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Seton Hall University

SHU Reads! 2024 Selection Encourages "Fearlessly Curious Conversations"

Book cover of I Never Thought of It That Way.

'I Never Thought of It That Way - How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times' book cover.

Since 2003, all incoming first-year students have read a common book over the summer to introduce them to academic and student life at Seton Hall. Formerly called the Summer Reading Program and now called SHU Reads!, the nominated text presents a shared experience intended to foster thoughtful discussion and engagement in University Life, the first-year English classes, and throughout the academic year.

Vaughn Calhoun, Ed.D., assistant vice president and Dean of the Center for Academic Success (CAS), shared, "Our SHU Reads! program is more than just another assigned reading. It's about creating a shared experience and community before students set foot on campus. By providing each [first-year] with this experience, we provide a common thread that connects them to peers, faculty, and staff. We're laying the foundation for community, discussion, and belonging."

Kelly Shea, Ph.D., associate professor of English and Director of First-Year Writing, added, "The SHU Reads! program is an important facet of a first-year student's experience at Seton Hall, as it helps students engage in conversations about serious issues as a community. We may not all agree on every point, but we all agree that healthy and informed discussions based on critical thinking are the foundation of the educational enterprise."

SHU Reads! Committee members from the Division of Student Services, Department of English, and University Core met over the spring 2024 semester to discuss book nominations. Previously nominated texts have been mindful of the Catholic values and mission, and are thought-provoking and accessible. Selections are also relevant to current events and societal themes.

In the fall of 2024, the United States will hold its next presidential election. According to the Pew Research Center (2023), Americans continue to be critical of the federal government with negative views; "65% say they always or often feel exhausted when thinking about politics." Similarly, when summing up their feelings about politics, "79% use negative or critical words, with "divisive" and "corrupt" coming up most frequently."

SHU Reads! Committee members reflected on the opportunity to nominate a community text that addresses these sentiments deeply and provides insights on how we can come together as a Seton Hall community. The SHU Reads! Committee is proud to announce the 2024 text selection—I Never Thought of It That Way - How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times by Mónica Guzmán.

The Committee felt the selection was timely and provided community members with practical tools to proactively learn how to build bridges and have deep, genuine, and productive conversations. 

The author's website explains the learning outcomes of the book, which include "understand[ing] and even learn[ing] from people in your life whose whole worldview is different from or even opposed to yours" by becoming "fearlessly curious [and] finding common ground."

According to Calhoun, "This year's SHU Reads! Selection couldn't be more fitting, especially with it being a presidential election year and all the important issues facing our campuses. It's like a gentle reminder to take a step back, breathe, and engage in meaningful conversations. This book gives us a roadmap for asking questions, listening, and learning from each other rather than just talking past one another. This book encourages authentic dialogue and learning, fostering a culture of understanding and growth within our community."

Mr. Joshua Dornbos, assistant Dean in the Center for Academic Success, added, "This selection couldn't be more timely in the midst of the election year as Universities around the country are grappling with unrest around the world. The diversity on our campus is an incredible strength. It underscores the importance of hearing one another and finding a way to honor each other, even in the spaces where we disagree. I hope we can impart this to our first-year students."

A girl reading a book.The SHU Reads! Committee expressed the importance of utilizing the text with the campus community throughout the upcoming academic year. Shea explained, "In my experience, the combination of spending time with a common reading, engaging the text in the CORE classes and beyond, the creative content contest, campus programming, and other connections made to and about the text create a foundational experience for our first-year students, as well as faculty and staff."

Dean Dornbos expressed, "My hope is that our campus will gravitate towards the themes in our summer reads selection this year and that it will be a unifying conversation that will foster community, highlighting the best of Seton Hall. I sincerely recommend to our staff, faculty, and upper-level students that we take some time to explore this text with our incoming students and build moments around it to reflect on what unifies us."

Calhoun believes, "The SHU Reads! book isn't just a one-time read—it's a gateway to building connections and exploring endless possibilities together. It's where students can dive into lively class debates, create book clubs, and even extend a warm invitation to authors for unforgettable campus events."

I Never Thought of It That Way - How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times is the winner of several accolades, including Washington State Book Awards Finalist (2023), Non-Obvious Book Award Shortlist Selection (2022), American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist (2022), Greater Good Magazine Favorite Book of the Year, U.S. News 10 Books to Read Before College. The selection is available through the University Library in hard copy or e-book format.

If you have suggestions on engaging the Seton Hall community with this text through guest speakers, panels, lectures, film, or other ideas, please fill out our Suggestion Box

Categories: Arts and Culture, Campus Life

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