"This I Believe II," a collection of 75 short essays of personal philosophies of writers both known and unknown, was reconfirmed as Virginia Tech's 2012-13 Common Book.

In its 14th year, the Common Book Project, which is sponsored by the Office of First Year Experiences in the Division of Undergraduate Education, gives new undergraduate students a common academic experience during their first year at Virginia Tech.

Common Book committee members recommended renewing the book for a second academic year. “Our decision was rooted in several factors: first, the feedback we got from students and faculty on the applicability of the book and these comments came from a wide range of departments,” notes Jennifer Sparrow, director of Emerging Technologies and New Ventures for InnovationSpace and Common Book committee member. “Additionally, faculty members have developed some great learning opportunities around the Common Book. “

One such faculty member is Kathryn Albright, associate professor and foundation chair in the School of Architecture + Design, who has woven "This I Believe II" into the fabric of the first-year experience course, Design Thinking: Defying Preconceptions, offered to first-year students in the summer and fall 2011 semesters. Students were asked through weekly assignments to read specific narratives, analyze essays, and relate ideas discussed in the essays to design.

The committee also agreed that the use of this book beyond just this year would allow for sharing and collaboration around these learning activities. “Entering freshman and transfer students will have the benefit of reading the same book that many in the university community have read, fostering greater opportunities  for discussion, viewpoints, experiences, and knowledge,” notes committee member Tammie Smith, administrative assistant and office coordinator for the Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning.

Faculty can enroll in an Office of First Year Experiences - Common Book workshop offered later this month, to explore and design activities for integrating the Common Book into their courses. The event is sponsored by the Office of First Year Experiences and the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research. Faculty may request a copy of the Common Book via email.

Copies of “This I Believe II” will be distributed within the residence halls at the beginning of the fall 2012 semester to freshmen. Resident advisors will play a key role in promoting the Common Book among the first-year students by hosting special events and activities that tie in with the theme of the book.  New transfer students will also receive a copy of the book either through their academic dean’s office or in a class in which they are enrolled. 

The Common Book Committee will be soliciting input from the entire university as considerations for the next book selection process, which will be made available on the Common Book site.

Written by Jenise Jacques, coordinator of communications and public relations in the Office of Distance Learning and Summer Sessions.

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