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. 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 facilitated classroom discussion during summer orientation sessions. A packet of materials provides the student with reading strategies and a writing assignment. Students are expected to read the book and complete their assignment before returning to campus in the fall.
First Flight & First Year Seminars
When students return to campus int he fall, they assemble for an all-campus convocation which touches on the Common Book. From there, they participate in their First Year Seminar course meeting where the common book writing assignment is due and posted to their personal ePortfolio. Structured discussions around topics presented int he common book during First Flight allow for a common bond among new Otterbein students.
First Year Seminar
Students will continue to engage in discussions surrounding the themes presented in the common book throughout the academic year. The First Year Seminar serves as one mechanism to engage students in discussions and programming related to the book. Peer Mentors connected to each First Year Seminar section have read and are trained to facilitate discussions related to the common book. Peer Mentors also help connect students to co-curricular programs offered throughout the 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 1000 students interpret the year's common book issues through a series of playlets.
How is the Common Book selected?
A dedicated group of faculty, staff, students and alumni select from over fifty books each year in an effort to find a significant contemporary work to use as the Common Book. If you are interested in nominating a book to be considered as a Common Book, please complete this online form.
If you enjoy reading and are interested in helping to select the Common Book, contact Jennifer Bechtold, Co-Chair of the Committee (614) 823-3202. If you'd like to read along side the committee, check out our long list of future considerations. Please send any feedback on the book to Jennifer Bechtold prior to March 1.