Well, there are some requirements…

Summer reading, writing required for incoming freshmen

By
Monday, July 21, 2008

The Class of 2012 may prove to be the University’s most diverse class yet. But no matter where they hail from, all incoming first-years have the same summer assignment: to read “The Places In Between,” a book by Rory Stewart, and write a letter to their academic advisers based upon it.

In “Places,” Stewart, a Scottish journalist, recounts his experience traveling through a post-Sept. 11 Afghanistan. Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron chose the book.

“This book will get them thinking about their own journey,” said Ann Gaylin, associate dean of first-year and sophomore studies, who is new to the University this year.

The book was much welcomed by Virginia native Misha Desai ’12, who said “Places” is one of his “favorite books of all time.”

Having read the book about two years ago, Desai said he views Stewart as a “19th-century hero in the flesh” and even tried contacting him by sending letters to his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, asking for advice on what to study in college.

Desai’s question may be answered sooner than he expected – with Stewart scheduled to speak on campus in October.

“It’s moments like that when I know I picked the right school,” Desai said.

Ora Star Boncore ’12, also from Virginia, said she wasn’t surprised at being assigned summer reading because it’s something she’s lived with since the fourth grade. Even so, she was “a little confused” about how discussions would be organized without requiring students to enroll in a particular class.

But Boncore, like the rest of her class, received a copy of the book in July, along with a letter from Bergeron explaining that discussion sessions led by faculty would take place during the week of Orientation.

Araceli Mendez ’12, from Texas, said she is excited to hear everyone else’s opinions about the book.

From what she has read so far, Mendez said the book has already taught her to listen to and learn from others even when their ideas and customs may conflict with her own.

Opening dialogue between students and Brown faculty is another goal administrators hope to achieve through the summer reading assignment. In her letter, Bergeron asked incoming first year students to tell their advisers about the “academic path” they wish to take at Brown.

“Some students have said that they would like to have more meaningful relationships with their advisers,” Gaylin said. “Incorporating the book in the letter to their adviser will allow the advisor to see how the student thinks even before they meet, as well as giving them something to talk about.”