Faculty member stresses importance of BGSU Common Read

Mary Ross and Mary Ross

The Common Read is a program designed to connect students, particularly first-year students, through reading of the same academic book.

“The purpose of the discussion was to identify ways to create experiences for incoming first year students that would build community yet have an academic tone,” according to BGSU’s website.

Donna Nelson-Beene, director of BG Perspective and Provost Office associate, has been working on the Common Read committee since its creation and is passionate about finding a book that has the ability to connect students across all majors.

“At the core of it, it’s really about creating a common experience that’s different every year that student, faculty and staff can all participate in together. And it’s something that carries across different sections of the university, it isn’t just done in this discipline…so it brings us together,” Nelson-Beene said.

There are quite a few criteria the Common Read committee looks for in a book before picking one, including dialogue about the human condition and issues related to students as well as a book rich in content and themes that cause students to think critically.

This year, the Common Read Book is titled, “What the Eyes Don’t See,” written by Mona Hanna-Attisha and checks all the boxes for the criteria the Common Read committee looks for. This book details the Flint Water Crisis and Hanna-Attisha’s research and personal experience with the matter. 

Nelson-Beene believes the themes in this book should resonate with students because of the worldwide issue water quality is, especially with BGSU’s close proximity to Flint, Michigan.

“(The book) should resonate with everybody because water is so important and our environment is so important,” Nelson-Beene stated. 

Not only did Nelson-Beene like the book for its relevance to students, but she also loves this book for the way it is written and hopes students like it as much as she did.

“I love the writing in the book because it’s largely autobiographical,” she said. “I’m really hopeful that students will like it and get into discussing it. It’s not a challenging read, it’s a fast read. But it’s also a really thought provoking read and it gets into so many disciplines.”

In addition to picking the common book for all first year students, the Common Read committee brings in the author of the book to give a presentation every year. Nelson-Beene thinks the presentation ties the whole experience together.

“To see that line of students waiting all the way around the ballroom to get their book signed or get a selfie with the author, it makes the connection,” she said. “There’s something so special when you read a book and you feel a connection with the author and then get to meet that author in person.”

This year the presentation will take place on Oct. 1 in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union at 7:30 p.m. Students, faculty, staff and community members are all welcome, but must sign up in advance.

For more information about the Common Read, visithttps://www.bgsu.edu/provost/academic-affairs/common-reading-experience/about-common-reading.html