In August, 88 first-year students and 13 faculty connected over the fictional story of Amabelle Desir, a young domestic servant in the 1937 massacre of Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic.
The Office of the Dean of the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences offered Amabelle’s story to the students through Edwidge Danticat’s novel “The Farming of Bones” as the literary piece for this year’s First Year Reading Program.
Freshman undecided major Cindy Alas said that she benefited from both the program and the book.
“It was a great opportunity. I felt like a nerd at first because I didn’t know who was going to participate in the program, but as time went on I started feeling how different aspects of the book related to my family and me,” said Alas.
Students who participated in the reading program met the author during a private dinner following the undergraduate convocation ceremony, an annual ceremony hosted by the college that celebrates the beginning of the school year. This year’ ceremony was held at the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center on Sept. 7.
Brandi Nichols, freshman biology major, said, “It was pretty cool to be able to meet with the author and connect the book with the college theme. The book was pretty insightful and an easy read and the program helped me meet new people and get started at NSU early in the summer.”
Jessica Garcia-Brown, J.D., LL.M., associate professor and paralegal studies major chair in Farquhar, is a second-time faculty leader. Garcia-Brown said that the program has tremendous benefits.
“This program allows students to become emerged in what NSU has to offer through a casual book club of friends. Students learn to visualize in different perspectives the concepts that the author presents and become familiar with subject matters otherwise probably unknown to them,” she said.
The college’s dean, Don Ronsenblum, Ph.D., said the program is an initiative in its fourth year that seeks to familiarize incoming students with college-level writing and reading coupled with faculty interaction.
“It is all about finding the right fit; the right author with the right literary work, the willingness of the author to be part of this program, and seeking an author who is student centered,” said Rosenblum.
The Office of the Dean selects the writer and the literary work from suggestions made by the college’s faculty. Faculty also volunteer to be leaders of the program each winter semester. As students sign up for the program, they are assigned in groups of six or seven to a faculty member. Faculty members are then responsible for meeting with the students three times — before, at, and after convocation
To sign up for the program, students complete a brief application. If selected, they receive a con-gratulatory letter and a free book during the summer to start reading. Faculty contact them regarding their group discussions and meeting dates. The program is on a volunteer basis and there is no credit or assessment assigned to it.
“This program opened the doors for me to get acquainted with the workings of the university,” said Valerie Fernandes, senior majoring in psychology.
A main requirement of the program is to be a new NSU student, Fernandes was able to participate in the program last year as a transfer student.
“It made me feel more comfortable with the method of teaching and learning of the faculty at NSU,” said Fernandes.
For more information on the First Year Reading program, visit www.fcas.nova.edu/currentstudents/convocation.