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The Common Reading Program Brings Author to Campus; Essay Contest Winners Read Work

Author Jeff Goins strolled through The Theresa and Edward O’Toole Library. He read through the bios and excerpts from students’ personal essays; taking as much of an interest in them as they recently took in him. The essays were all personal narratives inspired by his book, The Art of Work, which was the Common Reading Program choice for this year’s incoming freshmen.

Goins was on campus to deliver the keynote speech as part of the Common Reading Program.

“The Common Reading Program is an intellectual experience designed to bring the freshmen class together through shared readings and discussions centered around a common theme,” said Constance Wagner, writing program director.

The Art of Work was chosen as the Common Reading Program because the book encourages readers to seek and act upon passions that give their lives meaning, a topic appropriate for college-age readership. During his keynote presentation, Goins highlighted tips from his book, including “Who you are is practice for who you are going to be.” He shared with the students his three “secrets” for living a purposeful life:

“You can’t plan your purpose, you can’t control your outcome and you can’t wait for clarity,” he said.

As part of the program, students had been encouraged by professors in the English department to write personal essays based on the book and submit them to the Common Reading Program essay contest. Winning essays and author bios were on display in the library and students read from their pieces at a recent symposium.

“One of the main joys of judging the essay contest is finding student work that draws on so many different approaches to the same material found in a common text. This year’s pieces featured work that ranged from literary non-fiction to straightforward biography to personal reflection. All very intriguing!” said Wagner.

The winners of the special distinction award were Ripunjay Singh ’21, Alejandro Gomez ’21, Jili Zhu ’21, Brian Bates ’21 and Esther Kolade ’21. Honorable mentions included Dakota Stein ’21, David Rampersad ’21, Chantel Elliott ’21, Mark Mineses ’21 and Anna Maguire ’21.

“The ongoing purpose for the essay contest, indeed for the Common Reading Program itself, is to provide freshmen with a shared platform for intellectual exploration that centers around the written word. This year’s book—The Art of Work—has certainly kept students artfully engaged in the writing process AND in the process of discovering themselves,” said Wagner.