Book club brings staff, students together

Meghan Parmentier

The University Book Club is bringing the Quinnipiac community together in a new way.  The group, consisting of more than 30 people, includes faculty, staff and students combining to participate in intellectual discussion.

Deborah Clark, professor of biology and director of faculty collaborative for excellence in learning and teaching, organized the club.

“It’s filling a space that people are really enjoying that we didn’t have before,” Clark said.

The club is broken up into five subgroups that meet at different points during the week.  All five groups are reading “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It” by Robert Glennon.  Glennon’s book describes the water crisis threatening America and explores possible solutions.

In the group of more than 30 participants, only three are students.  Fifth-year student Caitlin Capistran is one of the three.

“I joined because, as a physical therapy student, I don’t get the chance to discuss books often and this club seemed like the perfect opportunity to balance out my usual heavy dose of science classes with a little literature,” she said.  “I was also really excited about the prospect of having the opportunity to meet the author; it adds a whole new dimension/purpose to reading.”

Glennon will be giving his keynote address to the Quinnipiac community on March 2 at 11 a.m.  He was chosen by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Service to Students.  The program is set up to award strong teaching and service to students and funds one major speaker each year who can relate to both professors and students.

Glennon will be meeting with the University Book Club separately to sign members’ books and to answer any questions.  He may also meet with other student groups.

The club came about for two major reasons – the new University synthesis initiative and the idea for the University to gear toward theme discussion.

Phase 1 of the new synthesis initiative was to have students and faculty think about what makes an intellectual community.  The Faculty Collaborative, in charge of Phase 2, went to student organization meetings in the evenings, conducted online surveys and categorized data on what types of experiences students were talking about.  Additionally, they asked faculty, staff and the 300-plus alumni on campus similar questions and looked for common themes.

The Student Government Association has taken a leadership role in the New Synthesis Project through the creation of a new committee, the College Group at QU, according to SGA president Louis Venturelli.  The mission of this group connects with the principles of the New Synthesis Project with the intentions of advancing the intellectual environment of the undergraduate community.

“The University Book Club complements the synthesis initiative through its ability to bring students, faculty and staff together in a casual setting, in which thoughts and ideas are shared for the advancement of human thought,” Venturelli said.

Mark Thompson, senior vice president for academic and student affairs, is also a member of the book club.

“The book club is one part of the new initiative,” Thompson said.  “We’re trying to have various components of student experience mesh together efficiently.”

“This was a humongous project on intellectual community,” Clark said.  “Whatever we got, people were excited to share it.  So we thought, how do we get more of that?  The book club is our answer.”

The second incentive, University theme discussion, is currently in its pilot year.  In the theme discussion proposal, there are four themes for students to “explore the human condition” under.  These themes include sustenance, well-being, security and meaning.

The plan is for each student to go through each theme during their four years at Quinnipiac.  Once the program gets going, the University will explore a different theme each year.  For this semester and the next academic year, the theme is water and water resources.

Glennon was chosen to speak on America and its water crisis because of this developing program.

“This is a step toward the full implementation of University theme discussion,” Thompson said.  “We know people of the student generation have the desire to support sustainability.  That’s the big umbrella.”