McClure to visit campus Sept. 24


Tori Murden McClure

Built around this year’s common book, Tori Murden McClure’s “A Pearl in the Storm,” a semester of related programming including a campus visit by McClure will explore a variety of themes including personal growth, empowerment, courage, and the power of love.

Emily Neilsen, the Coordinator of First Year Events, explained that the goals of the common reading initiative are not just to get students ready for a new school year with a summer reading assignment. “One of the goals of the program is to provide an opportunity for students to connect over a common experience at the very start of school,” Neilsen said. “So, the actual book discussion is meant to bring to community together- not just first year students, also staff, faculty, administrators, so people can meet and interact around something that they’ve collectively read.

Neilsen stressed the importance of building and maintain a community of shared learning. “The initiative is intended to foster community as well. Community generally, but also to foster a sense of community of learners, a community that shares in learning, a community that is curious; and to provide a platform for common conversation to occur,” she said. “My guess is that this feels more interesting than other summer reading assignments because the discussion is really community-wide and continues all semester, so it doesn’t feel like an arbitrary assignment that we’re just throwing people’s way because we’re going to be talking about it all semester.”

McClure’s “A Pearl in the Storm” is the true story of the author’s experience as the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Neilsen said, “We chose this year’s book because it was so interdisciplinary and appealed to students on so many different levels. It can appeal to student athletes because she does incredible athletic feats. She’s also very literary and interested in history, so she talks about literature and history throughout the whole book. It is also a really striking human interest story in many ways- both because she talks about her brother, who is mentally disabled, and their troubled childhood, and also because her own struggles to cross the Atlantic are interesting on a personal level.”

The criteria for choosing a book that will be discussed all year are specific, which ensures that the book chosen will be appropriate for the climate of campus and the students, staff, and faculty who will be reading it. Neilsen explained that in order for a book to be chosen it must be accessible for all students, must be able to be integrated into classroom discussions, and must be able to spark discussions. “We could imagine a lot of people incorporate it into their classes,” Neilsen said. “It felt very readable but still very academic- so it had the depth but also was accessible to read, and I think the story just grabbed a lot of us.”

However, the common book does not end in the classroom. It continues out into the community and campus life through a series of events and activities. “We’re in the middle of the Chesamore Cup Rowing Regatta,” Neilsen said. “We’re trying to collectively row 1320 miles by Sept. 20- that’s over 2 million meters. We have rowing machines around campus but people can also do it at home- so staff, faculty, alumni, and friends of the college can also log meters.”

Some of the other activities include building boats- which will happen under a tent on the quad campus Sept. 5, 12, and 19; and a visit from the author on Sept. 24. “She’ll be here for two days so she’ll meet with outdoor education majors and student athletes, and then do the big presentation for all students, staff, and faculty on the 24th in Dibden,” Neilsen said.

On September 29, Chris Jordan’s Midway photographs will be displayed in the gallery. The photographs are about the albatross living in Midway in the pacific. “The albatross on the island are dying because they’re feeding their young plastic- so we wanted to have an environmental connection to explore the question of what our interactions with nature mean as humans,” Neilsen said. “So yes, we try and conquer nature by rowing across the Atlantic or skiing to the South Pole but how else are we interacting with nature and what kind of impacts do our journeys have on the word around us?”

There will be a discussion of Jordan’s work on October 16.