Monday August 8, 2011

What Do You Believe?

It's life's big question. All incoming students this summer are reading "This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women."

What are college students reading this summer?

More than 2,000 incoming University of Dayton students have an assignment to complete before they show up for their first class. They're tackling This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, a compilation of 80 essays written by famous and unknown contributors. 

Essays by John Updike and Colin Powell are interspersed with reflections by a retired elementary school teacher in rural Wisconsin and a Red Cross volunteer. Edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, the book is based on the popular National Public Radio series.

The essays invite students to rethink their own beliefs and the extent to which they share their beliefs with others.  Students will write reflections on the essays and discuss them with professors as part of new student orientation activities from 10:30 a.m. until noon on Tuesday, Aug. 23 in various classrooms on campus.  All students will then write a "This I Believe" statement that can be developed into a short essay.

Later in the fall, Gediman, executive director of This I Believe, a non-profit organization that collects and presents the personal philosophies of people from all walks of life, will share the fascinating history of the project as well as audio recordings of essays from writers.  His talk is slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, in the Kennedy Union Ballroom on campus.  It's free and open to the public.

In conjunction with the University of Dayton's celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, the founder of the Society of Mary, students also are reading at least two additional essays by Marianist priests.  One essay conveys Chaminade's beliefs from a historic perspective; the other outlines how his beliefs are relevant in 2011.

"The collection of work around beliefs and values is very relevant.  Asking students to reflect on their beliefs is a way to open the conversations about the strong beliefs of Chaminade and his perseverance and faith.  It also provides a safe platform for students to begin to form and articulate their own beliefs," said Cari Wallace, director of new student programs. 

Around the country this summer, the reading list at other universities and colleges ranges from such classics as Don Quixote and War and Peace to contemporary offerings like The Last Lecture.

For more information, contact Cari Wallace, director of new student programs, at 937-229-2229.