Building community through shared experience

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fans of 1980s trivia, video games and geek culture rejoiced when it was announced Steven Spielberg would be taking Ernest Cline’s 2011 beloved dystopian novel, “Ready Player One,” to the big screen.

Belying its obscure references, the underlying narrative probes universal themes. 

“This book explores societal and ethical questions, and provides an easy and safe way to discuss challenging topics like poverty, power, diversity, acceptance, growth, independence and interdependence,” said Anne Suzuki, assistant dean of enrollment services at ASU’s West campus.

Suzuki oversees the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences’ annual Summer Community Read, which brings together ASU students, faculty and staff with members of the local community to participate in the shared experience of reading and reflecting on a novel, culminating with an on-campus talk by the author.

This year, Cline (pictured above) will deliver a keynote presentation at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22,  in the La Sala Ballroom on the West campus. A book signing will follow at 7:30 p.m.

“Since the event is open to the public, and we’ve made an intentional effort to involve the local comic bookstores, Glendale public libraries and other community members, it gives the students an opportunity to interact with ASU folks and their local community members,” Suzuki added.

The program is geared toward incoming freshmen and transfer students as a way to welcome them into the New College experience. West campus student government purchases the books for them, which they receive at orientation. Throughout the summer as they read, they have discussions about the book via social media with West campus peer mentors.

Students are also required to craft a response to the book, which can be in the form of digital or hand-drawn artwork, video, song, dance, poetry or even photography.

“We wanted to enhance the students’ experience so that they were doing more than just reading the book and answering questions,” said Jenna Graham, transition and retention specialist for Student Success at West campus. Graham has led the committee that selects the Summer Community Read book for three years.

“It’s amazing what students have turned in this year,” she said. “One student turned in a video of herself dancing blindfolded, which is related to what goes on in book.”

When Cline gives his presentation Sept. 22, there will be time for students to share their responses with him.

But the focus will be on fostering a sense of community among those present.

“We have made some wonderful connections with the local community because of the Summer Community Read program,” said Suzuki, “and we hope that the community members feel welcome on our campus and feel ASU is supporting the surrounding areas.”

 

Top photo: "Ready Player One" author Ernest Cline with a DeLorean, image courtesy Dave Hunt, ASU West campus marketing.