Summer Reading Program Reinforces the Importance of Education

Posted: August 4, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Incoming freshman to New Century College (NCC) may come from many different places and have lots of different experiences, but they will have one thing in common when they set foot on campus this fall–they will have all read the same book. The Summer Reading Program at NCC motivates new students to read and think about the importance of education even before they begin their courses at Mason.

Each year, the Summer Reading Committee chooses a book from suggestions made by faculty and staff. This year’s choice, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass, was made because of the message about learning that comes through in the text. “Frederick Douglass claimed an education under difficult and even dangerous circumstances,” says Andrew Wingfield, chair of the Summer Reading Committee and visiting assistant professor at NCC. “He saw education as a source of strength and used it to escape from slavery and become one of the most influential orators in American history. The narrative is an excellent book to get students thinking about the power of learning.”

The criteria for choosing the book keep students’ interests in mind. According to Wingfield, the committee wants a book that is relatively short, intellectually stimulating, and that is compelling and accessible to students. “This book begins the NCC experience for students, so it should be an important book. At the same time, we want something that they’ll be gripped by even if they’re reading it in August on the beach,” he said. “We always consider who our students are and when and where they will be reading.”

The program hosts a discussion group the Friday before the fall semester begins, in which new students are introduced to each other and meet to talk about the issues presented in the text. Faculty members from all areas of George Mason and members of the wider community are also invited to the roundtable discussions, which mimic the seminar-style of many of NCC’s courses. “It sets the tone for the year to come,” Wingfield says.

The book also continues to play a role in studies throughout the year. This year, in a partnership with the Fall for the Book festival, the Provost’s Office, and the African American Studies Program, NCC will invite actor and playwright Fred Morsell to campus. Morsell will portray Douglass in his original one man play that uses passages from Douglass’ three autobiographies. He will sit on a panel with Mason faculty and students for a roundtable discussion after his performance.

“This is the second year we will partner with Fall for the Book to offer programming related to our Summer Reading text. It’s a great way to enrich everyone’s experience of the book and to build bridges between NCC and the rest of the Mason community,” says Wingfield.

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