By Rosi Linda Sanchez
Brookhaven College’s Open Book Project, a common reader initiative that was introduced in Fall 2010, is proving to be successful, according to several faculty members.
Dr. Richard McCrary, former interim president of Brookhaven College in 2010, presented the idea to Kendra Vaglienti, dean of the Communications Division.
The idea was embraced and the program has been operating for two years now. Nelda Contreras, professor of developmental writing, was familiar with the project from her time as an adjunct professor at Mountain View Community College and asked to be on the committee. Members gather ideas and suggestions from one another as to what books to decide on. During winter break, committee members each read three books, then decide which book would best be suited for the open book project.
Daniel Marold, Student Government Association president and a committee member of the Open Book Project, said teachers incorporate the book into their curriculum and use the book for many class discussions, writing assignments or any other creative way. “Students get into it; it’s an ice breaker for teachers and students, something to talk about,” Contreras said.
The Open Book Project is designed to create a sense of community among students, faculty and staff through reading a book together. Members engage in discussions and events that are inspired by the themes of the book. It encourages students and teachers to come together with presentations, events and discussion groups throughout the semester.
Most recently, Assistant Dean in the Student Support Services, Beverly Neu Menassa held a lecture Nov. 7 on how to deal with death. The lecture topic was chosen specifically for the project.
This year, Open Book members read Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture,” an inspiring true story based on the life of a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who decided to spend the last months of his life after being diagnosed with cancer in a positive state of mind.
“Students who choose to read the book can expect to be inspired. Randy Pausch talks about following your childhood dreams, seeking help from others to reach these dreams, and becoming the person others want to help,” Neu Menassa said. The next event for “The Last Lecture” will be in February when Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and co-author of the book, plans to visit Brookhaven.
Conteras said students love the readings and it is a great way to generate conversation within the student body as well as between teachers and students.
In its second year, the Open Book Project is receiving a positive response according to the Brookhaven campus bookstore. Diana Turner, staff member at the campus bookstore, said “The Last Lecture” has sold out at the Brookhaven bookstore in the past.
“We have had a good acceptance of the book club,” Marold said. “Our member participation has doubled from last year. The most important thing the Open Book Project wants is for students to recognize what an impact reading can have.”