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[Fresh] Fresh@News Posting: Villanova's One Book Program




Welcome to Fresh@News, Villanova's e-mail newsletter for parents and friends of the Class of 2013. Over the year we will be sending you occasional postings about activities at Villanova University that relate the Freshman Class. Instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe from this service are given at the end of this posting. 




We are only into our second week of the spring semester, and there is already a lot going on for the Class of 2013 here at Villanova.  Next week we have an event for our One Book Villanova program.  To hear more about the One Book program, Fresh@News has asked Mr. Tom Mogan, Director of Student Development to tell us more about it.


Fresh@News:  This year’s book for the One Book Villanova Program is Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji.  Before we talk about the book, let’s talk a little bit about the program.

Mr. Mogan:  One Book Villanova is something we have been doing for a number of years now; it’s become an important tradition here at Villanova. This campus-wide program engages all members of the university community in reading and discussion of an important contemporary book.  This exciting initiative encourages cultural engagement and literate discourse across disciplines and among all groups associated with the university (students, faculty, staff, parents, alums).  It fosters a climate of literacy and conversation about important contemporary issues and experiences as exemplified by touchstone contemporary books.  One Book Villanova directly supports the university’s strategic focus on intellectual climate, community, and an Augustinian culture of dialogue.  It exemplifies Villanova’s unique commitment to intellectual life and to broad community engagement across our college community and has become a signature feature of our university.  The program is administered by a group of dedicated faculty, staff and students from around campus and made possible through a generous donation from a parent.


Fresh@News: What is the goal of One Book Villanova Program?

Mr. Mogan: The ultimate goal of the One Book Villanova is to bring the campus community together by giving all administrators, faculty, staff members and students the opportunity of reading the same book and sharing the experience together. In addition, the program is a way to help the campus community become aware of other cultures and perspectives, and new ideas. This program is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Falvey Memorial Library, and the Office of Student Development with participation from the four undergraduate colleges, and aims to take a single provocative work as a starting point for conversation and interchange around a range of pressing contemporary issues.


Fresh@News: What criteria does the committee use to select the book?

Mr. Mogan: In selecting the book, the committee first solicits suggestions through an online nomination form open to all students, faculty and staff. Then we narrow the larger list down to a select few that the committee will read to prepare for the final selection.  In making a final selection, we look first for a book that has broad appeal so that it is relevant to all students, staff, faculty and parents. It must also be a suitable length, not too long. It is important for the book to have multiple frames in order to generate insights from many different perspectives and to help the reader understand that there are in fact multiple ways of knowing and understanding the world. The book should have novelty, so that it is new, different, edgy and provocative. It should create challenges, leading readers to ask ‘different’ questions and forcing them to think differently. We also favor books that stress issues related to our Catholic social justice mission, including issues of race, culture, gender and class.


Fresh@News:  So how does the program actually work?

Mr. Mogan:  During the fall semester every undergraduate student receives a free copy of the book.  Many faculty and staff also get copies of the book either from their department or at a discounted price. We plan events around the topic of the book, and we invite the author to campus for a series of events.  We had a discussion of the book at Parents Weekend, and I know that a number of your readers were there for that in September.


Fresh@News:  Remind us of some of the past selections.

Mr. Mogan:  The three other books were The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Blood Done Sign My Name, by Tim Tyson, Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza, and last year was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. We have had a great response from the whole community. So often we are all reading and thinking about different books, it is great to see everyone focusing on a single work. 


Fresh@News:  Tell us a little about Rooftops of Tehran.

Mr. Mogan:  Rooftops of Tehran opens in a middle-class neighborhood in Iran’s sprawling capital city. The rooftop of the narrator’s house – the tallest in their alley − is the perfect spot for sleeping on hot summer nights. It’s also the perfect location for stargazing, talking about American movies, and confiding, analyzing and agonizing through the typical trials of being a seventeen year-old boy, including being in love. This is the spot from which the narrator quietly watches his secret love, his beautiful next door neighbor Zari, promised since birth to his friend and mentor, nicknamed Doctor, a man adored and respected by the whole neighborhood.  It is also from this high perch that the narrator witnesses the oppressiveness of the regime under which he resides.  With the candor only an Iranian can offer, Seraji's narrative bares the enduring struggle between beauty and brutality infused into the centuries-old Persian culture while reaffirming the human experiences we all share: contentment, terror, love, helplessness, ferocity, and hope.


Fresh@News: What attracted the committee to this particular work?

Mr. Mogan: Although set in the 1970s, the story presented in Rooftops has some clear parallels to the current political situation in Iran. Beyond the political situation, the novel presents some memorable characters who represent the timeless and universal ideals of love, friendship and family. There is an excellent article in this week’s Villanovan (January 21) written by Tania Jachens which calls the book a “must-read book for college students in any country.” At Villanova, we strive to prepare students for their future as global citizens and the committee felt this book provided an excellent opportunity for students to engage a culture that might be different than their own.


Fresh@News:  So what One Book events are coming up?

Mr. Mogan:  The author, Mahbod Seraji, will be on campus on Tuesday, January 26. The author’s talk at 7:30 p.m. in the Villanova Room will be preceded by a book signing at 1:00 p.m. in Falvey Library and a community dinner with the author at 6:00 p.m. We expect a lot of community members to come to meet him and hear more about his experience.  Renowned author Mark Bowden (Black Hawk Down) will be here on February 4th to discuss his recent work on Iran called The Guests of the Ayatollah and Philadelphia Inquirer worldview columnist Trudy Rubin will be here on February 11th to discuss the resistance movement in Iran. We also have scheduled other lectures, films and discussion groups that connect to the themes presented in Rooftops of Tehran. Please visit www.onebook.villanova.edu for more details.

Fresh@News:  So what should parents be doing to support the program?

Mr. Mogan: The motto of One Book Villanova is “Read it, Share it.” So if parents haven’t already read the book, I would recommend that they read it themselves.  If they are engaged by it, they should recommend it to their son or daughter and, above all, discuss it with them. Sometimes our freshmen are so absorbed in their own issues that they are oblivious to other things going on in the community, so they may not even remember what this program is about, or they may have forgotten that someone gave them the book.  Don’t hesitate to remind them and encourage them to participate in the discussions happening around campus.




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