Otterbein University has established a common reading experience for new students through a gift from an alumna, Mary Thomas '28. The selection of books for the common reading experience reflects Otterbein's resolve to add an academic component to new student orientation and to present itself to incoming students as an intellectual community willing to grapple with significant contemporary issues. Since 1995, the series seeks to stimulate a year-long discussion of an academic theme derived from common book issues by exploring it in classes, residence halls, and co-curricular programming. This common reading experience involves all incoming first-year students, faculty, many staff members, and student leaders. A committee of faculty, staff, and students select from over fifty books each year in an effort to find a significant contemporary work to read the next year.
Who Gets the Common Book?
The selected book is distributed to first-year students free of charge during orientation sessions in the summer and New Student Weekend. Faculty and staff also receive a free copy of the book so they may prepare for the upcoming year's events. Program organizers encourage all faculty members to use the book in their classes, take part in the year-long programming related to the book, or discuss the book with first-year students in informal ways.
What Programs Incorporate the Common Book?
New students receive their book in a faculty/staff facilitated classroom setting during summer orientation sessions. A packet of materials provides the student with reading strategies and a writing assignment. Each student is expected to read the common book and write an essay during the summer.
Upon the students' return on New Student Weekend in the fall, they assemble for an all-campus convocation centered around the academic theme and the common book. From there, they participate in their first Integrative Studies course where their writing assignment on the book is due and a common bond is formed through discussion. All 100 level Integrative Studies classes read and examine the book's themes and issues during the three quarters of the academic year.
A focal point of the Thomas Academic Excellence Series is the visit by the common book author. The author speaks to the entire campus at a convocation, usually in October, followed by a book signing. Many authors have visited individual classes. Each year, the Theatre 100 students interpret the year's common book issues through a series of playlets.
How is the Common Book selected?
A committee of faculty, staff, and students select from over fifty books each year in an effort to find a significant contemporary work to read the next year. If you enjoy reading and are interested in joining the committee, contact Jennifer Bechtold, Co-Chair of the Committee (614) 823-3202. READ WITH US- Check out our long list of Future Considerations HERE.