Gustavus is a college rooted in the liberal arts, meaning it is adamant about providing incoming students with the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking discussions.
For the past seventeen years, this learning approach has been implemented through the “Reading in Common” program.
The annual “Reading in Common” program brings together incoming students and various members of the Gustavus community (Gustie Greeters, professors, and other campus leaders) read a selected book, and discuss its themes and topics at length.
The purpose is to provide first-years with a unifying academic experience when they first come to campus.
While the program has had the same structure before, it has now changed this year.
In the past, a selection committee from the Campus Activities Office chose a contemporary novel where the author was most likely alive, and could come to campus in the fall to hold a lecture.
Considering some authors were highly reputable, it would be costly for them to come to campus.
This year’s novel is Mary Shelley’s, “Frankenstein.”
Given that the author has been deceased for some time, she will not appear on campus.
This saves Gustavus from having to pay the speaker’s expenses.
“I thought it was interesting how Frankenstein is a classic book that I was very much aware of, but had never read before,” sophomore Gustie Greeter Rachel Belvedere said.
Instead of a speaker, there will be a movie screening of the 1931 version, Frankenstein, at 7:00 p.m. on Sept 12 at Wallenberg Auditorium, followed by a panel discussion where Gustavus faculty members will discuss film, ethics, and literature.
This will lead up to a live marathon reading of “Frankenstein” on at 10:00 a.m. on Sept 28 at the Courtyard Cafe.
There will be several faculty members, students, and community members reading excerpts from the novel using costumes and props.
After the marathon, there is another movie screening of the 1974 version, Young Frankenstein, at 7:00 p.m. on Oct 13 at Wallenberg Auditorium.
Even though the first years will have been exposed to the book, these events are open to the entire Gustavus community.
“I hope they enjoyed the book. It’s kind of a fun one…I think most of us have an image of what Frankenstein is that’s really from popular imagination.
You think of the big green monster, and in a lot of ways, there’s a lot of deeper questions that get raised in the book that are kind of more nuanced and interesting,” Political Science Professor, Katie Knutson said.
One of the major changes this year is how the theme of “Reading in Common” connects to the theme of the Nobel Conference.
Gustavus wants the book to relate more to the academic school year.
By establishing this bridge, students understand how the event makes the college famous by bringing various intellectual minds together.
The upcoming Nobel conference is about reproductive technologies and the creation of life which relates to “Frankenstein.”
In the story, Victor Frankenstein creates the unique monster, from the body parts of the deceased, and tries to ponder the ethical implications of his creation.
These are the questions being raised, such as whether humans have the right to create life, and how they respond to life and death situations.
Another beneficial aspect is how most students do not have to purchase the book since they were available at Gustie Gear-Up, summer registration.
In the previous years, students were required to purchase their own copies, preferably at the Bookmark.
Aside from registering for classes, this was an added bonus for those students fortunate to come.
As opposed to last year, all Gustie Greeter groups will be the same as FTS classes.
This insures that the book discussions are aimed toward introducing students to first-term seminar experience.
They have the chance to start building the crucial relationship with their professor early, and engage with their fellow classmates in their FTS.
The goal is to give students a preview of an actual discussion where their FTS Professor is leading it.
“I think it adds an extra element that you can use in discussions, and just to connect within your Greeter Group and FTS or Three Crowns classes,” sophomore Gustie Greeter, Carly Miller said.
As far as future of the Reading in Common program, student feedback will determine whether Gustavus will keep the revised model or fall back to the old one.