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Facilitators Sought to Engage New Students in Discussions around Shared Reading Selection ‘Lab Girl’
“Lab Girl,” an award-winning autobiography by pioneering scientist Hope Jahren, has been selected for the Fall 2019 semester shared reading experience for new students as part of the improved first-year SEM 100 seminar and the First-Year Experience Initiative. “Lab Girl” (Random House, 2016) details the experience of geobiologist Hope Jahren, Ph.D., in a male-dominated research field, as well as the intersections of identity, mental health and relationships.
First-year and transfer students will receive a copy of the book this summer, and then participate in SEM 100 small group discussions for five weeks in the fall. The 90-minute discussion sessions with facilitators will focus on relevant themes from the book and introduce new students to the communication skills, resources and nuanced understanding of identity that they need to integrate into the campus community.
“The intent of SEM 100 is to provide students with a community-building shared experience that allows them to explore their own identity and develop a perspective of the similarities and differences across all our identities,” says Kira Reed, co-chair of the First-Year Experience Initiative Steering Committee, provost faculty fellow and associate professor of management in the Whitman School.
New students will be asked to read Jahren’s book before the fall semester, in anticipation of the SEM 100 group discussions, which will be co-led by a student peer facilitator and a lead faculty, staff or graduate student facilitator. The First-Year Experience team is actively recruiting current students, graduate students, faculty, staff and administrators to serve as facilitators.
Facilitators will be compensated and receive a copy of the book, training and the materials required to lead the discussion sessions. The once-a-week sessions are planned to take place every weekday at various times.
To prepare all the facilitators for this initiative, training sessions will be held throughout the month of April. Potential facilitators will have the opportunity in their application to choose their preferences for a training date and time. The First-Year Experience Team will work to accommodate those preferences.
For complete details, visit the following links for applications:
“Lab Girl” was selected from a list of books that have been used by other institutions as part of their first-year shared reading. The Inclusive Leadership Assembly, led by interim Chief Diversity Officer Keith Alford, reviewed the books and established a final list of options from which “Lab Girl” was selected.
Jahren, who has pursued independent research in paleobiology since 1996 and is currently the J. Tuzo Wilson professorship at the University of Oslo, Norway, writes about her fascination with plant life and her love of science, growing up in her father’s college laboratory. She discusses her rise in her field, her discoveries and challenges in research and science, ultimately outweighed by her singular passion and drive for her work. Jahren also shares her struggles with bipolar disorder and how she addresses her mental health need.
“Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are of increasing importance at universities and colleges today, and it is our hope that reading Dr. Jahren’s experiences will help promote broader, more productive discussions of mental well-being,” says Katherine Deibel, inclusion and accessibility librarian with Syracuse University Libraries and a member of the Inclusive Leadership Assembly.
“Dr. Jahren’s autobiography is a compelling look at her personal and professional struggles, in which she demonstrates tremendous resilience and perseverance in the face of systemic barriers,” says Amanda Nicholson, assistant provost, dean of student success and co-chair of the First-Year Experience Initiative Steering Committee. “As a shared reading experience, which is a best practice across peer institutions, this book will continue our efforts to engage our new students in important discussions surrounding identity and community.”
Jahren’s accolades include Scientist of the Year (2010), presented by the ARCS Foundation; the Women of Discovery Leadership Award (2016), presented by WINGS Worldquest; and being named to TIME Magazine “100 Most Influential People” (2016). She is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given within the Earth sciences. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and was named one of the “Brilliant 10” young scientists in the United States by Popular Science in 2005.
As part of the newly redeveloped First-Year Experience Initiative, the inaugural SEM 100 Shared Reading Discussion last fall engaged new students in conversations and activities around the themes of identity, belonging, diversity, inclusion, and health and wellness. “Lab Girl” follows last year’s shared reading experience of comedian Trevor Noah’s book “Born a Crime.”
The First-Year Experience team continues to review feedback from numerous student surveys and focus groups to incorporate and improve the SEM 100 experience for the incoming fall 2019 class.
For questions, or to learn more about the First-Year Experience Initiative, contact First-Year Experience Coordinator Jessie Santillan at email@example.com.
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