculty find the book interesting and that some of them will be able to integrate it usefully into their curriculum," Payne said.

In addition to distributing the books at orientation sessions, "Affluenza" will also be available at the campus bookstore.

For more information on the Bearkats Read to Succeed program, contact Rogers at 936.294.3422 or


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SHSU Media Contacts: Jennifer Gauntt
May 13, 2008
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