Finding common ground

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Patricia Telles-Irvin

Patricia Telles-Irvin

Vice President
Division of Student Affairs

Patricia Telles-Irvin believes a shared experience can create a special bond – even if it’s among 6,600 students.

The common ground Telles-Irvin hopes the incoming freshman class will share this fall is “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” the book selected for the University of Florida’s first Gator Common Reading Program. Other universities have conducted common reading programs with great success, and Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, said she expects UF’s experience to be a great one as well.

“We want it to come alive, with as many people reading it as possible,” Telles-Irvin said.

The idea behind the Gator Common Reading Program is for all first-year students to read the book prior to arriving on campus this fall. The goal is to give them a common foundation from which to launch their educational experiences.

Students who participate this summer in Preview, UF’s new-student orientation program, will receive a copy of the book. Faculty members who teach first-year students will be asked to integrate the text into their courses and class assignments.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” tells the story of Paul Farmer, a world-renowned infectious-disease specialist and Harvard professor whose goal is to bring the miracles of modern medicine to people in the developing world. A New York Times bestseller, the book has been described by critics as “stunning,” “a masterpiece” and “a true-to-life fairy tale.”

Telles-Irvin said those are just the qualities that drew her and others at the university to it.

“It covers a lot of different themes that can be used in a lot of different curriculums – ethics, leadership, diversity, HIV, globalization,” she said. “We hope a lot of faculty will read it, too.”

UF joins schools such as Duke University, Dartmouth and Tulane in using “Mountains Beyond Mountains” as a shared reading book. If it goes as well at UF as expected, the Gator Common Reading Program will be part of every freshman class experience from now on.

“We’re hoping this becomes the beginning of a tradition,” Telles-Irvin said.

Photo credit: Kristen Bartlett Grace — University Photography

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